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Pride month is a time of celebration, activism, and inclusion, but it can be tough to take part when you live with a chronic illness. There is such a wide range of chronic illnesses that an individual can suffer from and they can make it difficult to have the energy or ability to take part in events.
Even if symptoms are managed well enough that day to attend an event, accessibility within queer spaces can be lacking (to say the least). While we are taking strides in the right direction, there’s still a lot of work to be done so that disabled people feel welcomed and able to access pride events.
In the meantime, if you have a chronic illness there are ways you can strike a balance and take part in pride. You deserve to be involved just as much as anyone else!
Express Your Needs
Able-bodied friends might find it difficult to understand what you need and what you’re experiencing if you don’t explain it to them (I don’t think anyone can fully understand a chronic illness unless they live with it). So, if you’ll be attending pride events with friends, family, or a carer, speak up and make them aware of your needs. You can chat before you go about what you need so they can better support you.
There are lots of things loved ones can do to help. It might be as simple as them going with you to find a quiet space when you need to take a break, or holding your hand to reassure you. It may be that your friends need to take it a bit slower so that you can keep up. If you have access needs, chat with your friends beforehand so they can help you find an accessible event that you can all attend together.
It can be hard to ask those around you for help, but it can make your life a lot easier when you do. There’s no shame in asking for help – you are not a burden!
Use Your Mobility Aids
If you have access to mobility aids and they help you, then use them. There’s a lot of stigma around mobility aids, especially for younger people. This can make it difficult to overcome internalized ableism. But fundamentally, mobility aids are there to make you more mobile and improve your quality of life!
Some people have used aids for years because symptoms fluctuate from day to day and some use a number of different aids depending on what their needs are each day. Sometimes they need to use a wheelchair, sometimes a walker, and other times a stick. A lot of people love their aids and feel privileged to have access to them. They help you live your best life! Yet quite often other people with chronic illnesses say they struggle to use aids because they’re worried about what others might think or because they don’t feel they’re ‘ill’ enough to use them.
If using an aid could help you and you can access it, then you can use it! You don’t need permission from anyone else and it doesn’t matter what others think. Their purpose is to help you live the life you want to live, so use that aid if it allows you to get out there and enjoy pride!
Find Accessible Events
Friends at a bar.
Although it shouldn’t have to be you that does the work to figure out if pride events are accessible, at the moment it falls to us for the most part. So, it’s best to do some research. If you have access needs, it’s best to email, message, or call event organizers to make sure you can access events. If it’s easier for you, you can make an email template so you can just copy and paste if there are a few events you want to contact.
If you’ve had any treatment for your chronic illness, you’ve likely heard of ‘pacing’. Essentially, it means pacing your activities, so that you’re taking rests and not overdoing things. This helps to prevent a flare-up of symptoms.
Pacing yourself during pride is important so you can take part without aggravating your symptoms too much. For example, you might only choose a couple of events that mean the most to you to take part in. You might schedule rests during the day or allocate a rest day after you’ve attended an event. At the end of the day, we’re all individuals and you know your body and how it responds to activity best.
Keep Up With Self-Care Practices
Self-care is anything you do to look after your physical or mental health, like sleeping on a regular schedule and eating well. When there’s lots of excitement going on and that party atmosphere, you might find yourself swept up in it and forget to keep up with self-care. Unfortunately, unlike able-bodied people, we tend not to be able to cope as well with this and it can take a toll on our bodies.
So, do your best to keep up with self-care even when you’re attending an event. Make sure you’re eating, staying hydrated (especially if you’re drinking alcohol), and getting some rest. Keep up with your medications and any treatments you use (It's helpful to set reminders).
Have a To-Go Bag
A to-go bag is a bag that has all the supplies you might need to help you manage your illness while you’re out. You have it ready packed so you can just grab it and take it with you wherever you go, that way you don’t need to worry about forgetting anything.
