Feeling alone and disregarded, many LGBTQ+ youth need someone to talk with so they call our 24/7 crisis line or meet with a therapist. With nowhere safe to sleep, many need immediate shelter or long-term housing. And facing bullying, discrimination, and/or isolation, many LGBTQ+ youth need the safety and comfort of their peers, so they come to our PrideZone social and support group.
Last Thursday night, 100 people gathered for our Home Sweet Home event at Zingerman’s Greyline event space in Ann Arbor to support LGBTQ+ youth who come to Ozone House.
One supporter made a quilt for a young person with this inscription: “This quilt was made for you because I want you to know that someone who has never met you thinks you have value in this world. Debbie“
Guests heard a story about a teenager who faced dehumanization, violence, and bullying at home and at school. At Ozone House, this teenager found a safe refuge with caring peers and adults. This support buoyed the student who was drowning in fear, shame and silence. Thursday night, all of us at Ozone House were buoyed by the support from individuals, families and corporations in the community who came out to affirm that LGBTQ+ youth deserve safety and support. We further were buoyed by new research in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics found a link between legalized same sex marriage and a 14% reduction in suicide attempts by LGBTQ youth!
And then we learned that the Trump Administration withdrew guidance issued by the Obama administration that codifies protections for transgender youth in school. Against all available evidence and—one must say—human decency the administration chose to make an unusually difficult time in a young person’s life more dangerous. Young people cannot learn when they are being bullied. They cannot fully develop their strengths when they are hurt, alone, or afraid. They cannot complete classwork when they are struggling to survive or find a safe place to sleep. I have heard coded language like “states’ rights” and “federal overreach” to justify this unnecessary and cruel decision. But it does not penetrate the truth that we at Ozone House know: human rights protections save lives.
Why anyone would rescind protections for vulnerable young people not only defies logic and understanding; it flies in the face of all the available evidence about the needs of young people. If that evidence is not compelling, I implore the administration to consider what I previously asked then VP-Elect Mike Pence to do: