The following was written by and from the perspective of Elizabeth Aranda, a psychologist with UC Berkeley Counseling and Psychological Services who specializes in transgender care, LGBTQ+ identity development and services for the Latinx community and other communities of color.
The month of June commemorates LGBTQ+ Pride, and I believe that an important way we can celebrate Pride Month is to honor the impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender-nonconforming and queer-identifying individuals have had on our collective history.
Pride Month is more than a celebration of queer life and sexuality. Pride, as we know it today, originated as an anniversary celebration for the political and social uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York City — a pivotal tipping point for the liberation of LGBTQ+ persons. Over the past 50 years, society has seen a shift toward more inclusivity and equality. Yet at the same time, there is still so much that has yet to change. With that said, I also firmly believe that another meaningful way we can truly honor Pride is to make the effort to understand the issues that continue to affect the LGBTQ+ community today.
In my role as a psychologist for the students at UC Berkeley, I frequently bear witness to the pain, trauma, discrimination and violence that our community continues to endure at the hands of both strangers and loved ones alike. I have frequently been brought to tears when I hear about my students’ experiences with rejection when coming out or when they share their internalized homophobia or transphobia, which essentially means having negative feelings toward one’s own sexual orientation or gender identity.
When I hear these stories, there is a part of that pain that resonates so deeply with my own history. Raised as a first-generation Mexican American cis woman in Texas, I was cognizant from a very young age of how I deviated from the traditional expectations of my parents. My awareness of this dissonance instilled a tremendous weight of fear within my soul.
When I first came to embrace my queer identity, I felt ashamed for not being the daughter my family and society wanted me to be. It was emotional labor to unpack years of internalized stigma, to embrace self-acceptance and to build the self-esteem to inoculate myself from the expectations of others. I provide this brief glimpse into my life in order to convey my personal experiences of the intricacies of identity intersectionality and to describe how these insights later shaped how I work as an educator, therapist and friend.
Over the years, I have dedicated my career to developing, organizing and maintaining resources and services that center multidimensional aspects of wellness for students who identify as LGBTQ+ — especially LGBTQ+ students of color. It has been my role to support and encourage those who are in desperate need of support and acceptance because I am keenly aware of how important these factors are for our community’s mental health.
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