The month of June brings a colorful array of events for and by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) communities, especially here in the city of Philadelphia.

History shows us these communities have experienced their share of triumphs as well as tribulations. More recently, the roller coaster climate of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans laws, policies, and sentiments continue to bring pain to the LGBTQ+ communities.

In a 2021 national poll conducted by The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth surveyed indicated a decrease in their mental health due to anti-trans bills being debated in this country. For those who encounter challenges due to racism in addition to anti-LGBTQ+ actions, anxiety and depression are even more heightened. 

Over the years, I have had my share of growth around identity. As an immigrant first, a member of the LGBTQ+ communities, and a person in recovery – the times I felt most able to thrive and succeed were when those around me would engage with me in a way that it was clear they were open to learning.

Perhaps I was not understood, or the person next to me did not wish to acknowledge nor agree with my Queer identity. However, I am grateful for the times where spaces to learn, unlearn, and connect were created through mutual respect and empathy. The simple gesture of respecting a person’s pronouns or asking how they identify can go a long way!

Considering the focus of the mission and vision of DBHIDS along with the impactful services provided through each division, the mental health and wellbeing of a person comes first. As we head into Pride season, I invite you in to remember why we do the work we do. We cannot be there for all Philadelphians if we cannot be there for each other. Happy Pride!

About the Author: Suja Mathew (she/her) is Manager of Learning and Professional Development-Human Resources for the Community Behavioral Health division of the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services.