Showing posts with label Gay Youth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Youth. Show all posts

May 5, 2020

For LGBTQ Youth, Home Is Not The Right Place to Self Isolate from The Virus

                              Feeling isolated? You're not alone. Here's why 1 in 4 of us is ...

By Sakshi Venkatraman

For Fabliha Anbar, 20, her LGBTQ identity is an important part of her social and academic life. She’s out to friends, on social media and at her progressive university, where she founded the South Asian Queer and Trans Collective. But last month, when her campus closed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Anbar returned home — and back to the proverbial closet.
“Having to go home and act a certain way 24/7 is a means for survival,” said Anbar, who asked that the name of her university and hometown not be published. “That can be straining emotionally and extremely damaging.”
For the past six weeks, Anbar has been self-isolating in a small, two-bedroom house with her parents, whom she said she doesn't feel safe coming out to. 
Anbar’s situation is not unique. Since schools across the U.S. started to close in mid-March to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, LGBTQ advocates say a number of queer youth and young adults have lost crucial support systems and have been forced to self-isolate with unsupportive family members.
“They may have had to go back in the closet if they were out at school. If they had support from a GSA or an LGBTQ club or group at school, they don’t have that anymore,” said Ellen Kahn, senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights group.
Kahn said she’s particularly concerned about those “who are in overtly hostile environments,” saying, “It could put them at risk of physical or emotional abuse; it could force them out to the streets.”

‘Students might feel isolated’

Danushi Fernando, the director of LGBTQ and gender resources at Vassar College in New York, said a number of students with whom she works “voiced their concerns” about returning home when the campus announced it would close last month.
"We are super aware that there are people who are not able to go back to their homes because either they’re not safe, or students aren’t out to their families,” she said 
After discussing this situation with the university administration, Vassar opened up some dorms on a case-by-case basis to students who felt unsafe leaving. 
“There are lots of times that students might feel isolated,” she said. “There are students who have reached out like, ‘Do you know of anyone in Idaho that I could connect with?’” 
As for Anbar, she said she’s been hosting virtual programming and support groups over Zoom, joined by people from all over the world, for the South Asian Queer and Trans Collective. If she’s within earshot of her parents, she said she has to be careful.
“It does get kind of scary,” she said. “That’s why I make sure to be very careful about the words that I choose. I usually take advantage of the language barrier between me and my parents. I say things like ‘queer’ rather than ‘lesbian.’”
When speaking to her parents, she said she describes the South Asian Queer and Trans Collective, the organization she dedicates so much time to, as a “feminist collective,” which she said “isn’t entirely wrong.”

‘Stuck at home with abusers’

In the weeks following school closures, child abuse and neglect hotlines, like the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, reported an inundation of calls and texts from young people newly confined to unsafe environments.
“A lot of these young people are stuck at home with abusers,” Daphne Young, the organization’s chief communications officer, said. “College kids are coming home from school and have to re-enter the home with perpetrators.”
Young said LGBTQ youth and adolescents have consistently been among their callers.
She also noted that the financial strain caused by the pandemic has the potential to make bad environments even worse.
“Whatever was the stressor or the discord between the family, you now have compound trauma,” Young said. 
Like Childhelp, The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, reported a steep increase in the number of youth and young adults who have reached out to its 24/7 hotline.
The New York-based nonprofit published a white paper last month outlining the "serious implications" the COVID-19 crisis could have on the mental health of LGBTQ youth. The organization cited the physical distancing, economic strain and increased anxiety related to the pandemic as being among the most worrisome problems.
"LGBTQ young people ... are already at risk of discrimination and isolation, which can impact their mental health," Amit Paley, the organization's CEO, said last month in an interview with MSNBC. "For a lot of LGBTQ young people, the main sources of support that they get are at their schools, at clubs, at community centers, at physical spaces that they no longer have access to. ... Not being able to connect with some of those really important, positive influences in your life can be extremely challenging for LGBTQ youth right now."

