WHAT PRIDE MEANS TO ME
People have asked what Pride is all about. It is about celebrating and embracing your identity. It’s about learning that there are people in your world who accept and understand you. And especially for someone like me who grew up in care, there are already so many challenges and losses. Often there is no guidance or support.
Pride is a time, a place, a celebration, and people that give both guidance and support.
Coming out while I was in care was the hardest thing I’ve done, but not because I was afraid. It was the turns my life took as a result that I had no control over. I was forced into independence – unprepared and unsupported – after disclosing my feelings towards women. Like most youth in care I wanted to escape the system, so being independent was always my ultimate goal. But not like this, without the things any young person needs to succeed. Now I had no choice but to try to become an instant adult.
I look back on the time when I first left care. Life was scary. I was unsure of how to be an adult. I had these responsibilities and pressure from my worker, but the mental capacity was not there as I was really still very young. I was forced to live an “adult life” without the skills and support all young people need as they slowly grow towards that life, taking on responsibilities slowly.
I was a high school dropout, without a job and struggling with my mental health. The biggest change I was going through was trying to navigate a lesbian relationship without being able to share my experience. I had only known one other person who came out and all I will say is it wasn’t easy for them and I never heard from them again. Along with that, I was still aware of my mother’s religious beliefs and I knew that neither she nor my friends would understand. So, I went on navigating this on my own.
I eventually moved on from my first relationship and began to explore a different life. I returned to school at 25 and got my high school diploma. Against all odds, I then was accepted into York University. I am fortunate to have survived my experiences as a child in the child welfare system, but the battle to overcome the effects of my trauma continues and may continue for years to come.
It has been proven that entering and growing up in the child welfare system results in layers of trauma for children. For LGBTQ+ children and youth, that trauma should not be multiplied for simply being who you are, loving who you love.
Children, youth, young adults and adults should all be allies to one another. Pride month has always been a reminder that we are all human with the same wants and needs. We all want to be loved and accepted. We all deserve to feel safe and protected by our communities. Being a lesbian didn’t change who I was at the core. Loving who I want honestly is a freedom I don’t take for granted. Be intentional about making your space, your home, your agency, and your heart a safe space. If you know someone is struggling, reach out to them and let them know you care and are there for them.
Sometimes, all you need to do is BE THERE JUDGMENT FREE!