Kare11: Learn more about Pride in the Twin Cities and ways you can support LGBTQ+ youth impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
MINNEAPOLIS — The return of LGBTQ Pride month amid a retreat of COVID-19 cases across the United States, means Pride parties and parades are set to resume in cities across the country after a year of pandemic cancellations.
The return of those annual celebrations is a hopeful sign for many in the LGBTQ community, but Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, Medical Director of the Gender Health Program at Children’s Minnesota, says the parades and public gatherings represent a lifeline to many LGBTQ young people.
“I think its particularly hard for LGBTQ kids, when these events disappear,” Dr. Goepferd said, during an interview with KARE11 last June. “For LGBTQ kids that physical distance and social distance when schools closed was really particularly hard. Youth tend to come out to their peers first, and then at home, so they lost that social network.”
In the year since Dr. Goepferd first expressed concern about the impact on LGBTQ youth, she says the problem only grew.
“What I have seen in the kids that I’ve taken care of is increased depression, anxiety, increased feelings of isolation, feeling they are at home with parents who don’t understand their identity,” Dr. Goepferd said. “(Parents) may not respect their identities or use their name and pronoun. That’s a lot of what I’ve been seeing and, nationally, that’s what we’ve been seeing as well.”
According to a new national survey conducted by the Trevor Project – a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth – 42% of LGBTQ youth reported seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, while 48% could not access the mental health care they desired.
“That tells me that we have a mental health crisis in this country for all kids, I think, in general,” Dr. Goepferd said. “One thing that we’ve seen here at Children’s Minnesota is that, since the pandemic, our Emergency Department has been filling up with kids who are in mental health crisis. I think that a lot of kids are experiencing increased depression, anxiety and suicidality, and unable to access the services that they need. For LGBTQ kids, the pool of resources gets even smaller.”
And unlike their peers, Dr. Goepferd says LGBTQ youth have a harder time finding support at home. According to the Trevor Project survey 80% of LGBTQ youth reported that COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful, and only one-third of young people reported living in a home that is LGBTQ-affirming.
“So two-thirds of kids did not feel supported by their parents at home, versus about 50% of kids who feel supported in school,” Dr. Goepferd said.
With many students now back in school, Dr. Goepferd says she’s beginning to see more LGBTQ youth reconnect with their peers and support systems, but she says the return of Pride events, in person, promises an even more powerful hope on the horizon.
“It’s a different way to celebrate identity,” she said. “So often we talk about accepting kids or loving kids, but we don’t use the word celebration very often. Pride is just one big huge celebration. It’s visual, it’s community, it’s a way to say, not only is it okay that you are LGBTQ, it’s great.”
While the big celebrations are impactful, Dr. Goepferd says simply loving and supporting someone for who they are has shown to be one of the most powerful actions to help LGBTQ youth. She says young people who report being loved and supported for who they are, have far better mental health outcomes and far lower rates of attempted suicide.
If you are thinking about suicide and in need of immediate support, you can call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386, text START to 678-678 or click here for online support.
Tina’s ad reads, “I absolutely loved my wedding dress, it was one of the best parts of being a bride. If you are planning your wedding, or know someone who is, and can not afford a wedding dress, please connect with me. I’ll lend my dress for the bride for her big day.”
Tina’s ad offering her dress up to brides who can’t afford one.
To understand why Tina did this, it’s necessary to learn a bit of her story. She comes from a family of great struggle, and success despite the odds.
Her grandmother spent time as a prisoner of war. She raised Tina’s mother and even adopted another son. Tina’s mother in turn raised three children on her own. Tina came to the U.S. under an exchange program at 14 years old – with two weeks’ notice to pack up and leave her home.
“Very strong woman background in my family,” Tina said. “And we always, always just wanted to just to support and to empower women and give back.”
Credit: Tina Nguyen
Tina’s mother (left) and grandmother (right) both raised their families on their own.
Tina now works in machine learning. She just celebrated her one-year wedding anniversary, and recently got her green card through work. She calls herself an activist, with her late grandmother’s roots and words forming her foundation.
“She always reminded me of where we came from, the struggle, how she built an empire on her own, two hands and two feet by herself,” she said. “She’s like, you are privileged to live in a life that you currently have, and that privilege, you need to know and always, always recognize that.”
Tina and her grandmother, who Tina says “defied every rule.”
As Tina watched the U.S. devolve into the chaos of COVID-19 and erupt in civil unrest over racial inequities, she wanted to do something. It felt overwhelming.
She started seeing posts on social media from friends getting married.
“They’re going through this whole pandemic thing,” she said. “You know, the economics of it, to say, ‘Oh my God, you know, we have to change plans’ and all that. ‘Do we even have a wedding?’ And with that, you know, shopping for a dress, like, ‘How does it work? Is it safe?'”
Tina thought, “I have a pretty sweet wedding dress just sitting in my closet.”
And not just any dress. It’s a Paloma Blanca, retailing for over $2,000. It’s made with three layers of silk.
“I love, love my dress,” she said. “It’s just beautiful. It’s silky. It’s soft.”
Credit: MV PHOTOS
Tina lines up with her bridal party for her September 2019 wedding.
With Tina’s family so far away, she said she’s blessed to have an “adopted” American family. The Haglunds welcomed Tina in after connecting with her at her graduation from Augsburg University.
When Tina tried the dress on for the Haglunds, she surprised herself by crying. She knew it was perfect – but it was expensive.
Jim Haglund told her, “It’s your one day. You get to be the princess.”
“I thought about, like, what a privilege it was for me to do that and to have that opportunity,” Tina said, remembering the moment. “And that’s why I’m doing this, too, right? It’s such a privileged day that so many people couldn’t, and right now, obviously, a lot of people are struggling.”
At Tina and Chris’ wedding, a chalk artist drew two hands holding one starfish each on the wall. That was the “logo” of the marriage, Tina said.
It’s a familiar story: A woman stands on the sand, throwing beached starfish back into the water. A child asks, “There’s so many of them. How can you possibly make a difference?” The woman throws another and replies, “I made a difference to that one.”
Tina and Chris hired a chalk artist to draw the “logo” of their wedding: starfish.
“I always struggle with, like, how do I make a change?” Tina said. “And one of my mentors, she told me about the starfish story.”
It’s not that Tina sees herself throwing the starfish, though.
“I am the starfish,” she said.
She was taken in by different communities in the U.S. as a lonely teen and young adult, from Colorado to Oregon to Minnesota. She was “adopted” by a set of American parents who welcomed her into their lives for holidays, birthdays. She was raised by women who risked everything to give her the gift of safety, privilege.
She was the starfish who was rescued by the of the kindness of others.
“That’s just a reminder for the rest of my life, too,” she said. “It’s like, yeah, just one starfish at a time, one starfish.”
Tina has already had several people reach out about her ad. She hopes she can pass the dress to as many brides as possible – what she calls a “Sisterhood of the Traveling Wedding Dress.”
“I just want to offer it up and just, you know, share the joy,” she said. “It made me feel like a bride. I wanted that for all other brides out there, especially during this time, I want that for them.”