‘An opportunity’ for parents

Two thirds of LGBTQ youth hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people, and only 1 in 4 feel like they can be themselves at home, according to data from the Human Rights Campaign.
“If you’re that kid, whether you’re 6 or 12 or 18, that changes dramatically how you feel in your own skin, how you can thrive or not in your family,” Kahn said.

.@HRC data shows that nearly half of all LGBTQ youth say their families make them feel bad for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Some face mental and physical abuse at home, while others have been kicked out.

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Kahn encourages parents and family members, whether living with an LGBTQ young person or not, to consider their conversations and the environment that they’re creating.
“This is an opportunity to think about, ‘What kinds of conversations do I have with my kids at the kitchen table or my family that set the tone for what kind of home this would be for an LGBTQ kid,’” Kahn said.

Virtual resources

Kahn said she takes some comfort in the communities being developed on social media. Facebook support groups have formed for LGBTQ people coping through the quarantined life, and some YouTubers have been voices for self-care and acceptance.
Online support groups, webinars and crisis hotlines are just a handful of the ways organizations have begun to reach out virtually to LGBTQ youth.
The Trevor Project offers talk and text crisis hotlines, as well as TrevorSpace, an online community for LGBTQ young people aged 13-24. The LGBT National Help Center has a specific hotline for LGBTQ youth, as well as an online chatroom for those aged 19 and under. Trans Lifeline also offers hotlines in the U.S. and Canada for transgender individuals.
GLAAD, one of the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy groups, has compiled a list of resources on its website, as has Harvard Medical School, and for those looking for local organizations, CenterLink has a map of LGBTQ community centers across the country, many of which offer virtual services.

February 25, 2020

What Do You Think About Not Having A Partner in your 20's?

Between what some consider a sex recession and a record number of Americans never having been married before, it’s clear that the standard monogamous partnership -> marriage -> kids' life path is becoming less culturally mandatory. And yet, being in your late 20s without any romantic relationship experience can make some people wonder if it’s “normal” to never have exclusively dated someone before. So… is it? The short answer, of course, is a resounding yes. But for anyone asking themselves this question, they might know that logically, and still, feel like they’re the only person they know who’s never had a serious relationship. Over time, it can feel very isolating, and platitudes about embracing the single life probably don’t do much to help, especially if one knows that they alone are enough... while also really wanting to find love and share their life with someone else. There is nothing “wrong” with someone who hasn’t been in a romantic relationship before, and thinking there is can lead to a lot of shame and pressure that actually makes it harder to just… date. But there are ways to process this experience in a way that ultimately helps you get closer to having the relationship you want.

Try to look at the situation like a social scientist might.

To start, therapist Andrea Bonior suggested looking at the situation “like you’re an outside scientist.” At every stage of the dating process—matching with someone on an app, the first few convos, actually going on the first date—the person should ask themselves, “What are the characteristics of people I’m attracted to? What starts to not feel good? How am I meeting these people? Do things tend to move too fast? How is this good or bad?” For example, someone who is often the one to jump ship after a few dates (or a couple months of non-exclusive kinda-dating) might be tempted to think that there’s something wrong with them or who they choose to go out with. But it’s a much more useful and productive practice to think about how each specific situation and person made them feel, perhaps with the help of a therapist if they’re not sure where to begin.  
Consider how things are going in non-romantic intimate relationships.
Bonior also said people who haven’t been in a relationship and want to be might benefit from doing some deeper digging into other relationships they've had, including non-romantic ones, and considering whether they tend to have unrealistically high expectations, or cut people off at the first sign they’re less-than-perfect. She said to ask questions like, “Do my friends sometimes tell me that I have harsh standards? Do I feel like people in my family let you down consistently?” If a person feels like everyone around them kind of sucks and they’re always looking for the one person who won’t ever disappoint them, it might be a good idea to work with a therapist to better understand why small flaws in people make them want to write people off immediately. 
Also, look at the dates themselves: are you always dipping out because the conversation is boring? Are the people being picked via apps always super incompatible when you meet in person? If so, it’s good to think about why that is, and what can be done to change it.

