SANE Peer Ambassador Jeanette is celebrating Pride year-round while honouring her mental health.
This past June was my very first Pride Month as an openly queer person. At least, mostly openly queer.
It’s taken a little while to get to a place where I could explore my gender and sexuality.
As a migrant person of colour, I grew up in a country where homosexuality was and continues to be illegal. At the time, queerness was not seen, not acknowledged, and very much hidden.
I also live with complex mental health issues. Which means that, until recently, it felt like I could barely keep my head above water. The past few years have been the first time I’ve slowly been able to take in the view and experience how truly rich life can be.
Pride to me represents embracing my whole self. It seems fitting that this exploration of gender and sexuality couples what feels like a transition from surviving to thriving.
As we leave Pride Month behind, I thought I’d share how I’m keen to celebrate Pride and connect with myself and the LGBTQIA+ community all year round, while honouring where I’m at on my mental health journey.
Celebrate queer stories
Read or listen to queer literature, watch queer television shows and films, and listen to queer podcasts. There are more queer stories being elevated than ever before, and I’m living for it.
Right now, I’m knee deep in memoirs and documentaries, learning about the diversity of experiences that exist within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Support queer businesses
I love shopping at queer-owned businesses. Not only do they tend to create warm and inclusive spaces, but I also know that my dollars are directly benefitting the queer community.
Explore different queer spaces
There are so many ways to connect with the LGBTQIA+ community – you just have to find the ways that work for you.
Physical spaces like designated queer drop-ins, bars, clubs, events or other gatherings may be your thing.
Personally, I find online spaces like forums, social media, and, in particular, the comments section of my favourite queer content-creator more up my alley.
Create safer spaces through inclusive language
We all can influence the spaces we’re in. Using gender-inclusive language is one way we can help make the spaces we inhabit more open and welcoming to all.
Two easy ways to do this are to:
- Use gender-neutral terminology, such as using “folks” instead of “ladies and gentlemen” or “firefighter” instead of “fireman”.
- Don’t assume people’s pronouns. Ask or use the gender-neutral pronoun “they”.
Embrace your whole self
Some queer folk and people with mental health issues engage in masking – a process of hiding parts of ourselves to align with social norms. This can be incredibly exhausting.
In spaces where it is safe to do so, consider taking one small step towards becoming your authentic best self.
One of the ways I now love to express myself through is colour. A pop of colour in my turquoise blue earrings slowly escalated into bright yellow linen pants, spurred on by the positive reinforcement of my peers.
Believe it or not, what started out as an experiment has given me the courage to lean into my whole self and embrace opportunities and experiences I wouldn’t have before.
Being queer and experiencing mental health issues isn’t a walk in the park.
Take time to celebrate your beautiful strength and tenacity. Those are the very same qualities that will help us move from surviving to thriving.
Throw a party! Buy yourself a gift! Celebrate yourself often. You deserve it.
Bonus: Ask for help
If you’re struggling with your mental health, please reach out for support.
You can contact QLife, an Australia-wide counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ by calling 1800 184 527 or webchat 3pm-12am AEST.
The ABC has also compiled a comprehensive list of national and state-based services available to LGBTQIA+ people, their families and friends.
And obviously you can always reach out to SANE’s support services.