In June 2019, the first Lowcountry Pride Celebration was held in Bluffton. Pride is about creating awareness and celebration in the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning plus others) community. 

Stories of triumph, challenges and heartache were shared openly in an effort to expand a safe space for those who identify LGBTQ+, as well as their allies. Historically this community has been ostracized while continuing to have to fight for the same basic rights and privileges as their counterparts. Pride, in its essence, is about making room at the table for everyone.

Resources to provide adequate mental health services are scarce. Resources to provide these services to the LGBTQ+ community are even more so. 

According to Mental Health America (MHA), discrimination against this community has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse and suicide. Additionally MHA explains that mental health professionals’ stigma, lack of cultural sensitivity and unconscious or conscious reluctance to address sexuality might hamper the effectiveness of care. 

David Myrick II identifies within the community as a black gay male. Myrick serves as the LGBTQ+ subgroup leader for the national advocacy organization Rethinkstigma. In his role, he wants to support those in his community to live the most flourishing life possible. 

Myrick believes the best way to support this population is to provide education to the community at large about the humanity of the LGBTQ+ population. 

There are those who may believe LGBTQ+ is a mental illness and/or a choice. Myrick said, “I do not believe this is a choice. I truly believe we are born to be exactly who we are. However, I do believe it’s a choice to accept who you are and live your truth unapologetically.”

In regards to living one’s truth, the decision of “coming out” can be especially challenging. 

“Coming out” is a term used within the LGBTQ+ community as a way to publicly take ownership of your truth and be proud of who you are. This can be done on several levels, from a few trusted individuals to the public. When, where and how are completely an individual’s choice. 

“My experience with ‘coming out’ was hard. Growing up in a small town, being part of the LGBTQ+ community wasn’t accepted,” Myrick said. “It was a challenge that could potentially make you or break you. I had individuals come into my life and show me that it’s OK to be gay. I learned that I had to accept myself first before anyone else. I decided to live my truth because there’s freedom in living your truth. I’m happy with who I am and I wouldn’t change being part of an amazing community.” 

The acronym evolved from “LGB” to include transgenders, those questioning their identity, plus all others to create a rainbow of inclusivity. We as a larger community can support our peers through opening ourselves up to hear their voices and serve as allies to fight their double stigma.

Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate, blogger and Certified Peer Support Specialist. Find her on social media by searching #Laurakaponeris1in5