Know that too much self-reflection can actually lead to self-sabotage. 

People who often find themself hitting it off with new dates for the first few weeks, only to abruptly get blown off can start to believe they’re somehow undateable or simply pick the worst people. But while looking for overt patterns like Bonior recommended can be helpful, it’s important not to go too far. Suzanne Lachmann, a licensed clinical psychologist, said that believing one is doomed to repeat a pattern (“I guess I just always attract emotionally unavailable softbois!”) can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. She said that seeing oneself as “failing” at dating sabotages everything from the start because of the insecurity and even resentment that might come out on the first date. 

Be mindful when venting to friends.

Being frustrated with one’s lack of dating “success” can often lead to venting sessions with friends, or even asking friends for feedback on what could be “wrong.” Since everyone’s buddies will have different comfort levels around how honest they’re willing to be, Bonior said it’s good to start by saying that you’re down to hear the whole truth, even if it might sting a little at first. She advised saying something like, “I know we've talked about the fact that I'm having a hard time with dating. I'm trying to be more self-aware about it, and learn what is getting in my way.” 
That being said, Bonior suggested only having these conversations with trustworthy people... and even then, taking what they say with a huge grain of salt. “Friends have their own lenses that they look through, with their own insecurities, biases, and distortions,” she said. And even well-meaning encouragement like, “Screw them, you’re perfect and deserve the best!” isn’t always the most helpful thing to hear when this is the fourth time in a row a person has ghosted you after a few dates. 

Remember that not getting into a relationship just to be in one is a good thing.

All of the above is a lot of emotional work to do for the sake of being in a relationship... which might make a person realize that they don’t actually want to be in one! Sometimes people think that the “right person” will suddenly make them horny for monogamy (or even just horny) when in reality, they feel fine about their single status and confident about their approach to dating.
“We’re living in a culture that for a very long time has been absolutely obsessed with marriage and romantic coupling,” said Bella DePaulo, a social scientist studying single life. Rather than thinking of perpetual singlehood as self-sabotaging, she suggested seeing it as “self-saving”—it’s choosing not to commit to something one knows won’t make themselves (or the other person) feel fulfilled or happy. “It is going against the grain to get to 30 without ever having had a long-lasting romantic relationship,” she said. “But as more people declare themselves as having lived their whole life without ever putting a serious romantic relationship at the center of it, the easier it will be for others to follow.” While friend groups or family members may not relate, there are plenty of people out there who either start their first relationships a little later or have no interest in doing so ever. 
Speaking of friends and family, Lachmann recommended gently setting healthy boundaries with anyone who is pressing the issue a little too hard (even as a “joke”) by saying something like, “I know you don’t mean to, but asking when you’ll get grandkids makes me anxious, and even if I want to find someone, there’s no way I could possibly speed up that process and be happy.”
Even though the pressure to marry or settle down with kids isn’t as prevalent as it used to be, our society is still very much focused on monogamous, romantic partnership as the “end goal” in life. That can be a hard thing to deal with, whether a person wants to be single indefinitely or to be in a real relationship someday. The biggest challenge—and the most important part—is to try to remove some of those expectations, and find ways to make the process of looking a little less tedious and frustrating. Bonior recommended “trying to reframe how you think about dating, and focusing on the experience itself—what it is good for, even if it doesn't lead to something. Can it teach you more about yourself? Can it introduce you to more adventures or even just another restaurant?” That way, dating becomes less of a chore to slog through. It’s not that people “find someone when they’re not looking”—it’s that fully experiencing the date (and life outside of dating) is worthwhile, regardless of how things turn out.

January 10, 2020

Judge Orders ICE To Bring Back Gay Trans-Youth Deported to Ethiopia



By Tim Fitzsimons   

A federal judge has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to return a gay asylum-seeker who was deported to Chad, ruling that the government had not properly considered his asylum claim based on his status as a gay man before deporting him.

