From: Amanda Timchak
Subject: In Support of Pride Flag Raising In Rye
Date: April 20, 2021 at 12:39:09 PM EDT
To: “Cohn, Josh” <email@example.com>, “Souza, Julie A.” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Tarlow, Pam J.” <email@example.com>, “Sara W. Goddard” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Stacks, Benjamin M.” <email@example.com>, “Mecca, Richard J.” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, publichearingcomments <email@example.com>, “Johnson, Carolina J.”<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Mayor Cohn and Rye City Council Members,
I am writing to express my support for raising a pride flag in Rye during June’s Pride Month. I humbly and respectfully request that Mayor Cohn and the Rye City Council include a discussion of a pride flag raising on an upcoming May agenda and allow for public comment from all interested parties followed by a vote.
I am one of the founding members of the pRYEde Community Group, and as such speak both as a singular community member and also as someone who is advocating on behalf of minority identities in our community. pRYEde has built a strong bond with the Rye High School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (the “GSA”). I have listened to the GSA students speak openly and earnestly about what a flag raising means to them and why they place such value on it. In my opinion they believe it to be a simple request to have the LGBTQ+ community acknowledged and included as part of what makes our town great. We adults read many layers into the discussion, but when I listen to them speak about a flag raising all I hear is a pure, honest and raw request for their community to acknowledge and embrace their identity.
The statistics around the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community are heartbreaking. I reference a few below, mostly because my own journey into advocacy for LGBTQ+ individuals was ignited by reading similar research and feeling at a loss for how it could still be so dire in today’s age. The statistics show steep mental health challenges for
LGBTQ+ individuals, which are caused mostly due to stigma, stereotyping, bias, discrimination and lack of acceptance. Lack of access to healthcare and unfair hiring and workplace practices magnify the issues. These statistics are from a report titled The State of Mental Health in the LGBTQ Community:
- 54% of LGBTQ+ youth and 61% of transgender youth are battling symptons of depression, compared to 29% of non-LGBTQ+ identifying youth
- 31% of LGBTQ youth, 40% of questioning youth and 43% of transgender youth report having been bullied at school, verus 16% of their non-LGBTQ+ peers
- 35% of of LGBTQ youth and 45% of transgender youth have seriously considered attempting suicide, compared to 13% of non- LGBTQ+ identifying youth
- 48% percent of transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the last year, compared to 4% percent of the overall US population
- In 2019, sexual orientation motivated nearly 17% of hate crimes, the 3rd largest category after race and religion
- 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+ individuals
When I process these statistics my reaction is that I want to do more, work harder, go further to make sure that this group feels more supported. These could be my kids, or my neighbor’s kids, or the kids who go to school or play sports with my four children and sit around my dinner table. Or they could be kids I don’t know who are really struggling and don’t have a family or friends that support them. These statistics represent real individuals who feel deeply sad and rejected when their family or school or community isn’t seen as an accepting place.
This conversation is not about politics. I truly believe that no political party wants to see real people struggling. We all, regardless of political or other affiliation, want to see our youth thrive.
The good news is that there are protective factors that positively influence these statistics and the real people who exist behind them. From a mental health perspective, a protective factor is simply something that helps to prevent problems. Per the CDC, protective factors can directly improve positive health outcomes and reduce the effects of stressful life events and other risk factors. The CDC has identified that for LGBTQ+ youth the top protective factors are accepting families, schools and communities. The fact that our public high school has a GSA, and that it’s run by the amazing and thoughtful Sandy Degenhardt goes a long way towards creating a school environment that feels accepting. The CDC specifically sites GSAs as being shown in multiple studies to protect the mental health and wellness of LGBTQ+ youth.
Along with the GSA, pRYEde is working in our community to promote kindness and awareness and provide support and educational opportunities. In doing so we hope to do our small part to help create a community that feels accepting.
Raising a Pride Flag can have an tangible benefit for the members of our community who identify as LGBTQ+, and it goes a long way to strongly signal that this is a place where ALL are welcome and embraced. The youth from our GSA are telling us that they place value on a flag being raised and that they see it as a sign of acceptance and celebration of their identity as part of the fibers that make our community. I applaud their courageousness and stand in solidarity with them on their request.
Additional statistical references: Trevor Project
Human Rights Campaign Foundation NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness Mental Health America