Episode 98: Why We Need Pride Month (and a personal note on coming out) with Alyssa Scolari, LPC
Episode 98: Why We Need Pride Month (and a personal note on coming out) with Alyssa Scolari, LPC
Happy Pride Month! The month of June (and every month!) is a great time to celebrate the beauty of the LGBTQPIA+ community. In this week’s episode, Alyssa notes that while we certainly have come a long way in gaining rights for the LGBTQPIA+ community, there is still very far to go in terms of achieving true equality. For example, many of our states still recognize the lethal “Gay Panic Defense”. Alyssa also includes a personal note on her own experience with coming out for the first time this year.
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Alyssa Scolari [00:24]:
Everybody, welcome back to another episode of the Light After Trauma podcast. I’m your host Alyssa Scolari. Super excited to be here because it is Pride Month. And that is exactly what we are talking about. This episode, we are talking about Pride. We are talking about the importance of Pride, and we are talking about why we need to continue to advocate for the LGBTQ community. I’m really, actually, a little bit anxious about today’s episode, because I am going to be talking about things that I have never spoken about before. And so I’m a little bit nervous as we get into it, but we are just going to dive right in. Although before we do that, just some housekeeping stuff. So if you have not done so already, please leave a review for the podcast. Reviews, ratings go such a long way in terms of helping the podcast to reach a greater audience. And I really feel strongly that everybody deserves some kind of access to free mental health education, information, and support.
Alyssa Scolari [01:43]:
So the more reviews and ratings we have, the greater access people can have to this podcast. And it would mean the world to me. So if you have not done so already, please do so. I would greatly appreciate it. Also, if you are interested in becoming a Patreon member, you can check out the show notes where you can just click right on the link and you can donate as little or as much as you would like to the podcast. You can become a monthly Patreon member, or you could just do a one time donation, anything would be greatly appreciated. And all of the money that you donate goes directly in to helping fund the podcast and helping to keep the machine going, essentially. It costs roughly anywhere from $800-$900 a month to fund this podcast, between all of the software that we have to pay for and the editing. That is what it costs. So, again, this is not me complaining about the price. I am really fortunate enough to be in a place where I can do this, but if you are able and willing to give any amount would be greatly appreciated.
Alyssa Scolari [03:04]:
I hope everyone is off to a grand old week. I am doing pretty good, had a good day today. It’s kind of late when I’m recording this, it’s about 9:30 at night, which is pretty late for me to be doing any sort of work. But I had a burst of energy and I felt like I had a lot to say. And I was like, “I’m just a little anxious about this discussion today. You know what, we’re doing it.” So I made myself a cup of hot tea and here we are chatting today. So I think that as I get into this conversation, people are going to have one of two thoughts. And I think the first thought people might have is, “Why are we talking about Pride and the LGBTQ+ community on a trauma focused podcast?” And the second question people might have is, “This podcast has been going on for almost two years and I’ve not heard anything like this. We’ve never talked about this on this podcast before. Why now? Why now?”
Alyssa Scolari [04:22]:
And I’m going to answer that question, but first we’re going to answer the question of why is this topic on a trauma focused podcast? Truthfully, I don’t know the background that you come from wherever you’re listening from. I don’t know. I do know this though. Some people think, they have this thought of like, “Oh, okay, it’s 2022 and all LGBTQ+ people are accepted and there’s no need for any of this Pride or anything like that.” And then other people, I think, live in environments and communities where it’s in their face every single day, just how far we still have to go in terms of getting equality for this community. Now I want to address the people who might feel like we do have equality because unfortunately we just don’t. Things are becoming maybe a little bit better, although in some ways I absolutely question even that. It feels like we are going back decades.
Alyssa Scolari [05:40]:
I know that we’re a little bit better in terms of representation, but we’re still not there. Growing up, how likely are we to see, when we watch movies we see straight families. When we read books, it’s about straight families. Everybody identifies as either male or female. The male and the female get together. They get married, they have children, they usually have one boy, one girl. Anytime we so much as maybe pick out Christmas cards and we’re looking at stock images online and we see the same kind of family members in stock images. We see a man, we see a woman that we presume are the husband and the wife and then we see their very straight children. Non-gender, queer, male, female. What have you? It is so rare for any of us, even today to pick a movie out and have it be a movie where there are two dads or a movie where there are two moms or a movie where a child is transgender.
