Visibility. I think about this word and concept often when I’m watching television or a movie where a queer and/or trans* person is introduced (e.g. Laverne Cox, who is a trans woman of color portraying Sophia Burset, a Black trans woman, on Orange is the New Black) or in news media when someone comes out (Anderson Cooper and Robin Roberts come to mind). I immediately get really excited that maybe, just maybe, people will pay more attention and see that LGBTQ people are everywhere, we are part of every day life and yes, we will even show up on your television or in your news magazines. And then my heart immediately sinks, because I think of the invisible.
When I think of “invisible,” I think of many of the youth I have the incredible privilege and honor of working with at SMYRC, our youth and young adult program. When I think of invisible, I go to the topic of homelessness in our communities. Sure, if you’re walking around in Portland, you’ve noticed at least one homeless person. But what do you know about them? For many homeless people in our communities, their stories are unknown, they are invisible. And while we have growing concern and are figuring out how to be supportive, too many of the homeless, of the invisible, are LGBTQ youth.
Maybe you’ve seen the statistics that 20-40% of homeless youth in our country identify as LGBTQ. Around 40% of homeless youth in the Portland metro area identify as LGBTQ. Over the course of 2013, we had over 100 homeless youth access SMYRC. These youth experience rejection from their families, from their communities, and live in exile until they find a safe place to be. Because our social service agencies are only just beginning to catch up, LGBTQ homeless youth seek out places like SMYRC because their safety and support is in our mission. We are working hard to educate our communities, to build in more understanding with people who do not accept us as our whole selves, as LGBTQ people. We have an incredibly long road ahead to change hearts and minds, but we won’t stop until that 40% drops to zero.
What can you do to support these young people while they build their lives? You can decide to see them, to learn about them, and to support them through your time and generous donations. We’ve teamed up with the Human Rights Campaign again this year for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on January 20th. We’re collecting much needed items, like toiletries, socks, underwear, food, bus tickets, the list goes on and on. It takes all of us to pitch in and give what we can. If you’re like many folks in our community, money is tight, but these youth also need your time. Consider volunteering with us on the Day of Service!
Click HERE to get involved.
Learn the stories of these young people and make the invisible, visible.
We Are Here is Q Center’s youth and young adult blogspace, dedicated to LGBTQ individuals ages 12-24. We feature stories BY and ABOUT young queer people. This space is all of ours. We aim for diversity in the thoughts, opinions, and subject matter expressed through the Queer Voices program. You may not agree with everything you read, but our hope is to provide a platform for the diversity of our community to thrive and interact. The views expressed here are those of the author. If you would like to write for the We Are Here blog, please email Sarah@pdxQcenter.org for more info. If you have a story for us, please email our news desk at QBlog@pdxQcenter.org