MLK Day of Service: We Are Here
January 18, 2014 by Guest contributor
Post written by the Neola Young, Youth & Young Adult Program Manager of Q Center, and cross-posted from QBlog in honor of MLK Day of Service.
In the days leading up to MLK Day of Service on January 20, HRC and its partners, including SMYRC – a program of Q Center, are working to increase national attention about LGBT youth homelessness through service activities in over 18 cities.
For more from HRC's members, supporters, and allies on their participation in MLK Day of Service and the work that we are doing together, click here.
Visibility. I think about this word and concept often when I’m watching television or a movie where a queer and/or trans* person is introduced (e.g. Laverne Cox, who is a trans woman of color portraying Sophia Burset, a Black trans woman, on Orange is the New Black) or in news media when someone comes out (Anderson Cooper and Robin Roberts come to mind). I immediately get really excited that maybe, just maybe, people will pay more attention and see that LGBTQ people are everywhere, we are part of everyday life and yes, we will even show up on your television or in your news magazines. And then my heart immediately sinks, because I think of the invisible.
When I think of “invisible,” I think of many of the youth I have the incredible privilege and honor of working with at SMYRC, our youth and young adult program. When I think of invisible, I go to the topic of homelessness in our communities. Sure, if you’re walking around in Portland, you’ve noticed at least one homeless person. But what do you know about them? For many homeless people in our communities, their stories are unknown, they are invisible. And while we have growing concern and are figuring out how to be supportive, too many of the homeless, of the invisible, are LGBTQ youth.
Maybe you’ve seen the statistics that 20-40% of homeless youth in our country identify as LGBTQ. Around 40% of homeless youth in the Portland metro area identify as LGBTQ. Over the course of 2013, we had over 100 homeless youth access SMYRC. These youth experience rejection from their families, from their communities, and live in exile until they find a safe place to be. Because our social service agencies are only just beginning to catch up, LGBTQ homeless youth seek out places like SMYRC because their safety and support is in our mission. We are working hard to educate our communities, to build in more understanding with people who do not accept us as our whole selves, as LGBTQ people. We have an incredibly long road ahead to change hearts and minds, but we won’t stop until that 40% drops to zero.
What can you do to support these young people while they build their lives? You can decide to see them, to learn about them, and to support them through your time and generous donations. We’ve teamed up with the Human Rights Campaign again this year for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on January 20th. We’re collecting much needed items, like toiletries, socks, underwear, food, bus tickets, the list goes on and on. It takes all of us to pitch in and give what we can. If you’re like many folks in our community, money is tight, but these youth also need your time. Consider volunteering with us on the Day of Service!
Learn the stories of these young people and make the invisible, visible.
This January 20, please join HRC, SMYRC and Q Center in the fight against LGBT youth homelessness. To join this event in Portland, please visit www.hrc.org/MLKPORTLAND
And to find an MLK Day of Service event near you, visit http://www.hrc.org/campaigns/martin-luther-king-jr-day-of-service
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