Youth from three OYA facilities attended the fifth annual 2019 LGBTQ Pride event at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in July.
Youth in attendance came from MacLaren, Tillamook Youth Correctional Facility, and Camp Tillamook.
Many of them were beaming as they checked out booths from about 10 different community organizations that support LGBTQQI (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex) youth and their families.
Several youth said they were just happy to be there and see all the support.
One said he was attending as an ally to his friends. “I just learned recently what that means,” he said. “I’ve always been an ally — I just didn’t know there was a word for it.”
Youth, staff, and volunteers serving on MacLaren’s Spirit of Two Feathers group organized the event. Community groups that attended included:
- Basic Rights Oregon
- Beyond These Walls
- GLAPN (Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest)
- The Living Room
- OHSU Transgender Health Program
- PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
- Pride NW
- SMYRC (Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center)
- Urban League of Portland
The event commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, which are credited with kicking off the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement.
Robin Will, president of GLAPN president, who drew on his vast knowledge and personal experience to deliver the keynote address and answer youth questions about Oregon’s past treatment of LGBTQ youth.
Youth also got an opportunity to talk to representatives from each organization and learn about their services.
Several providers underscored the importance of youth knowing that a large community of LGBTQQI people are available to support them while in the facility and when they return to the community.
One youth, who serves on the Two Feathers group, said he “was just really glad to connect with all these people before I get out. As a [youth convicted as an adult], there are just not that many support options when you’re released.”
LGBTQQI youth are more likely to experience violence, abuse, and victimization, and they face disproportionate rates of mental and physical health issues when compared to other youth.
They’re also more likely to practice self-harm, attempt and complete suicide, abuse drugs and alcohol, or be HIV-positive.
Knowing there’s a positive community to plug into can help LGBTQQI youth remain safe and get the support they need to be successful and crime-free.