Exploring Cycles of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC Resilience
With Pride just showing its first June glimmers and Juneteenth around the corner, I’d love to take a moment to share some insights around community activism. The first Pride march in NYC in June 1970 happened after the Stonewall Riots; a celebration of queer and trans joy that stood in stark opposition to the violence and prejudice of the police who had raided the Stonewall Inn the previous year. I deeply admire the people who chose to fight back at Stonewall. Those heroes, including Marsha P. Johnson, are now canonized in queer culture. But I recognize that it takes a lot of energy to just show up authentically as yourself in your life as a queer, trans or non-binary person. So today, I’m thinking about the quiet beauty of those who chose to just show up at the bar and exist in spite of police harassment and mistreatment of queer communities at the time, and those who showed up to that first Pride event or future ones with cheeky and colorful energy, and those who didn’t go to any of those events, but still, lived their beautiful queer or trans lives with resilience, openly or quietly due to safety and social judgment reasons at the time. The struggle for equality and any shame about not having fought enough against the tide is a silent burden that many of us carry. Held with community, it’s one that can yield fruits of compassion, solidarity and creative adaptation with others who have struggled, adapted and survived. Though the black community’s stories, history, privileges and disadvantages, and experiences are markedly different, and the disturbing legacy of slavery cannot be undervalued in its impact, I can’t help but relate the feeling of the LGBTQ+ activism struggle to one that people of color bring to my office sometimes. Some people struggle with the feeling of not having done enough, or shown up to every event, or responding with enough activism or education against a stain of racism in this country. Some black folks might also feel this Juneteenth’s push “to celebrate, educate, and agitate”, and feel exhausted.
I tell people that sometimes it’s enough activism to just exist as yourself; to be black and get through the day; to be a good enough black mother, computer programmer, friend, healer, office worker, person, boyfriend, girlfriend, artist, whoever; to celebrate your living, authentic black body and allow your body to rest. I do also believe that there are eras in which we might have the resources, support, health, and more to engage with community or to organize. And there are eras in which we need to choose what honors our personal survival.
So whatever you do this Pride month, and whatever you do on Juneteenth, is up to you. Engage in whatever way honors the era that you’re in right now- whether that’s an era of engagement, growth, and community activism, an era in which you need support and rest, or an era in which you’re seeking joy and connection with others.
This month, Looking Glass Counseling is pleased to support bagly.org. BAGLY is The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, a youth-led, adult-supported social support organization, committed to social justice and creating, sustaining, and advocating for programs, policies, and services for the LGBTQ+ youth community.
Melissa Lee Nilles, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor and expressive arts therapist with a Master's degree from Lesley University’s Mental Health Counseling and Expressive Arts Therapy program. She is deeply passionate about self-exploration through the arts, mindfulness practices and therapy. She seeks to collaborate with her clients using the tools of person-centered therapy, mindfulness, meditation, trauma-informed body-oriented psychotherapy and expressive arts therapy (through music therapy, art therapy, and poetry/writing therapy). Melissa also employs CBT and motivational interviewing to help you transform your life. She prefers a holistic, eclectic and interdisciplinary approach to addressing client concerns.
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