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June is Pride Month, but it should not be the only time where we celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. It should serve as a reminder and motivation to be supportive all year long and address the struggles that are unique to this specific community. This month, UGG donated $125,000 to The Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people.
UGG partnered with the Trevor Project's Kevin Wong to host a panel discussion about destigmatizing mental health for the LGBTQIA+ community with insights from Laverne Cox and Alok. They discussed the importance of allyship, shared useful resources, and highlighted the importance of mental health awareness. The trio spoke to E! prior to the panel.
E!: Even with increased conversations and access for some, therapy and other mental health services are still highly stigmatized, specifically in the LGBTQIA+ community. What would you say to people who aren't sure how to move past that and seek out the help they may need?
LC: I mean, in terms of the stigma you just have to get over it. It's important to remember that are minds and our bodies are not separate. People need to start thinking about mental health as a part of overall health.
It's incumbent upon us to take care of ourselves. For me, personally, it's showing up in my health the older I get. My therapist calls it the over-abundance of survival energy. So, here we are as LGBTQ+ folks who have lived in tough environments. As a child, if you were bullied at school like I was, and then you came home and your mom blamed you for that bullying, like I was, then you're just in that survival mode all the time. That's what I've learned. At 50 years old, I'm learning new ways to build resilience. My therapist talks about going from what's wrong with me to what's happened with me to what's right with me.
E!: Tell me more about taking that path to realizing what you feel is "right" with you.
LC: When I think about my childhood where I was bullied, I was also a straight A student. I loved getting up and summarizing the Sunday School lesson in church because I loved standing in front of people. I loved dancing and competing in talent shows. I had my little dreams and my fantasies. Those are things that got me through.
There's resilience in imagination. There's resilience in the space of a dream. That's important to lean into, especially right now, without being in denial. Finding that resilience is just really important.
E!: Do you have any advice that you would share with your younger self?
Alok: I think the LGBTQ+ youth of today are so strategic and smart about what's best for them. I think my younger self would probably have advice for me. I think what's so cool about the Trevor Project is that we really have to find ways to understand LGBTQ+ young people, as leaders of their own lives and narrators of their own struggle. Right now, there are bills targeting young people, but to Laverne's point, it's also important to find ways to still practice joy.
I'm from Texas. I was just there protesting because there are anti-trans policies. A trans young person came up to me with a wand that they painted with a trans color flag. They said, ‘I get bullied a lot in school. So, I pretend I'm a wizard and I have magical powers and I can make it stop. I wanted to give this to you because I know you get bullied too.' Young people are showing up for trans elders because they are fighting every day and sometimes I take a lot of inspiration from young people as well. I think it's beautiful.
LC: What's so brilliant about that is that there were so many things about my younger self that were fearless because I didn't know any better. I didn't know of or fully understand the horrors of the world. I didn't have the capacity to truly understand the different levels of trauma, but the coping mechanisms were brilliant. They were imaginative and in the spaces of a dream and there was a certain kind of ignorance is bliss in this childhood wonder that is really incredible. I love that reframe of the question and people ask me that one all the time.
E!: What are some of the barriers to seeking mental health treatment?
KW: There are many barriers to accessing any health care in general, but especially for the LGBTQ+ young people, gender-affirming care specifically. There is a chance that some kids are not safe at home, depending on their parents. We're advocating for expanded health care and expanded resources for young people, but we're not doing it alone. We're doing it in partnership. We're hoping for a more inclusive world for health care.
LC: I think that's brilliant. I always like to lean into online resources and mention that there is some sort of LGBTQ+ resources in major cities with programs that are free. But, then that's always the case. There are some parts of the country where kids don't easily have excess to internet and a computer. So, there are lot of barriers, many that don't readily come to mind for everyone, but when you think about it, there are many. A lot of us don't even think about people not having internet access because we are so used to it, but it's an issue for many LGBTQ+ youth who may not have a safe place to turn.
KW: All of those things are true and on top of that, even if you do have access to the internet or if you can afford a therapist, there's a chance that the therapist does not have the LGBTQ+ competencies, right? They might not understand gender-affirming care. There's a chance that they may not be culturally competent for my intersecting identities. They may not get it. That's a tough reality that a lot of people face. Around the country, those intersecting identities still exist, but the available care may not match.
E!: There are some well-intentioned people who may not know how to navigate as an LGBTQ+ ally. Do you have any advice for people who really want to support the community but aren't totally sure where to begin or how to move forward?
Alok: I'm actually more hurt by the silence of the majority. There's so much that can be done right now and people are just remaining silent. So many companies are remaining silent. I'm having conversations with leaders in the beauty industry who are afraid of isolating their brand's reach. There are so many brands during Pride who say that they support the LGBTQ+ community, but they're not really supporting.
In addition to partnering with The Trevor Project for the panel discussion on destigmatizing mental health for the LGBTQIA+ community, UGG donated $125,000 to The Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people.
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If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you are an LGBTQ young person in need of support, reach out to one of the Trevor Project crisis counselors, available 24/7. Text START to 678-678 or call 1-866-488-7386.