Alyssa Scolari [06:57]:
It’s so rare to go on the internet and search family photos and see families that look any different than a man and a woman and their children. We still have churches who are vehemently against the LGBTQ community. I actually, today, saw an image surface as a reaction to Pride Month. Somebody who doesn’t believe that LGBTQ folks should have rights, drew this photo and it’s a response to the Pride rainbow flag. The rainbow that is the symbol of Pride and the symbol of LGBTQ folks. Somebody actually drew a picture of a man and a woman.
Alyssa Scolari [07:47]:
And in between the man and the woman, they’re holding hands with their two kids. They’re little stick figures and they’re holding an umbrella and they’re shielding themselves and their children from basically a rainbow flag, rain that looks like it’s coming down. All that image is to say, “We don’t believe in this. We don’t respect these people. And we are going to do everything in our power to shield ourselves and our children from the LGBTQ community.” It is still so dangerous out there for folks who identify as LGBTQPIA+. Homophobia and transphobia and the like have dated back for centuries and part of the reason, well, the main reason that we have Pride Month is because of what happened in the Stonewall Uprising. So for those of you who don’t know, the date was June 28th, 1969 in New York City’s West Village.
Alyssa Scolari [09:01]:
The police raided a very popular gay bar that was called the Stonewall Inn. Now this was super normal for the time. This was super normal. Police did raid gay bars and gay facilities and they got arrested and this time the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back. And what this started was a series of riots that went on for days of people protesting these riots, from people that were saying, “I deserve to have my rights. I deserve to be seen and heard. I deserve to have equality. And I matter.” This was historic. And in fact, President Barack Obama in 2016, declared the Stonewall Inn a historic landmark, which is so cool because these Stonewall Riots were historic and they paved the way for people in the LGBTQ community to achieve their equality.
Alyssa Scolari [10:11]:
And then the year after the uprising was when the first Pride parade began and it was in June so that is where the tradition of Pride comes from. So it is so much more than just people getting together and saying, “Oh, Hey, we like the month of June.” No, this is a yearly celebration. It’s a yearly remembrance. It is an honor for the people who fought for LGBTQ community members to have their rights. So nearly 10 years after that was when the Pride flag was first created and it was created by a man named Gilbert Baker. And Gilbert was asked to create a symbol of Pride by a man whose name is Harvey Milk. Now Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected politician in the United States. So he asked Gilbert to create a flag that symbolized Pride and we have the rainbow flag. Now the rainbow flag actually started out with a few more colors and then had less colors. Today, each of the colors stands for something very specific.
Alyssa Scolari [11:23]:
So according to a People article, red is the symbol of life. Orange is the symbol for healing. Yellow is symbolic for sunshine. Green is symbolic for nature. The blue is representative of harmony and the purple is representative of spirit. I believe the original flag was eight colors, but it is now six. As far as we’ve come, though, we still have so much further to go. I want to talk to you about something called the gay panic defense, and this is going to help you really get an understanding for just how far we have to go in terms of equality and just basic human rights for LGBTQ folks. So what is the panic defense, the LGBTQ panic defense or the gay panic defense? It is a freaking legal strategy and get ready because if you haven’t heard of this is going to knock your fucking socks off. The gay panic defense is a legal strategy.
Alyssa Scolari [12:43]:
So basically what that strategy does is it asks a jury to take into account a victim’s sexual orientation or their gender identity and take into account that their orientation or their identity is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction. Victim blaming much? And yes, you heard me correctly. Basically, gay panic is a legal strategy that is asking the jury to consider the fact that somebody being gay or somebody being transgender or non-binary is the reason and a good enough reason why somebody may have attacked them in a hate crime. It’s basically like the offender is saying that they went like temporarily insane. They had a gay panic or a trans-panic that caused them to violently attack the victim. Tell me that’s not abso-fucking-lutely insane.
Alyssa Scolari [13:57]:
And what’s even more fucking insane is that this gay panic defense actually fucking works. It works. It has been used to get people off in the courts. People can attack people simply because they are lesbian or gay or transgender. They can then show up in court and they can say that they panicked because of somebody’s gayness or because somebody’s transgender and the jury can go, “Oh, okay. That sounds reasonable. You’re off the hook because you had a gay panic.” It makes my blood boil. It makes my blood boil. And the worst part about it is that the gay panic defense is only banned in 17 states in the United States. Meaning the rest of the country’s, or I’m sorry, the rest of the states in the United States of America, if they aren’t considering passing the gay panic defense, they’ve already passed it. The majority of the states in this country are perfectly fine with the gay panic defense. And that right there goes to show you why we need Pride Month and why we are talking about this on a trauma focused podcast.
