For the past two years, many people have been living their lives largely in the virtual world, becoming masters at digital technology and using these tools to connect with loved ones and share their lives. In the LGBTQ+ community, this has been a time for people to come out, or choose to live openly as a member of the community, in the relative safety of the digital world. As our lives begin to shift back to in-person events, and as the news is filled with headlines detailing legal battles against the rights of LGBTQ+ people as well as physical attacks, some people are experiencing renewed anxiety around sharing their stories and living openly in the public eye. Pride month, held every June, is an opportunity to practice managing that anxiety in many ways, big or small.

What is Pride month? Pride month began as a way to honor the Stonewall Riots of June 1969. The customers and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City began protesting the discriminatory laws and practices against LGBTQ+ Americans. Today, Pride month is a way to not only honor the initial movement and its leaders, including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, but to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community. Pride month can be a time of great joy, including parades, parties, concerts, and other events, but even during this celebration, coming out can be stressful.

Coming out can be an on-going process Coming out as gay, bisexual, trans, or any other non-heteronormative identity is an incredibly personal choice, as is the process of doing so. You may think you know how people closest to you will react, or what kind of support you might receive, but you might not be sure and fear being cut off from loved ones. There is no right or wrong way to come out—some may feel more comfortable talking it out in person; for others, the feeling of safety provided by texting or emailing may be more manageable. 

Coming out is also a process that can happen repeatedly throughout your life. You may choose to only share with a few people at first, and then with a wider group later on, and feeling some anxiety each time is perfectly normal.

Coming out during Pride month Around the world, many Pride events are full of people, supporting and uplifting one another. This can feel like a natural time to share your personal stories with people or create additional anxiety if it feels like it’s something you’re supposed to do during the month. Even for members of the LGBTQ+ community, who have been living openly for many years, this year may feel a little difficult. There’s a sense of safety in living most authentically online while in-person events were largely suspended during the pandemic—there’s no immediate feeling of judgment or censure, and a few simple Google searches make it easier to find more like-minded digital communities around the world.

Easing the anxiety of participating in Pride month events Feeling safe in a community can mean different things to different individuals, and finding those communities, especially in person, doesn’t have to be difficult. Everyone has a unique journey to finding their definition of living openly and authentically, but no one is ever truly alone. With the wide range of events taking place this Pride month, now is an excellent time to dip your toes in the water.

If you’re interested in the parade, you can choose to simply attend with a group of friends. As an attendee, you can get a feel for the different LGBTQ+ groups that are active in Rhode Island and make a mental note or snap a photo to find out more about them after the parade. If you feel ready to be involved in the parade itself, check out the volunteering options available on the website. And if you’re not ready for any of that just yet, that’s okay too.

Other organizations that might be of interest:

Small steps to create connections and ease that sense of isolation can be more manageable, especially if you’re feeling persistent anxiety about social interactions. Any step you take to embrace a community and find that feeling of belonging is worth celebrating. And if you’re finding it simply too overwhelming to get started, working with a therapist can help build skills and develop strategies to manage that anxiety. Our Outpatient Psychiatry team can help.

Arnaldo A. Berges, MD

Dr. Arnaldo A. Berges, is the assistant chief of psychiatry and director of adult inpatient psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital.