Protecting LGBT youth
 

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posted Friday, March 25, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 12

Protecting LGBT youth
by Mark Segal - Courtesy of the Philadelphia Gay News

It's great when LGBT media from around the country gets a chance to meet with each other and share their experience and knowledge. After all, we are the communications platform of this community, and the more accurate information we have on any given subject, the better.

To this point, real statistical information is only beginning to come to light, since our existence as a community has only taken shape over the last few decades and accurate surveys are hard to accomplish; many in our community do not self-identify as LGBT.

The Walter & Elise Haas Fund (www.haasjr.org) in San Francisco really gets it, and completely underwrote the conference. Last year, they convened a conference at the Desmond Tutu Center in New York City for LGBT print media and bloggers on the issue of immigration. Many of us learned for the first time how important it was in our community, and why it's an LGBT issue.

With the help of Bill Browning, editor-in-chief for the Bilerico project, the Haas Foundation expanded the program last weekend. It was an ambitious program. They brought in experts who gave LGBT media an update and real material on LGBT youth issues, including suicide prevention, homelessness, bullying and how family life affects growth, the tangled legal web of marriage-equality law - from California's Proposition 8 to Massachusetts attorney general lawsuits, as well as the Obama administration's decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and trying to understand how this will end up at the Supreme Court.

Among the organizations that presented was the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, whose representatives spoke about what little information they had since the U.S. government does not recognize the LGBT community in its studies; Ali Forney Center, the LGBT youth organization in New York City whose goal is to take LGBT homeless youth off the streets, and whose staffers explained there are less than 1,000 beds at homeless shelters for endangered and homeless LGBT youth in the country; and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Many participants blogged about the sessions, covering topics such as how rejection from family and friends in the coming-out process can lead to mental health and substance-abuse issues, how most shelter programs for LGBT youth are run by the same religious organizations who oppress them, and how, in suicide studies thus far, only 1.7 percent self-identify as LGBT, demonstrating that the closet extends to suicide studies. Additionally, medical and government resistance of inclusion contributes to most suicides never being recorded as LGBT, with youth being two to three times more likely, and this is a lowball figure due to the lack of research.

The material presented made a strong argument that we as a community must do more for our endangered youth. They make it clear that a support system must be put into place lest these drastic figures continue. It is our duty to increase our efforts beyond legislation, to push for funds to save our most cherished asset: our future, our youth.

Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He is the nation's most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media, having received the 2010 Columnist of the Year Award from the 2,000-member Suburban Newspapers of America. He can be reached atmark@epgn.com.



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