In this guest post, GEDTS Vice President CT Turner shares his thoughts on Pride and encourages us to be allies and advocates.

June is Pride Month. I occasionally hear questions and comments about what Pride month is, and questions about whether it is needed given some of the advancements in protections for LGBTQ Americans. So, to kick things off this month I’m sharing just a few personal thoughts on why I believe Pride is relevant and is needed as much as ever–and why I encourage you to participate in some way this month.

Pride is many things to different people. For some, it is a time to simply appreciate and celebrate who they are and recognize others like them. This year, as I’m celebrating Pride, I’m thankful for the fact that I can choose to live near my family in Missouri while having the legal protections of marriage, protection that I can’t be fired tomorrow for writing this post, that someone chose and entrusted us with raising our beautiful daughter 10 years ago, and that I have so many people in my life that I love and feel supported by.

I’m also celebrating the fact that I’m here to enjoy life, family, and friends. It wasn’t always easy getting to this place of authenticity, of feeling thankful, or having a strong sense of self-worth. When I was younger there were years where I didn’t think it was worth the struggle. I had nobody to talk to, no role models, not even a brave person who was out in my school or community. Constantly hiding who you are from everyone you love–your family, friends, church community–and always living in fear that someone will find you out takes a heavy mental, spiritual, and emotional toll. I’m only in a great place today because I was lucky enough to find others with similar struggles and stories in my 20s, then found non-LGBTQ allies along the way.

While I’m thankful and celebrating this month, I’m also very concerned about the future—and I’m not alone. This month you’ll see rainbow merchandise at big-box retailers, fun pictures of rainbow flags, smiling LGBTQ people celebrating, and silly fun parade floats; but know that under the smiles, rainbows and glitter is a community that is deeply worried about what the future holds for them.

Your LGBTQ community students, coworkers, friends, and neighbors have lots of things on their minds. While they are thankful for the progress over the last several years, they know that their rights to not be fired, denied housing, to have input on medical decisions for their partners, or marry the person they love isn’t even seven years old. They know that these rights could be easily wiped away for most of us by one different vote of the Supreme Court. They know that people from the LGBTQ community continue to be bullied, assaulted, and even murdered. In fact, despite the sentiment of progress, hate crimes have increased recently, and many anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in several states across the country.

A recent survey of LGBTQ youth found that 45% have seriously contemplated suicide within the past year, and as many as 1 in 5 trans or nonbinary have actually attempted suicide; 95% report having trouble sleeping at night; 73% experienced anxiety in the past year, and almost 60% experienced symptoms of depression—with rates higher in BIPOC communities. And LGBTQ youth are likely to experience homelessness and higher rates of substance abuse than their peers.

Many of these youth are our learners who may have had a very rough high school or family experience, and they may be going through tough situations right now with their living situations and families. All of this doesn’t even touch on the plight of our LGBTQ GED students across the world, who could be imprisoned or even put to death for being their authentic selves.

I share all of this to highlight the importance of Pride month, and to bring some visibility to this issue. Part of the reason I chose to work at GEDTS and in adult ed is because of the work we all do to help those who didn’t have the easiest path get back on track—I love to root for the underdog! If you’re in adult education, I bet you do too.

So here is my ask: This month, I encourage everyone to spend just a little bit of time learning more about the LGBTQ community. I’d wish for you to, in some small way, put yourself in another’s shoes. You can read an article, watch a video, talk to an adult student or someone in the Community, and/or explore some of the content and resources available online.

I think you’ll quickly realize that even doing seemingly small things can have an outsized impact. To many, a kind word, a small showing of support, or stopping a damaging joke could make all the difference–in fact, it may even save a life. And for the many strong allies who are reading this today and who support LGBTQ students every day, thank you!

LGBTQ+ Suicide Prevention Page and Other Ally Resources Can be Found Here:

-CT Turner, Vice President of GED Testing Service