As I began my recovery journey 24 years ago I made an important connection between my use of alcohol and drugs and the unresolved issues of my sexual orientation. Coming out as a gay man in early recovery offered me ample opportunities to explore both internalized and externalized shame, as well as the events of trauma that caused me to feel this misplaced shame. For me, the use of alcohol, drugs, and even tobacco was a way to cope with these issues.
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One of the reasons I love working at SAMHSA is the people I work with. My co-workers include many out and proud members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, and our allies. Together, we have made tremendous progress in advancing the behavioral health of LGBT people across the country. In celebration of Pride Month, I want to give just a few examples, and offer my thanks for the leadership of some inspiring individuals.
This is a week for celebrating, supporting, and affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. On Sunday, October 11, we recognized National Coming Out Day. And today, October 15, is Spirit Day, when we stand against the bullying of LGBT youth. Observances like these are an opportunity to make these young people feel safe and supported, and for their allies to take a public stand against bullying and other forms of mistreatment. We both know about the devastation that comes with rejection because of an LGBTQ identity, as well as the profound gratitude and relief that accompanies acceptance and affirmation.