So, I majored in Gender Studies, which means that for several years I learned ALL ABOUT gay and lesbian history in America. I got completely fascinated with the proud tradition of berdaches or two-spirit people fulfilling the shaman role in early Native American societies.
I took “Gay New York” to bed with me. I looked up to Harvey Milk.
I researched the predominance of American gay men as ambulance drivers and typists in WWII. I interviewed Kate Bornstein, author of My Gender Workbook, Hello Cruel World and transgender activist. It was an eye opening time and I loved it.
In 2001, a friend of mine came out to me. He had never told anyone he was gay. He was 20. He didn’t know where any resources were, despite living near Provincetown and Boston his whole life. Since I didn’t know a lot about various LGBTQ organizations, I pointed him to the now sadly defunct Planet Out (which now redirects to Gay.com), where I thought he might be able to find more people in the community. Then we went to Jacques Cabaret, a piano bar, but we couldn’t get in because I forgot my ID.
A reader emailed me recently and asked me to please please blog about something that she sees a lot, namely, people not understanding why we have all of these LGBTQ organizations, and why they are different, why we need them.
First of all, LGBTQ means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning.
So, why do we need these different kinds of organizations?
>> 26% of adolescent gay males are forced to leave their homes after revealing their sexual orientation. (MA Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, 1994)
>> 25-40% of homeless, throwaway, and runaway youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. (MA Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, 1994)
>> 50% of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth are rejected by their parents after disclosing their sexual orientation. (Project YES)
So when people of non-mainstream sexual orientations or different gender identifications get isolated in their teens, what happens then is that they can fall into abusive relationships, alcoholism, and drug abuse, as Dan Pallotta pointed out recently on his blog at the Harvard Business Review.
So how do you help explain to people what each different organization does? Well, let’s start here.
Boston Glass: A drop-in center from the Justice Resource Institute to help GLBTQ people 13-25 hang out, get tested for HIV, and learn about healthy relationships. Apparently they were founded in 1995, but we couldn’t find them online when we looked. If they had been around on the internet in 2001, that would have been helpful! If you want to donate to Boston Glass, go here.
Q Center: Helps teens in PDX find community around their sexuality, does HIV tests, has counseling.
LAMBDA: Works for the civil rights of LGBTQ people and people infected with HIV and AIDS.
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Inc. (GLAAD): Amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present. This way, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality.
Bronx Community Pride Center: Provide a safe, common space offering physical and mental health services, social support, recreational and cultural programming, as well as being a hub of information for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and families in Brooklyn.
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network: strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. I was a member of the Gay Straight alliance in my high school. Were you?
Illinois Safe Schools Alliance: A nonprofit that helps protect LGBTQ kids from bullying in schools.
Virginia Anti-Violence project: Works to address and end violence within and against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities across Virginia. Get into it.
Lesbian and Gay Chorus: A choir made up primarily of lesbian and gay people. You may have seen the Gay Men’s Choir of Portland on the Portlandia trailer, “The Dream of the 90s is alive in Portland.” A lot of major cities have them. For example, LA. And Washington DC.
Gay Pride: This is a parade and also a festival in many major cities around the USA. I have marched in it. The reason it’s important is because for years LGBTQ people have had to live in silence, hidden, and more. And Gay Pride is a way to celebrate that people don’t have to hide anymore.
Female to Male International Inc: Help females who are becoming or have become male with their transition, and support them in their choices. Go learn more.
National Center for Transgender Equality: Advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment. Learn more.
So I hope that you see that there are lots of different kinds of LGBTQ organizations out there, and they do a lot of different things. An FtoM organization is not a choir. A gay pride festival is not a community center.
Because there are so many different systems and oppressions acting on people who express their gender differently, and their sexuality differently, that it’s important to try to shore up the social safety net and catch people to help them feel supported in their choices and their reality. A female transitioning to male may not feel comfortable in a lesbian space, or a gay male space. They may not feel comfortable in a heterosexual space, or even a drag king show. So an FtoM person needs a place to go. Likewise, a teen who is gay or questioning isn’t going to feel comfortable necessarily in a gay choir. Maybe they need to be in a place surrounded by people their own age, and get counseling if they need it about coming out to their family.
Have any fantastic LGBTQ orgs you’d like to add to this list?
Please leave a comment!