On June 28, 1970, the first Pride march was held in New York City on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. The year before, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in the city’s Greenwich Village. The police raid sparked days of protests and uprising in the community. The Stonewall Uprising is credited as the event that pushed the Gay Rights Movement forward. As with any social movement, the road to liberation and freedom is a bumpy one. Living in oppression is tough and unacceptable. It directly affects the quality of life in marginalized populations. Like the legend of the phoenix communities that have experienced oppression in our country have had to rise from the ashes way too often after being singed by the flames of hate and discrimination. The LGBTQIA+ community knows this rebirth all too well, rising time and time again with resilience under their wings.
As a society we are not accustomed to learning from marginalized communities. We look to mainstream media and culture for our knowledge. Unfortunately, we lose great lessons on life when we silence certain voices, specifically lessons on how to practice self care in the midst of adversity. After all, the LGBTQIA+ community, like many populations that are discriminated against, are experts at living despite struggle. When I think of resiliency in this population, I think of community, advocacy and joy as resistance. These qualities can help anyone develop better mental health practices. This month, I celebrate the resilience of the LGBTQIA+ community and thank you for your guidance and inspiration. Thank you for teaching us resilience throughout the years while continuing to be steadfast in the face of oppression. Your voices are important as we navigate wellness, especially during such trying times. For the rest of this article, I would like to address this community of amazing individuals directly and I encourage you all to join me.
Resilience Quality #1: Community
Thank you for teaching us about community. In its truest form, you have exemplified the meaning and importance of that word. All too often there are stories of being forced out of your biological families and communities of origins. This can help you understand the power of chosen family, sharing close relationships with people who celebrate and support you whether they are biologically related or not. As an adoption worker, I value this a lot. You understand that genuine support and allyship can be much stronger than blood ties. Your ability to accept and empathize with others teaches us all how to love better. When you have been discriminated against and refused access to quality mental health services, you have been the listening ears and guidance counselors for one another. Thank you for teaching us to put therapeutic practices in action with our loved ones.
I also celebrate ball culture of Black and Brown communities for creating houses (communal spaces that serve as shelter and safe havens for young Black and Brown LGBTQIA+ members) and house mothers who create families. Your impact has reached the masses, being celebrated on prime-time television and red carpets. At the heart of the moment, it has reached the youth in Black and Brown LGBTQIA+ communities who are often the most vulnerable. The power of community exhibited in the LGBTQIA+ community reminds us that with a good support system, we can bounce back from hardships. We can lift each other out of the muck and mire. We can stand much better in our times of weakness and despair when we have someone standing with us.
Resilience Quality #2: Advocacy
Thank you for teaching us to be better advocates for ourselves and others. Whether it is for the basic human right of medical attention or finding community services, you have been on the frontlines of a battle that has gone on for way too long. For those of you who share intersectional identities, such as having a disability or being a person of color, the battle to be seen and accepted has probably been going on for most of your life. Before the Stonewall Uprising, you have been unapologetically raising awareness for your community. You’ve navigated both the political and social sectors to get the services you need and deserve. The Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project are just two ways you’ve organized to create safe spaces and fight for the rights of your community. You are showing up, even when it’s not easy. You understand that an injustice for one is an injustice for all. Your resilience allows you to advocate for your community and teaches us to advocate when we need to.
Resilience Quality #3: Joy as an Act of Resistance
Lastly, thank you for your joy! In her poem, The Telly Cycle, Toi Derricotte opens with the phrase, “Joy is an act of resistance.” Likewise, Audre Lorde said, “If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they probably will not survive.” What I love about Pride celebrations is the ability to create space for joy. Joy is, in my opinion, the greatest act of resilience. Not to be mistaken with happiness, which I feel is fleeting, joy says, even though I have been misused and beaten, I still know my worth. Because I know my worth, I will enjoy all that I am. Thank you for teaching us that life is to be lived! Yes, you will still fight for your rights. Yes, you will still advocate for your community. And yes, you will celebrate who you are. Laugh. Dance. Sing. Live. Your life is worth living and your joy is worth spreading.
Although we’ve listed these resilient qualities of this incredible community, it’s OK to seek help when you or someone you love needs to focus on mental health. Contact Discovery Mood & Anxiety Programs for more information.
April Cox is a permanency specialist II at Professional Family Care Services in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. She is passionate about the mental health of individuals and families and prides her work on providing practical ways to promote mental health wellness. April has a BA in sociology and has worked as a therapeutic staff support, family-based counselor, and drug and alcohol counselor before transitioning to child welfare, where she helps foster children and foster families process past traumas. April is passionate about the arts and spends her evenings teaching dance classes to all ages.