By Seija Grant, MEd CP, RP (Qualifying)
As it is PRIDE month (Happy Pride everyone!), this is an opportunity to explore the impact we can make on others, and to learn how to support our friends, family, colleagues, employees and fellow human beings as allies. How does this tie into mental health you might be asking…? By use of language (written, spoken and body) we all impact our environments and in doing so—other people. If we sometimes use words that hurt and oppress other people (knowingly or not), we are contributing to an unsupportive environment. There is plenty of research to show that living in a non-inclusive environment contributes significantly to mental health issues.
What does LGBTQ+ stand for? This acronym is thrown around a lot, so I figure I should spell it out. LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans (umbrella term for Trans-Gender and Trans-Sexual), Two-Spirited, Queer/Questioning. The + is a beautiful addition which signifies the endless other possibilities on the spectrum and encompasses the fluidity of identification. If you are unsure what any of these terms are, please take the time to understand them and to inform yourself of their meaning.
Why is this important? Well it comes down to human rights. We are all human, and simply put—we all deserve respect and kindness. Some things you may not consider if you are not part of the LGBTQ+ community is the impact that others can have on mental health. More often than not (sadly), LGBTQ+ identifying individuals face isolation, mistreatment, discrimination, stigma and prejudice on a regular basis from people in their lives whether it be family members, friends, colleagues or employers.
What does it mean to be an ally? It means you are a person who is unconditionally accepting and supportive of LGBTQ+ identifying people. Whether or not you know it, you are surrounded by people of varying sexual orientations, gender expressions, and gender identities and it is important to learn how to be kind, thoughtful, informed and supportive of others.
How can I help? Taking steps to use supportive and inclusive language can seem daunting but is really important as language is integral to culture and sets the context for any environment. It’s really just about taking time to get to know people and understand their preferences. It doesn’t take much effort to perform a Google search, read an article, watch a TV show (Netflix has MANY LGBTQ+ friendly shows), where you can hear people’s stories and get to know more about their experiences as well as learn how to use language that is inclusive and supportive. Knowledge, understanding and love are the antidote to ignorance.
We are all people. When it comes down to it, we have more commonalities than we have differences. I challenge each of you to consider the impact your language has on others, also to open your hearts and minds and to get to know people for who they are.
Here are some great resources to help you on your journey of knowledge:
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