Op-Ed

‘They are not alone.’ Show support for your LGBTQ friends and loved ones.

Photo Slideshow : 2018 Lexington Pride Festival

A photo slideshow from the 2018 Lexington Pride Festival at Courthouse Plaza in Lexington
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A photo slideshow from the 2018 Lexington Pride Festival at Courthouse Plaza in Lexington

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, to one’s family, to classmates, to 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 Lexington’s Pride Festival? The festival (June 28-29) and associated Pride activities this month 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 the Pride Festival reminds everyone that support and love is alive here in Lexington if they need it. Youth, families, friends and allies can familiarize themselves with the impressive range of support that is available.

Who will be there? PFLAG Central Kentucky, addressing the needs of LGBTQ youth, adults and families as well as allies who wish to learn more. TransParentLex, connecting families who have transgender children. Pride Community Services Organization, providing leadership, individual and group support for over 40 years. Lexington Fairness and the Fairness Campaign, fighting discrimination locally and throughout the state. Bluegrass Black Pride, reaching out with educational and wellness programs. TransKentucky, offering a network of support for transgender adults. AVOL, working to end HIV in Kentucky. GLSEN, tasked with making our schools safe and affirming places. Arbor Youth, providing shelter for young people who have been turned away. SAGE, a recently launched program advocating for our LGBTQ elders. Groups that raise funds for LGBTQ projects and agencies – JustFundKy, The Imperial Court, the Bourbon Bears and Kentucky Fried Sisters.

Most remarkable is to learn of the multiple colleges and faith communities, the 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.

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