During Pride Month this year and all year, Boys & Girls Clubs of America continues to reinforce Our Commitment to Inclusion - which underscores our commitment to doing whatever it takes to position our youth for great futures, including young people of every gender, gender expression and sexual orientation. Right now, many marginalized communities in the U.S. are going through a tough and transformational time. It is even more important today that vulnerable communities have supporters and allies to advocate for their basic human rights. The word Ally is a powerful one, as allies can play a critical role in stopping and even preventing harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ+ youth. Allies may not be LGBTQ+ themselves, but they are committed to equality and speaking out against discrimination.
To end the cycle of inequality and empower LGTBQ+ youth, it will take unified and collective voices, actively promoting inclusivity and affirming spaces in personal and professional lives, to ensure that all members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially our youth, feel welcome and supported. There is much work to do to support equity for all, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America is committed to being part of the solution by providing emotionally and physically safe spaces for the nearly half million kids that walk through our doors daily. We’ve developed programming and trainings to help Club staff learn how to best support LGBTQ+ youth. Some Club members have even taken the lead themselves by starting GSAs (Gender & Sexuality Alliances), which unite LGBTQ+ and allied youth to act as advocates for trans and queer young people in their Clubs and larger communities.
Here are a few recommendations to show your support and allyship for the LGBTQ+ youth in your life:
Learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s resources for LGBTQ+ youth, families and allies.
- Educate yourself. Make an effort to learn more about the rich history and diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. Organizations like GLSEN, Human Rights Campaign and The Safe Zone have resources available that cover a range of topics, from current issues facing the community to the best way to respond when someone comes out to you.
- Ask questions. Don’t let fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from doing the right thing. Many people regret their initial response to their child, student or friend when they identified as LGBTQ+. Take the first step by apologizing. Ask how you can change your actions or language to create a more welcoming space and follow-through on what they’ve requested.
- Listen. “Give kids the space to develop and use their voice,” advises Patrick Mahoney, Director, Organizational Development, Major Metro for Boys & Girls Clubs of America and former member of the development committee for The Trevor Project. “If you’re authentic and lead with your heart, it will help kids feel that they belong and they will open up. Be on standby ready to listen.”
- Affirm. It costs nothing to simply tell a young person, “You are perfect just the way you are.” It’s probably the thing that kids most need to hear from the adults and positive mentors in their lives.
- Promote representation. “Support and encourage conversation around books, movies, music and other forms of media and activities that feature LGBTQ+ themes and intersectional voices within the community from different racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds,” Patrick shares. “Young people will be inspired by seeing positive LGBTQ+ role models, and that will promote inclusivity among their peer groups and later in life.”
- Shutdown anti-LGBTQ+ behavior. Speak up against anti-LGBTQ+ remarks and behaviors. When you see young people engage in any bullying behavior, intervene or find someone with the ability to intervene. When you hear friends or co-workers telling non-inclusive jokes, ask them to stop using hurtful language and share why their seemingly innocent comments could be harmful.