When you go through a difficult time you learn a lot. You learn about yourself and you certainly learn about others. Sometimes the people who you think will be there for you when the going gets tough, aren't.
I have learned a few things in this life, through my own ups and downs. One of the most important lessons is the importance of cultivating good, strong, healthy relationships in life. Cultivating means giving just as much as I receive; sometimes more. That's not always easy for people and maybe not so easy for me at different points in my life. Being a good friend is something that I have worked hard at. Although far from perfect, I think it's safe to say that I try my hardest.
I am inspired to write this post in honour of those who have chosen the not always easy path of being an ally. I know that it has been difficult for those closest to me to know what to do or how to best support me in my darkest moments. For those who didn't give up, I am forever appreciative and full of love.
It's Pride week here in Vancouver and I can't help but think about the LGBTQ+ community in particular and the challenges that they face. I have heard horror stories over the years and there are many. Family members who turn their back on a (former) loved one who has come out of the closet and shared their truth. Physical attacks from strangers. Political persecution in countries such as Syria. And let's not forget the common, garden-variety subtle discrimination that still happens often here at home. It's not right. None of this is right.
If you still live in the dark ages and think that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is a choice, please give your head a shake. These people are born as they are just as I was born a heterosexual female. Those who still avow that this is immoral, perverted behaviour I have this to say: you are part of the problem and not part of the solution. The solution? Love, empathy, understanding, and compassion. In the words of my friend Thomas, "It's that simple." The negative effects among this community of a society that holds archaic beliefs are devastating. The Canadian Mental Health Association reports the following:
* Higher rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and phobic disorders, suicidality (14 times the risk of heterosexual people), self-harm and substance abuse.
* Double the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than heterosexual people.
* 77% of transgender residents in an Ontario-based survey had seriously considered suicide and 45% had attempted suicide.
Promoting Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing
Here's where being an ally comes in. By showing your support in simple ways, YOU can make all the difference in the life of another human being. Some of the key factors for positive mental health and general wellbeing for LGBTQ+ individuals are:
* Support from family and friends
* Supportive workplaces and neighbourhoods
* Reduced levels of internalized homophobia (homophobia adopted by the LGBTQ+ person, similar to self stigma felt by those with mental illness), which can be fostered and supported through identification or community building with other LGBTQ+ individuals
* Experiencing positive responses to coming out
* Addressing the social detriments to coming out
So, you have a choice to make. Will you take the high road and be a supportive, empathetic, caring ally and make a difference in a person's life? I can tell you that the view is much nicer on that path. Come on - show your true colours. It's that simple, right Thomas?
P.S. lovingly dedicated to my LGBTQ+ family and friends
Want to learn more so that you can be an amazing ally? Please visit these resources:
Qmunity - BC's Queer Resource Centre
Pride at Work Canada
Partners for Mental Health