June is pride month. Every year, the month celebrates and commemorates LGBTQ culture.

Raising awareness about LGBTQ culture is still necessary. Although we know more about LGBTQ culture and other people are more accepting of it, many members of the LGBTQ population still face people who ignore them, hate them, or discriminate against them.

According to these views, LGBTQ people lack morals and are more interested in partying, using drugs, and engaging in casual sex instead of serving as productive members of society. They should not be able to marry, raise families, or hold certain jobs because of their sexual orientations or gender identities. They should be denied rights because they are not normal.

But people in the LGBTQ population are normal and deserve rights and respect. Among other purposes, pride month illustrates this normality. LGBTQ people want the freedom to pursue educations, hold jobs, raise families, and contribute to their communities. They want to be happy and they want to be themselves. But sadly, being their true selves may expose members of the LGBTQ population to the confusion, hate, and discrimination of others. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with the stress caused by such reactions.

Unfortunately, such coping mechanisms may fuel further speculation that gays, lesbians, trans people, and gender nonconforming people use drugs. But all segments of the population turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with stress and may develop addictions. According to psychology and neurobiology professor Rajita Sinha, “Stress is a well-known risk factor in the development of addiction and in addiction relapse vulnerability.”

Whether people are straight or gay, trans or cis (identifying as the same gender they were assigned at birth), or identify as gender fluid or another designation, they will face stress in their lives. Their stress may possibly contribute to substance abuse, but their gender or sexual identities don’t automatically mean that they will develop the condition.

While people may discriminate, substance abuse doesn’t. But neither does effective treatment. Trained professionals may help people address their substance abuse and the underlying conditions that may contribute to it. In addition, various organizations provide resources to help LGBTQ people and their loved ones live the best lives possible in pride month and beyond.

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