Support, counseling, education for gay youth
Published Thursday, 07-Oct-2010 in issue 1189
(AP) – Support and other resources for gay young people are out there, sometimes only a click or a phone call away, but advocates said the recent suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi and other teens who were believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying point to the need for even more widespread help.
In a country of about 12,000 public school districts, the education network known as GLSEN (glsen.org) counts about 4,000 Gay-Straight Alliances, the name for school clubs - mostly in high schools - that register with the group.
“Youth in general are not very help-seeking,” said the organization’s executive director, Eliza Byard. “Getting people to reach out is one of the big challenges.”
Another nonprofit focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, the Trevor Project, operates a free, confidential hotline (866 4-U-Trevor) for counseling and suicide prevention around the clock. The hotline, among many crisis lines available, takes an average of about 30,000 calls a year, said a Trevor spokeswoman, Laura McGinnis.
Trevor (thetrevorproject.org) also offers “TrevorChat,” a free, secure online messaging service for counseling between 4 p.m. and midnight Eastern time. The organization’s Trevor Space, a monitored social networking service for gay youth, has about 13,000 registered users, McGinnis said.
“So if your town has only 300 people in it, you’re not alone,” she said.
A search engine on the Trevor website allows users looking for resources or support to search by key word, state, city or ZIP code.
Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG (pflag.org) is a national support, education and advocacy organization with local affiliates in more than 500 communities around the country and abroad. Support group meetings are available through PFLAG chapters for loved ones or whole communities.
“PFLAG has grown as more Gen X parents are learning about their kids or figuring it out before their kids do. They’re getting more involved,” McGinnis said.
For youth not ready to seek help offline, an outpouring of videos from members of the gay community who have survived bullying and hatred as young people have been posted on a new YouTube channel set up by syndicated columnist Dan Savage (youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject).
On college campuses, Campus Pride is nonprofit organization of student leaders and groups of gay students and their allies, including an effort focused on fraternities and sororities, lambda10.org.
Off campus, CenterLink (lgbtcenters.org) supports LGBT community centers and helps new centers get started. The organization serves more than 168 centers in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The group’s website provides a directory of centers.
“The single most important line of defense for young people in crisis is a network of visibly supportive adults, in their own community, in school, at home,” Byard said. “We’re talking about a very big country, and far too few young people have access to those supports.”