The Issue: Lack of Safe Spaces for LGBTQ Teens
For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning teens, support and acceptance is crucial to their sense of well-being and overall mental health, especially as they go through the process of coming out to family and friends. Yet even if they do have support from their family—which of course is not always present despite its vital importance—LGBTQ youth often face harassment and violence at school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 out of 10 LGBT youth reported feeling unsafe at school. LGBT youth are also at increased risk for suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts compared to their heterosexual peers. With approximately 15,000 LGBTQ youth living in North Texas, Resource Center sees Youth First, its youth-led, adult-supported program for teens, as a crucial service and safe space.
The Campaign: Supporting the Youth First Program for LGBTQ Teens
All donations to this Grassroots campaign will be used by Resource Center to support Youth First, its program geared toward LGBTQ youth aged 14–22. The program serves as a safe, supportive space where young people can build support networks, strengthen family ties, and gain confidence as they address specific issues they face as LGBTQ teens. Youth First balances its educational and supportive programming, including test prep and coming-out workshops, with creative and recreational offerings, such as Café Cinema and Art Club, which foster self-expression and emotional growth.
Since spring 2014, thanks to the Resource Center’s partnership with the Center for Family Counseling at Southern Methodist University, Youth First has also offered teens mental-health counseling geared specifically toward issues commonly faced by members of the LGBTQ community. Resource Center aims to increase the number of new Youth First participants, especially those in the 14–17 age range. For many, that is a critical time in the coming-out process, which means the need for a supportive network is great.
Resource Center has been the primary organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and for HIV/AIDS services in North Texas since 1983. As one of the largest LGBT community centers in the country, the center maintains a staff of more than 50 full- and part-time members who are supported by over 1,000 volunteers. A large part of their work comprises HIV/AIDS services, including anonymous and confidential HIV testing and counseling, as well as STD testing and treatments. Through a partnership with Southern Methodist University's Center for Family Counseling, Resource Center offers LGBT-affirmative counseling for a wide range of concerns, such as transgender issues, anxiety, coming out, relationship difficulties, and more.