My Reflection on Pride Month

I am Michael Lesher, a Texas State Board Licensed Professional Counselor and “friend of Dorothy”. I have had the joy of working at Nick Finnegan Counseling Center for the last year. My experience spans many years of work in public education where I worked with many diverse populations. As a counselor, I work specifically with teens, young adults, and the LGBTQ+ community.

Being that it is June, it means that it is Pride Month. It is during the month of June that we celebrate the impact the LGBTQ+ community has had on the world and commemorates the events that started the movement toward equality. It was June 28, 1969 that the riots and demonstrations began after the police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village of Manhattan, New York. The riots and marches were quite different from the flag-waving and joyous celebrations we see in every major US city today. It was a memorable experience for me to have had the opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall by walking in the World Pride March in New York City last year.

Even Houston has had its moments in the spotlight for LGBTQ+ rights since the Stonewall demonstrations. On June 16, 1977, the LGBTQ+ community rallied against the appearance of former Miss America and anti-gay Florida Orange Juice spokeswomen, Anita Bryant by a protest and concert boycott. On July 13, 1991 “Queer Nation” protested the murder of Paul Broussard, a 27-year-old gay man, which was a peaceful demonstration where 2,000 Houstonians blocked the streets of Westheimer and Montrose against anti-gay (LGBTQ+) hate crimes. In even more recent history, the election of Mayor Annise Parker as the first openly gay mayor of a major city.

In addition, it is inspiring to think of the progress our nation has seen in the last 50 years, such as the Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 2015 that ruled the right to marry is guaranteed to same sex couples and recently on June 15, 2020 ruling that federal law protects LGBTQ+ workers. However, during the stress of Covid-19, the disparity of the unresolved racial tension in our nation, and the intense feelings of isolation within quarantine, it is often difficult to find the hope and joy of this year’s Pride Month. It has been during the month of June that I have had to dig deep. It is through my own personal reflection and internal celebration of Pride that I have been able to find joy.

Just last Friday, I had the opportunity to present virtually to the Houston Association for Marriage and Family Therapists about how to be an ally to their LGBTQ+ clients and their families. It was an honor to be invited to speak on the topic and provide information to a group of individuals yearning for knowledge. It is my belief that through education and depleting ignorance we can truly make a difference. It is my hope that through reading this editorial, a few questions have come to mind that you will be provoked to Google or learn more about. For instance, what does a “friend of Dorothy” mean, what does the “Q+” mean in LGBTQ+, or what is an “ally”? If anything, I hope that I have encouraged curiosity.

As a counselor I have a mission to help clients achieve personal mental wellbeing. In my work with LGBTQ+ clients, I have found the greatest struggle faced is tackling the internalized fears especially those that are influenced by the thoughts and beliefs of friends and family. Sometimes families and friends are met with uncomfortable feelings. Often it is my role as a counselor to educate about identity, attraction, and expression and to ultimately encourage curiosity that leads to growth and healing.

In conclusion, as Paulo Freire, a leader and advocate of education, suggests in his book the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who you are- so you can more wisely build the future.” So, let’s find joy in learning about diverse communities, let’s find hope in the celebration of LGBTQ+ history, and let’s find peace in putting what we are learning to action. Wishing you a Happy Pride Month!!!

By Michael Lesher, M.Ed., LPC