Donald Trump's presidency has rattled young LGBTQ people. In the immediate aftermath of the election, calls to queer youth suicide prevention hotlines spiked. "[Young] people are very anxious about what happened," said Steve Mendelsohn of The Trevor Project. "People are likely scared that their rights are going to be taken away."
The months that followed provided no solace. Trump stacked his administration with anti-LGBTQ leaders and has implemented myriad policy changes that harm queer people. Some evidence even suggests Trump's hostility toward LGBTQ people is emboldening homophobic and transphobic attitudes across the U.S. — and the world.
Ron Holt, an openly gay psychiatrist, was worried about how this administration could be affecting young LGBTQ people.
So he felt inspired to fight back against the bigotry — with coloring books.
In 2017, Holt and his husband developed coloring books for LGBTQ teens and adults.
On each page, colorers see abstract, calming mandala designs complemented with affirming messages and quotes from inspiring leaders.
"When [my husband] Bill and I came out, there weren't any affirmative books available," Holt explains in an email. "We therefore created the affirmative coloring book that we wished we had when we were young and struggling with self acceptance and self love."
A few pages of Holt's Pride coloring book with the designs colored in. Photos courtesy of Ron Holt.
"I am worthy and I fully accept myself," one message reads in the book.
"You are unique," another relays. "Allow yourself to fully embrace all of who you are and become aware of all the ways that you love."
"Even though it may not be safe to be out to others, it is important to be out to yourself," a message states. "When you remain hidden from yourself, you are in effect saying, 'I am not worthy of being acknowledged.'"
Holt's coloring book concept ended up impressing all the right people at "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
If you're going to impress somebody, she's hard to beat, right?
Holt was selected to be in the crowd at the comedian's 60th birthday show taping in January, when audience members were chosen because of their generosity through the show's Million Acts of Kindness campaign.
As Holt learned while in attendance, all guests were given prize money: "[DeGeneres] suggested we 'pay it forward,'" he said. "Her spirit of generosity motivates much of what I do."
With his prize money, Holt decided to take his coloring books up a notch.
Photo courtesy of Ron Holt.
He launched a GoFundMe page in March to help get his Pride coloring books into more hands.
As the fundraiser points out, Holt is supplying the books to advocacy organizations that could benefit — like gay-straight alliance groups in schools, Pride Month event organizers, and various LGBTQ nonprofits.
And lots of groups were interested.
Although the books read "adult" on their covers, they've been created for teenagers and up, Holt explained. Photo courtesy of Ron Holt.
As of May 10, over 4,360 books had been ordered and mailed to 136 organizations, according to Holt. He's working hard to ensure the fundraiser keeps up with the incredible demand.
"All money raised will go directly to providing coloring books to those who need them most," Holt wrote on GoFundMe, noting that neither he nor his husband is profiting off donations. "Our goal is to make sure each dollar goes directly to help these young people."
The books' purpose is simple: to help young LGBTQ people remember that being queer is a beautiful thing.
"This campaign's goal is to make sure these youth know they are not alone, they are loved, and it is OK to be who they are," Holt explains.
Photo courtesy of Ron Holt.
"LGBTQ young people need our help now — more than ever," he concluded on GoFundMe. "Together, we WILL make a difference in their lives."
To learn more about Holt's coloring book campaign, visit GoFundMe.