Celebrate Pride: Data Does Not Define LGBTQ Communities

June is Pride Month for most of the nation, (although Austin celebrates Pride in August). Pride parades around the country remind us that true joy happens when we’re able to be our most authentic self. Pride is about loving who you are and being unashamed of that. The message is sure to inspire communities beyond the LGBTQ community.

But it’s important to remember the need for Pride month to explicitly and exclusively celebrate our brothers, sisters, and gender-queers, in the LGBTQ community.

The national Pride Parades filled with extravagant costumes and colors stemmed from a violent history of police brutality at Stonewall. The raid and riots at Stonewall are known to be the instigator of the LGBTQ rights movement in America.

LGBTQ Youth in Texas

And our home state Texas is not exempt from the oppression and persecution of the LGBTQ community.

We’ve all heard the old adage; “everything’s bigger in Texas,” our land, our highways, our BBQ; everything! But there’s another thing that’s vastly large in the Lone Star State; the growing overrepresentation of LGBTQ youth in our criminal justice system.

“The criminal justice system has become the dumping ground for marginalized and stigmatized communities,” said Doug Smith, Senior Policy Analyst with Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) in their Press Release last Fall. “And that harm is exacerbated when we fail to respond effectively to the needs of diverse communities or protect the safety and wellbeing of every Texan.”

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition released One Size Fails All, a series of reports in October 2018 highlighting the growing overrepresentation of marginalized youth in the criminal justice system in Texas. Out of Sight specifically explores the LGBTQ community.

“For many LGBTQ youth, the combination of family rejection, mental health conditions, and substance use leaves them with few options for shelter, support, and safety,” said Ryan Carlino, the report author. “As LGBTQ youth shuffle between homes, foster care, shelters, and the streets, they are increasingly more likely to come into contact with law enforcement – a situation that is only exacerbated by the lack of access to appropriate mental health and substance use support.”

According to Out of Sight, 26% of homeless youth in Travis County identify as LGBTQ. As a result of the prevalence of homelessness among this population, LGBTQ youth are substantially more likely to become involved with the juvenile or adult criminal justice systems.

There are many reasons why LGBTQ communities become involved in the criminal/juvenile justice system. Family rejection and estrangement is a major issue within the LGBTQ community. When one is not accepted at home — or even displaced from their homes by their primary caregivers — it often results in homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness, and foster care placement.

Opportunity, Support, and PRIDE!

The report dives deep into statistics of Texas’ LGBTQ youth; from family rejection to school bullying, LGBTQ youth face greater challenges in Texas. They all deserve the support they need to thrive here in Texas and beyond.

Here is a great list of organizations supporting LGBTQ youth and adults in Austin.

Focusing on data sometimes can be a little stale and negative-forward. Shining light on the realities of marginalized communities can often become the focus of the narrative around such communities. This does not do LGBTQ youth justice, data does not define our LGBTQ friends.

Everyone deserves to be prideful of who they are and be the champion of their own stories. But, Pride was not created out of the need to celebrate being gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and/or queer. Pride was born out of the necessity for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and/or queer communities to belong and exist in society without persecution of their life and identity. As a straight ally, it is my role to continue to create and support the space they deserve.

So I wave the Pride flag as an ally to my friends; respecting their space and celebrating the pride I have for their strength to overcome and be the champion of their own stories.