Last night, my agency held its annual gala, four days after much of the LGBT world was shot through with a bolt of fear that brought some of us to the verge of physical illness. On Wednesday, I was in meetings marked by stunned silence, abject fear, and immutable grief. The questions everywhere I turned were, “How do we do this?” and “How do we keep our kids safe?” which were valid questions while sitting in meetings where we were exploring trauma informed care for LGBT youth. Now we were also concerned about the trauma that we, as adults, might experience or be exposed to.

On that wave of wild emotion, I needed to prep comments to welcome our guests to our fundraiser, Dare to Dream. Just a week prior, we might well have exploded into the room still celebrating the World Series win. Suddenly, our annual affair was daunting like never before. One hundred and fifty people were going to gather for their first LGBT event, just four days after our country elected a new administration that includes a rabidly anti-LGBT vice president, who has referred to same sex couples as a sign of societal collapse. It’s a formal event. It opens with a welcome. I sat with that challenge for three of the first four days, wondering how I’d even sound coherent, let alone encouraging, to a group of people worried down to their socks about our newly acquired rights.

It was humbling. As I pulled some new facts together, it was also frightening. I wrote the welcome four times before the spirit of my former mentor welled up in me and my thoughts shifted from, “Oh, how the hell?” to “Oh, hell no.”

Tonight, I offer you this—my only welcome address to our annual gala fueled by the attitude, “Oh, hell no.” I wish you were there with us!

Good evening. Welcome to Dare to Dream 2016. Thank you for being here with us, especially this week.

I thought we’d be having a different conversation tonight, one that might touch on our expansion and our new opportunities.  While all of those things are still true, still important and still worthy of discussion, another topic has become even more worthy of our focus. In light of this week’s outcome, with the knowledge that in just 24 hours, hotline calls from suicidal LGBT kids across the country spiked to the point that the Trevor Project could field only about a third of them, we can and we MUST talk about community tonight. 

Youth Outlook, out here in the shadows of a large urban area with thriving LGBT culture, is known for its ability to create community where none previously existed. In meetings that I attended and conference calls in which I participated this week, nothing spoke more urgently than fear and the primal drive LGBT people and other marginalized people are experiencing to find a sense of safety.  I cannot stand here and promise that all will be well over the next few years. No one could. What I can promise you is that Youth Outlook will NOT stop. We will NOT surrender our rights to safety and connection. We will NOT slink away or look elsewhere when the emotional and physical safety of our kids is threatened, or when our kids are again at risk of being forced through conversion therapy to “fix” them. They are not broken. THAT is not what we came together to do. It brings to mind my favorite line from my favorite movie, Jurassic Park, “Creation is an act of sheer will.” 

We will NOT stand by while walls are built. We have been doing this almost twenty years. Youth Outlook has already raised an entire generation of young people who will dismantle that wall, repurpose into a place where we can go for brunch, and fly a rainbow flag off the top of it!




Say that with me.

WE. Create. Community.

After last evening, I am convinced that we can continue to hope. The true leaders aren’t sitting in D.C. They were sitting in that room with me, laughing, crying, cheering, and loving, as I went through mental social work yoga poses from Upward Facing Executive Director pose, to the Do More with Less Bend Over Backwards pose known to most fundraising teams, and finally into the Not For Profit Warrior pose. There was an awful lot of love and compassion showing for people reputed to be the indicator of societal collapse.

Oh, hell no. C’mon. I’ll see you on the mat.




  1. Nancy Carlson says:

    Beautiful and powerful.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Babs says:

    Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!! Love you and all you do!!!!!

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