HRC Blog

Advocating for LGBT Youth in Arkansas

Over the past few days, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with some extraordinary people to discuss the pressing issues facing our community’s youth – from Mayor Villaraigosa in Los Angeles, to homeless teens at a drop-in shelter in Salt Lake City, to LGBT rights activists in San Francisco. But today, I’m back in my home state of Arkansas. And while LGBT youth face discrimination in communities across the country, I’m acutely aware of what it is like grow up gay in a place far from the more progressive cities of New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Our recently released youth survey found that more than three-quarters of LGBT youth believe things will get better for them. But many communities across the country lack the basic provisions to keep these youth safe in schools, and often LGBT youth have no adults to whom they can confide in or seek advice.

That’s why it’s so important we continue to deepen our involvement in places like Arkansas, where we must continue building on efforts underway to improve the lives of LGBT youth.

I met today with state leaders in the capitol, including Rep. Kathy Webb and Sen. David Johnson, champions for Arkansas’ LGBT youth who are pushing to amend the state’s bullying legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity. I also had the opportunity to participate in a forum with the University Of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service. Rep. Webb moderated a fruitful discussion in which I was able to talk with members of the local LGBT community and hear some powerful stories.

Being here in Arkansas is truly a special moment for me. It’s also a reminder that while we’ve made historic gains in the past few years, there are LGBT people in so many communities who need us working to secure their equality. We need to continue loudly advocating, forging partnerships with our allies, educating those who oppose us, and not resting until today’s youth can be assured of their right to live openly and safely.

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