Reflections on Pride Month: Supporting LGBTQ+ youth is suicide prevention, and it doesn’t end after June By Cora Kircher
There’s been this tweet circulating this past month that reads: “for pride month this year can straight people focus less on ‘love is love’ and more on ‘queer and trans people are in danger’”. This post speaks to something I know many queer people (including myself) have been feeling as we reflect on Pride this year. A feeling of confusion – and of pain and frustration – as we watch corporations parade shirts that read live, laugh, lesbian or sell rainbow mugs with pronouns on them, while simultaneously watching the waves of anti-trans and anti-gay legislation sweeping across the United States.
Maine isn’t immune to this trend. As our friends over at MaineTransNet have tracked, this year Maine has seen several pieces of transphobic legislation, including an act that would require parental approval for public school employees to use any name or pronoun that differs from those listed on a student’s birth certificate.
Trans and queer youth are far more likely than their cis and straight peers to struggle with mental health. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health shows that suicidal thoughts have trended upward in the last three years. Trans youth are nearly four times more likely than non-trans peers to experience depression. These numbers are even higher among Black and Indigenous queer youth. While there are many factors (most notably the COVID pandemic) impacting youth mental health in the last several years, it would be impossible to overlook the toll that this legislation takes on queer people generally, but particularly young LGBTQ+ people.Pride is an opportunity to celebrate, to practice joy and hope – which, as many have pointed out, is in its own way revolutionary. But it is also a time for reflection: how did we get here? Where will we go next? How will we move forward together? What does it mean to survive – and what does it mean to thrive? In particular, this year I’m thinking about how adults (queer or not) can support LGBTQ+ young people – to help them not only survive, but also thrive. How do we build care with young people in our lives so that they feel less alone, so that the ways they resist, the networks of support, joy, and solidarity are bolstered? How do we show young people that we’re in their corners?
There are many interventions that we know save lives. Affirming people’s gender identities is suicide prevention. Access to gender-affirming care, it has been shown time and time again, is mental health care. Affirming medical care, whether through medically transitioning, hormone blockers, or trans-affirming talk therapy, saves lives. Using people’s correct pronouns and chosen names does too. Studies also show that basic issues like restroom access have a profound impact on the well-being of trans youth.
Something that strikes me most though, is the importance of connection. The Trevor Project’s Survey found that LGBTQ+ youth who felt a high level of social support from their families attempted suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate support. LGBTQ+ youth who found their school to be LGBTQ+ affirming also reported lower rates of suicidality, as did those living in a community that was accepting of LGBTQ+ people. Personally, it makes me hopeful to know that simply demonstrating support can have such a profound effect – and it underlines the importance of showing care, the importance of listening to and connecting with the LGBTQ+ youth in our lives.
There are lots of different resources on how to talk with LGBTQ+ folks, but I’ve compiled a brief guide on how to show up for LGBTQ+ youth in your life. I’ve also built a guide on facilitating reflection on and connection around Pride with queer youth. What is appropriate depends on your relationship with that young person, their age, their mental health – don’t be afraid to start by asking them what they need, or if they feel comfortable!
MaineTransNet – Community based organization led by trans people, for trans people. MaineTransNet has resources on providers, suicide prevention, how to change names or gender markers, community programs, advocacy, and trainings. They provide peer-to-peer support groups, social/community events, advocacy state-wide for the trans community, as well as transgender cultural competency trainings.
OUT Maine – Has many programs and resources built around supporting LGBTQ+ youth in Maine, such as programs/events like Rainbow Ball weekend. They provide workshops, support groups, and resources to help queer youth know they matter and have their needs met.
Portland Outright – Youth-led organization building power for LGBTQ+ youth in Maine through intersectional organizing for LGBTQ+, racial, and economic justice. Have a comprehensive list of Maine-based resources, as well as a free chest binder program.
Crisis Text Line: text HOME, START, or HELLO to 741741 to text with a live, trained crisis counselor.
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
Trans Lifeline is a trans-led, focused, and staffed crisis line, and our first choice for crisis support for our community. In addition to answering all calls by transgender identified volunteers, the Trans Lifeline has a strict policy of never calling the police or other emergency response services on trans people in crisis.
Trevor Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
The Trevor Lifeline is a program of the Trevor Project, and is a crisis support service for LGBTQ+ young people 24 years old and younger. In addition to the crisis hotline, it also has a text line and online chat function.
*This resource is divested from the police
BlackLine provides a space for peer support, counseling, witnessing and affirming the lived experiences to people who are most impacted by systematic oppression with an LGBTQ+ Black femme lens.
Lifeline Chat is a service of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, connecting individuals with counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat. All chat centers in the Lifeline network are accredited by CONTACT USA. Lifeline Chat is available 24/7 across the U.S.
Maine State Crisis Line: 1-888-568-1112
This number will take you to the Maine Crisis Line. 711 will take you to a deaf and hard of hearing alternative. When all else fails, this number is reliably staffed and has Maine specific information. However, according to MaineTransnet, there are consistently mixed reviews of the level of trans competency of the people who staff it.