June is Pride Month here in the United States. It’s a movement for celebrating and recognizing sexual diversity. As we close out June, we asked Kate, who identifies as queer, to do a little Q&A session with us!
Tell us a little about you!
I am a 2020 Still I Run Ambassador who has been running for my mental and physical health for over 15 years. I live with my wife and our senior cat, Charlie, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. When I’m not running or doing my job as an aquatic invasive species biologist, I enjoy lifting weights, baking, and crafting. I identify as “queer” because I like the inclusiveness of the term.
What are some of the struggles the LGBTQ+ community faces in regards to mental health?
Mental health concerns are really common in the LGBTQ+ community. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are more than twice as likely to experience mental illness and substance abuse disorders as compared to heterosexual adults, and nearly half of all trans* adults report having considered suicide in the past year.
Similar statistics exist for LGBTQ+ youth. It’s not that our brains are different or more prone to mental illness, but that bullying and discrimination can really take a toll on your mental health. There is also a long history of having queer and trans* identities pathologized by the psychiatric profession, and more than half of U.S. states still don’t have any laws on the books banning conversion therapy for minors.
On a brighter note, in my experience, talking about mental health and going to therapy is not as stigmatized in the queer community as in the general population, and the research shows that LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely than others to seek and receive treatment for mental illness.
What are some struggles you’ve personally dealt with as someone from the LGBTQ+ community?
It took me a long time to feel comfortable being out in the world. I have been really fortunate to have family and friends who love and support me for who I am, and I am fortunate to have lived in places that are largely supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. However, I still experience micro-aggressions, such as having my own knowledge of my sexual orientation dismissed by strangers or being told that something would be “easier” if I were straight.
I still remember meeting someone at a group run once who introduced themself with gender-neutral pronouns. Later, I started chatting with them about life, work, and running, and I realized I had relaxed a layer of self-protection that I didn’t even know I was holding up. When I’m with other LGBTQ+ people, I don’t have to spend energy guarding this fundamental piece of my identity. I would love to see more queer representation in the running community for this reason.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
For me, Pride Month is a time of celebration, to be unapologetically our biggest, queerest selves! It is also a time of reflection: there have been so many victories for LGBTQ+ rights in the past several years that it’s easy to forget how recently things were very different. Sodomy laws were still in force in parts of this country when I was a teenager, and just mere weeks ago, it was still legal to fire an employee because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Pride is an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come while also recognizing how far we still have to go and to show gratitude for those who fought for the rights we now enjoy.
What is in your mental health care kit?
I try to keep my mental health care kit fully stocked! If I had to name the top five components, they would be: adequate sleep, running and lifting weights, taking anti-anxiety medication, spending time in nature, and having open and honest conversations with the people I love.
You can follow Kate and her running journey on Instagram at @wy_woman!