For many people, summer means spending time with family, going on vacation down the shore, taking road trips, or going to camp with friends. But for many LGBT youth whose parents have disowned them, summer will be another sweltering season with no place to go and no one to turn to.
Oftentimes, children who are disowned are left to fend for themselves: lonely, confused, and vulnerable.
According to the Williams Institute, LGBT youth make up about 40% of our homeless, and are eight times more likely to commit suicide if rejected by family members. These statistics are shocking. How can the next generation believe in a future when their own mother or father don’t support them?
There are those who reach out. In a recent press conference, the courageous football star, Michael Sam said, “If someone disowns you, be part of my family.” This is great, in theory, and it sends a strong message. But, in reality, these at risk children cannot be part of his family. They can’t magically wake up one day in his house and have breakfast made for them. According to his Twitter feed, Michael Sam is offering a portion of the proceeds from his merchandise sales to at-risk youth in the St. Louis area. That’s great!
But, what can the rest of us do to help?
We can start by putting our money where our mouths are and invest in organizations like The Trevor Project, the Pride Center of New Jersey, Crossroads, or any community-based non-profit organization that provides support or shelter to runaway and homeless youth. These organizations can be the difference between life and death for those at risk.
In New Jersey, Garden State Equality has programs for LGBT youth, including anti-bullying programs, and programs for LGBT parents raising children. They also offer a youth caucus where LGBT, straight, and questioning individuals meet to support each other and to learn to advocate for equality and school safety.
The Pride Center has a drop-in program for LGBTs, and their straight allies, ages 17 and under. The group meets every 2nd and 4th Saturdays from 1-4 pm. They have support groups, youth advisers, and adult advisers. The Pride Center also offers activities such as open mics, discussion groups, and themed parties. Drop in and/or pass this information to someone you think might benefit from this support system. You never know, you could be changing a life!
Speaking of change, Out In Jersey has updated its look. Please feel free to reach out to let us know how we are doing. We are always happy to hear from our readers!