A to-go bag helps you be prepared, whether you’re attending pride or just going out to enjoy the sun. What you need in your to-go bag will vary depending on your illness and your symptoms, but we’ve included a list of examples below to give you some ideas:
- A set of your medications
- A list of numbers people to call if you need help
- A fan to keep you cool (handy if your symptoms are aggravated by heat)
- Some gloves, warm socks, a hat, or scarf to keep you warm (handy if you struggle with circulation issues)
- A bottle of water in case you can’t find a place to get a drink
- Some snacks (good if you struggle with blood sugar issues or if you need to keep your energy up)
- A pulse oximeter (if you need to keep an eye on your heart rate and blood oxygen levels)
- Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs (useful if you struggle with sensory issues)
Get Involved Online
There are often pride events you can get involved in online. Since Covid, there’s been an increase in pride celebrations being streamed live or done via group call, which has made pride more accessible for people who may struggle to attend in person. Hopefully, these online events will continue so that more of us can be included.
You can also get involved in raising awareness and campaigning for better rights for our community by sharing petitions, speaking up on social media, and sharing your own experiences.
Say No When You Need To
Women with pride socks
Even though it can be difficult to turn down an invite when you really want to take part, sometimes when you live with a chronic illness you have to say no. Your health comes first so don’t be afraid to set a boundary and stay home if you need to.
We know it can be frustrating and feel isolating when you aren’t able to be involved, especially when you see other people out enjoying pride with their friends on social media. But please know that you aren’t alone: there are lots of other chronically ill queers out there just like you.
For many, finding the chronic illness community within the LGBTQ+ community can be so validating and reassuring (there are lots of us on social media). You are valid and your needs matter. In the future, hopefully, pride will be more accessible to all of us.
Anyone in the LGBTQ+ community understands how complicated life can be. From dealing with the coming out process to fighting for human rights, it can be a struggle every day to just exist. Plenty of factors play into this struggle, most of which are environmental; however, some of the less talked about complications are related to mental health. Intersectionality between mental health-related issues needs more attention in general such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
ADHD is a fairly common condition marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Here are three ways ADHD can complicate the lives of LGBTQ+ people.
1. Dual Stigma
Being gay, lesbian, trans, or anything else that falls under the LGBTQ+ umbrella is stigmatized to hell and back by conservatives all across the country—and worse in some other parts of the world. Stigma surrounds almost everything about the community: the way you talk, walk, and dress are judged constantly. How you act and how you present yourself in your identity is judged. People love boxes, and they love putting you in one even more. You can be ‘butch,’ ‘queer,’ fem,’ or plenty of other labels that those around you can use to categorize you.
In the same way, those who have ADHD often get put into similar boxes. You’re ‘fidgety,’ ‘spacey,’ or ‘lazy’ a lot of the time. Because of the stigma that revolves around both the LGBTQ+ community and mental health, the duality of identifying with both is an extremely difficult thing. It takes up a lot of mental space to constantly be judged by others, and it takes a lot to hold your head up while it’s happening.
Despite this, embracing these identities can also be extremely empowering. It is even relieving! You no longer have to feel compelled to go beyond yourself to ‘act normal’ and put in all that energy to be someone you aren't. And you have an answer to some of the really difficult problems you may have been facing! It is comforting to now know yourself even better and begin to cherish that side of yourself.
2. Work Is Even More Challenging
It is no secret that in the U.S., being in the LGBTQ+ community can greatly impact your work prospects. This is especially true depending on which region you live in and how you present yourself. Unfortunately, as mentioned previously, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding the LGBTQ+ community–so much so that laws are being passed to keep us out of certain parts of the workforce in various parts of the country.
Experiences trying to work as an out transgender man were complicated by being upfront about identity. A majority of interviews with potential employers have ended prematurely, to start. Not by coincidence either. They have ended right after being confronted about gender identity. And if there is even talk about disabilities, most will end after you say, "yes, I need accommodation for a disability," even if it is something as common as ADHD.
There is a little more protection for people with disabilities, but it is pretty sparse and can be difficult to document. Being open about your identity with an employer is a risk—more so if you identify in multiple categories that are stigmatized, such as being gay and having ADHD. The intersectionality of having ADHD and being in the LGBTQ+ community can heighten the risk of discrimination, not to mention the detrimental mental health effects of being the target of such.
Knowing that someone who holds that kind of power over you, in this case, the employer, may treat you unfairly because of your conditions or identity creates further awareness of the equality gap. ADHD can certainly impact your ability to perform a certain task at work, just as it can keep you from working at all. Having to juggle this mental battle while also being worried about how others perceive you is a huge burden and can weigh heavily on a person.
3. Fear of Rejection in ANOTHER Aspect of Life
LGBTQ+ people who are neurodivergent risk rejection for multiple factors of their identity.
