Originally Heard on the John Selig Outspoken Podcast
I hope you were moved by Bob Miskinis’s description of the challenges faced by Youth First Texas and the youth it serves. I cannot imagine that anybody listening to Moriah Sherman and Chaaz Quigley share their stories had a dry eye by the end of their interview.
We hear how much better things are for gay people than they were just ten years ago. More Americans are accepting of us and there is strong support for hate crimes protection and employment non–discrimination. Same–sex marriage is gaining more support each year. The Democratic Presidential candidates are courting our support and votes. More Americans know gay people than ever before. There are now gay characters in the movies and on TV that aren’t serial killers or child molesters.
And yet, it is still horrendous being a young gay person navigating through endless harassment at school, hate speech from the pulpit and far too many parents who are less than accepting or worse downright negligent and abusive.
Moriah and Chaaz are just two of the many youth who frequent Youth First Texas. Each of the youth served by the organization, which is an essential lifeline for many, has an equally compelling story. Unfortunately, those served by Youth First Texas and other similar organizations throughout the country are a tiny percentage of the millions of gay youth out there. Most suffer in silence. They tough it through a life at home that is far from supportive. They brave the halls of school suffering constant ridicule or worse. Many have no one to turn to for support and guidance. It’s no wonder that LGBT youth suicide is at such high levels.
Statistics can be hard to swallow and it is easy to glaze over when being exposed to them. In April of 2006 the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network released these sobering results from their 2005 National School Climate Survey. While the interview with Moriah and Chaaz is still fresh in your mind, chew on these for a few minutes:
- Three quarter of students heard derogatory remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” frequently or often at school, and nearly nine out of ten reported hearing “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” – meaning stupid or worthless – frequently or often.
- Over a third of students experienced physical harassment at school on the basis of sexual orientation and more than a quarter on the basis of their gender expression. Nearly one–fifth of students had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation and over a tenth because of their gender expression.
- LGBT students were five times more likely to report having skipped school in the last month because of safety concerns than the general population of students.
- LGBT students who experience more frequent physical harassment were more likely to report they did not plan to go to college. Overall, LGBT students were twice as likely as the general population of students to report they were not planning to pursue any post–secondary education.
And then there are the challenges of homelessness caused by parents throwing their kids into the street with many of the GLBT homeless youth turning to prostitution and drug dealing as their only means of support.
As LGBT adults what responsibility do we have to the next generation? Look back on your own childhood and ask yourselves how much better your life would have been if you had a helping hand from somebody who really knew what you were going through!
My goal with the “John Selig Outspoken” podcasts is to educate listeners by providing insight into issues that are critical to our community, to inspire observation of our community through fresh eyes, to think about what we might do to help make the world a better place for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders and to encourage action on our part to do our share to make it happen. No group is more in need or more deserving of support than the young. Without gay adults they have nobody else.
Look in your own community for organizations like Youth First Texas that can use your financial assistance and, even more importantly, your volunteer time. There is no finer reward than making a difference in a young person’s life.
One more thing, I am not making money by producing this podcast. I do so because I hope our community will benefit from getting to know the many role models that are featured. This episode on Youth First Texas needs to be heard far and wide. If you share the “John Selig Outspoken” podcasts with friends on your email list more of the community (both LGBT and gay supportive) will have the opportunity to get to know some folks that really make a difference and obtain tools to lend a hand in leaving their world a better place than the way they found it.
© 2007 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.