Video recording of “State of Out Youth: A Town Hall, a panel discussion with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and ally youth from across the country about the most pressing issues facing them today.

NEW YORK CITY |  Four national LGBTQ organizations banded together to present “State of Out Youth,” a panel discussion with young people to discuss the issues facing youth today. Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Human Rights Campaign Foundation, The Trevor Project and True Colors Fund recruited the panelists and also presented facts and figures that outlined the challenges facing these young people.

“LGBT youth are the experts of their own experiences obviously,” said singer/songwriter Cyndi Lauper, the co-founder of True Colors Fund, who gave the welcome speech. “And they have a lot to tell us and teach us about who they are and what they need. In order to be successful at helping them overcome their challenges, including significantly high homelessness, we need to hear from them. I’ve always felt that if real people share their real stories, we understand better as human beings.”

Here are some of the facts shared prior to the town hall, which was held at the TheTimesCenter in New York City on Tuesday, October 8:

  • More than half of LGBT youth say they are out to their family. Only one-fourth are out to their extended family.
  • 63% of LGBT youth say they’ll need to move to another part of the country to feel accepted.
  • 81.9% of LGBT students report being verbally harassed at schools in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  • LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
  • 33% of LGBT youth say their family is not accepting of LGBT people.
  • Family rejection is most often cited as the reason for LGBT youth homelessness.
Panelists at stateofoutyouth.org
Panelists at stateofoutyouth.org

A personal comment: Lately I have been noticing that so many LGBT organizations have been focusing on the state of youth today. One organization I know has been recruiting speakers for schools. Another organization started a foundation for youth. Numerous organizations have started young leaders programs. Here, in this town hall, we hear directly from the voices of out youth. All of this is laudable. It is great that these groups give a damn.

But who gives a damn about the rest of us who are not considered the youth anymore but have been abandoned and left behind? My own feeling is that the real challenge today is not with the youth but those of us who are in their middle ages but whose careers have been destroyed by lay offs and the present financial crisis, those of us who have for a long time now been suffering in poverty and the threat of homelessness, who don’t have parents anymore to go back to and rescue, who finds ourselves isolated in a world where even our so-called “real friends” are not able to help during times of terrible need. With all this great attention to youth, what about the rest of us who have been left to sputter along on their own once we have past the so-called “youth stage”? Where are the programs that address our needs? Who cares anymore to put on town hall meetings where our voices can be heard in a similarly empathetic light?

Often I see older people focus on youth in these programs, they raise money and put together great sessions, and these are older people who frankly have not got their shit together either. By focusing on youth, they make themselves feel better and more useful; it gives them more reason to wake up in the morning. Which is great. But while they are busy passing on their empowering messages to the youth, they are often not actually able to deal with the real-life problems we all actually face today: unemployment, latent discrimination, immigration, apathy from the community about others, abject selfishness, runaway greed by those who have the resources, the stubbornness of ideologies that are keeping the government from re-opening, to name a few. Are we, those of us who are now older and run well-meaning institutions, fetishizing on the importance of today’s youth, while in fact passing along to them our own unexplored dysfunctions, the unchallenged belief systems we have created, as well as empowering youth to enter into and deal with a fraught world whose grave problems we ourselves have caused?

Visit the State of Out Youth website here.

Cyndi Lauper at stateofoutyouth.org
Cyndi Lauper at stateofoutyouth.org
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