Most people have a fear of rejection, but there are degrees. For some, it can pop up at various times, like on a first date, while for others, it can lurk over every situation they encounter. The extent to which most people feel this fear is usually intense but short-lived. For those of us who have multiple minority identities, the risk of rejection raises its ugly head more often, and there are more reasons to suspect it. It can create this omnipresent fear that never quite goes away, always lingering in the background or making itself heard in the foreground.
Dual stigma plays a huge role in how fear of rejection manifests itself and often shows up in areas of everyday life, such as work. However, it can also pop up in other situations. Maybe it urged you to break up with your significant other, perhaps to distance yourself from a once close friend—or potentially, you might have even been tempted to make a huge life-changing decision based on this fear. Whatever aspects of your life it affects, it is a constant presence. And that sucks.
Having to deal with all of the other worries that life throws at you is hard enough. Having to battle stigma and fight for human rights or equality, all while you carry this enormous mental load, telling you that nothing is ever going to go right, you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never receive the recognition you deserve, and you’ll certainly never live a happy life because of it all. Fearing rejection can manifest itself in anything and everything, at any time, and it can snowball into something much greater, sometimes making what it fears the reality by driving others away.
Yet, often for those within the LGBTQ+ community and neurodivergent people like those with ADHD, the reality is a lot closer than it should be. All of the stigma and stereotyping that goes on creates an atmosphere in which this fear thrives. And for a good reason: rejection is all too often something we face. Being rejected from jobs can be commonplace—not usually because you are underqualified but because of your openness to employers about your identity. It’s a crushing reality that needs to change.
The intersectionality between those who identify as LGBTQ+ and those who have ADHD is a lot closer than most people think. And its effects are a lot greater than most would guess. However, this reality is not all bad. Yet, a lot of great things can come out of embracing your identities. You understand yourself much better to the point where you are grateful for knowing, embracing, and loving both. Knowing yourself and understanding yourself are two very different things, and to truly understand yourself, you must first accept yourself and all of what makes you who you are.
That is freeing. It is life-changing. It opens up completely different worlds. You gain a completely new perspective on what your life is. It’s a powerful and empowering thing to accept your identity, and despite the negative side effects, knowing yourself will make you happier than anyone else ever could.
Therapy has so many benefits and the key to getting the most out of your therapy sessions is finding a queer-friendly therapist that works for you. Opening up about your deepest thoughts and feelings puts you in a vulnerable position, so you need to feel comfortable.
Therefore, a lot of queer people find it helpful to have a therapist that’s either queer themselves or is well versed on issues that the LGBTQ+ community can face. Let’s face it, it’s nerve-wracking enough to attend therapy, never mind wondering if they’re going to understand your identity and give you the respect you deserve.
There are lots of reasons you might feel more comfortable with a queer-friendly therapist, but how do you go about finding one? It’s not as hard as you might think, so let’s take a look.
Do Some Research
LGBTQ+ heart in open hands.
The first step is to do some research and think about what sort of therapy will be suitable for you. There are lots of different therapy types, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and psychodynamic therapy, just to name a few.
Think about what issues you want to address specifically. Doing a bit of reading on different therapy types will give you a clearer understanding of what might work best for your needs.
Each therapist will offer different approaches, so this helps to narrow the search down right away. If you aren’t sure what’s best for you, don’t worry you can still use the rest of the advice here!
Utilize Online Resources
One of the best ways to find a therapist that is LGBTQ+ friendly is to use online resources. There are some great websites that can help you find therapists near you (or an online therapist if you prefer).
The list below includes websites that allow you to filter by therapy type; the issue you want to address; gender (you might feel more comfortable with someone who shares the same gender identity as you), and whether the therapist is LGBTQ+ friendly.
- Psychology Today
- Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality (their search feature allows you to search for all types of LGBTQ+ friendly medical professionals but you can narrow it down to psychological therapy)
- Online Therapy
- The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN)
- Lighthouse LGBT
These are just a few options, there are lots more on offer. You may be able to find a local mental health center that can provide a list of local queer-friendly therapists. It’s also worth checking out mental health charity websites, as they tend to have a lot of relevant information.
Talk to Your Doctor
Sometimes talking to your regular doctor can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you have had bad experiences with doctors (a lot of us have). But it’s worth speaking up about what you’re going through if you can, as they might be able to refer you to a suitable therapist. They may even be able to give you a list of local resources that could work for you.
