Every year, we hold an annual Transgender Day of Visibility event. One of our youth speakers, a graduating high school senior, said something this year that really stuck with me.
He shared his experiences of contending with the normal teen stressors related to getting into colleges and figuring out who he is. And then he talked about what it is like being a trans teenager – and how witnessing the recent explosion of anti-trans public sentiment and legislation has negatively impacted his mental health.
I can only imagine what it would be like to be a trans teenager in this day and age. You open social media apps on your phone or turn on the TV only to see your very existence and rights as a person being debated on a national stage. Hearing and seeing hateful commentary every day takes a real toll on LGBTQ+ youths’ mental health. The statistics affirming this are staggering.
The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Mental Health Survey found that 56% of LGBTQ young people reported that their mental health was poor most of the time, or always. It showed that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in that year, with more than half of trans and non-binary youth considering suicide.
And yet, this report also shows that there is hope. The Trevor Project found that LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult or affirming space in their life are 40% less likely to attempt suicide. The evidence is clear: Providing safe spaces and being trusted adults for youth – people who affirm young people’s sexual orientation and gender identity – saves lives.
So how do we do this?
On Saturday, June 17, we are bringing back our annual Pride in the Plaza event at Todos Santos Plaza for the first time since 2019. The pandemic has been a time when queer and trans youth in particular have felt isolated and disconnected. Pride is a time to come together in person, to celebrate and center queer and trans joy, to refer folks to vital services and programming, to offer visibility and representation, and for the entire community to rally behind LGBTQIA+ folks. This years’ theme for Pride in the Plaza is mental health.
Our young people are informed by the possibilities and the signals they observe around them. It is more imperative than ever that we as adults use the power at our disposal to create the conditions in Contra Costa County that LGBTQIA+ kids need to thrive.
Let’s lead with love and foster a sense of belonging and self-worth for LGBTQIA+ youth to counter harmful messages of homophobia and transphobia. Let’s show these kids the bright futures and possibilities that lie ahead of them.
Thank you for being a part of this work. Together we can make our community a place that is welcoming, inclusive and safe for LGBTQIA+ folks and our allies, and especially for our youth. Happy (almost) Pride month; we’ll see you on June 17.
For more about Pride in the Plaza, visit www.bit.ly/prideintheplaza.
Kelly Ferguson (she/her) is the director of development at Rainbow Community Center. As a biracial femme lesbian, Kelly has spent her career working in the nonprofit sector Please direct any questions or comments to email@example.com.