As the month of June and Pride celebrations conclude, tomorrow, June 27th, will be the formal celebration of Global Pride. Pride is a celebration of progress, diversity, and visibility of the LGBTQ+ community. Pride allows individuals to have a platform to voice the needs and rights of LGBTQ+ people, and now more than ever, it reminds us of the origins of Pride itself: protest. Stonewall wasn’t the beginning of the LGBTQ+ movement, but rather, elevated it to a higher level in protesting police brutality, marginalization of LGBTQ+ communities, and systemic injustice. This year, Pride will focus on amplifying Black LGBTQ+ voices in the wake of widespread protests of police brutality and racial inequity.
Pride and the Black Lives Matter Movement are both rooted in the stark systemic discrimination of communities and have many points of intersection.
Just as the US has endured a culture of unjust police violence against the Black community throughout history, there has also been significant violence against Black LGBTQ+ populations as well. This is most recently exemplified in the mourning of the murders of two Black trans women, Riah Milton and Rem’mie Fells. “The murder of Black trans women is a crisis,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted. Her fellow Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey also wrote, “We are indebted to the Black trans activists who paved the way for today’s LGBTQ+ pride celebrations. But in the wake of two murders this week—of Riah Milton and Rem’mie Fells—we must recognize that we have not done enough to protect the trans community and Black trans women.”
Transgender women of color, particularly, Black trans women, face the highest rates of fatal violence and police brutality. In a fact sheet created by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, it is stated that:
“Transgender people of color were 6 times more likely to experience physical violence from the police compared to White cisgender survivors and victims. The intersection of racism and transphobia can make these survivors and victims more vulnerable to violence and more likely to experience discrimination and violence from direct service providers and law enforcement.”
Police brutality isn’t the only point of intersection. Similar to how Black communities are disproportionately suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the same goes for the LGBTQ+ community. Liz Seigert, a contributor to the Association for Health Care Journalists wrote that “a lifetime of systemic discrimination and poorer health outcomes can make older LGBTQ people especially vulnerable, according to LGBT advocates.”
The economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis is another point of intersection. A survey commissioned by Human Watch Rights Watch in April and May showed that LGBTQ people lost their jobs at a higher rate than the general population due to COVID-19, at 17 percent compared to 13 percent, with non-white LGBTQ people skewing even higher at 22 percent.
This year’s Pride has been reframed as a way to show allyship to the Black community and Black Lives Matter movement. The Pride parades this year are morphing into solidarity parades in the wake of the massive protests against police brutality against the Black community. Fighting for equity for one group means fighting for equity for the other, and those who are Black and LGBTQ+ are suffering the most from systemic inequities.
Athletes United for Social Justice is core to our mission: we are working to advance health equity in DC, but in doing so, we recognize that these social issues are NOT mutually exclusive, which is why TGP’s health promotion curricula seek to begin the dialogue around both of these movements. The health disparities for LGBTQ+ youth in DC are representative of these inequities.
LGB youth are at an increased risk of experiencing violence including bullying, teasing, harassment, and physical assault. In the 2017 DC Youth Risk Behavior Survey of middle school and high school students, in which nearly 70% of all respondents were identified as Black, it was found that LGB middle school students thought seriously about, planned, and attempted to kill themselves at about three times the rate of their heterosexual peers.
Transgender high school students were statistically more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Research tells us that these mental health statistics improve over time. In a Longitudinal Analysis of Psychological Distress and Victimization in LGBT and Questioning Youth, it was concluded that over time, the LGBTQ burden of disease reduces if we reduce stressors earlier in life. When creating our 8th-grade mental health promotion curriculum, TGP gained insight from a wide range of data sources, as above mentioned, and directly from conversations with teachers, students, and parents, that it was vital to facilitate dialogue and education about gender and sexuality to youth to minimize the long term effects of the mental health burden of disease that we know to be affecting LGBTQ youth at alarming rates. Megalodon, a TGP student-athlete volunteer and GW lacrosse player, played a big role in helping us develop “Gender and Sexuality Fact or Nonsense,” a game to help youth to:
- Understand the difference between biological sex and gender/gender identity expression
- Understand sexuality and attraction as a spectrum
- Understand gender as a spectrum
- Learn key statistics about health outcomes related to gender and sexuality
- And understand how the stigma around gender and sexuality affects mental health.
Megalodon says, “When I was teaching the gender and sexuality curriculum I was struck by the fact that most kids don’t get any lessons or information about it, and how beneficial it would’ve been for me and everyone I know growing up to know about gender and sexuality outside of the heterosexual binary. It meant a lot to me that maybe one of our kids might see themselves in our curriculum and feel validated that what they’re feeling is accepted. All of the students can use the information we give them to become allies and create a safe and loving community for all LGBTQ+ people.”
The TGP community supports Pride and the continued advocacy and support for LGBTQ+ people and their allies. To create a healthier community, we need to recognize, fight for, and support the LGBTQ+ community and continue to create more dialogue around this movement. Click here for a virtual guide to this year’s Pride celebrations.
By Dylan Wolfe