Dr. Jonathan Paul Higgins at KU’s Gender and Sexual Minorities Conference

By Kaitlyn Resline
Contributing Writer

On Oct. 01, 2021, keynote speaker, Dr. Jonathan Paul Higgins spoke at the Gender and Sexual Minorities Conference . After touching on the mental health and intersectionality issues for individuals who are Black and LGBTQ+, Higgins expanded the conversation to discuss how individuals can support the community.

Artwork in Boxwood House by Rae Senarighi (on instagram @transpainter)
Credit: Lena Hamm

Dr. Jonathan Paul Higgins is a writer, speaker and social justice educator who focuses on issues related to race, gender and media. Additionally, Dr. Higgins was named in the Business Equality Magazine’s “Top 40 LGBTQ Under 40.” Dr. Higgins’ work can also be seen and read in Ebony, Paper Magazine, Complex Magazine, Out, Them, Essence, The Root, Blavity, MTV News and more.

Some of the takeaways from the presentation are as follows:

  • Show respect. Respect individuals who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and their identity. Affirm how they choose to show up. Respect where they are in their process of identity.
  • Learn the early signs of mental illness and offer support to those who are struggling. We can all help overcome the mental health stigma by shifting the cultural narrative. 
  • Promote positive Black, LGBTQ+ experiences. Amplify their stories and voices.
  • Commit to the ongoing process of evaluating and changing your personal viewpoint. Uncover biases in your perspective and acknowledge your privilege. 
  • Most importantly: Do not just be an ally; be an advocate. Higgins described an ally as a “noun” while an advocate is a “verb.” Advocates do something to build trust and create understanding.

Higgins wrapped up their speech by saying, “You have the right to be here, and you have the right to thrive.” 

All people have the power to apply these takeaways to their actions and perspectives. When we all commit to understanding and educating ourselves, real change can be made.

In the words of Higgins, “You are powerful.” 

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