In 1989, in a small apartment in Kansas City, Missouri, two young men contemplated suicide. Ron Holt, DO, then a first-year medical student at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine (KCU-COM), was terrified by his homophobic father’s promises to ruin his life because he was gay. He and his boyfriend, now husband, William Huggett, MD, were tired of hiding and feeling afraid.
Dr. Holt and Dr. Huggett made it through that dark night, and Dr. Holt vowed to stand up for who he was and not be deterred by a bully. He vowed to empower others to do the same, a mission that led to him becoming a diversity and inclusion activist, an author, and, earlier this year, an invited audience member for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” During Ellen’s 60th birthday celebration show, A Million Acts of Kindness, Ellen picked 300 “kindness advocates” to celebrate with, and each received $3,000 in recognition of their leadership, which Dr. Holt used to help fund his vision of inclusion.
A new chapter
To help others who’ve been in their shoes, Dr. Holt and Dr. Huggett, who is also a psychiatrist, wrote a self-help book called “PRIDE: You Can’t Heal if You’re Hiding from Yourself.” The book is dedicated to “the millions of LGBTQ youth and allies across the world who struggle for unconditional love and acceptance,” Dr. Holt says. The companion coloring book, “PRIDE Coloring Book: Inspiring Designs with Affirming Messages of Love and Acceptance,” features 39 mandalas, each accompanied by an affirming message and quote. The couple has since authored four additional coloring books as part of their PRIDE series.
On page 36 of the first PRIDE coloring book is a quote from Frederick Douglass: “The soul that is within me, no man can degrade.” The accompanying affirmation states, “The quiet place inside of myself can never be taken away by someone else.”
“All the training I’d received to help other people heal wasn’t going to do me any good unless I was able to heal myself,” says Dr. Holt, who practiced for 20 years as a psychiatrist in San Francisco before retiring in 2017 to pursue his mission of LGBTQ advocacy and education full-time. Dr. Holt now gives talks on LGBTQ issues at national conferences, workshops, genders & sexualities alliance (GSA) groups and colleges, including his alma mater, KCU-COM.
Impact and influence
To meet the growing demand for his books from all parts of the world, Dr. Holt has made the book and companion coloring book available for free as a downloadable PDF (scroll to the bottom of the page). In May, he gave away 5,000 books to libraries, youth centers, camps and LGBTQ organizations across the country. “The messages are too important to allow a lack of resources to stop the healing. I want everyone who needs them to have them,” Dr. Holt says. He used his $3,000 gift from the Ellen show to fund the book giveaways and to launch a GoFundMe campaign to support the spread of his message. The books are also available on Amazon.
An elderly woman who follows Dr. Holt on Twitter wrote, “Your support has helped me more than you know. After decades of silence, fear is no longer an option … thank you for those first steps. I can now close the door behind me.”
A 17-year-old male in Canada wrote, “I did see your video on YouTube and would like to personally thank you. I wish someone like you had come out and told me that being gay is okay a lot sooner than I found out.”
Dr. Holt’s 6-part video series, Coming Out Safely, is designed to provide a guide to those within the LGBT community on the coming out process and to educate family, friends and colleagues.
The movement continues
Despite the success of his message, Dr. Holt says the fight is far from over. “There is still a lot of homophobia in society, in institutions, and in organized medicine,” he says. “As physicians, it is so important to create and demonstrate an inclusive and accepting clinic environment, so that the LGBTQ community feels comfortable coming in to receive the care they need and deserve.”
Prior to his retirement, Dr. Holt was an integral part of the medical community, seeing psychiatric patients and trying to heal many of them from scars that were not visible from the outside, all while healing from his own.
“Society often seems to expect that a psychiatrist is gonna have it all together. I went through a transformation toward self-acceptance and self-love,” Dr. Holt says. “I have profoundly improved my sense of self-worth and come to believe that the most challenging adversities in life can be transformed into the most powerful assets.”
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