"I love the diversity of people in the queer and LGBT community, but we are sometimes afraid to fully be ourselves - I know I am. I think a shift in understanding is important.” " aria-label="play video" class="modal-link story-detail__play"> "I love the diversity of people in the queer and LGBT community, but we are sometimes afraid to fully be ourselves - I know I am. I think a shift in understanding is important.” This Pride Month, we asked the LGBTQ2S+ community within our network to share their experiences as part of both the queer and mental health landscapes. We also sent out disposable cameras and asked our participants to give us a candid glimpse into their day to day lives. You can find Paint’s photos over on our Instagram! Happy Pride! "I love the diversity of people in the queer and LGBT community, but we are sometimes afraid to fully be ourselves - I know I am. I think a shift in understanding is important.” " aria-label="play video">Play video Pride 2019: Paint explores gender, Pride and mental health. What makes you the most proud to be a part of the queer community? Honestly, it's the people I've met since I came out. When I first came out as nonbinary I only knew a few people online who were like me, but once I was out more people seemed to come out of the shadows. I am so honoured by the creativity and resiliency in my community. I know a lot of change makers - we are persistent when it comes to survival and trying to help our younger counterparts feel safe and accepted in the world. What will make you the most proud? Honestly I think there is a lot to be said for respecting bodily autonomy and people’s freedoms to express themselves. I love the diversity of people in the queer and LGBT community, but we are sometimes afraid to fully be ourselves - I know I am. I think a shift in understanding is important. The public needs to understand that what one person does with their body doesn't hurt others, and doesn't reduce their value as a person. We need transgender people to be accepted for who they are wherever they are at in their transition - if they chose to do a physical transition - so that they don't have to live in fear of hatred and persecution. Everyone can contribute to making the world a better place, by changing social understandings. What’s something about you that you wish more people knew or paid more attention to? I think we really need to work on accepting that not everyone wants a binary (male or female) gender identity. It is hard to know how someone feels about themselves unless you talk to them. I think there should be more freedom to explore and discover ourselves. Gender is like a dance we've all learned to do together and its ok to break the rules or make new ones entirely. How does your queer identity intersect or affect your mental health? There is a lot of misunderstanding and stigma. I've had to deal with people who think being transgender makes me delusional, or that it is a sign I need help. Surprise! I do need mental health support, but not for being transgender. I need help to cope with the trauma that comes with how I have been treated for being transgender, in addition to other mental health issues. You can be mentally ill and transgender, you can be mentally well and transgender, they are separate things. Unfortunately, the stress that comes with being transgender can contribute to mental health issues. However, studies have shown that acceptance and gender affirming treatment greatly helps with that, as long as it’s done alongside treatment for other issues that might be present. The more comfortable and accepted I feel, the better my mental health is. What lifts you up when you are feeling down? I've struggled a lot in the five years since I came out as transgender. The first couple people I came out to ended up hurting me in a big way and it has taken a lot of time to recover. With therapy I have been able to understand the trauma I went through and, even though for a while it felt like I had lost everything, I somehow kept going. Whenever sadness sneaks up on me now, I just think of all that I have survived. It didn't kill me then and it won't kill me now. I know I can get through anything. So, just by remembering that I inspire myself to keep moving forward. Who has made you feel the most supported? This is cheesy but I am going to say my mom. She didn't expect any of this - and honestly it made her really uncomfortable at first. But she has grown so much and accepts that my journey is just different than hers. It has taken a long time for me to learn to trust her because I was so scared. When I first came out I didn't believe my family would accept me, some people in my family still make me uncomfortable, but I know that I can talk to my mom. I talk to her about what I am going through with my mental health, my gender, or my sexuality if I need to. She has my back and I am so grateful to have that relationship with her.