Oumar Yaide arrived in the U.S. in 2009 and requested political asylum because he was a member of “a disfavored group,” a Chadian ethnic group called the Gorane. His asylum application was denied in 2014, and in December 2018 a judge denied his final appeal.

In October, however, two months after officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, removed him from his San Francisco home and sent him to California’s Yuba County Jail, Yaide filed a motion to reopen his asylum case. This request for relief was based upon new information: Chad criminalized homosexuality in 2016 — years after Yaide arrived in the U.S. — and Yaide came out as gay in 2019. This combination, according to court documents, led Yaide to fear “torture and death” if he returned home to the central African nation.  

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But in early December, while Yaide’s new case was waiting to be seen by an immigration judge, ICE agents removed him from the Yuba County Jail, processed his deportation and sent him to the Sacramento airport, where he and two ICE agents boarded a flight to Chad. Yaide was in handcuffs until a layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His lawyers said they had no idea where he was during the trip.

While Yaide was making the long journey back to Chad, his attorneys filed an instant habeas petition and temporary restraining order requesting that the government return him to the U.S. Last month, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer granted the request and ordered Homeland Security to return Yaide to the U.S., ruling the “deportation violates his procedural due process right to pursue his motion to reopen.”

“Obviously, imprisonment or death would foreclose Yaide’s ability to pursue his motion to reopen,” Breyer wrote in his order, referring to the possible punishment Yaide could face as a gay man in Chad.

Returning Yaide to the U.S., however, is not without complications. He has an expired Chadian passport, and Homeland Security says it has no jurisdiction to retrieve him from Chad without a valid passport. It is unknown whether Chad’s government will issue him a new one.

Breyer’s ruling directed the U.S. government to work with Yaide’s lawyers to “formulate a mutually agreeable plan to return Yaide to the United States as soon as practically possible.”  

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Edwin Carmona-Cruz, co-director of Pangea Legal Services, the group representing Yaide, told NBC News on Wednesday that his organization is now “working with federal elected officials to assist in this process.”

Tanya J. Roman, an ICE spokesperson, said the agency is “unable to comment due to pending litigation.”

Chad is one of 68 U.N. member states where consensual same-sex activity is illegal, according to ILGA World, an international LGBTQ advocacy organization. In the United States, asylum-seekers have been successful with claims of potential persecution because of membership in a “social group,” namely the LGBTQ community.

In 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno ordered that the ruling in the case of a Cuban gay asylum-seeker, Fidel Armando Toboso-Alfonso, should be the guidance for future cases, thus cementing an earlier decision finding that Taboo-Alfonso was eligible for asylum because of his membership in the LGBTQ “social group” and the threat of political violence he would face if he were forced to return to his home country of Cuba.
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Aaron C. Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, a nonprofit LGBTQ immigrant advocacy group, said Yaide’s case will have no clear impact on other LGBTQ asylum-seekers. However, he noted that “it’s pretty common” for LGBTQ asylum-seekers, like Yaide, to first seek asylum with a claim other than their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“A lot of our clients, often before they meet Immigration Equality, for various reasons, put forward meritorious claims that aren't successful, whether that is a religion-based claim or political opinion claim like in this case,” Morris said. “That could be a young person whose parents are paying for a lawyer and involved with their case, a person who is from anti-queer country but living with relatives or living within that community — there are a lot of reasons that are really compelling why someone might only bring a claim based on sexual orientation later in the life of a case.”

December 29, 2019

Mother of Bullied Suicide Victim Nigel Wants To Be A Mother For Those In That Place

Image result for nigel, bullied

Huntsville mom Camika Shelby has a message for LGBTQ youth: If you live in an unaccepting household, she's your mother now.

   Image result for nigel, bullied
Dressed in a white T-shirt adorned with rainbow letters and a rainbow-themed fanny pack, Shelby gave different gifts of encouragement during a Christmas event for black LGBTQ teens at the Birmingham CrossPlex on Saturday (Dec. 21). She took her time as she gave the youth long hugs, smiled as she gave them gift bags full of self-care items they can use to soothe themselves during a tough day and she typed her contact information into the youth's phone.

