Journey to Acceptance

Addressing LGBTQ+ Issues Through Personal Narrative

Todd May
June 1, 2024 / 5 mins read

Growing up, June was always one of my favorite months. It made me think of summer barbecues, church camps, and outings at the lake. As an adult, June is still my favorite month, but for different reasons. June is LGBTQ+ pride month, and this year I have been connecting to the wonderful LGBTQ+ community Shawnee. When doing so, I found that many people in this population feel isolated and disconnected from the greater Shawnee Community. My goal is to help bridge that gap and to create a space of learning and understanding.

I knew from a young age that I was different. I could never articulate what I was truly feeling at the time, but I knew more than anything that I was supposed to be a boy. I have early memories of arguing with my mother before church almost every Sunday morning about wearing a dress to church. Throughout my adolescence I tried to ignore these feelings, even wearing makeup and dresses trying my best to fit in with the girls. I wanted so badly to be who my family wanted me to be, even going as far as attending OBU. It was there I realized I could no longer ignore these feelings. I remember sitting on the couch in the basement of my dorm one night watching video after video of various transgender men and their lives. I knew then I needed to transition. I was terrified that I would lose all of my friends and family, especially those I made at OBU, but I am so happy to say that was not the case. I am grateful for the friends I made at OBU and the amazing support system they have been for me. They have shown me how life changing community can be. I would eventually transition 5 years later at twenty-three.

Although my journey has been met with much support, I have had some very hurtful things said to me while just trying to exist in town. I have also heard a number of similarly negative experiences from my LGBTQ+ friends. Unfortunately, harsh judgements, hurtful words, and hateful actions can have severe consequences for my community.

In March of this year a transgender boy, Nex Benedict, was assaulted in a bathroom after a year of endless bullying from his peers. Nex died the next day. This tragic event could have been avoided. No child should have to fear for their life in a school, but for our queer youth that is the unfortunate reality. A state survey by the Trevor Project found that over 48% of LGBTQ+ youth in Oklahoma have considered suicide, with 16% making an attempt. Another study showed 79% of LGBTQ+ youth report issues with anxiety and another 62% report depression. These issues can lead LGBTQ+ youth to seek out unhealthy coping skills for relief. Over 56% of LGBTQ+ youth reported drinking alcohol and 34% reported using marijuana. People often blame individuals for these problems. But these issues do not exist in a vacuum and the recent uptick in anti LGBTQ+ legislation in this state, on top of the increase of bullying in schools, has contributed significantly to this mental health crisis.

So, what can be done? For any LGBTQ+ folks who may feel isolated, there are resources available and people who care.

  • The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ+ youth. Their trained counselors understand the are available for support 24/7. They will listen without judgment. All of your conversations are confidential, and you can share as much or as little as you’d like. Text ‘START’ to 678-678, Call 1-866-488-7386, or connect to to chat.
  • Rural Oklahoma Pride helps the 2slgbtqia community in rural areas of Oklahoma. Check out to learn about events and opportunities to get involved.
  • Emmanuel Episcopal and St. Paul's Methodist Church are churches in Shawnee that I have personally found to be welcoming and affirming.
  • 988 is available for anyone needing extra support. You'll be connected to a mental health professional to talk you through what's going on and get the resources you need for either yourself or your loved one. About 90% of the time, things can get sorted out with just a phone call. But if you need more help, they’ve got you.

If you are an ally looking for ways to offer assistance and support to the LGBTQ+ community, consider the following suggestions:

  • Mental Health America is a great resource for gaining greater understanding and accessing images you can use to help you advocate for LGBTQ+ Mental Health on social media during the month of June and beyond! Check out and follow Gateway to Prevention on Facebook.
  • Rural Oklahoma Pride is an organization you can donate to. These funds are used to support LGBTQ+ folks in this state, and it allows them to help facilitate events that allow for community connection.
  • Take time to authentically listen to the LGBTQ+ people in your life and community. Ask them how you can best support them and then follow through in being that support. This is a wonderful tool for creating an understanding and caring community.
  • Have conversations with your children about our community, and teach them to treat everyone with kindness no matter what.
  • Speak up for us when you hear hateful things and consider voting for those who are actively working to protect our rights. Use your voice to amplify the voices of those who have been ignored and hold those who spread hate accountable. Your voice is one of the most powerful tools you have in creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ folks.

If we keep listening, learning, understanding, and advocating, I truly believe we continue to make Shawnee a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone. Do not hesitate to contact Gateway to Prevention and Recovery at 273-1170 for additional support. We are honored to walk alongside you.

Todd May, BA, CMII, BHWC, is the Adolescent and Transitional Age Youth Program Coordinator at Gateway to Prevention and Recovery and has 3 years’ prior experience as a Case Manager. He is a proud transgender man, OBU Grad, and a participant at Emmanuel Episcopal. Todd is hosting an LGBTQ+ Family Fun day on June 15th at St. Paul’s from 12-4.