All across America, youth centers are popping up as safe havens for students in the LGBTQ+ community.
With the rise in violence against this community, especially the youth, advocates have sought helpful and educational ways to offer support.
Recently, there’s been a rash of violence against transgender women and youth in the city of Philadelphia.
In response, the city (and surrounding area) has created places of refuge for the LGBTQ+ youth in their own neighborhoods.
The Bradbury Sullivan Center is one such location.
Located in the heart of Allentown, Pennsylvania (a community one and half hours from from mid-town Manhattan and Philadelphia) the center offers specific programs for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community.
From educational programs for youth and their families, and even curriculum for local school districts and religious institutions, the Bradbury Sullivan Center has a plethora of resources for the LGBTQ+ youth and community.
They’ve created a specific program just for LGBTQ+ high school and college students called Project SILK Lehigh Valley,
“…a brave space for LGBT youth of color and their social networks to be themselves. Project SILK Lehigh Valley provides daily, professionally-staffed youth programs for LGBT youth ages 14-21, builds leadership among LGBT youth and provides HIV interventions to empower youth to be their own healthcare advocates“.
Here, students gather regularly to socialize, learn, and support one another, something that would have been unheard of in this community even a generation ago.
But Allentown isn’t the only city in the United States where these community services are becoming part of the fabric of everyday life.
The Attic Youth Center, in Philadelphia, offers a vibrant array of services, educational resources and even celebrity support deep in the city.
Their focus is largely for LGBTQ+ youth of color, a population at even greater risk for abuse and neglect.
Celebrities, too, are taking the lead in supporting the LGBTQ+ youth of America, a country that only very recently even legalized gay marriage.
On Spirit Day, a day set aside to recognize LGBTQ+ youth and stand up against the bullying so many of youth have faced, celebrities offered a string of supportive Tweets.
“Show the world you love them just the way they are.” @TheEllenShow
LGBTQ+ youth face the usual stressors of adolescence, coupled with some their cisgender peers do not. They have the highest suicide rate among any segment of the adolescent community.
Besides being a greater target for violence, they’re more likely to be marketed to by tobacco companies, more likely to be victims of bullying, be sought by hate groups, develop depression and substance abuse problems, face homelessness, and be rejected by their families and larger society.
Knowing these facts, and seeing a great need in this community, Lady Gaga began Born This Way, a foundation which seeks to support, “…the wellness of young people [by] empowering them to create a kinder and braver world.”
Less than 100 years ago, it was a crime to be gay in the United States, and many other countries around the world.
Forget about identifying as being trans or bisexual. That would be a seemingly even greater threat to “traditional values”.
But today, while there’s still much work to be done, rights that need constant defending, youth who need loving and unconditional support from their communities, changes have occurred, and more positive changes are happening every day.
And this is all happening because of the dedication of people who run organizations like SILK and The Attic and from celebrities who shine a light on the most important investment humankind can advance—the youth.