Alyssa Scolari [15:22]:
Because people in the LGBTQ community are being murdered, are being targeted, are being killed simply because of who they are and our laws are basically saying that it’s okay. According to lgbtqbar.org, in 2019 alone, there were 1,656 hate crimes. And this is just what we know of because there are so many more that go unreported. But just in 2019, there were 1,656 hate crimes against people for either their sexual orientation or their gender identity. And this statistic makes up 18.8% of hate crime incidents, like single bias hate crime incidents. According to research, also from lgbtqbar.org, one out of five lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the United States will experience a hate crime in their lifetime. And more than one out of four transgender people will. We know that transgender people are targeted and they’re even more likely to be targeted if they are part of a non-white race. And I got to say, lately, it just feels like things are getting worse for the LGBTQ community and we need Pride more than ever.
Alyssa Scolari [16:51]:
I mean, look at what’s happening in Florida with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. And in Texas, where it is now considered a social services call to have a child seek transgender affirming care. It is just an absolute nightmare. And with greater and greater access to what’s going on in the world through social media, kids are bearing witness to all of this and it is very clear to so many kids that it is still not safe for them to be who they are. We need Pride because there are kids and adults out there who would rather take their own lives than be out and proud about who they are because of the hate that exists and I see it every day in my practice. I see it. It is absolutely heartbreaking. There is little to no representation in schools. Teachers will get reprimanded if they say anything about it because it’s considered a taboo topic, which it absolutely shouldn’t be.
Alyssa Scolari [18:05]:
And overall, kids just feel so isolated, growing up feeling like there is nobody who represents them, feeling like it’s not okay to be a part of the LGBTQ community and it is devastating. So we need Pride more than ever. And now I think to address the second question that I talked about in the beginning of this episode. The question being, why have I waited two years to talk about this? In August, the podcast will have been alive for two years, which boggles my mind to even say, and I haven’t talked about this. And trust me, it’s not because I don’t care and it’s not because it’s low on my priority list. Anybody who knows me knows that the LGBTQ community is actually top priority for me. But what I’m going to say is this, and this is going to come with a warning. So if you are listening to this and you know me personally, I would think very carefully about how much you want to know about me, because I’m going to share some stuff.
Alyssa Scolari [19:35]:
So think about it. Feel free to hit pause and talk to me about it, because I know I have a lot of wonderful people in my life who listen to the podcast who know me personally, and you’re going to learn some stuff. All right, there is your fair warning. If you are continuing to listen to this and you know me personally, you better come talk to me about this. So anyway, part of, I think, the reason why I haven’t talked about this yet is you are going to notice a pattern with me, not really a pattern, but I only talk about things as I’m ready to talk about them. I bring to this podcast a level of vulnerability mixed in with my expertise and that vulnerability is really hard for me. And I have to be comfortable sharing, I have to be comfortable. And I haven’t been comfortable because I have been grappling with basically where I fall in terms of the LGBTQ community.
Alyssa Scolari [20:50]:
Because quite honestly, I can’t deny that I’m part of it. And I think it’s taken me a long time to get to a place where I’ve been comfortable talking about it. And so I knew that one day I would share this, but I needed to give myself time to be ready and to feel comfortable and safe and secure. I grew up in this really small conservative Catholic town. Where it is so not that okay to be gay and looking back on the way I grew up, I would’ve never in a million years have admitted or even given myself the opportunity to explore the fact that I might be anything other than a straight, blonde girl, who’s going to find a dark, tall, handsome husband and live happily ever after. I really didn’t get to explore the different parts of me until I left my hometown.
Alyssa Scolari [22:14]:
And then I really got to reflect back on my childhood and as I did so, it really hit me that I am so not straight, so not straight. I definitely was interested in both women and men my whole life. I remember being a kid and being interested in women, but kind of writing it off and just ignoring that part of me because in my brain it was only okay to be attracted to men. And so looking back on it, I’m like, “Oh man, I was not straight. I liked women and I liked men.” I was absolutely bisexual. And I remember being in high school and playing around a little bit with my gender. There was a time in high school, I think I was a sophomore. And I went to school dressing masculine and I changed my name.
