Actually Making It Better
With every prime-time TV high school populated by LGBTQ characters, conventional thinking has it that the civil rights struggle has finally reached one of its bedrock goals. Young queer characters could hardly be more visible.
Here they are singing pop songs in lockers; there they are running for class president or leaning in for a first kiss. The soundtrack swells and the credits roll, and we forget that the real world doesn’t have a script. Visibility has a price. It makes the hard-to-see invisible.
The truth is a little more difficult to swallow. The advances LGBT folks have made over the past decade haven’t permeated the home. Some studies estimate that as many as a fourth of LGBT youths are homeless. A recent William Institute study estimates that gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual youth make up more than 30% of the total youth homeless population. A majority of those surveyed identified family rejection as the reason they were on the street.
Once on the street, LGBT youth face unique challenges. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, LGBT homeless youth are more than twice as likely to commit suicide and more than seven times more likely to experience sexual violence. Shelters that respect their gender or sexual identity, like New York’s Ali Forney Center, are far between and ill funded. With so many hurdles, the message of “it gets better” can hardly reach.
This year, HRC Austin is partnering with LifeWorks to make it better. As part of the MLK National Day of Service, the groups are making care packages for the 75 clients that LifeWorks supports. Although volunteer opportunities have been filled, they are still in need of the following donations.
• New and unopened travel-sized toiletries including toothbrush, toothpaste, soap/body wash, shampoo, conditioner, brush/comb, body lotion, deodorant, lip balm, disposable razors, shaving cream, foot powder, and sunscreen
• Clothing items including tube socks and solid-colored t-shirts
Donations marked “HRC MLK Day or Service” can be made until 3pm Monday at LifeWork’s South First headquarters. The HRC will also accepting donations this Sunday at their Her HRCevent 6-9pm a Rusty’s. Donations are still needed and getting the word out is easy via Facebook.
The MLK Day of Service only happens once a year but can be the launch pad for a continued commitment to service. Monetary donations can be made directly on LifeWork’s site, and they have a variety of volunteering opportunities. Getting involved politically is simple too, through the Forty to None project.