A statement from CEO, Terri Sorensen.
Every day, we seek to embrace, support, protect and unconditionally love every child we serve, including youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ and/or are gender nonconforming. In addition to the numerous staff and board members across the country who are part of this community, Friends of the Children serves many youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ or are questioning their gender identity/sexuality.
As we continue to stand witness to ongoing racist, homophobic and transphobic violence, including the recent deaths of Tony McDade, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton, all of whom were Black, trans individuals – we again ask ourselves: What more can we do?
In honor of Pride Month, and with the deep understanding that Black Lives Matter and Brown Lives Matter, including Black and Brown LGBTQIA+ lives, we offer more than a statement of belief. We hear the call for action and invite you to walk alongside us on this journey for real change, right now.
An important focus of our work at Friends of the Children is shifting the narrative. We recognize that the stories we tell about ourselves – and each other – are powerful because they shape the way we live, the choices we make, and the stories we write for our communities and future generations. One of the stories to help lead us forward comes from the inspiring history of Pride itself.
On June 28, 1969, New York City police raided a now famous bar, the Stonewall Inn. Instead of dispersing to escape arrest, as was common practice during these regular raids, the patrons and other community members decided to fight back and riot. This response, made during the time and progress of the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements, turned into a five-day rebellion, the Stonewall Uprising. One year later, on the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, Brenda Howard (“The Mother of Pride”) and others organized a parade and Gay Pride Week, now celebrated throughout the world and by Friends of the Children.
We tell this story now because it is an example of how Hope and Demanding Equity can result in real change. We tell this story because we need the youth in our program to see themselves in our leaders, past and present.
The Stonewall Inn is noted not just for being the site of an uprising, but also because it provided a safe space and community for young people who found themselves homeless or alone due to their sexual and/or gender identities. We, too, seek to provide a space of safety and belonging for every youth in our program. Across the country, we partner with local LGBTQIA+ organizations and initiatives and take an individualized approach to empowering each youth in our program to be themselves. We take action to embrace, empower and love all children without judgment. For us, this includes youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ or are questioning their gender identity or sexuality. It also includes family members who are on their own journeys of acceptance.
We have a lot of work ahead of us: Changing the narrative; Partnering in our communities to lift up the voices of LGBTQIA+ people and create spaces for belonging and support; and showing up every day to be present for the youth and families in our program. This is hard work, but with self-care, determination, and each other, we can do this.
If you know a young person or are a young person who identifies as LGBTQIA+ or is questioning your gender identity or sexuality, we encourage you to please reach out to The Trevor Project. Their trained counselors are there to support you 24/7. If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1.866.488.7386.