I spoke at an event earlier this week where panelists discussed LGBTQ youth and the trauma they often face. One of the driving questions for the event was “what can adults do to be a protective factor for LGBTQ youth.” At the risk of over-stating the obvious, the answer seems fairly simple. LGBTQ youth need adults to do the same things you need your contractor, plumber, and cable repair-person to do – they need adults to show up.
This month, during National Mentoring Month, those of us who serve LGBTQ youth are thinking quite a bit about the incredible impact adults make when we show up and stand in an LGBTQ youth’s corner.
Our friends at the Trevor Project recently released research showing that LGBTQ youth who have one accepting adult in their life were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year. Showing up is powerful.
The amazing folks at The Family Acceptance Project tell us that the presence of a supportive family member can make LGBTQ youth up to 92% more likely to believe that they can grow to be a happy adult – which then provides invaluable protection against the unhealthy things many of us do to cope with depression.
Showing up can be life-changing. During a stage in their lives when LGBTQ youth are asking not only “do I belong in my school, community, church, and family” but also “do people like me belong in my school, community, church, and family,” we can’t underestimate the power and protection of a caring adult showing up to say “I see you.”
Unfortunately, 39% of LGBTQ youth say they don’t have an adult in their life who supports them in any significant way. It may not be surprising, therefore, to hear that LGBTQ youth are also significantly less likely to say they belong and feel valued in their community. Is the problem that there aren’t adults who want to ignite these young people’s potential, or is the problem that our youth aren’t able to find these adults?
If you’re an LGBTQ youth, adults in our community are ready to stand with you. I am honored to work with an organization (Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee) who pairs young people with mentors – adults who are trained and passionate about defending your potential. All genders. All orientations. All races. All colors. All religions. All incomes. We want to support you by connecting you with an adult who sees your potential and wants to stand with you. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a place where adults show up.
At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, we want you to know that you can be a part of Big Family as you are, right now. You can be “out.” You can be “in.” You can be anywhere in between. We just want you to be you.
We’ll pair you with a mentor who will build a one-to-one friendship with you – someone who will connect with you about whatever is important to you. Maybe that’s your LGBTQ identity. It might also be anything else about all the wonderful things that make you you - the books you’re reading, the sports you’re playing, the dreams you’re dreaming, the music you’re making, the websites you’re building, or the food you’re cooking. Our mentors want to show up for ALL of you.
It’s possible, of course, that the eyes reading this note are not the eyes of young people, but those of concerned adults who are nodding their heads and thinking “yes… yes, we need to stand with our kids!” Adults, LGBTQ youth might need YOUR help to find their way into a mentoring relationship – a relationship that has the potential to improve their grades, their mental health, and their vision for the future.
If you’re an adult – a parent, family member, health care worker, pastor, therapist, social worker, teacher, or guidance counselor – who knows an LGBTQ youth who could use an extra grown-up in their corner, please send them our way. Our mentors are screened, trained, supervised, and passionate about igniting the potential of ALL the youth we serve.
Or, maybe you’re thinking about whether you would like to become a mentor for a young person. Good. You are the example we need for our kids. You are a fighter, an outsider, and an inspiration. You have what it takes to become a mentor. Contact us and learn more.
LGBTQ youth have the potential to change the world. We are standing together to defend it. Join us.
Bryan has been working with young people for 20+ years, with a special emphasis on serving LGBTQ youth. Bryan currently serves as the Director of Education and Inclusion at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, whose work with this community is funded by the TN Office of Criminal Justice’s Victims of Crime Act.