By Key Beck
June is LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning) Pride Month. Pride gives us an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments, memorials, and history of LGBTQ culture. Even though “LGBTQ” are letters most folx know and hear about, it is important to note that there are other identities that are including the Queer and Transgender rainbow, such as Pansexual, Asexual, Nonbinary and Intersex individuals. There are many more identities that I did not list, so I encourage you to do some research to become aware of the many folx under the LGBTQIA umbrella. In the past, the weeks of June would be filled with cheering crowds alongside colorful parades, families visiting LGBTQ cultural centers, companies holding LGBTQ awards ceremonies and friends communing together. Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pride looks like people sitting in front of their computers on digital calls, solitary folx at home watching movies and some folx feeling a sense of lost connections with others.
Traditionally, Pride is a time especially important for young people coming out to parents and communities. This year young people are forced to stay in the closet (hiding or not sharing their LGBTQ identity) or worse having to stay in a non-affirming home experiencing highly rejecting behavior. This often leads to young people being kicked or forced out of the home. It is important to note that forty percent of young people who are experiencing homeless identify as LGBTQIA+. So if we think about pride as a celebration, we also must think about Pride as a sanctuary for some. Pride gives young people the opportunity to be proud of who they are and show that pride to the world. It is important that we as adults, and as a society, provide a safe and affirming environment for all LGBTQ young people. For that reason, there are nonprofits like Lighthouse Safe and Supported who work with agencies and service providers to create that accepting and supportive atmosphere for LGBTQ youth and we provide best practices to care for and work with LGBTQ youth.
Another disparity that this new way of life is highlighting is the lack of accessibility in our current system for certain marginalized people, specifically black and brown people or people with disabilities. For too long, many folx living with disabilities have been looked over for employment positions due to their inability to “go into the office.” Now, we have validated that physically going into the office is not needed for every position. And that providing a computer is the bare minimum, and useless, if folx don’t have access to dependable internet access.
This accessibility issue also relates to LGBTQ youth in schools. Based on the 2017 GLSEN School Climate Survey, 35% of LGBTQ youth miss at least one day of school every 30 days due to feeling unsafe because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. These students would be forced to become either truant (which makes them susceptible for entering the preschool-to-prison pipeline), forced to drop out of school, or forced to attend school while enduring multiple barriers. Now, with classes being held online, many LGBTQ youth have the opportunity to finish school with their peers and achieve their educational goals.
They have access to teachers and school resources without having to face bullying. They are able to have support people, pets, and tools at their leisure while attending classes.
COVID-19 has forced us to take a hard look at how we celebrate and spend time together. We have had to think intentionally about the ways we can be inclusive, and how we can sustain a culture of patience and acceptance. It would be silly to say that we are thankful for COVID-19, but it wouldn’t be silly to give thanks for making us take a hard look at diversity and inclusion. This is a perfect time for us to highlight the oppression that exists in our current systems for many of us disability advocates, social justice activists and diversity consultants. So as we celebrate this unique Pride, let us not just go back to normal or the way things were. Let’s do a hard stop, then a hard reset and then start from where we are currently. Let’s continue the momentum of inclusion, let’s keep having conversations of accessibility and let us highlight the faces of the LGBTQ community who are often erased. Happy Pride.
*Lighthouse Safe and Supported is working to prevent and end LGBTQ youth homelessness in Hamilton County, Ohio. They provide LGBTQ Cultural Competency Training, Resource Guides, Host Home Programs for temporary housing and Faith in Families programming that works to reconcile families who have resistance to their children’s LGBTQ identity.