If you are already under the care of a mental health professional but aren’t currently receiving therapy, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and ask for what you need. Sometimes word of mouth can be best, so if you have a friend or family member who knows a good therapist that helped them, it’s worth checking out their recommendation.
Check Their Credentials
Of course, you want to ensure that any therapist you choose is appropriately qualified, so always check their credentials. You can also check their website or online listings to see if they have experience dealing with the specific issue you want to address. They’ll often list conditions they have experience treating and therapy types they’re qualified in.
Their listing may specifically state that they’re queer-friendly or have experience dealing with LGBTQ+ issues, which is always a ‘green flag’. If you want to talk about gender-related topics, check to see if this is something they mention.
Woman on phone making notes.
Once you have a shortlist of therapists that seem like they might work for you, you can start reaching out to ask questions. You can email or call them, and they’ll typically arrange an initial phone call or in-person session. This is usually a shorter session and is typically free, to help you both figure out whether you’re a good fit.
Make sure you speak up as this is your time to figure out whether this person can really help you. It’s helpful to prepare a list of questions you want to ask, in case you get flustered (it’s totally normal to feel a bit overwhelmed and nervous).
We've included a few example questions you might want to ask to help you get started if you’re feeling a bit lost:
- I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community, do you have experience working with people in my community?
- How do you make your sessions a safe, inclusive space?
- Do you have training that involves LGBTQ+/gender issues?
- Do you have experience treating ‘your mental illness’?
- What sort of approach would you take towards ‘a problem you want to address’?
Consider Other Factors
Although for many people finding an LGBTQ+ affirming therapist is crucial, for some people other factors might be more important. For example, if you have a complex mental illness, it might be more important for you to find someone highly qualified in this area even if they aren’t trained in queer issues.
Some people might prefer someone of a specific gender or someone who shares the same religion, background, or race as them. This is all completely valid – you need to figure out what is going to make you feel most at ease.
Unfortunately, costs and availability where you live can also play a part in choosing your therapist. Therapy can be pricey and tricky to access, but if you are in a position to attend therapy, it’s a fantastic investment for your mental health.
Remember You Can Keep Looking
Young woman with pride flag.
At the end of the day, therapy is all about you. It’s about you finding a professional that will support you and guide you in a way that allows you to flourish and grow as a person. Keep in mind that you are the priority here.
Even if you spend a lot of time doing research and choose a therapist that seems perfect for you, but after a few sessions you feel you aren’t clicking with them, you don’t have to continue. You can keep looking and try again.
Keep pushing and advocating for yourself until you find what works for you because you’re worth it. You deserve the right help to be the best version of yourself.
Rees SN, Crowe M, Harris S., (2021), The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities' mental health care needs and experiences of mental health services: An integrative review of qualitative studies. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2021 Aug;28(4):578-589.
We all know that pride month is here and it’s a very exciting time! Although pride can be such a joyous and positive time, it can bring mixed emotions and challenges for people. Your mental health should always come first and it’s important you make that a priority during pride.
It’s typically full of fun gatherings as we celebrate our identities and remember those who have paved the way for us. It’s also a pivotal time for us to gather as a community and continue to fight for the rights and recognition we deserve, both for us and for those who will come after us.
Know Your Feelings Are Valid
Know Your Feelings Are Valid
A range of feelings can crop up during pride month. Many people feel mixed emotions of happiness at how far we’ve come, as well as sadness and anger that we still need to fight against stigma and discrimination.
There are so many injustices and ongoing attacks against our community, both from the system we live in and from those around us. It’s impossible to overlook that, even during a time of celebration. Know that it’s ok to acknowledge your feelings about this: you don’t have to try to ignore them.
Some marginalized groups face discrimination even within our community, for example, people of color, indigenous people, disabled people, bisexual people, and transgender individuals. This can lead them to feel left out of pride month or feel anxious about being accepted into queer spaces.
A lot of queer people don’t feel accepted by their family or friends and might feel isolated, especially if they haven’t yet made connections within our community. This feeling of loneliness and frustration can be enhanced during pride when they feel they aren't able to take part in the celebrations like everyone else.
However you feel during pride month, remind yourself that your feelings are completely valid. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to acknowledge and process those emotions.
