Options Magazine Oct/Nov 2019

Page 14

by Elana Rosenberg

Twenty-Five Years of Youth Pride Inc.


wenty-five years ago, when I was in high school, I’d never met anyone under the age of 45 who spoke of themselves as anything other than straight. I thought I couldn’t be gay until I was “old.” In hindsight that seems ridiculous, but I was young and living in the south. If I had lived in Rhode Island at the time, I’m sure I would have found a way to be a part of a newly forming organization, Youth Pride, Inc. (YPI). Luckily, I was mostly surrounded by family and friends who loved me for myself, no matter who I was or how long it took me to figure it out. I found my way through adolescence and young adulthood, despite the odds. I’ll say it again: I was lucky.

considered attempting suicide, and 29% reported having attempted suicide within the year. (CDC, 2015)

- More than 40% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students have seriously

120% higher than youth who identified as heterosexual and cisgender. And

- More than 87% of LGBTQ youth report having experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics,

LGBTQ youth make up roughly 40% of the homeless youth populations. (Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America, National Estimates: 2017)

- LGBTQ youth are at a higher risk for sanctions, such as being stopped by the police, expelled from school, arrested, or convicted. As a result, LGBTQ youth are over-represented in the justice system, making up 20% of the general population and almost 40% of girls in juvenile facilities. Additionally, of LGBTQ and gender nonconforming youth in juvenile justice facilities, 85% are youth of color. (Center for American Progress, Movement Advancement Twenty-five years Left to right: Ava (she/her, 15), Ryan (he/him, 17), Josh (he/him, 21), Nielle (she/ First. ago, many other young her, 19), Jen (she/her, 13), Albert (he/him,16), X (seated, they/them, 20), Mason Project, Youth Unjust: LGBTQ Youth LGBTQ+ folks weren’t (seated, he/him, 15). Incarcerated in the Juvenile as lucky, and many still aren’t as lucky today. LGBTQ+ youth including sexual orientation, gender Justice System, 2017.) suffer the effects of family rejection, social expression, gender, religion, actual or At its inception, the idea for YPI was isolation, and lack of access to supportive perceived race and ethnicity, and actual simply to form a support group, but the educational, mental, and medical health or perceived disability. (GLSEN, 2017) depth of need soon became clear. At a resources. The result? The statistics are LGBTQ youth reported minimum, LGBTQ+ youth needed to staggering, and speak for themselves: experiencing homelessness at a rate regularly connect with one another and


Options | October/November 2019

with supportive adults. In December of 1992, in the middle of a snowstorm, four