As the end of a year approaches, many people take the opportunity to reflect and to participate in the season of giving. I took an opportunity to reflect recently while attending the Out & Equal Workplace Equality Summit. In the last few months, a lot has happened to be thankful for:
• In February, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional for violating the 14th Amendment.
• Maryland, Washington, and Maine all voted to allow same-sex marriage.
• Minnesota rejected a ballot initiative that would have defined marriage as between opposite sex couples.
• Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin became the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate.
• Early in December, the U.S. Supreme Court should announce whether it will hear arguments on the Prop 8 case and a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act in a separate case, potentially laying the foundation for significant court decisions in 2013.
These are incredible milestones that foster hope in the march toward full equality in the workplace and in the rights and protections bestowed by local, state, and federal government. Our LGBT youth should have a sense of pride and recognition that the equal rights that so many have fought for are coming to fruition.
Even with this progress and hope for the future, LGBT youth still face more risks in comparison to their heterosexual peers. The odds of entering a predatory or unhealthy relationship are higher as they seek acceptance. Personal health is at risk with the lack of LGBT-specific education in schools. Employment can be at risk if an employer, even for a summer or after-school job, does not have inclusive policies.
Although these risks certainly do not negate the hope for the future of full inclusion and equality, they are part of a stark reality that continues to justify the need for safe spaces and community organizations that provide critical services to LGBT youth.
For several Camp issues now, you have heard from LGBT youth voices from our community in this column. The writers are young adults who have participated in Passages – the metro’s LGBT youth center for the last 22 years — and taken an opportunity to be published.
They have written about topics relevant to them, some highlighting the unique challenges our community faces. The partnerships with Camp Magazine, with the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, with the KC Free Health Clinic, with Synergy Services, with the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association, and with others give metro LGBT youth an opportunity to learn about healthy relationships, to gain access to personal health information not available in a traditional classroom, and to be mentored by facilitators willing to share their workplace experiences. These services are critical to providing LGBT youth a path to handle the risks they face today and equip them to be the next generation of our strong community.
In this season of giving, I ask that you consider the agencies in our community actively providing safe spaces and guiding the next generation of LGBT youth. Visit their websites and consider making a contribution.
Passages Youth Center (www.kcpassages.org) is a drug-free, alcohol-free and hate-free center for 14- through 20-year-old lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Passages is a 501(c)3 charitable organization.
Jason Webb is a board member and volunteer for Passages.