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LGBT-affirming coloring books are a hit

by Alex Madison

Dr. Ronald Holt backstage at the "Ellen" show. Photo: Courtesy Ronald Holt
Dr. Ronald Holt backstage at the "Ellen" show. Photo: Courtesy Ronald Holt  

A gay psychiatrist is trying to share a message of acceptance and love with his LGBT-affirming coloring books for young adults and adults alike.

Dr. Ronald Holt is the man behind the project and, so far, he said, the coloring books are a big hit.

San Francisco Pridegoers can look forward to grabbing a copy in the LGBTQ Family Garden June 23-24.

Holt gave away 5,000 "Pride" coloring books last week to more than 150 gay-straight alliance clubs, libraries, youth camps, religious groups, and other LGBT organizations across the country. With a mission to get the books in the hands of youth and young adults in environments where they may not feel accepted for who they are, Holt often targets rural communities.

"I had a terrible time of coming out," said Holt of his experience as a young gay man growing up in Nebraska. "I don't want kids to go through what I went through. That's why I produced these books, and the experience has been amazing."

As a psychiatrist, Holt, 51, knows the importance of having positive support during a time that is challenging for many young LGBTs. He also knows the health benefits of coloring, like reduced stress. The coloring book includes 39 mandalas to fill in with colors, each accompanied with positive affirmations, like "I am worthy and I fully accept myself," on each page.

"The coloring books really help with anxiety, self-acceptance, and love," Holt, a San Francisco resident, said. "What better way to relieve feelings of anxiousness for not being accepted for who you are than with coloring mandalas and reading positive messages about who you are."

The coloring book journey, now coming on the completion of its first year, started with a trip to the studio of lesbian Ellen DeGeneres' afternoon talk show, "Ellen." For his years of LGBT activism and work for the community, Holt was accepted to attend DeGeneres' 60th birthday party show, which was themed "Million Acts of Kindness."

The audience members each received $3,000 to "pay it forward," an instruction Holt took very seriously. He took the money, started a GoFundMe campaign, and today has distributed the books he co-authored with William Huggett to individuals and organizations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, three Canadian provinces, and the United Kingdom.

And more and more requests for the book roll in every day, Holt said. His GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $12,000, but the demand for the books has outpaced the donations, he said.

"It's been an amazing experience," he said. "I've loved doing it. I'm so happy to see people who need them are actually getting them."

For one young bisexual woman, Briana Berastain, and her high school GSA, the books have made a difference in its members' lives. Berastain, 17, ordered the books as the vice president of the group.

"It's really nice to have something telling you you are enough and validate that you are loved," she said. "It's really important to help people accept themselves and to show people that it is OK and normal to be LGBT."

The Health Equity Alliance was one of the organizations that received the coloring books. Andrea Littlefield, director of development and communications for the LGBTQ organization based in Maine, said she plans to pass the books out at a local Pride event during a children's storytelling event at the festival.

"We are thrilled to receive these coloring books," she said. "We know kids will be so excited to get one."

Holt recently stopped practicing as a psychiatrist to focus more on his charity work in the LGBTQ happiness and mental health world. He is the author of an international best-selling e-book, "PRIDE: You Can't Heal If You're Hiding from Yourself," and gives motivational speeches around the country.

To donate to his GoFundMe campaign, visit http://www.gofundme.com/PRIDEtoLGBTQYouth. To purchase the coloring book online, visit https://amzn.to/2JcKkIq.

Contact the reporter at a.madison@ebar.com.

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