You are visiting us from Virginia. You are located in HHS Region 3. Your Center is Central East ATTC.

Pride Month Staff Feature

The ATTC Network is made up of more than just allies. We wanted to spotlight the members of our team who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This year we asked them to tell us what Pride Month means to them.

The Changing Meaning of Pride - Paul Warren

Honestly, the “meaning” has been fluid and shaped by the circumstances of the year.

I moved to NYC from a small town in CT in 1981 and have been involved with Gay Pride before there was a “Pride Month”; before the NYC Gay Pride Parade was coopted by commercialization. During one parade, the specific year escapes me; prior to 1991, my East Village Theatre Company friends and I graphically protested homophobic Senator Jesse Helms from North Carolina to cheers and thunderous applause from the thousands lining Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Our company received a photo plaque award from the Heritage of Pride parade organizers “Don’t Be Outraged, Be Outrageous” documenting the protest. Times have changed and that form of graphic protest may no longer be permitted or in favor. My Black Gay friends who were involved in the protest might not survive such a performance today. I also provided direct services to people living with HIV/AIDS from 1991 – 2003 and was fortunate to work with NYC AIDS activists, such as David Gold, David Barr, Dave Gildan, Theo Smart, and Gabriel Torres. AIDS, death, and hope have seared and tempered my Gay Pride.

What was true about HIV/AIDS then is true about Gay Pride Month 2023 “Silence Equals Death”. Make no mistake, many have set their sights and political aspirations on the vilification, repression and obliteration of gender non-conforming, Queer, non-binary, and transgender identified people and their allies.

I currently work for the Northeast & Caribbean ATTC. Our efforts are rooted in and responsive to the here and now. Our Director, Michael Chaple, PhD, is an ally and supports innovative training and technical assistance interventions that address social justice and health equity themes that permeate and challenge the substance use services workforce. My colleague, Diana Padilla, MCPC, CARC, CASAC-T, is also an ally and brings, intelligence, deep insight, and compassion to all her interventions.

Being a cis-gender, gay man of European decent (an inheritor of white skin privilege), having survived into my early 60s, I experience the label “Pride Month” as a saccharine Hallmark Card misnomer. Nevertheless, we can leverage the attention that the month garners to encourage more people to protect human rights, advance social justice and to establish health equity. As a member of the ATTC Network, I do my best to work toward these goals every day because people’s lives and our shared future are depending on what we do.

Everyone Deserves a Chance to Fly - Ed Johnson

Pride Month, for me, is a time to celebrate the wonderful diversity and specialness of the LGBTQ+ community.  It’s about just being you, whatever color, race, orientation, gender, sex, age, size you happen to be. Being your unfiltered, unscripted self. It’s about being authentic.

My first Pride March was June 1989. It was the first Pride March in the state of South Carolina and was held in Columbia.  I was in graduate school and had a mid-term the Monday after the March.  I asked the professor if I could take the mid-term later in the week due to going to the Pride March.  Her response was, “Absolutely!” Because being part of the march was more important than the mid-term.  As we walked up Main Street to the state capital building that Saturday morning, there were protestors. There were only a little over 100 of us, but we were there. We weren’t hiding in the shadows any longer, we were proudly affirming our existence!  I had been out since 1984, but this was different. This was “get on the evening news, pictures at 11” out.  The March did make the 11 o’clock news, I was in the video and folks saw me on TV and had positive comments.  It was empowering, I had been part of making history!

I’m a person in long term recovery. When I was in treatment in 1984, sexual orientation and gender identity were at best ignored. As part of the Southeast ATTC, I get to help facilitate change for addiction treatment and recovery professionals. I get to support them in implementing strategies that have been proven to be effective in helping individuals get into and sustain recovery. One of those changes is increasing their knowledge and skills in effectively working with LGBTQ+ individuals. A line in the musical “Wicked” is “Everyone deserves the chance to fly.”  Recovery has given me the gift of flight.  By increasing the knowledge and skills of treatment and recovery professionals, more LGBTQ+ can also receive the gift of flight. That’s why my job is important to me. 

This Year Feels Different - Mitch Doig 

Every year, around this time, the world seems to get a little bit more colorful as my neighbors hoist flags in support and stores are filled with similarly designed merchandise. There are street fairs in the major city near me every year filled with music, great food, and the most amazing people. This year, I’m proud to share that my own city is hosting its first Pride event ever. If you followed me outside of work, you’d see me enjoying pride month by playing drag bingo, posting memes on my social media, and by wearing some slightly more colorful shirts (if that’s possible) than normal to celebrate. It’s a month devoted to acceptance and joy and, to me, a reminder of how a major part of who I am no longer must be hidden away. 

This year though, I’ve found myself feeling like it has been more challenging to feel the joy in this celebration as its almost impossible to not hyperfocus about many within LGBTIA+ community have still found themselves in unwanted continued battles with systems and people who seek to deny their identifies, prevent them from accessing life saving care, or in some case harm them directly. In the face of this, it has been inspiring to hear from many Behavioral Health providers who are concerned about the potential of harm to their clients and are working to ensure that their clients can be who they truly are and know how important they are as a people. Through my work, I get to help providers gain the skills and help answers the hard questions, dream a bit bigger, and hopefully, provide a space where everyone can proudly be their true selves.

Being at the ATTC is a tremendous experience because I don’t feel the need to separate any part of my identity but instead, I’m encouraged to let my identity and collective experience influence my work so that it can benefit the providers and communities they serve. This means that I’m in a position where I’m supported to be bold like others were bold for me and I get to create training spaces that are safe, supportive, and inclusive of whoever needs them and lucky enough to get to see the impact this has on the people who use our services. I’m proud to be a part of it and excited I get to experience joy every time someone challenges themselves to care just a little bit better. Even when Pride month ends, I’ll still be proud of that work and proud that at least with the ATTC, we get to be ourselves, no matter what that means.