Proud to Support LGBTQ+ Youth & Families
June is LGBTQ+ Awareness and Pride Month, and we are proud to be share more about how this topic relates to child well-being and child abuse prevention on our blogs this month.
Guest post by: Karen Rush, Children’s Center Executive Director
LGBTQ+ Awareness and Pride Month is celebrated every June as a tribute to those who were involved in the Stonewall Riots in June of 1969. In fact, though I often associate this month with the joy and beauty of diverse expressions of love and identity, it is important for me to remember that it began as a way to honor the courage and tenacity of those involved. Today we celebrate not just the activists of the past but all the brave individuals who continue to take risks (and sometimes die) for the right to be themselves and love whomever they love.
This topic is one that is more complicated for me to write about because of my strong personal connection. This isn’t a blog that I can effectively summarize in a couple of short paragraphs with a link to a resource at the end (although there will be a link). This is the issue that keeps me up at night.
I am worried about the safety and well-being of youth who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Every day, there are stories about people being harmed simply because they are expressing their gender and/or sexual identity. Even as recently as three weeks ago, a transgender boy was murdered in Gervais, Oregon. Just last week, I was talking with my child, and they shared with me that they were afraid and wondered how they could defend themselves if something like this ever happened to them. As a parent, I was at a loss. My sadness and fear overwhelmed my ability to provide any kind of reasonable or wise response. I didn’t know how to be reassuring, but also realistic –my child, as a non-binary teenager, is correct in thinking that there is a possibility that others may want to hurt them because of who they are.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) recently published a position paper on the increased risk of abuse for children in the LGBTQ+ community, especially during the pandemic, when so many children have been isolated from their communities of support. In a national survey, nearly 50% of LGBTQ+ youth reported that their family makes them feel bad for being LGBTQ+ and only 24% reported being able to express themselves safely at home. HRC reported that,
“LGBTQ youth, according to True Colors United, are more than twice as likely to be homeless while they simultaneously comprise 30% of youth in the foster care system. These experiences also lead many LGBTQ youth to suffer and develop poor mental health and well-being. In fact, the Crisis Text Line, a text-only crisis-intervention hotline has seen a surge in its use. The most striking fact is that more than half of those using the hotline are LGBTQ, many of whom are teenagers.”
Recently, our board and staff began working on a 3-year strategic plan where the overarching goal is to do all of our work through a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion lens. I look forward to seeing the ways we continue to weave in gender and sexual identity of the children and families we serve into our practices to assess and treat the impact of trauma and to provide prevention education. It will be essential in our work to become aware of and to break down systemic barriers that LGBTQ+ youth and their families experience as they try to access resources and opportunities in our community.
As a mom, I want to thank you all for being a community that cares deeply about all children and is dedicated to safety and healing. It does give me hope, and that is what I can pass on to my own children when words of wisdom cannot be found.