Hickey: Encouragement for LGBTQ youthWritten by Emily Hickey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Imagine how three words could make your parents change their minds about providing for you. Imagine how three words could make a group of kids whisper about you as you walk through the halls at school. Imagine how three words could make your friends suddenly forget you exist out of fear of just being seen with you. Imagine every comfort you had in life disappearing into thin air because of three words.
“I am gay.”
I know before I came out, I wanted to prepare myself for every type of scenario. My family not claiming me as their own, my friends no longer talking to me, my job letting me go and basically being worn down to just me against the world. Fortunately, I was lucky to have parents who loved me regardless of my sexual orientation, friends who offered unending encouragement and a company that knew my work wouldn’t be compromised just because I was a lesbian.
Without question, it is because of my unwavering support system that I felt strong enough to come out in the workplace, to volunteer for Toledo Pride, to be proud to hold my girlfriend’s hand in public and brave enough to write a column for Toledo Free Press Star on behalf of the Toledo lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community. Although I did encounter a few obstacles along the way, it is the encouragement around me that allows me to push through.
I was lucky. However, others in our community are not as lucky and as area youth gain more courage to come out they experience the hardships of life at a much earlier age. Best friends abandoning them in their time of need, parents disowning them because of what everyone else will think of their LGBTQ child, being kicked out of their home and forced to sleep on a kind stranger’s couch, being the talk of the halls just because they are different — not everyone’s decision to come out is easy.
This the past year, I learned of an outstanding area resource called Rainbow Area Youth (RAY), which aims to help improve the lives of area LGBTQ youth and their allies through peer support.
The organization is for youth ages 13-19 and since its inception in 1997 it has helped more than 1,000 adolescents from more than 50 different schools in Northwest Ohio, southeast Michigan and eastern Indiana.
After getting to know the executive director of RAY, Shannon Frye, I am in awe of her dedication and the dedication of the adult volunteers in providing a better life for these children and not allowing them to face these hardships alone.
In such a time of need for area LGBTQ youth, RAY needs our help so it can continue providing help to others. According to Shannon, RAY’s two greatest needs are a permanent location where youth can always know to find them, as well as monetary donations to help keep them going.
In the spirit of the new year, I ask you and other members of the community to step forward and give our LGBTQ youth a permanent place of support. No child deserves to go through this life alone, regardless of sexual orientation.
For more information about RAY, visit their website at www.raytoledo.org or email the executive director at email@example.com or call at (567) 249-7135.
Should you feel inspired to help their organization now or anytime in the future, please send all monetary donations to RAY — Rainbow Area Youth, P.O. Box 140396, Toledo, Ohio 43614.
Email columnist Emily Hickey at firstname.lastname@example.org.