Young visitors explore MoPOP's newest exhibition, 'Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement'
In ongoing celebration of Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement, open through September 12 at MoPOP, we're sharing stories and highlighting resources from the LGBTQIA+ community.
I sit among the crowd gathered at the Seattle Center plaza, all of my attention focused on the young performers. Today they will show off the new skills they learned at MoPOP’s Drag-tastic Summer Camp: The Art of Drag. Boys, girls, and non-binary kids (grades 6-12) displaying the drag personas they’ve spent the past week creating. Through the art of runway modeling, hosting, dancing, singing, and lip syncing they proudly strutted their stuff. I, too, am filled with pride. Not because I had anything directly to do with the camps, but because I am proud to be a cog in the wheel of this wonderful organization that reaches out to youth of all gender expressions and identities, giving them a safe and welcoming creative outlet where they can freely express themselves.
Fortunately, there are several organizations in Seattle that offer assistance for LGBTQIA+ youth, who still face many struggles today. One such organization is YouthCare at Orion Center. Through a variety of services, YouthCare works with homeless youth to provide education, housing, counseling and other services. The work they do is vital to LGBTQIA+ youth, who disproportionately experience homelessness. They have a 120 percent higher risk of homelessness than heterosexual and cisgender youth. As a result of family rejection, discrimination, criminalization and a host of other factors, these kids represent as much as 40 percent of the total homeless youth population, even though they only make up five to 10 percent of the overall youth population.
The consequences of homelessness, particularly for LGBTQIA+ youth, are far reaching and can last a lifetime. Homelessness is harmful to mental and physical health and youth that are homeless are at an increased risk for sexual abuse and exploitation, chemical and alcohol dependency, social stigma, and discrimination. LGBTQIA+ youth of today are very lucky to have organizations like this one to help them through the issues they face due to their sexual orientation or identity.
For resources, assistance, or to get involved go to YouthCare.org
In addition to higher rates of homelessness, LGBTQIA+ youth experience greater risk for mental health conditions and suicide. They are more than twice as likely to report having persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness than their heterosexual peers. Surveys show that 42 percent of these kids seriously considered attempting suicide and for transgender and non-binary youth it was more than 50 percent. Additionally, they face many forms of discrimination, such as labeling, stereotyping, denial of opportunities or access, and verbal, mental, and physical abuse. They are one of the most targeted communities by perpetrators of hate crimes in the country. Such discrimination can contribute to a significantly heightened risk for PTSD among LGBTQIA+ youth compared to those that identify as heterosexual and cisgender.
Thankfully, we have a few local organizations that are passionate about helping these kids through these particular traumas and hardships. One of them is Camp Ten Trees, a nonprofit residential camp in Washington state. Since 2001, they have been serving LGBTQIA+ youth and their families from all over the United States and beyond. Activities are designed to empower youth through play, education, and loving community support in order to enhance self-esteem, life skills, confidence, independence, leadership, and more. Campers have the opportunity to explore the outdoors, make friends who relate to them, work with adult mentors who reflect their identities, and feel empowered to be their truest selves.
For resources, assistance, or to get involved go to CampTenTrees.org
Another amazing local organization is Lambert House. It was founded in 1981 and is the first social service organization 100 percent dedicated to LGBTQIA+ youth to be granted nonprofit status. They are an international leader in LGBTQIA+ youth community building — the primary prevention strategy for the constellation of risks that disproportionately affects LGBTQIA+ youth. The risks they address include: social isolation, depression, suicide, alcohol and other drug use, HIV and other STDs, family conflict that can lead to homelessness, survival sex, and school failure. Lambert House provides LGBTQIA+ youth with daily opportunities to make friends with other youth like themselves and with supportive adults. It is this connection with peers and adults that makes life better for LGBTQIA+ youth. Lambert House is where life gets better.
For resources, assistance or to get involved go to LambertHouse.org
Those of us in the LGBTQIA+ community are forever grateful for those that came before us, fighting for our rights and for greater acceptance of our community members. We have seen drastic changes since Stonewall, but we still have a lot of work left to do. We must keep fighting. We owe it to the most vulnerable segment of our community, our LGBTQIA+ youth.
If you’d like to learn more about the heroic pioneers of the LGBTQIA+ rights movement, our community partners and local icons, visit MoPOP to see the exhibition, Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement. It's open through September 12, 2021. Don’t miss it!
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