Stonewall: A time to resist, persist and live!
By Mikel LePorte
Mental Health Columnist
As June 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, we remember how the brave actions of those responsible for launching the gay rights movement. In particular, the actions of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
While we have made many advancements in achieving equal rights, the past nearly three years of the Trump administration have seen some of our rights taken away. So, the fight continues.
For some of us of a certain age, we are showing signs of fatigue when it comes to fighting for our rights. It feels like a battle we have been fighting our entire lives and just when we had hoped the war was almost won, we’ve lost some important battles.
While it is tempting to want to pass the mantle over to the next generation and let them pick up the fight, the truth is we all must continue standing up for our rights and the rights of those we care about. This ongoing fight can be difficult when we face the onslaught of attacks from the highest office of the land to our state and local governments, and sometimes even from our employers and family members.
The many microaggressions and downright aggression we face daily can be mentally and physically exhausting. This barrage of reminders that we are the “other” can lead to anxiety, high levels of stress, and depression.
Minority stress is greatest for people of color in our community and even greater for transgender people of color in our community. The intersection of race and sexual orientation or gender identity confounds the issue.
So, how do we not give up? How do we take care of our mental health so we can continue the fight started by drag queens and transgender women some 50 years ago? First, we must remember that there is strength in numbers. Fight the urge to isolate or check out of the community. Find a connection with others. Search for organizations or groups of people with a shared interest. If you cannot find your tribe, start one.
One research study on the minority stress of the LGBTQ+ community found that interactions with others were crucial for the development of a positive self-image and overall well-being. Those who have a strong sense of community cohesiveness have a higher level of resilience and psychological well-being.
Another way to combat minority stress is to deal with any internalized homophobia or transphobia. For many in our community, myself included, we heard message after message that LGBTQ+ individuals were evil, possessed by the devil, pedophiles and many other atrocities. These messages were delivered from our family, religious leaders, the media, and the society at large.
Even after coming out one can carry feelings of shame because on some level, we believe those messages. If you think this describes you, I encourage you to find a mental health professional to talk through these feelings. Find a therapist who is gay-informed and fully understands the nuances of what it means to be LGBTQ+. Fight the urge to buy into the negative messages that destroy one’s self-image as they are a precursor to depression, anxiety or other mental illness.
I hope this year you will attend one of the many pride festivities occurring. Connect with others in the community. Have a little fun and recharge. Then get out there and fight like hell for our rights and the rights of others.
Resist, persist, and live to fight another day!
Copyright The Gayly 6/27/2019 @10:30 a.m. CST.