This June, Lost&Found (along with many others) is celebrating LGBTQIA2S+ Pride Month. We will be sharing suicide prevention resources at Pride festivals throughout the month:
- June 3 – Brookings Pride – Pioneer Park, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- June 10 – Sioux Falls Pride – 8th & Railroad, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- June 24 – Vermillion Pride Craft & Vendor Fair – First Dakota Coyote Gallery, 12:30 to 4 p.m.
What is Pride Month, and why does it matter to Lost&Found? Read on!
What is Pride Month?
Pride Month honors the struggle for recognition and equal rights by those in the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Originally focused on gay rights, Pride Month now covers a broader spectrum. The acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (or Queer), Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and Other Identities (+).
It’s also a time for celebrating the accomplishments of LGBTQIA2S+ people, as well as a time for people to gather and find encouragement and community together.
Pride Month is celebrated in June because that’s when the Stonewall riots, an important event in the history of gay rights, took place in 1969. In the 1960s, when homosexual acts were illegal and homosexuals were often publicly shunned and the target of violence, police frequently raided gay bars, arresting the customers. On June 28, 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York City, patrons refused to cooperate and fought back. The riots that night and in the nights following led to a sea change: People who had hidden who they were before were empowered to be open about who they were, and the cause of gay rights gained strength throughout the nation and the world.
The use of the word “pride” to describe celebrations of LGBTQIA2S+ was encouraged by a gay activist named L. Craig Schoonmaker. “A lot of people were very repressed. They were conflicted internally, and didn’t know how to come out and be proud,” Schoonmaker said in an interview with The Allusionist podcast in 2015. “That’s how the movement was most useful, because they thought, ‘Maybe I should be proud.’”
Why is Lost&Found celebrating Pride Month?
Unfortunately, there is a connection between suicide risk and LGBTQIA2S+ young people.
- Forty-one percent of LGBTQ youth surveyed seriously considered suicide in the past year, including half of transgender and nonbinary youth.
- Fourteen percent of LGBTQ youth surveyed attempted suicide in the past year.
While rates among the general young adult population have also trended higher recently, the risk is significantly higher among the LGBTQ population. For example, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey conducted in 2020, in the height of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, found that 25 percent of young adults (ages 18-24) had considered suicide. In South Dakota, 21.5 percent of 9th- through 12th-graders said they had considered suicide in 2021. Nearly 12 percent said they had actually attempted suicide in the 12 months before the survey. (These statistics are, of course, also unacceptably high.)
“Our efforts to prevent suicide among youth and young adults cannot be taken seriously if we do not live out our work as allies to the LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit communities of South Dakota and the surrounding region,” said Lost&Found Executive Director Erik Muckey. “We have a responsibility to understand and respond to the roots of suicide risk for LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit South Dakotans. I strongly encourage all South Dakotans, especially community leaders, around our state and region to join Lost&Found in celebrating Pride Month while recognizing our collective role in preventing suicide.”
What factors affect suicide risk among LGBTQ young adults?
Mental health and suicide risk among LGBTQ youth is closely related to how the youth are treated. According to the 2023 survey:
- “Nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQ young people said their mental health was poor most of the time or always due to anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation.”
- “Nearly 2 in 3 LGBTQ young people said that hearing about potential state or local laws banning people from discussing LGBTQ people at school made their mental health a lot worse.”
- “Conversely, 79% of LGBTQ young people said hearing about potential state and local laws trying to ban conversion therapy made them feel a little or a lot better.”
- Suicide attempts are higher for LGBTQ youth who have been physically threatened or harmed due to either their sexual orientation or gender identity (27 percent) compared to those who have not (9 percent).
- Suicide attempts are higher for LGBTQ youth who have experienced discrimination (18 percent) compared to those who have not (7 percent).
- Suicide attempts are higher for LGBTQ youth subjected to (28 percent) or threatened with (28 percent) conversion therapy compared to those who have not (11 percent).
- Suicide attempts are higher for LGBTQ youth who do not have access to LGBTQ-affirming spaces compared to those who do. (Fifteen percent of those whose home is not LGBTQ-affirming attempted suicide, compared to 10 percent who have a home that is affirming; for schools, the percentages were 16 percent for non-LGBTQ-affirming and 12 percent for affirming.)
- Suicide attempts are higher for transgender and nonbinary young people for whom none of the people they live with (21 percent) or only some of the people they live with (20 percent) respect their pronouns, compared to those for whom all of the people they live with respect their pronouns (12 percent).
- Suicide attempts are higher for transgender and nonbinary young people who do not have access to binders, shapewear, and gender-affirming clothing (20 percent) compared to those who do have access to most of those items (11 percent).
How can we help?
The list above suggests some clear “dos and don’ts” for our society: Obviously, don’t physically threaten or harm LGBTQIA2S+ people. Don’t discriminate against them. Don’t try to convert them.
DO accept and support LGBTQIA2S+ young adults.
This year, for the first time, the survey asked respondents what a world where all LGBTQ people are accepted. They gave descriptions that are highlighted in the image below.
“Despite the prevalence of unique challenges, barriers to care, and relentless political attacks, LGBTQ young people remain hopeful and resilient,” according to the survey authors.
This article was first published in June 2022 and was updated June 2, 2023.