This spring, I read two books on the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in America: Randy Shilts’ The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones’ When We Rise: My Life in the Movement. I was struck by how much has changed for the LGBTQ+ community in the past 40 years and loved learning about a movement that empowered me to come out over 25 years ago to a world that was moving towards equality and love, but still had a long way to go.
June is Pride Month, and as I walk downtown, I’m moved by the overwhelming displays of the rainbow flag in storefronts demonstrating their commitment to and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. Created by Gilbert Baker, a gay artist and friend of Harvey Milk’s in 1978 at a time before there was such a concept of Pride Month, the rainbow flag first flew at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Parade Celebration on June 25th of that same year. It is a symbol of pride, hope and diversity.
Yet, despite these tremendous advances, our work at Lines for Life reminds me that for many, and especially for youth, there is still struggle. In Oregon, and nationwide, LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk for suicide and suicidal ideation. In a recent Oregon Healthy Teens Survey, 46% of 8th graders, and 38% of 11th graders identifying as LGBTQ contemplated suicide last year.
There is something everyone can do to help. It starts with acceptance, understanding, creating safe space, and reaching out. Lines for Life and Oregon YouthLine are here to support LGBTQ+ youth, and any teen going through crisis. We have come a long way since when I was a teenager, but I know that hate and discrimination still exist.
We are not afraid, and love will win.
Come see YouthLine at Oregon Pride on Sunday, or show your support for LGBTQ+ youth through a donation so that all of Oregon teens can feel safe, feel heard, and go on to live their lives to the fullest.
Happy Pride, we are in this together.
Greg Borders, LCSW
Crisis Lines Director