For LGBTQ+ Calgarians and their allies, the Labour Day long weekend has become a joyous time of celebration as a result of the annual Pride Parade and its related celebrations. However, in the spirit of the queer liberation movement, and its evolution particularly over the last fifty years, one must not forget that this is also a time to reflect on the past and the maladies that afflict the greater queer community.
Growing up as a young queer person in a world that has been fairly unaccepting of those outside the heteronormative was undoubtedly an added stressor and pressure on top of what the average young adult would have to deal with. In addition to the number of changes and challenges that are faced by adolescents as they grow up in today’s society, the addition of sexual and/or gender minority status does not make the years as a young adult any easier.
In my own experience this took on the form of seemingly countless major depressive episodes recurring throughout the entire duration of my young adult years. It cannot be emphasized enough the impact of discrimination (in any form) upon the human mind and its ability to cope and manage even the simplest of every day stressors. The sheer alienation and social isolation that I experienced as a result of the homophobia that surrounded my everyday life as a young adult led to great personal turmoil and internalized homophobia. The comments of teachers in the Catholic school system, family members at Thanksgiving dinner, and peers who often were trying to simply take the spotlight off of them during these formative years, had a lasting and severe impact on my own mental health growing up.
The process of coming out, while grueling, awkward, and wholly emotionally draining, played a crucial role in my own road to recovery from mental illness. The support that I was given during this process is something that I can never downplay or discredit in the advancement of my personal story. The implementation of a network of family, mentors, and friends during this incredibly difficult time is without a doubt one of the most important factors in combating mental health problems that arise from discrimination and internalized heterosexism. This network and their positive responses was undoubtedly one of the essential influences in my personal road to recovery, as I know it has been for countless other queer individuals in my life.
What I hope for in the future is that those around queer individuals, or those who have yet to disclose themselves as being of sexual or gender minority status, merely offer themselves as a resource and be cognizant of the language that they are using. Such a great part of the decline towards mental illness among queer identified individuals is the persistent verbal harassment that they experience each and every day. As well, we mustn’t allow ourselves to fall into the false belief that Pride is merely about parties, rainbows, balloons, and floats; but rather retains a deeper meaning in the ongoing struggle of queer people in their fight to simply exist, and a big part of that being their personal mental wellness.
My story is one of hope, and one of recovery. If anyone is reading this and is feeling alone or that my words resonate with what they are currently experiencing, what they need to know is that (as cliché as it has become) is that it does get better. This too shall pass.
Happy Pride Calgary.