June is Pride Month for the LGBTQ community and for all of us who support them. They are our loved ones, neighbors, co-workers and friends. They are Americans, entitled to the same freedoms and protection as their straight allies.
But statutes that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public services have been extended to LBGTQ people in only 21 states, and no federal law has yet passed both houses of the U.S. Congress.
“OK,” people say, “I get that we have work to do addressing discrimination, but why all this parading and rainbow-flag-waving? Most of America is on their side, so why don’t they just get on with their lives?”
Because just getting on with their lives is not so easy. Coming out is not so easy — to oneself, one’s family, classmates and co-workers. There is a good deal of fear and risk involved.
While we are making progress in this country, judgment, rejection and acts of hostility have a powerful history in the LGBTQ experience and they continue. Furthermore, the progress we have made is still marked by setbacks, such as recent decisions by a major Christian denomination not to recognize same-sex marriages, and the administration's attempt to ban transgender people from the military.
At PFLAG, a support organization for families with LGBTQ loved ones, we see the challenge as a family challenge. To accept that your child or sibling or spouse or parent has declared themselves as having a different gender identity or sexual orientation than you had imagined is a challenge — yet it is family acceptance and love that is most critical for your loved one to thrive. It is also a community challenge, and we work toward a culture that is truly inclusive.
So why Pride festivals? They serve to celebrate those who have the courage to be themselves — and to encourage those who are struggling to be themselves. The acceptance that flows along the colorful walkways of Pride festivals reminds everyone that support and love is alive if they need it.
At Lexington’s Pride Festival (June 28-29) and Frankfort’s third annual Capital Pride celebration slated for Oct. 12, youth, families, friends and allies can familiarize themselves with the impressive range of support that is available to Kentuckians.
Who will be there? PFLAG Central Kentucky will address the needs of LGBTQ youth, adults and families as well as allies who wish to learn more. TransParentLex connects families who have transgender children. Pride Community Services Organization has been providing leadership, individual and group support for more than 40 years.
Lexington Fairness and the Fairness Campaign fight discrimination locally and throughout the state. Bluegrass Black Pride reaches out with educational and wellness programs. TransKentucky offers a network of support for transgender adults. AVOL works to end HIV in Kentucky. GLSEN is tasked with making our schools safe and affirming places. Arbor Youth provides shelter for young people who have been turned away. SAGE is a recently launched program advocating for our LGBTQ elders.
There will also be groups that raise funds for LGBTQ projects and organizations, such as JustFundKy, The Imperial Court, the Bourbon Bears and Kentucky Fried Sisters. Most remarkable is to learn of the multiple colleges and faith communities, businesses and corporations that are welcoming, supportive and affirming.
All this is to remind our LGBTQ+ friends and loved ones that they are not alone. So come on out, hold your head and your rainbow flag high!
Linda Angelo is a psychologist in Lexington and current president of PFLAG Central Kentucky. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.