This evening I attended a community forum at The Q Center for the youth in our community. It was about us, as a community, listening to them. Listening to their stories and their ideas on how to make the world a better place for those coming up behind them. The community packed the Q Center to capacity tonight. It was an awesome sight.
There were seven youth on the panel and each answered three questions. I’m going to do my best to remember them.
(1) What has been hard for you?
(2) What has helped you the most?
(3) What would help you more? (Think outside of the obstacles.)
These aren’t word for word but they are the basic premise of what was asked in this forum. The idea of the evening was to listen to these youth and use what they tell us as a jumping off point to brainstorm ideas of how to better help them.
It was pretty clear that the majority of these youth struggled to find an ally or a mentor while growing up. A few of them were seeing counselors who they didn’t feel comfortable completely opening up to so finding just one person who would stand on their side and create a safe space for them was very difficult.
I heard a lot of them ask more teachers to sponsor GSA’s in the schools. While, I believe, every public high school in Portland has a GSA the outlying areas do not. The suburbs of Portland like Gresham, Troutdale, Beaverton, Hillsboro and many other communities surrounding us. The youth need more teachers and school administrators in these areas to come forward as allies. The problem that arises for many of these teachers and school administrators is that for them, becoming an ally could jeopardize their careers.
In reality, it’s a much bigger issue then what we are looking at here. The basic fight is against homophobia. If we can’t, as a society, become more loving and accepting of everyone these issues will never go away. While there have been so many strides made in our movement for equality already, we have so much more to do.
To start, we as the adult Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (GLBTQ) community need to step in somehow and start mentoring our youth. They are the future of our community and of this world. We also need more visibility outside of our community so that we can reach the youth who are struggling to find their allies.
Mentoring was also talked about at the Butch Voices Conference here in Portland and it’s an excellent idea. Something along the lines of Big Brothers and Sisters for queer youth. If we could start something like that based out of the Q Center to mentor the youth in the SMYRC program and Outside In, imagine the changes that it could make for our youth and the future of our community. Imagine the lives it may save.