by Michael P. Raymond
Happy Pride Month! I am a gay man. I want June to feel extra special for me. But the
depressive episode I am experiencing makes it hard.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the lesbian, gay and bisexual
community are twice as likely to experience a mental health condition. Transgender
individuals are nearly four times as likely. This is the same for adults and youth.
As a young gay kid in the mid-90s, I dreaded being the object of a bully’s ire, for
crossing my legs like a woman or playing Little House on the Prairie with the girls at
recess instead of kick ball. In second grade I was a called a “gay wad.” My sexuality
was used to hurt me before I even had any idea what sexuality was; an all too
common experience for many queer people.
I was taught to be ashamed of who I was. I grew up the son of a preacher, in a
church that believed being gay is a sin. My shame was reinforced in all areas of my
life. I wasn’t able to come out until I was twenty-two, when I was financially
independent and could insure my safety. But the shame didn’t stop there.
I love my family very much. But like the military from 1994 to 2011, we have a strict
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. And it takes its toll. I was twenty-one the first time I
had trouble getting out of bed for days on end. I have been taken anti-depressants
since then. I didn’t start seeing a therapist until summer of 2019. I am in the midst
of the complicated and grueling task of shuffling off the mortal coil of my shame. A
phrase taken from Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be” soliloquy. A speech about
choosing to live or die. I am out an out and proud gay man, but sometimes my
shame makes me ask that same question.
Pride Month is supposed to be about throwing off my oppressors and taking to the
streets in protest and celebrating my innate queerness! But how can I do that when
I can barely get out of bed? All of the “Happy Pride Months”, pride parades, and
corporations changing their social media profiles to a rainbow logo can’t heal my
shame. That is up to me (with the support of my therapist, and my chosen family of
queer friends and allies).
Pride month shouldn’t be just for queer people to be proud of ourselves, but for the
people in our lives to affirm our existence. So please, tell your brother, your cousin,
your aunt, your non-binary child, your trans co-worker that you are proud to know
them. That you see them for who they are. And if that doesn’t work, we gladly
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!