August 15, 2017
Words by Paul Raker
Organizations like Safe Space, Inc. are integral to our growth and advancement as a community and in the broader sense as a movement. Every person in our community comes with a unique lens through which we have viewed our journey and have been treated– Those lenses are colored by varying degrees of support and acceptance from family, friends and other organizations. Safe Space serves to stand in the gap where support for our youth from other corners may fall short.
It is important that our community utilize the tools that Safe Space is able to provide in supporting youth, keeping them safe, and combatting bullying. Safe Space, Inc., its mission, and the resources it provides is instrumental in seeing the vision of full acceptance of everyone in our community being one step closer to becoming a reality.
We live in a day, a time, and in a society where action is paramount. Without action, our cause is marginalized and forgotten. The work of this organization is unspeakably important because it calls on us to act, to share our story, and to support our youth so that their journey is a bit easier and their challenges a bit fewer than they would have been without an organization like Safe Space, Inc.
Our future, as a movement, is only as strong as the next generation we are mentoring to carry the torch behind us. Organizations like Safe Space help to raise a generation of youth who feel supported, welcomed and given the tools to carry the mantle for the future of the LGBT+ movement. With their work with this age group, Safe Space, Inc. is meeting youth at an age where they are most vulnerable to challenges and stigmas such as bullying, ostracizing, and drug abuse. However, they support them at a time when they are also the most nimble to adapting to change culture, learning and finding their place as contributing citizens of an increasingly global society. The work with this age demographic cannot be understated both for the support it provides the youth as well as the strong foundations it continue to lay for our community moving forward.
The stigmas and challenges around growing up as LGBT+ youth, and the journey to full acceptance as a community are ever present. They represent the big picture and broad goals that this organization seeks to achieve. My coming out story is not unique—I was a pastor’s grandson in the deep-red rural South who had been born, raised and baptized in a very conservative Independent Baptist Church. I am thankful though, that for every ounce of closed-mindedness I faced, there was a pound of support from those who loved and accepted me for who I was. That is not to say that coming out isn’t the hardest thing I have ever done—because it is. Being out, even still, is a considerable act of bravery for everyone on the journey and something to be proud of.
However, the challenges and roadblocks to acceptance too often come from within our own community. We silo ourselves into sets and subsets of people based on weight, skin color, and interests with the end result being the very discrimination against each other that we face from the world around us every day. Creating a space where at a young age, LGBT+ youth from many walks of life, many different places on their journey, and many other differences are able to coexist together and cultivate meaningful relationships will only help to better stamp out the culture of other-ness that too often pervades our community and stifles our growth and progress.
I feel it would be impossible to find a person in our community who has not either witnessed or experienced first-hand the issues that Safe Space, Inc. is trying to prevent. I can remember specifically two friends from my youth in particular who came out after we graduated, just as I did. Both of their coming out stories include suicidal thoughts and self-mutilation (cutting). To say their stories are ‘heartbreaking’ would not be doing the feeling justice when I think about friends close to me, and today’s youth facing these same issues—it’s beyond just heartbreaking.
Luckily, it’s increasingly preventable thanks to organizations like Safe Space, Inc. As I said before, this organization is meeting youth at a vulnerable and moldable age where they need safe spaces, acceptance and support the most to avoid the darkest of roads down which being LGBT+ without support can lead.
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