Don’t Feel Pressured
It’s often hard not to feel pressure during pride - pressure to be loud and proud, pressure to drink and party, and pressure to attend events. Remember that you are in control of your life and should do what’s best for you.
If you aren’t out yet or don’t feel fully comfortable being so publically open about your sexuality or gender identity, that’s completely fine! Don’t feel you have to attend large celebrations or be the center of attention. You can keep things more low-key and move at a pace that suits you, or celebrate pride from home (we’ll talk about that more later).
Whether you’re sober or you just don’t feel like drinking a lot, don’t feel that you have to bow to pressure from others and get drunk to celebrate pride. There are lots of ways to have fun and get involved in the celebrations without alcohol.
Ultimately, if the people around you are pressuring you into doing something you don’t want to do, you could probably do with better friends anyway!
Attending parades, protests, and parties during pride can be a lot of fun but it can also be exhausting! Especially if you’re attending a lot of events while trying to balance work, school, and other commitments. So, make sure to take breaks when you need to.
If you’re at an event and you become overwhelmed, just take a few moments to step aside and breathe. You can always head home early (there’s no shame in doing that). Your mental and physical health comes first.
Two women eating.
Self-care refers to any action you take to look after your physical or mental health. We like to think of self-care as setting yourself up for success. Self-care during pride might be making sure you’re getting enough sleep; staying hydrated (especially if you’re drinking more than normal or are out in the sun for long periods); eating well; doing some exercise when you get the chance, and making time to do things you find relaxing.
Mindfulness is a great way to reduce stress, improve your sleep, and help yourself regulate emotions. Since we hear about mindfulness so often, it can seem cliché but it does have so many benefits. There are lots of great, quick guided mindfulness sessions online for free to help you get started.
Stay True to Yourself
The whole point of pride is to be proud of who you are, but it can be all too easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others or feeling like we need to look or act a certain way. While this can happen year-round, it can feel more intense around pride month.
Do your best to stay true to yourself. Remember there’s no one ‘right’ way to be queer and our individuality is what makes us so special. If you don’t identify with the label ‘queer’ that’s completely valid too - there’s no one size fits all way to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. You are valid, regardless of how you identify or express yourself. Be your true, authentic self!
Connect With Others
Pride is a perfect time to connect with others! If you’ve been feeling alone or isolated, pride can help you get out of that slump and help to rebuild your confidence.
Connect with your friends and family (whether that’s your biological or chosen family). Be open to meeting new people and forming new connections. Connecting with others allows us to feel part of the community and is fantastic for our mental health.
Research shows that when LGBTQ+ people feel part of the community their sense of well-being is increased, they feel more confident and accepted, and pivotally, their mental health is significantly improved.
Ask for Help If You Need it
If you feel like you’re struggling with your mental health during pride, check in with your loved ones. Talk to your friends or family members (or whoever you trust and feel able to open up to). There’s no shame in asking for help.
If you need help from a professional, reach out to your doctor or therapist. There are a lot of great organizations that offer mental health support for the LGBTQ+ community that you may be able to access online or in your local area.
There are also several hotlines you can call if you need someone to talk to including:
- The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386
- The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564
- Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
Although it can feel worrying to reach out, it’s so important that you do. You aren’t alone, even if it feels like it at the time. There are people who can help you to cope.
Celebrate Pride in a Way That Feels Right for You
We all deserve to take part in pride and you can do that in a way that feels right for you. For some people, it may be attending pride protests, marches, parades, and parties. For others, it may be attending online pride celebrations or getting involved through social media. This can also be more accessible for those who live in an isolated area or who don’t feel able to attend pride celebrations in person.
If you prefer to keep it more low-key and stay at home, you could invite some friends around and have a chill night in. You could choose to mark the event by reading queer literature, watching LGBTQ+ movies or documentaries, or reading more in-depth about the history of pride.
You deserve to be a part of pride so find a way to celebrate that feels right for you! There’s no ‘right way’ to get involved. Wherever you are on your journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, be kind to yourself.
Love is Love
Ceatha, N., Mayock, P., Campbell, J., Noone, C., & Browne, K. (2019). The Power of Recognition: A Qualitative Study of Social Connectedness and Wellbeing through LGBT Sporting, Creative and Social Groups in Ireland. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(19), 3636.