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Pride: A Call for Acceptance

A young man in a black short sleeved tee shirt standing outside with the ocean behind him

June is a time of celebration from academic graduations to the start of summer vacation. June is also Pride Month, a time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Bright, cheerful colors surround us in the flowers blooming, the blue summer sky, and even the Pride flag flying. However, behind Pride Month is a gloomy history of violence and oppression.

In June 1969, New York City police stormed a gay club called the Stonewall Inn in what is now known as the Stonewall Riots. The event is recognized as a catalyst for the modern gay rights movement as members of the community courageously rose up and fought back. Through the years, while society has grown more accepting, some individuals still harbor feelings of hate and unacceptance.

In October 1998, a young gay man named Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die alone in Laramie, Wyoming. His death was perpetrated by cowardly men and signified there are both people who are accepting of the LGBTQ+ community and others who are not.

Out of the riots and the deaths, society slowly moved forward, beginning to recognize that while an LGBTQ+ individual may be different, they are still a person. Being different from the societal norm, LGBTQ+ individuals continued to face (and hide) mental and emotional struggles.

In the fall of 2010, several young lives were lost to this world. They were bullied, outed for being who they are and who they love and, in some cases, disowned by their own families. This series of shocking deaths sparked a national campaign called Safe Spaces. Small rainbow flags were placed in classrooms from middle school through colleges so individuals would know who to talk to.

As someone who was bullied in grade school and even into college for trying to be myself, safe spaces were reassuring. I was attending Gannon University, a small private Catholic college, at the time. Seeing a rainbow decal in classroom was not only a reflection of the change I saw in the world, but also a signal that there were people who accepted me for me. 

While Pride Month is celebrated for being yourself no matter what others believe or think, I celebrate Pride Month by taking a stand for those who can’t and ensuring my voice is the only voice making the calls in my own life. Growing up, I was teased for being involved in music rather than sports. I competed for and won the role of drum major for my high school band, but my achievement went unrecognized. Pride Month reminds me that everyone’s accomplishments, no matter what they may be, are worth celebrating.

My challenge to you is regardless of your beliefs, views and faith, be the person who can save a life by stopping the hate within this world. You could be the one who changes a coworker’s life or even a member of your own family by lending an ear and telling them, “It gets better.”

I encourage you to watch, reflect, and share this video from Todrick Hall with your colleagues, family, friends, religious community members, and children of your own, so they know you, too, stand against hate and celebrate the life of every person.  

In the words of a famous influencer, drag queen and overall accepting person, RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an Amen?”

If you should need to talk to someone, reach out to The Trevor Project or an appropriate individual in your community.

How can our expertise and experience help you?

Let’s create positive, lasting change together.