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PRIDE from someone who knows.

By Tristyn Newman, Iowa County Services Coordinator

It is pride month! However, many states have shut down businesses and most pride events have been cancelled. The pandemic is causing all these shutdowns has definitely impacted everyone in some way or another. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I can see how the COVID-19 pandemic is hurting the LGBTQ+ community. To anyone in the LGBTQ+ community who has to hide your identity because of reasons such as living in an unsafe household: we see you, we hear you, and we will support you.

I know what it is like as someone who was raised in a household that was not supportive of LGBTQ+ people. I came to the realization that I was gay at about age 16. For me, that meant that I had about 2-3 years left to live at home with my parents. At that point, I did not know if I was ever going to “come out.” I was raised believing that it was wrong to be anything but cisgender and heterosexual. Therefore, I hid it. I tried my best to hide who I was from my family for fear of what they would say or do. When I heard about the marriage equality ruling on June 26, 2015, I was 17 years old. I was overjoyed to hear such great news; it sparked hope for me. It meant that someday I would be able to marry who I wanted no matter what their gender was. This hope was squashed when my mother called me immediately to tell me how sad it was that the United States would allow such a thing. Things ended up getting rough for me as time went on. Somehow my mother got the impression that I was not necessarily “normal”. I won’t go into all the details but there were countless nights of frustration, tears, and negative words exchanged. All this time I was still denying who I was on the inside. All this time I was still hurting and just wanting to be loved and accepted. I heard people saying the phrase “it gets better” as if they were slapping a band-aid on bullet wounds that were left by the ones that were supposed to care for and love me. I did not think it was ever going to be better. But here is the thing: I was wrong.

Things did get better. I never expected them to. When people told me things would get better, I just kept thinking “you’ll never understand” and “you have no idea what I am going through”. In the midst of things getting really rough in my life I ended up having to come out. This was one of the scariest experiences of my life. I immediately left my parents’ house after a conversation that started and ended in tears. I did not know what was going to happen but one thing I did know was that I felt better. I felt relieved to finally not have to hide who I was. If you are an LGBTQ+ individual reading this, I am not saying that you should just “come out” whenever and everything will be okay. It may not be safe for you to come out and be who you are right now amidst this pandemic. It may seem like things will never get better, and you will never be able to be you. Trust me when I say that the people who said “it will get better” were right. Someday you may have the power to be who you truly are. When you get to that day you will feel as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. I was very depressed in high school when I could not be myself. At one point I did not think I would make it out of high school. Now I am currently 22 years old and have graduated from college. I have a job that I love and am so grateful for. I have a wonderful support system around me of coworkers, friends, select family members and my beautiful partner who brings so much positivity into my life. I know it is easy to feel like things will not get better, but they do.

The advice I have to give is to find someone who you really trust and know will be supportive of you no matter what. It could be a friend, a certain family member, coach, teacher, coworker, or you could even call a support hotline. Find that person and talk to them about it. If you feel like it is unsafe to be yourself and cannot go out during this pandemic, try your best to reach out to those you can. Call up the people you can trust and talk with them. Do the things that you need to for self-care. These things may include but aren’t limited to: drawing, journaling, exercising, playing games, taking showers/baths, baking, getting fresh air, etc. It is okay to do what you need to take care of yourself during this pandemic. Take the time to focus on yourself.

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