For LGBTQ+ identifying youth, Pride parades and other public celebrations serve as important vehicles of inclusion while building self-esteem.
Data analyzed from 35 studies showed that LGBTQ+ youth were at least three times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers, while transgender youth had the highest risk, almost six times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers.
Many LGBTQ+ youth have trouble accepting who they are because of how others treat them. This lack of acceptance could come from their family of origin, peers or even work colleagues, explained Lee Fuoco, a LICSW at Beverly Outpatient Clinic. Fuoco, who is openly queer, works primarily with transgender and other youth who identify as a sexual minority.
“These kids are super vulnerable because they aren’t supported and their inner landscapes can be very bleak,” she said. “Pride events can give them a sense of community and belonging that they are very much in need of.”
June is Pride Month, and while our culture has made progress accepting sexual minorities since the Pride movement was galvanized in 1969, there is still a long road ahead for these youth.
The Human Rights Campaign has counted at least 10 transgender people murdered in 2019.
“Coming out and staying out continues to be — for far too many — a life and death decision, which is why Pride events are crucial for young people who are just starting the process of being publicly queer in the world,” she said. “Pride events are about visibility, joyfulness, and belonging.”
If a young person in your family or community comes out as LGBTQ+, providing acceptance and support is of utmost importance. Kids who are isolated are at risk for harmful behaviors including addiction, homelessness, and getting bullied.
“A lot of these kids have social anxiety and they need a lot of support,” said Jennifer Yameen, a Family Partner who assists caregivers of at-risk youth for the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiate in Haverhill.
Yameen said she encourages families with LGBTQ+ youth to take advantages of the many resources online — one is PFLAG, a national non-profit organization — if you need support or to build your community.