You can empower LGBTQ youth, and help them create happier and successful lives.
There’s no question that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth face tremendous challenges due to their sexual orientation. Many LGBTQ youth have reported that they have faced neglect or abuse from family members because of their sexual orientation.
According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), over 30% of LGBT youth reported suffering physical violence at the hands of a family member after coming out. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) studies reveal that between 25% and 50% of homeless youth are LGBT and on the streets because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Recent studies reveal that some LGBTQ youth who are in foster care can have a difficult time feeling loved or accepted.
According to Florence Edwards, a former LGBTQ foster youth, “Being a youth who identifies as LGBTQ often means being targeted, shamed, abused and abandoned because of who you love. When I was in foster care during my teens, I faced a lot of shame for being different. During my elementary and high school years, I was called names, experienced bullying and harassment every day to the point where I contemplated suicide on a daily basis.
Since I did not have support from teachers or other authority figures, I decided to turn to my pastor for support. When I confided in him about my identity, I was told that I was going to become a pedophile and that I would start looking at young girls when I got older. He also told me that God didn’t like gays. This statement came from a college-educated man who I deeply respected as a father figure. My heart was deeply broken.
When I left church that day, instead of feeling loved, I felt outraged, scared, and angry. I didn’t have the support of a loving caring adult who could help me realize that I had worth even though I was different. I mistakenly believed that God was against me, and that I would be punished for being who I was. I became chronically depressed, socially anxious and suffered from low self-esteem until I received the support I needed to thrive. What helped me turn my life around was joining an LGBTQ group at Cal State University and being around positive people who didn’t judge me and loved me for me,” states Florence.
There are thousands of LGBTQ youth who need your love and support to overcome bullying, shaming, homelessness and hopelessness. Here are a few ways that you can empower LGBTQ youth, and help them create happier and successful lives:
Become a Mentor: If you are open to devoting some of your time to a child or teen, consider becoming a mentor. The Williams Institute at UCLA estimated that out of the 3.2 million LGBTQ youth ages 8 to 18 in the United States, almost 1.1 million have never had a mentor. Deciding to provide love, guidance and support to a child who needs you most, is the best gift you can ever give. You can teach essential life skills, help LGBTQ teens develop positive behaviors, and share your unique experiences that can help them secure a bright future.
Foster or Adopt an LGBTQ Child: There are thousands of children who need loving, supportive families. If you have an open heart, love children, and have space in your home, consider becoming a foster parent. Foster parents can shape a child’s destiny and plays a huge role in teaching them how to trust, form positive bonds, develop self-esteem, and learn how to love and be loved. Studies show that indulging in positive parental behaviors, such as advocating for youth when they are bullied, harassed or mistreated due to their identity were linked to lower levels of substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, depression, and suicide attempts.
Become a Respite Parent: If you aren’t able to care for a child full-time, consider becoming a Respite Parent. Respite Parents are trusted adults who fill-in for foster parents when they need a break from their fostering duties. Respite care typically takes place over a weekend and usually lasts no more than two weeks. You can create your own schedule and make a strong, positive impact in children’s lives. Contact your local Foster Care Agency to apply or to receive more information.
This article was originally published by Curve Magazine. Florence Edwards is the Foster Care Marketing Specialist for Trinity Youth Services, a Foster Care and Adoptions Agency based in Southern California and in Houston, Texas. To learn how to foster or adopt a child, please visit www.TrinityYS.org, or contact Florence directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 909-825-5588 ext. 230.