Shelby wanted to make sure the youth had all the tools they need if they ever get in a depressed space. Her openly-gay son, Nigel, was 15-years-old when he died by suicide in April in Huntsville. Although his mother was accepting of his sexuality, the family said Nigel was bullied. Camika Shelby said she couldn't talk about the school system due to legal reasons. 

But Nigel's death birthed a campaign focused on suicide awareness and the importance of LGBTQ-acceptance in homes, schools, and churches. She makes sure she is accessible to any LGBTQ teen who needs a listening ear by maintaining Nigel's Instagram account and creating a Facebook group. Connecting with LGBTQ youth has become part of Camika Shelby's grieving process. Her son's spirit was made of sunshine and this is her way of keeping his encouraging legacy alive. 

“I don’t want it to be, ‘the 15-year-old that committed suicide,’” Camika Shelby said during a Facebook live interview with’s Black Magic Project. “I want it to be ‘the 15-year-old whose suicide changed the world.’”

Multiple reports have expressed the need for more LGBTQ-friendly spaces, especially for youth who are vulnerable to racism, homophobia, and transphobia. The Human Rights Campaign reported that 90% of the more than 1,600 black LGBTQ teens surveyed said they have experienced racial discrimination. Along with this, 47% of respondents said they have been taunted or mocked by family members due to their sexualities and gender identities. AIDS Alabama, headquartered in Birmingham, has helped 33 homeless, black LGBTQ youth since 2016. While LGBTQ youth of color are more likely to experience depression and anxiety due to these stressors, the HRC survey pointed out the lack of LGBTQ-friendly and culturally-trained counselors.

The family-oriented nature of the holidays can amplify feelings of rejection and hopelessness in LGBTQ youth. This is why Camika Shelby was the main speaker during the annual Angel Toy Drive event in Birmingham. During the hour and a half celebration, black LGBTQ teens received $100 gift cards, self-care kits and listened to multiple LGBTQ mentors who talked about how they overcame bullying, suicidal thoughts and the services that are available to them.

During her speech, Camika Shelby stressed the importance of LGBTQ youth creating their own families if theirs is not accepting of their sexuality or gender identity.
"Sometimes family can be your own worst enemy. If they don't love you for who you are, they don't deserve you," she told the youth. "Don't let people tear you down for who you are. God knows who you are, and he makes no mistakes."

This wasn't Camika Shelby's first time speaking following her son's death. She has participated in two suicide awareness panels. The first one was at Alabama A&M University during a national suicide prevention month in September. She brought her message to a national stage when she appeared on "CBS This Morning" earlier this month.

While Nigel's death is being honored around the nation, Camika Shelby used the event in Birmingham to talk about his life. In between the pauses of pain and tears, she talked about her son's obsession with Beyonce and how he used to give her pop quizzes about Ariana Grande's life. Nigel is also her rainbow baby. Due to medical conditions, Camika Shelby said experienced multiple miscarriages.

"But it was something about Nigel. He was a fighter and he made his way into this world," Camika Shelby said. “From the moment I saw his smile, I knew this child was going to be special.”
Multiple celebrities also knew Nigel was going to be extraordinary. From Justin Bieber to Janelle Monáe, singers and actresses expressed their support for the Shelby family both emotionally and financially. Actress Gabrielle Union and her husband, former NBA star Dwayne Wade, helped pay for Nigel's funeral, Camika Shelby said. She appreciates how the couple has become cheerleaders for LGBTQ youth, especially when it comes to their own LGBTQ child, Zion. During an interview with Showtime's All the Smoke podcast on Thursday, Wade used Zion's preferred pronouns, she/her/hers, for the first time.

