LGBT Youth Make a Difference

LGBTQ 13By Ethan Lewis, Program Assistant/Educator at the Cortland LGBT Resource Center –

Oftentimes when we talk about LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) youth we focus only on their risk factors. We know LGBT youth are more likely to face harassment in school, face homelessness, use alcohol and other drugs, and attempt suicide. And it is important to acknowledge these things because we want to be able to protect LGBT youth from harm. But it is also important to acknowledge that LGBT youth are not just a set of health risks and potential targets for bullying. LGBT youth are an incredibly powerful and resilient group.

Throughout history they have faced tremendous challenges because of the sexual orientations, their gender identities, and their age. Despite all of this, LGBT youth have always been at the head of the LGBT civil rights movement and continue to be powerful voices to this day.

Unfortunately, according the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) 2013 report, less than 20% of LGBT youth in the United States reported learning about LGBT history in school. About the same amount reported learning negative things about LGBT people throughout history. Marcus Garvey once said, “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”Everyone deserves to know their history especially when LGBT youth have taken part in LGBT activism since its humble beginnings thus the LGBT Pride Month.

During the month of June people all over the world celebrate LGBT Pride Month.

This month is set aside in remembrance of the Stonewall Uprising that took place in New York City in late June of 1969. The Stonewall Uprising was a several day long fight between the police and LGBT patrons of the Stonewall Inn. Police would routinely raid, arrest, and publicly humiliate LGBT patrons. This event is widely considered the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement.

But many people forget that this act of defiance was led in part by homeless LGBT youth who felt they had nothing else to lose. Thrown out of their homes for being LGBT, they found support from the other LGBT people who found themselves at the Stonewall Inn. To this day LGBT youth are at the head of the LGBT rights movement. They have led the way to safer schools by helping to create gay-straight alliances, they have demanded comprehensive sex education, and they have made it safer for all young people to be themselves.

It is important to share stories like the Stonewall Uprising with LGBT youth. We need them to know that they matter, they can make a difference, and that their lives are worth living. We need to let youth know they could be the next Oscar Wilde (Irish author), Alan Turing (computer scientist), Josephine Baker (dancer), or Laverne Cox (actress). By letting LGBT youth know they have a rich history, we can encourage them to achieve their dreams.

To learn more about supporting LGBT youth visit Cortland LGBT Resource Center or call (607) 756-8970. You can also access more information about LGBT youth at GLSEN.org.

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