Ad Age is marking Pride Month 2023 with our Honoring Creative Excellence package, in which LGBTQ+ creators revisit some of their favorite projects. (Read the introduction here.) This week, our guest editor Lisa Sherman turns the spotlight to mental health advocate Juan Acosta. Here, Acosta writes about “taking center stage to uplift my communities.”
Coming to this country at age 2 from Mexico, and arriving in Woodland, California, I, along with my family, had a whole new world to figure out. It is the experience of many immigrants—coming to a country in search of a better life. Throughout my career, I have had to learn and unlearn.
As a gay Mexican creative within the health industry, I was left to make spaces for myself in environments that oftentimes didn’t have seats for people like me. For years I was bullied, and at a young age, I was told by others who I was. My life began to change when I took my story and my identity into my own hands. I began to tell people who I was and set boundaries. The journey to self-love was a roller coaster, but one that was worth going on. Owning what made me unique and authentic made me realize how crucial it is for everyone to do the same.
Throughout my journey, I have always held my flag as a Mexican immigrant and a member of the LGBTQ+ community high. My work focus is the LGBTQ+ community and mental health. The Trevor Project reports that LGBTQ+ young people are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. I was able to help make history in my hometown by drafting an LGBTQ+ proclamation for my hometown of Woodland that passed for the first time in the town’s history. Contributing to the proclamation was a full-circle moment because it signified change in my community. On a personal level, it was a hug to my inner child. My identity was something I used to feel ashamed of—and now I was using it to create change.