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Celebrating our youth

By |2010-09-16T09:00:00-04:00September 16th, 2010|Uncategorized|

So often, when we talk about LGBT youth in our community, it is about how we can help them, nurture them, provide for them, or save them from life with HIV or life on the streets.
Indeed, youth causes and organizations are where much of our funding, volunteer time and resources go in the LGBT community – and with good reason: these youth are not only the future of the world, but of our movement. They are the ones who will carry on our work of achieving full equality when we are too old and too worn-out to continue. They will carry the torch into the future and, like any good “parents,” we are concerned about their welfare as if each and every one of them was our own flesh and blood.
But it is not often enough that we stop fretting about LGBT youth and notice the amazing things that they are capable of doing. Despite the added set of challenges that they face on top of how difficult it already is to be a teenager and despite the obstacles that they may go through – or perhaps as a result of them – gay and transgender young adults are strong. Sometimes, when we stop and notice this, even those of us who work with them and worry about them every day are amazed at how much so.
This month, in one event already past and one still to come, both Affirmations and the Ruth Ellis Center are honoring the youth in their programs. On Sept. 11, Affirmations hosted its first-ever YEP Awards, recognizing accomplishments of teens in their Youth Empowerment Program and on Sept. 23, the REC will host Kaleidoscope to honor their youth through a documentary on voguing.
“Our young people are amazingly resilient,” said REC Executive Director Laura Hughes. “The same things that, where I would have curled up in a corner and said, ‘I don’t think I can go forward,’ our young people have.”
Kaleidoscope, added Hughes, is about celebrating the resilience and diversity of these youth. Because the truth is that they haven’t just “gone on” with life after being abused or bullied or kicked out of their homes. They have done, and every day still are doing amazing things.
Some are saving up for college and making sure to keep their grades up. Others are practicing voguing, taking it beyond a fun pastime and turning it into a disciplined art form. Some are serving as mentors to younger LGBT kids, and others are simply making the brave decision to turn their lives around by taking that first step into Affirmations or the Ruth Ellis Center.
Yes, we should all be concerned about LGBT youth because they are, as the saying goes, our future. But we should also, like any parents, be extremely proud of them as they not only survive tremendous adversity, but persevere through it and, in fact, use it to better their own lives and the lives of others. Creating supportive networks or “families” for them helps to create an environment for success. But perhaps the greatest way we can ensure that LGBT youth will carry on the work of equality and better our community as a whole is to encourage them to keep doing the amazing things they are capable of.

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.
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