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June Is The Month For LGBTQ+ Celebration

June not only celebrates the first day of Summer and Father’s Day, but it also celebrates the people in our LGBTQ+ community. It celebrates their ability to freely be themselves. PRIDE celebrations have taken place since the 1970’s. In June of 1970, New York City hosted the first ever PRIDE march that covered 51 blocks! In 2019 there were a reported 2 million people that took part in a very similar event. The number of participants speaks to the continued growth and awareness of PRIDE month and the importance of what it stands for.

What does LGBTQ+ mean? Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning are the terms for the acronym that has evolved over time. The plus sign recognizes other sexual identities such as pansexual; which can be described as someone who does not recognize gender, but loves a person simply for who that person is inside.

“Coming out” to family and friends about who we choose to love is something that can cause a mix of heightened emotions for people of all ages, therefore these identities are often hidden. If someone feels that hiding who they truly are is necessary, it can cause depression, suicidal ideations and anxiety among many other mental health challenges. The coming out process should be something that is accepted by everyone; family, friends, school officials, local law enforcement and any one in between. No one should ever be made to feel like they are less of a person because of who they choose to love.

I came from a strict/religious home where this type of lifestyle was frowned upon. During my childhood I hid my identity from my family, friends, employers, educational advisors, everyone. It wasn’t until I was 29 years old that I truly found the strength to “come out” as the person I am today.

I think that deep down, as human beings, we all really wish for one thing, to achieve the highest possible level of happiness! If this can be done by feeling accepted, regardless of our sexual identity, then in my eyes that is all that should matter. The acceptance that I experience on a daily basis from peers, family and others is amazing. It is because of this that I have achieved a very high level of happiness in my life. My only wish is that I would have expressed my true self sooner.

If you or anyone you know struggle with identity, have questions about the LGBTQ+ community or want to get involved in any way, please call one of our behavioral health clinics. They are located in Dunkirk (716)363-3550 and Jamestown (716)661-8330. We have an amazing team of people who are always willing to help. At our clinics we can provide mental health counseling services and linkages to one of the many supportive resources available in Chautauqua County.

An important final note, please remember to talk to your children about creating safe spaces for themselves. Encourage them to speak freely about who they are and who they want to be. Support them to achieve their highest level of happiness. You could save a life. I hope you all have a safe and happy PRIDE month.

Candice Edwards is the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene’s senior care coordinator.

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