"For them to be in the public eye like that, that is amazing," Camika Shelby said of the couple.
Sunshine and smiles followed Nigel wherever he went, even into his final moments, his mother said. After he passed away, Camika Shelby found an uplifting text message on his phone that he was going to send to a friend who was going through a hard time. In the message, Nigel encouraged his friend to believe they are beautiful and not to let allow anyone to make them think otherwise.

"I cried and then smiled because it was a reminder of how much of an amazing child he was," Camika Shelby said. “When a person is having suicidal thoughts, they are thinking about ending it all. Before he made that choice, he stopped and took his time to uplift his friend.”

Creating a safe world for LGBTQ youth also means advising parents on how to support their teen's life. Camika Shelby demonstrates how to do this through her own story with Nigel. She said her son wasn't the first person to tell her he was gay, but her spirit did. So when Nigel admitted his sexuality to his mom at the age of 13, she treated as if it was a casual conversation and asked what he wanted for dinner. When Nigel was ready to tell his father and other relatives about his sexuality, momma sat closely beside him every time.

After Nigel's death, Camika Shelby said multiple family members asked her why she didn't tell them Nigel was gay. She said she didn't have that authority to tell his story.
"It wasn't my story to tell. Once he was ready to tell it, I sat right beside him," Camika Shelby said. “I needed him to know that I am right here. We are not sure how the person on the receiving end is going to take it. But as his mother, I am going to be right here.”

She also made sure Nigel felt very affirmed in himself. Proof of that can be seen in one of the most shared photos of her son - the one of him smiling and holding up the peace sign while wearing a rainbow-themed hoodie.

Camika Shelby and a friend spotted the hoodie while Christmas shopping last year. While Nigel lived in an accepting household, she got a feeling he was still uncomfortable with being himself outside of their home. So she bought him the hoodie as a gift, despite her initial hesitation.

"The rainbow flag will let the world know he is gay," Camika Shelby said. “Because I know how rejecting society can be, I was a little hesitant to buy it. But I went ahead and bought it anyway.”
She still cries over her son's reaction to the gift on Christmas Day. After opening the present, Nigel immediately dropped the hoodie and ran into his mother's arms. It was a moment of love, laughter and a lesson about the order of the stripes on the rainbow flag.

"He gave me the biggest hug ever because it symbolized to him that it was OK to be gay," Camika Shelby said, her voice quivering in pain at first, but then her voice booms into laughter. “He said, 'Momma, I really loved this gift. It is my favorite one. But by the way, the colors are not in order.'”
Tears pooled in her eyes again as she expressed her gratitude to those sharing the photo of her baby in the hoodie. She's still adjusting to her new normal where her emotions are constantly teeter-tottering between pain and peace. It's especially hard to find balance during the holidays.

The hoodie was her last Christmas gift to her only child. It was a tradition in their household to wear matching outfits to holiday parties. That won't be happening this year. One of Nigel's favorite holidays is New Year's Eve.

"I have my days when I don't want to get out of bed. I don't feel like I have a purpose anymore," Camika Shelby said. “For 15 years, I woke up every day with my mindset focused on what can I do to make Nigel's life better, and in a blink of an eye he was gone.”

Support from family, friends and her faith build the foundation of her strength. She must remain strong, she said. Not just for herself, but for the many other LGBTQ youths who have reached out to her across the country.

“I may have lost my own biological child, but I have gained so many more,” she said.
Nigel may be physically gone, but she knows she carries his spirit of encouragement with her. She allows him to speak through her as she tries to uplift the youth and give out her number and social media contacts.

"I'm to the point where I'm realizing that my baby had a purpose, regardless of whether it is here on this earth or not," she said. “So now, I'm his purpose. I am going to continue to speak out. I am going to continue to tell his story.”

And she is going to continue to reach out to other LGBTQ youth, she said.
She needs them to know that at least one mother is willing to sit beside them during their moments of need - just like she did with her son all those years ago.

Youth can use the following links to contact Camika Shelby:
-Facebook group: IamNigelShelby
-Instagram: remembering_nigel

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