“I wish more people knew or paid more attention to the fact that “queer-ness” is so much more complex than just LGBTQ2S+. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity can vary from culture to culture.” We asked the LGBTQ2S+ community within our network to share their experiences as part of both the queer and mental health landscapes. Here is what Josh had to say about how the two play into their everyday lives. Happy Pride! Play video Pride 2019: Josh tells us about the power behind the queer movement. What makes you the most proud to be a part of the queer community? I am so proud to be part of the queer community because of its strength and resilience. Individuals of the queer community are still thriving, despite the oppression and discrimination that still exists today, some of which is deeply hidden in our society. Whether or not we see or hear them, they are there making it known that the community is diverse and capable. What will make you the most proud? I will be the most proud if the community acknowledges its internal discrimination. It is ironic that there are individuals in the community, which is already oppressed and marginalized, putting others down. I will be the most proud when non-minority/non-POC individuals become aware that a lot of the community’s progression of social justice and culture is rooted from POC activists. By being cohesive and supportive as a community, I will be the most proud. What’s something about you that you wish more people knew or paid more attention to? I wish more people knew or paid more attention to the fact that “queer-ness” is so much more complex than just LGBTQ2S+. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity can vary from culture to culture. For example, in my personal culture of being Filipino, I learned that one of the terms to describe a person is “bakla” which is a contraction of ""babae" meaning woman and "lalaki" meaning man. Bakla is a reclaimed word and is used to describe a person who was assigned male at birth but they express themselves through femininity. Interestingly, the English terms "gay" or "trans" don't really fit. Even in pre-colonial times, there were more than two genders, the third gender was considered of higher spirituality and healing powers. It is important to understand our global history and the effects of colonialism, in order to move forward together. How does your queer identity intersect or affect your mental health? I think a lot of my challenges with mental health are rooted in aspects that tie into my queer identity. Any struggles with identity, without a doubt, affects an individual’s mental health. As our identities are ever-growing and developing, it’s always going to be a challenge. “Am I actually gay?” “I don’t feel accepted.” “I wish I was straight.” However, it begins to be unhealthy for our mental health when we are met by negative thoughts, oppressive interactions, or discriminatory words. We need to validate and support individuals’ queer identities because it is a contributor to their mental health. What lifts you up when you are feeling down? Being aware that feeling down is all part of the journey. Honestly, just being aware of every single aspect in my life has helped me. I can reflect on why I am feeling down and what I need to do to help me be in a better state. The constant reminder that there are external factors contributing to this, and if I can be aware of what’s happening, I’ll be able to tend to them. Who has had the greatest impact on your experience in the community? My queer friends! Although I feel like I am pretty comfortable in my own identity and have the skills to be self-aware, their support and little nudges in the right direction are so important. Each of them are so beautiful in their own way and in how they navigate their queer identities. Where is your happy place? Why? My home! I always make sure to have at least one rest day out of the week where I don’t do anything. For me, that means just sleeping in bed all day, listening to chill music, and cleaning (which is very calming for me). By staying at home all day, that one day, I have energy for the rest of the week – you know, just fighting against oppressive systems. Who has made you feel the most supported? Luckily, my greater community is so supportive. Even during times when I feel so, so lonely, someone, somehow always reaches out. Even if they’re not so aware of queer identities and mental health, they’re still trying their best! I am so privileged to have this sense of community and it pains me to know that there are many individuals who are without this support system. Who is your Queero? Every. Single. Queer. Person. Every queer person that I know is a queero because they are out here being their usual, beautiful selves. Whether they are busy being dad, a leader in the STEM field, advocating for safe sex, or understanding their identity, each of them has a story of resilience and strength. ~~ Celebrate Pride by following along on our Instagram, as we continue to highlight the queerest and dearest young people in our network!