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What's It Really Going to Take to Make It Get Better?

June 1, 2011

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What started as one sole post prompted hundreds of other LGBT adults and allies (including members of The White House staff and numerous celebrities such as Tim Gunn, Ciara and Ellen Degeneres) to create videos that encouraged LGBT young people to keep their heads up, because life does improve -- but you have to be around in order to experience it. And in those bundles of videos, some of the most powerful messages were people speaking of their own survival, of being a gay young person in a time that was even less tolerant than the one we live in now.

Yes, this is thrilling for many reasons. It's important that young people who may truly believe they are alone, who may live in isolated areas or lead otherwise socially constrained lives, have access to this diverse chorus of affirming voices in the click of a mouse. And it's even more exciting that the adult LGBT community finally realized that the power of all those shared experiences of harassment and rejection could connect the "old" and "new," and put those narratives to use in helping coming generations of LGBT folks.


But it must be pointed out that suicides among LGBT youth isn't a new phenomenon -- the only thing new was that the media was reporting on it. So what kept the grown folks MIA?

Perhaps their own childhood trauma has made it difficult to face head-on the same trauma that young people are going through? Maybe it's envy because LGBT youth have so much more and are not grateful for it. Or the older generation feels completely invisible and doesn't feel comfortable extending a hand, out of fear of being rejected. Or maybe there is a "Why bother?" attitude since so many young people are hard-headed and need to learn their lessons on their own. Or maybe they just stopped caring.

I can't say for sure why LGBT adults have been silent for so long, but what I can say is that telling young people that "we care" isn't really helpful if, at the same time, services and safe spaces for the most vulnerable of LGBT young people are regularly opposed even in known gay enclaves like New York's West Village and San Francisco's Castro District. Telling kids that they are loved means very little if people have abandoned their responsibility to oppose actions that perpetuate prejudice.

See, lip service isn't going to "de-naturalize" the link between misery and being young and LGBT -- only time, effort and authentic understanding will. And that's where comes in.

We hope that this special section can begin bridging the gaps between all generations -- to find out what young people are saying about their own experiences being out and LGBT today; to read what HIV/AIDS advocates of all ages have to say about the history they forged and witnessed; and to use the Comments section of each article as a forum for talking back.

In this special section you will find:

  • Perspectives: Some of our existing bloggers, guest contributors and other community members have shared their own Pride Month reflections here.
  • We Are The Youth: This photo journalism project chronicles the stories of LGBT youth from around the country. It captures the voices of young people whose stories aren't often told.
  • Events: From Boston to Barstow and everywhere in between, LGBT Pride Month is filled with plenty of stuff for LGBT folks and straight allies to do.
  • E-Cards: Handpicked from Visual AIDS, these compelling and entertaining e-cards convey a plethora of LGBT themes. Send them to your friends!
  • Resources: Go here for LGBT-related topics on and a short list of national LGBT organizations in the U.S.

If LGBT young people are to enjoy the safe, affirming environment LGBT adults dreamed of in their own youth, we'll need to do some serious listening to, and learning from, one another. We are each other's future.

Olivia Ford is the Community Manager for and

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This article was provided by TheBody.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Scott (Canada : Alberta : Edmonton) Thu., Jun. 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm UTC
Nice article, Olivia, but I think you miss the biggest contributor to alienation among LGBT teens: their parents.

Homophobic parents purposely erect barriers to prevent their kids from being exposed to positive LGBT role models. It isn't that there aren't enough role models or that adults aren't reaching out.

This problem will only be resolved through continuing progress in the wider society.
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