Posts Tagged ‘LGBT issues’

This week I started my 20th year in my job running Youth Outlook where I (do my best to) support the drop-in centers and other services that we offer.  That’s a long stretch of time, especially when I stop to consider that when I started working here, most of you drop-in center kids weren’t even born yet. Matthew Shepard was murdered that week. We were looking forward to a new show called Will and Grace that actually had openly gay characters. Kids were wearing bell-bottom jeans and some cell phones still flipped. Can you believe it?

We’ve done a lot of work since that time. There has been an entire generation of young queerlings who came before you and paved the way, people whose courage and persistence was—and remains– nothing short of heroic. I feel like I need to speak up this week, though, because we’ve just been hit with several positively vile things, despite all of that hard work we’ve put in.

You are coming out at a time when we thought we had made the world a little bit better, a little bit safer for you. Now I wonder if it feels like we offered you a world with an illusion of safety and now that you’re coming out, these positively vile things are dropped on your heads. I wonder if it feels like the world offered you a place to sit and the last nine months have wrenched that chair out from under you.

It is unthinkable to me that we offered you a world where we said it’s okay if you want to serve your country and a few weeks ago, our elected officials announced a ban on transgender individuals serving. That is and will be argued, and I’m confident that in the end it will be dismissed, but it does not change the fact that we are going to argue your right to serve your country. Right in front of you. Again. It does not change the fact that trans people who are serving right now have been put on notice that they are not worth being allowed to wear that uniform.

It is unthinkable to me that we offered you a world where we said you’re safe at your job and no one can discriminate against you simply for being LGBT. I’ve said that very statement to a number of Youth Outlook kids over the years. “You’re safe. You have a right to ask for a job there. Go git ’em!” Then a couple of weeks ago, our elected officials announced that they think it’s okay to fire someone simply for being LGBT.  That is and will be argued, and I’m confident that in the end it will be dismissed, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re going to argue your right to hold a job and not be discriminated against in hiring and termination practices and in benefits administration. Right in front of you. Again. It does not change the fact that people will be fired in the interim and they have been put on notice that their skills and talents are not welcome in certain settings.

It is unthinkable to me that we offered you a world where we said you have inherent value and you are important link in our interconnectedness. Then just a few days ago, our elected officials announced that the US voted against a United Nations resolution calling for a ban on executing LGBT individuals. Truly, truly unthinkable. We stood with countries who want to kill you. We did that. That is and will be argued, and even now the White House is attempting to “clarify” what it meant by voting NO, and I’m confident that in the end it will be dismissed. But it doesn’t change the fact that we just made a huge public statement about our representatives’ profound contempt for queer lives. We did that. Right in front of you. Again.

In a year or four or six, you will leave your teenaged selves in the dust and go on with your lives in whatever is left of the world. You will be the next round of heroes because we will need you to clean this mess up. Since I’ve met you, I have no doubt you’ll do exactly that, as scarred as you will be from this viciousness.

It hardly seems fair, does it? It is a colossal universal joke. We told you the world was safe, then in almost the next breath, politicians advocated to take away your right to serve your country, to be free from discrimination, even to be a living, breathing being on the planet, while you listen to them debate your value—while you listen to them debate your right to exist. When this hateful bubble implodes, as we know it will, you’ll be here to take us to the next steps of our humanity, bearing your scars like badges.

It is unthinkable to me that we ask such a monumental task of you. If we could clap our hands over your ears or cover your spirits with our spirits, to keep you from having to absorb this vitriol, please know we would do that.

You will be the heroes. It is unthinkable to me that you wouldn’t be.

Until then, you have my hands and you have my heart~


hands and heart jpeg

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.




Sharing the stage

Posted: August 3, 2013 in Blog
Tags: , , ,

My Dwarf Life, the thought provoking blog by my friend Maurice Smith, may be of interest to some of you reading the Urban Tidepool blog. Maurice often posts about human rights issues, LGBT issues, disability issues and living with a fabulous sense of humor and his occasionally neurotic cat. I suspect many of you will enjoy his posts!