We welcome June as the sun lingers longer in the sky and children embrace the freedom and fun at the start of summer break. During our observance of Mental Health Month in May, I hope you embraced new ways of taking care of your mental and emotional well-being and supporting others as well. Especially in light of the tragedies, we have experienced across the country, focusing on connection and self-care is critically important. I shared some thoughts on how to cope in the aftermath of a community tragedy in this LinkedIn article if you would like to read more. Please continue to value and care for your mental health throughout the year, and our team at Jefferson Center is here for you.
June is Pride Month, and an important time to pause and reflect on the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community throughout history, and celebrate the progress made and the beauty that diversity brings to our lives.
A quick history lesson refresher: Pride began as a riot back in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, a gay club operating in New York City. A number of repressive laws targeting people of the LGBTQ+ community had been put
in place, and in the early hours of June 28, police raided Stonewall for operating without a liquor license, which they were not able to attain because the New York State Liquor Authority would not issue a permit to any business that served gay customers. As patrons of the bar were arrested, a large crowd formed outside of Stonewall, clashing with the police and setting fire to a barricade. Over the next six days, more demonstrations took place outside of the Stonewall Inn, particularly by people of color who knew too well the fight for equal rights. Previous hesitation and fear toward standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community turned into organized engagement, taking form in parades/marches, drag shows, dance parties, and other celebrations of LGBTQ+ liberation.
Today, Pride is a beautiful and abundant celebration of the members of this community, but it is important to remember that, especially as an ally, Pride is not merely a parade or time for celebration. Pride is a reminder that our work in uplifting the LGBTQ+ community is not complete and there is more advocacy to be done to ensure that equity is a given, diversity is embraced, and all recognize themselves as someone who belongs. These challenges are compounded when considering the intersectionality of multiple marginalized identities, for example, the additional barriers faced by people of color within the community.
Ally is a verb, and to ally with the LGBTQ+ community is to actively listen, seek to understand, and advocate for the voices that have been traditionally underrecognized and diminished by our society. It means not assuming that the default sexuality or gender in a person is straight or cisgender. It means defending our LGBTQ+ friends, family, peers, and coworkers against discrimination. It means calling out anti-LGBTQ+ comments and jokes, even if no one from the community (that you know of) is around to hear them. It means confronting our own prejudice and biases, even if this might make us feel uncomfortable, knowing that through discomfort, often comes growth.
At Jefferson Center, we strive to offer accessible care to both members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community. We understand how different these issues may look. Perhaps you are struggling to find acceptance for your sexuality or gender, or maybe you are struggling with your mental and emotional health while facing discrimination or lack of understanding from fellow students, coworkers, or even close family or friends. You might be the parent of an LGBTQ+ child and want to help and support them but are unsure of where to start. Jefferson Center’s programs, services, and counselors are available to help you with all of that and more. We have a list of LGBTQ+ resources that you can access here, and if you are in crisis or need help dealing with one now, please call this toll-free number to speak to a trained crisis counselor: 1-844-493-TALK (8255), or text TALK to 38255.
Within our team, Jefferson Center’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee focuses on developing, implementing, and sustaining the integration of culturally responsive practices across all levels of Jefferson Center, which includes our LGBTQ+ Steering Committee. We want to make the workplace not only safe, but celebratory for all, and to create a community of belonging for those we serve.
Whether you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community or engaging in active allyship, I hope you find many opportunities for joy and celebration this month as well as opportunities for learning and growth. It is up to all of us to go beyond the month of June to champion, advocate and embrace the differences and similarities that connect us all.
– Kiara Kuenzler, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist, President and CEO