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This June, the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy is featuring the stories of our LGBTQ* community. We spoke with people from within our college and around UK to reflect on what Pride Month means to them.

Jason T. Mitchell is the Director of Enrollment Management for the UK College of Pharmacy. Originally from Lexington, Kentucky, he has been at the University of Kentucky for six years and is an integral part of the pharmacy family.

In what ways do you feel the College has helped create a sense of belonging?

MITCHELL: UKCOP is striving and thriving. Our college seeks to be a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and in the profession. That drive is energized by students, staff and faculty who have taken ownership of making sure we create a place where voices are heard and humanity matters first. In my 18+ years at UK, the UKCOP has been a beacon of belonging across campus. There is a genuine hope that we are a safe space for all people at UK to be exactly who they are—regardless of the differences they bring to the tapestry.

What does “pride” mean to you?

MITCHELL: It means confidence. Pride is the confidence that took years for a poor seventh-grader who was bullied all the way through high school to be confident enough to live his truth in the present day!

What is your favorite thing about Pride Month?

MITCHELL: The diversity of expression is my favorite part of Pride Month. It always gives me butterflies when I see throughout the world how humanity is able to celebrate the difference that is expression of self.

What gives you hope these days?

MITCHELL: These days, I find hope in the simple fact that again in our world we are awakened to the humanity that is in all of us. Even though the world has seen dimly in more recent times, it gives me hope to realize that the humanity around us is revived with what truly matters—that is, our beauty as people who long to be better for each other. If we will just work to leave the world better than we found it, we can realize that humanity is our goal!

How does your identity impact your work?

MITCHELL: I use my identity to seek out those who have trouble realizing their dreams, those who have trouble realizing their possibility, those who have trouble getting on the path because of fear. My confidence, for the longest time, was shaken by the hate I received in junior high, high school, and even at times as a young professional. What I realize now is that those experiences have given me a passion for the underserved, the marginalized and those who are tossed to the side in society. My identity impacts that in a big way.

Who influenced you to come out?

MITCHELL: I was influenced by my good friend Steve Johnson, LCSW, when I first moved back to Lexington to live my truth. I was also impacted by an event in NYC when I—for the first time in my life—saw two men holding hands, walking down 42nd Street. I will never forget that sight. When I moved back to Kentucky 20+ years ago—I moved back as an out gay man.

What would you say to someone who is unsure about coming out?

MITCHELL: In your time, in your space and in your world, live your truth. Do not let anyone take you to a place faster than you want to arrive, sooner than you planned to be there or earlier than your ETA. You will know what is right for you. Seek to check out the world and how you fit into the fabric, and always check in with people who show genuine love for you. Determine in your time that your truth is your undeniable right.

We wish to remember and honor those who inhabited this Commonwealth before the arrival of the Europeans. Briefly occupying these lands were the Osage, Wyndott tribe, and Miami peoples. The Adena and Hopewell peoples, who are recognized by the naming of the time period in which they resided here, were here more permanently. Some of their mounds remain in the Lexington area, including at UK’s Adena Park.

In more recent years, the Cherokee occupied southeast Kentucky, the Yuchi southwest Kentucky, the Chickasaw extreme western Kentucky and the Shawnee central Kentucky including what is now the city of Lexington. The Shawnee left when colonization pushed through the Appalachian Mountains. Lower Shawnee Town ceremonial grounds are still visible in Greenup County.

We honor the first inhabitants who were here, respect their culture, and acknowledge the presence of their descendants who are here today in all walks of life including fellow pharmacists and healthcare professionals.