July 1, 2016

As June ends and July begins, many cities are still celebrating Pride. This year, the official Pride month (June) provided brilliant celebrations of how far we have come – one year since marriage equality! – as well as somber moments to unite and stand in solidarity in the face of horrible tragedy, moving us to recognize how far the movement for full LGBTQ equality and acceptance has yet to go.

Thus, we begin July with Independence Day, an important time of year in which we are reminded of the incredible freedoms we—Americans, the LGBTQ community, allies—do already possess. But we also face the reality that not all in our society possess equal freedoms under law, and so none of us are completely free until all are free. Our liberties are intersectional, and we suffer when our neighbors suffer, celebrate when they celebrate. Let’s take a look at some upcoming important opportunities to celebrate--and reflect--in July.

Month

July is National Minority Mental Health Month, which offers an opportunity to recognize the particular struggle and stigma of battling mental health disorders within minority communities; in particular, LGBTQ youth and adults who continue to deal with an unfortunately high frequency of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. These are further influenced by persistent pressures of intolerance, bullying, and lack of safe, welcoming spaces for these youth. Recent anti-trans legislation has also prompted an increase in already high self-harm risk rates among transgender people.

National Minority Mental Health month is an extra reminder to be vocal in support for LGBTQ friends and family members who may be struggling; to be encouraging, willing to listen, and quick to denounce any stigma surrounding conversations about mental health. We also encourage anyone who may be dealing with trauma from recent events to not be afraid to seek counsel.

We are keenly aware of the fight for mental health-care coverage for all, including the importance of access to counselling services for LGBTQ people. This year Tennessee passed the first law of its kind permitting discrimination by counselors against patients on the basis of so-called “freedom of religion,” a law which directly targets LGBTQ persons and potentially jeopardizes some of the most vulnerable people in rural areas of the state. More resources regarding mental health care, as well as other kinds of health care for LGBTQ people can be found at glma.org.

Days

July 4th is Independence Day, when we celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. As previously mentioned, we have so much to be grateful for, and today we celebrate where we have been as a nation in terms of the fight for LGBTQ rights as well as where we are going.

The focus of this year's World Population Day (July 11) is rights for teenage girls. This UN holiday was designed to address issues affecting vulnerable populations. The 2016 event focuses on rights, access and healthcare education for young women in impoverished and overpopulated areas. Also to consider are the horrific practices of forced marriage in many of these regions, a problem for all young women in these situations, though with added nuance for same-sex attracted girls.

International Drag Day is July 16th. This day we honor the important ways in which drag artists enrich LGBTQ culture, as well as how these fabulous people have contributed to the fight for LGBTQ rights throughout history, perhaps most notably during the Stonewall Riots.

The last Friday in July (29th) is National Talk in an Elevator Day—a fun holiday perfect to utilize as an opportunity to be courageous and continue breaking awkward silences, sharing your personal story, or “elevator speech,” for those who have attended any of our PFLAG trainings. Short conversations, a small acknowledgement of another person for a few brief moments, can make a profound impact.

Two UN-established International Days share July 30th. The first is International Day of Friendship, which was founded, “...with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.” On this day we make a point to celebrate diversity and take measures to live out PFLAG’s mission to unite for inclusion—that is, to listen to those of different communities within the LGBTQ spectrum and to educate oneself about ways to be more understanding of people from a range of backgrounds—such as via tools like PFLAG Academy Online.

July 30 is also World Day against Trafficking in Persons, which draws awareness to the millions of victims of the exploitative human trafficking industry. Forced labor and sex slavery affects individuals in every country on earth. This issue is a most atrocious human rights violation in our world today and evidence, especially this month as we celebrate Independence Day in the U.S., of the vast number of people who are denied basic human freedoms. Additionally, LGBTQ youth are at high risk of becoming victims of human trafficking, as they represent 40 percent of runaway and homeless youth - despite composing a small percentage of youth population overall [x]. This day, we highlight the need to learn more about what each of us can do to help end trafficking and other systems of oppression still at work in our world, and promote conversations in our communities about the persistence of harmful ideologies at the root of all such systems which dehumanize and enslave vulnerable persons.

This July, let us take time to be aware of the global fight for freedom happening all across the globe in LGBTQ spaces, show our support, and look for opportunities to talk openly about what full liberty and equality for LGBTQ persons here in the United States might look like.

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