By: Jeff Hagan, Marketing Associate at Live Out Loud
As a fall chill takes hold over the heat of summer, we can’t help but re-live the back-to-school experience we went through so many times. For those of us who are LGBTQ, the memories this season evokes still accompany a feeling of dread. Despite the progress our community has made, the cycle continues; the next generation still faces the same fear when they return to school every year. Here are three of the most common reasons why, as witnessed by Live Out Loud’s program managers:
1. Coming Out
This is one of the most common and pressing concerns for LGBTQ youth. When the topic comes up during our programs, students are eager to know when is the right time, and what to do if they are rejected by their families. With our community constantly in the media spotlight, teens feel more pressure than ever to come out as early as possible. In reality, in most cases this is not the best course of action. Live Out Loud stresses to students in our programs that they should come out only when it is safe to do so.
Even if a student is out at school, this doesn’t necessarily mean they can also be out at home. Many students in NYC face homophobia and religious intolerance from their families and fear for their safety if they were to come out. This forces them to lead a double life that can be emotionally draining for students and can affect their performance at school.
Many students report feeling isolated in school due to homophobic language and ignorance. And if a school has no Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club, these students may have no one to turn to. Live Out Loud works with schools to found and support GSAs so they can be safe spaces that connect LGBTQ youth to their community.
The LGBTQ experience can be a uniquely lonely one. Other communities based on race or religion are often strengthened by the bonds of their families as they grow up and learn from adult role models what it means to belong to their community. More often than not, LGBTQ youth do not have this support. When Live Out Loud brings a role model into a school, for many of the students this is one of the first openly gay, bisexual, or transgender adults they are meeting in their lives. As incredible as this may seem, it’s a constant reminder that NYC is not always the queer mecca it’s sometimes made out to be. The younger generation still needs our help as much as ever.
So how can you make a difference? Volunteer with Live Out Loud and be a role model. If you made it through high school as an LGBTQ teen, you can change a life just by sharing your story. For some it can seem scary, but Live Out Loud’s volunteers who join our programs as role models have universally described it as a rewarding experience. Not only do you get to meet some amazing LGBTQ teens – but you also get to replace your negative high school memories with entirely positive ones.
Live Out Loud wants to change the paradigm so that no LGBTQ youth must go through high school without a role model to inspire them and help allay their fears. Make this the last fall when you think of “back-to-school” with fear, and the first when you think of it with hope.
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