A Note From Gia Del George, LCSW, on Championing Support Share +
Posted by: coronadosafe 1 year, 11 months ago
This month our community and surrounding neighbors will gather together to recognize and celebrate the impact LGBT people have had in the world at San Diego’s annual Pride Parade! This parade means more than just waving rainbow flags and dominating the streets of Hillcrest San Diego; it’s a powerful weekend for the members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and their allies. The overarching focus leading up to and during the celebration is Equality and Respect, and to kick it off, the theme of today's blog post is Championing Support. Here you can read Gia's thoughts on how to champion support of Coronado’s youth by taking authentic, purposeful action.
The concept of providing support is about acknowledging the capabilities of those we care about, but also knowing when they need help, when they need love, when they need kindness, and when they need encouragement. The definition of a support system is a network of people who provide an individual with practical or emotional support. (Thank you Merriam-Webster Dictionary.) As a passionate social worker and advocate for equality, I’ve seen time and time again that youth today are well equipped to navigate life and all of its highs and lows and in-betweens when they have a healthy support system. There is no doubt that kids and teens feel even stronger when people come around them to embrace the fullness of who they are and celebrate all they will grow to become.
This month is a celebration of what it looks like to support each other well.
It is our responsibility as a community to put our best foot forward in learning how we can better understand each other and build one another up. It’s our privilege to see worlds of potential in the kids and teens who live here, knowing that their stories are just beginning and we have the influence as neighbors, educators, and leaders to guide them toward a future destination of honest greatness.
According to Mental Health America (MAH), an organization that works nationally and locally to raise awareness about mental health, LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm than their heterosexual peers. Let’s break down the facts. LGBT youth are twice as likely to be called names, verbally harassed or physically assaulted than their non-LGBT peers. And for every instance of verbal or physical harassment, the risk of self-harm among our LGBT youth is 2 ½ times more likely. They are also more than twice as likely to experiment with and abuse substances and alcohol.
All of this should shock us, but it probably isn’t a surprise to your ears. It has become normalized in our culture that to be a part of the LGBT community — especially as a young person — often comes with the burdens of discrimination, harassment, and a plethora of daily struggles. Shouldn’t we be doing more to disrupt these cultivated realities and ensure no other kid or teen ever has to experience them, especially when we know through evidence that experiencing life this way can lead to depression, negative behaviors, and ultimately sometimes suicide?
It’s extremely disheartening to read that nearly 80% of LGBT youth feel they will be “happy eventually” and that more than half reported the need to move away from their current town to find happiness (CDC.gov, 2017). At Coronado SAFE, we certainly don’t want to see that mindset fostered within the borders of our community. Especially when it’s one we can shift to the positive simply by taking small, but meaningful actions to show support.
The rainbow flags you see around the city this month waving from storefronts, homes, and car frames are more than just a compilation of pretty colors. They are a symbol of diversity and solidarity for the LGBT community. If you are an ally, a parent or guardian raising our LGBT youth, or a neighbor who just wants to know more about how to stand in solidarity and help put a stop to the epidemic of discrimination and violence that kids and teens in our community are currently facing, I encourage you to take some (or all!) of these steps:
Educate yourself about Pride and why the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity is so impactful for our youth.
Learn about the importance of pronouns and use them properly.
Be a role model for kindness and inclusion.
Shop at businesses that promote LGBT equality.
Talk to school personnel about the level of inclusion, available groups, and bullying/harassment policies that exist for our LGBT youth.
Consider what championing support means for you. Perhaps you’re a mom of an LGBT child, or you’re soon heading back to the classroom as a teacher. Maybe you volunteer at the library or you coach youth football on the weekends. However and wherever you are making a difference in young people’s lives, I hope this post reminds you that you are capable of being a champion for those who need it. You are equipped to take on their highs and lows, learn more about them, cheer them on, and celebrate who they are.
I, for one, can’t wait to see what we will all accomplish, together.
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