Thursday, 20 January 2011

we are here: queer youth support project (Portland, OR)

We Are Here is a community support project for queer youth, based at Portland, Oregon's Q Center. Kids and teens are Here to speak out, LGBTQ adults are Here to help. We Are Here, together!
Join the Facebook group, We Are Here to add your story (see bottom of this blog post for more details on this)

General information:
In October of 2010, the world was saddened by news coverage of a suicide epidemic among queer youth. While the LGBTQ community has long been aware of the struggles faced by our youngest and most vulnerable, the suicide crisis forced the issue and made it clear that our community needs to reinforce the support available to queer youth. Q Center partnered with SMYRC (Portland’s LGBTQ Youth Center) to host two community forums in October, at which members of the local community gathered to listen to queer youth speak about their everyday lives. The large, diverse crowd was encouraged to fill out survey cards addressing the needs of youth, and Q Center staff compiled the responses into a comprehensive report.

Out of these forums came a mission. The We Are Here project has two goals, each a reflection of the other. As LGBTQ adults who have passed through and beyond the difficulties of our youth, we must stand as examples of success, providing encouragement and inspiration. LGBTQ adults must say: We Are Here to help. Part of that job is offering to listen, to provide a forum for youth to share their experiences and communicate their needs. One of the greatest needs of queer youth is the desire to not feel alone, judged, and in crisis. To keep our youth safe and strong, peer community is vital. LGBTQ youth are saying to us: We Are Here, too, and we need to be heard.

The We Are Here project is new and evolving. Our starting goals are to continue the discussions that began in Fall of 2010, to initiate a campaign of providing resources to queer youth in the Portland area and Southwest Washington, to engage the attention of civil authorities (police, educators, and other people in institutional contact with youth) towards an understanding of the issues, to create and disburse media content by and for local LGBTQ youth, and to help strengthen the ties between existing youth service organizations in our area so that our community can provide increased services to youth.

Q Center Director Kendall Clawson has this to say to LGBTQ youth: “Each one of us has a story to tell about how we survived it all and our stories aren’t all about being our fabulously gay adult selves. In fact, most of the people I know grew up in small towns and long stretches of suburbia where images of urban, cool, artsy, interesting LGBT people didn’t really exist. In my era, there were no Wills, no Graces; Ellen was kind of straight, and Facebook’s creators had not been born. But we survived.” And now, it’s our turn to listen and to help- so that being young and gay, bi, trans, or questioning means more than just struggling to survive, it means being special, being wonderful, being young, and most importantly, being alive.

Contact Details
For more information, email:

On the Facebook page,We Are Here, people (not just those in Portland) are invited to contribute in two ways:

Adults: What Was Your Queer Youth Story?
One of the great things about Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" video series is that it allows queer adults to revisit their childhoods and teen years, and relate them to youth that can understand. When someone has gone through the same struggles as you have, and they've grown to be happy and successful, it can be really comforting and inspiring.
Think back to what life was like when you were a kid...
When did you first realize you were queer/LGBTQ? Did you always feel "different" or did you change your sexuality later in life?
Did you have support?
Did you experience opposition, harassment, or family conflicts?
How did you get through it?
How has your life changed since you were a queer youth?
If you could say anything to a queer kid or teen who might be struggling, what would it be?
Thanks for sharing your stories!

Queer Youth Stories: Kids and Teens Post Here!
Tell your story here! If you don't know what to write about, try answering some of these questions:
- How do you identify? Gay, Lesbian, Trans, Bi, Straight, Questioning? Fluid? Only on Thursdays?
- Are you out? If so, what was coming out like for you? If not, why do you feel it's better to stay private?
- Do you have LGBTQ friends? Are they your own age, or older? Who are the people in your personal queer community?
- How are things at your school? Are the other students gay-friendly or homophobic? Does your school have a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance?) Are teachers cool and supportive?
- What would make it easier for you to get through life as a young LGBTQ person?
- If you had any question to ask an older queer person, what would it be?
Thanks for sharing your stories!

Thanks to the ever terrific Mary Christmas for passing this info on

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