June Resource Development Blog

Pride Month Reflections

By Justine Bixler, UWSWA Vice President of Resource Development

It is in times of need that we discover the full impact and influence of a community United. Whether it is in Mobile, in our neighboring communities or across the United States nurturing empathy and understanding is an integral part of our commitment to build strong and healthy communities.

As I reflect on Pride month and what it means for people of the LGBTQ community, I think back to my childhood and the first time I put a face to the word gay. At that time, I had no concept or understanding of what it meant to be gay and to my knowledge did not know anyone who identified as gay. In fact, I only knew the word in relation to the phrase “that’s so gay” used by my adolescent peers. From 1998-2001 (I was 9 years old), my sister was in undergrad in Austin, Texas and made many friends during her time there – one of her friends was a gay male named Matt who grew up outside of Dallas. When we visited, we would go out to dinner with her friends at the nearby Mexican restaurant and Matt was always there to entertain. He was always so kind to me, had the biggest personality (and laugh) – still does, and he use to give me quarters for the claw machine to help me strategize ways to win the prized stuffed animal I had been going after for so long. The biggest lesson Matt ever taught me was an unintended one – it was how to be empathetic to all people regardless of our differences. 

Matt was a friend and I became fiercely loyal to defending him and his right to be exactly who he was born to be. My sister also reminded me that I tried to relate by purchasing everything I could find that was a rainbow. I may have slacked on my mission to purchase all things rainbow, but I never stopped supporting those that I love or others in my community who identify as LGBTQ. Growing up with the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, led me down my path of service to others and to the United Way. 

In all corners of the world, United Way lives united against hate, prejudice and discrimination. United Way of Southwest Alabama and our partner agencies are doing their part to support all communities and promote acceptance. Our mission is to improve the quality of life in our community with respect for everyone. When we fight to improve life for all people of every color, creed, gender, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, and nation of origin, we lift up entire communities. We do this by supporting 46 partner agencies and 12 internal programs that all provide a diverse network of life-sustaining services, case management, social support services, and assistance to anyone and everyone who needs them. United Way 2-1-1 is a safe, confidential service referral hotline that helps direct all people to any type of need across our Southwest Alabama community. If you are someone you love is a member of the LGBTQ community and seeking services, please call 2-1-1 or 888-421-1266 for support.

By Justine Bixler, UWSWA Vice President of Resource Development