Alyssa Scolari [23:31]:
And people were calling me Sam and I think I was definitely experimenting at the time. I remember it being like a joke with my friends and my friends were all calling me that. And I was just pretending to be a guy, whatever that means. I was acting more masculine, listen, it didn’t last long. It maybe lasted a week before I was like, “Okay, this isn’t me.” But looking back on it that actually wasn’t a joke. I was definitely experimenting with my gender. And I think that after that, I became pretty firm in my identity as a woman, with pronouns that feel comfortable to me, which are she and her, but I was still super unclear about my sexual preference. And looking back, I did some really questionable things in my childhood and my teenage years and my young adult years that I could look back on it now.
Alyssa Scolari [24:41]:
And I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t know how nobody saw that one.” Maybe people did. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t think so. But I just think it’s so funny to look back on and like, “Man, there was no part of me that was a straight woman. I definitely swung both ways and I’m okay with it. I’m okay talking about it.” That’s the other thing we have to talk about. [inaudible 00:25:10] I’ll touch on when it comes to bisexuality. Yes, I married a man. So me coming on here and talking about my preferences and who I’m attracted to doesn’t make me any less in love with my husband. My husband is the person I am a 100% committed to, 110%. There’s never a question of that. So I think that a lot of people have this idea in their heads that, “Oh, you know, you’re already married, but then you’re coming out as bisexual. Well, what does that mean? Does that mean that you don’t want to be with your partner?”
Alyssa Scolari [25:45]:
None of that is true. Just because you find somebody and you get married doesn’t mean that your sexual preference changes. I was bisexual before I got married. I just didn’t know it and I’m still the same way. But the person that I choose to spend my life with is my husband. Doesn’t mean that my sexual preferences or that who I’m attracted to has to change because I’ve gotten married. Just because you marry somebody doesn’t mean you stop finding people attractive. No, that’s not the case at all. So all that’s to say, people who come out a little bit later in life as being bisexual after they’re married or whatever, it doesn’t mean anything about their marriage.
Alyssa Scolari [26:37]:
It doesn’t mean anything at all. People who are bisexual, if they want to get married, well, chances are they’re either going to marry a man or a woman or a non-binary person. But just because they marry a non-binary person doesn’t mean all of a sudden they’re no longer attracted to women. Just because they marry a non-binary person doesn’t mean that they’re no longer attracted to men. So I hope that makes sense. It has absolutely nothing to do with my marriage. David is the best thing that ever happened to me. I think that the importance of this kind of coming out for me is about claiming or reclaiming who I was when I didn’t get the opportunity to be that person. I didn’t get the opportunity to come to terms with that when I was younger, but I get to come to terms with it now. And it’s really exciting and anxiety provoking. And it just feels like I’m letting the inner child in me have the freedom to label herself however she wants for the first time. And that is a beautiful thing. And that is part of why Pride matters.
Alyssa Scolari [28:09]:
That is part of why we fight to have equal rights. That is part of why we fight to be seen and heard and respected. So that’s why it’s taken me a little while to talk about this. I do things at my own paces. I have a lot of respect for myself and my process. And that is why it is not because I haven’t cared or acknowledged it. Again, the people who are closest to me know how passionate I am and have always been about the LGBTQ community. And now I understand why, now I understand why. So, with that being said, what can we do? We know that people in the LGBTQ community are experiencing trauma and being denied their rights every single day, still we’ve come a long way. We have a lot further to go. I just encourage you to get involved and I don’t know what that means for you. Maybe that looks like further education and research on this community. Maybe that looks like attending town halls.
Alyssa Scolari [29:24]:
Maybe that looks like attending parades or marches. Maybe that looks like donating. If you are able to donate, there are some amazing organizations that you can contribute to and they include the Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project and the National Center for Trans Equality, just to name a few. I will link those three in the show notes and I am also going to link the two articles that I used in today’s episode. You can find all of that in the show notes. I hope that you enjoy today’s episode. It was a tough one for me. It’s hard to be this vulnerable. I thank you for listening. I thank you for being here. I hope you have a fantastic week and I am holding you in the light.
Speaker 2 [30:17]:
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