Tag Archives: LGBTQ

June is Pride Month

Each year, the month of June is dedicated to celebrating and honoring LGBTQI+ communities and individuals. Pride Month recognizes the impact that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and individuals of other gender and sexual identities have had on the world. It also honors members of the community who have been lost, especially to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. 

STESA would also like to take this opportunity to provide education on the issue of sexual assault. LGBTQI+ individuals are at increased risk of sexual assault, particularly due to harmful stereotypes and myths about LGBTQI+ experiences. Many sexual assaults perpetrated against these individuals are hate crimes, committed with the intent to punish the target for their perceived nonconformity to traditional gender and sexual norms. In a study of 273 participants identifying as gay or lesbian, 52% of the participants reported at least one incident of sexual assault/coercion. 

Perpetrators of sexual assault are often someone the survivor knows. According to the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. Similarly, 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. 

LGBTQI+ individuals also face unique challenges to healing from sexual assault due to barriers to access to resources, especially medical and legal resources. For example, LGBTQI+ survivors may be reluctant to disclose their assault out of fear that non-LGBTQI+ communities will reinforce the myth that LGBTQI+ relationships are dysfunctional. Additionally, the survivor may not be “out” and fear that coming forward will reveal the survivor’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity, resulting in negative repercussions from non-LGBTQI+ communities.

Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) provides confidential counseling and support services to survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones. Through education and awareness, STESA is committed to change the cultural norms that enable sexual assault to exist. Our service area extends from Carpinteria to the Santa Ynez Valley.

Proud

The first person with HIV that Kristin Flickinger met was a 12-year-old boy named Carter who attended her small town school in Idaho. Flickinger, who was named executive director of the Pacific Pride Foundation in 2020, remembers the small boy sitting on the cold metal benches in the lunchroom with a backpack full of medication. She didn’t know if she should be afraid of him. 

“When we started back the following fall, Carter was gone,” Flickinger says. “I learned a lot from Carter. I learned you can’t get HIV from a water fountain, and I learned that you can’t be friends with someone if you are afraid of them.” 

Pacific Pride Foundation’s 2020 PROUD Prom with Ugg

The nonprofit she now runs launched in 1976 as an addiction recovery program for LGBTQ+ people. When the HIV/AIDS epidemic struck the gay community, Pacific Pride pivoted to meet the unfolding crisis.

For Flickinger, who oversaw the AIDS/LifeCycle event at the Los Angeles LGBT Center for more than seven years, the connection with HIV and the COVID-19 pandemic is visceral, and points to Pacific Pride’s unique capacity to serve those most in need. 

“We have been through a pandemic before, we know what it looks like,” the energetic leader says. “At a time when the LGBTQ community was suffering unimaginable loss, we came together to take care of each other.”

Before and through the days of COVID-induced lockdowns, Pacific Pride was there not only for the LGBTQ community, but for Santa Barbara’s most marginalized as well. For LGBTQ+ youth in Santa Barbara, research shows that 45.4% seriously consider suicide. Under stay-at-home orders, these young people were particularly vulnerable, so Pacific Pride used the telephone and Zoom to bring 33% more teens into its PROUD Youth Group. 

The nonprofit also deploys a “health utility vehicle” to conduct HIV testing and needle exchanges for the opioid dependent across the county. For Flickinger and her dedicated team this is all about “promoting wellness throughout all of our programs,” whether individual counseling, therapy groups, or addiction services.  

“We are there for the folks who need us the most, when they need us the most,” she says. 

More than 30 years after Flickinger hesitated to make friends with a 12-year-old boy named Carter, she is now bold and proud to do whatever it takes to help those in Santa Barbara County that are too often overlooked, untouched, and left to themselves.