Editor’s Note: Recent research findings (e.g. Patrick Tolen’s 2013 meta-analysis) imply that mentors should be advocates for their mentees. In previous discussion of what advocacy means, Professor Renée Spencer suggests that one form of advocacy is a mentor leveraging his or her resources on behalf of their mentee. As we approach National Coming Out Day (NCOD) this October 11th it is an ideal time for mentors to seriously consider how they will be able to support their mentees who are exploring their sexual identity and/or have questions about the LGBTQ community.
Jessica Cunningham, research assistant at the MENTOR/UMB Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring, compiled the following list of 10 LGBTQ-specific resources (listed in alphabetical order) to help mentors build their capacity as advocates. For further reading, we recommend, Dr. Christen Rummell’s 2013 article “How can mentors serve as advocates for GLBTQ youth?”.
Based in New York City, the Ali Forney Center was founded in honor of Ali Forney, a gay transgender youth who was tragically killed at the age of 22. The Center provides homeless LGBT youth with primary medical care, HIV testing, mental health counseling, food, showers, and housing. The Center operates emergency housing where youth can live in staff run apartments for up to six months, as well as transitional housing where youth can stay for up to two years.
BAGLY stands for The Boston Alliance of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Youth. BAGLY is youth-run and adult-supported, and its mission is creating and advocating for programs to serve Boston’s population of LGBTQ youth. Youth can take part in a variety of programs, including leadership development, health promotion, social support & community building, and a sexual health clinic. In addition, BAGLY founded the GLBT Youth Network Group of Massachusetts.
Fenway Health is dedicated to improving the well being of LGBTQ people in Boston by providing them with access to healthcare in an environment where they feel comfortable. Fenway provides primary medical care, specialist services, radiology, behavioral health and addiction services, eye and dental care, HIV counseling & testing, health promotion and community outreach, violence prevention and recovery, as well as family and parenting services. In addition to this, Fenway Health also provides resources and training for health care providers working with LGBTQ clients. Fenway Health also conducts research, and was recently awarded a federal population grant for their HIV-related work.
The GLBT National Help Center is primarily a call center for LGBT people of all ages which provides support, advice around coming out and relationships, safe sex information, and connects LGBT people to local resources. All of their hotline volunteers are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender.
GLSEN (which stands for Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) was founded in 1990 by a group of Massachusetts school teachers to help LGBTQ youth by improving the education system that often failed to prevent them from being harmed. GLSEN’s mission is for every LGBTQ youth to be able to go to a school without fear of harm or harassment so that they can learn and grow as readily as their straight and cisgender peers. With that mission in mind, the organization conducts original research, authoring resources for the educational community, partners with lawmakers to ensure that LGBTQ-friendly policies are passed, and supports student-led networks with the same mission of ending homophobia and transphobia in the classroom.
6. GSA Network
The Gay Straight Alliance Network is a youth-led coalition that connects GSAs across the country to each other and to peer support, leadership development, and training. The mission of the GSA Network is to create safe spaces for LGBTQ youth in schools, educate the school community about LGBTQ issues, and fight homophobia and transphobia.
In 2010, Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller created a video to give hope to LGBTQ youth facing harassment. Since then, over 50,000 people — celebrities and individuals alike — have recorded and uploaded their own videos to communicate to LGBTQ youth everywhere that their lives will get better. The success of these videos kickstarted the It Gets Better Project. One of the missions of the project is to inspire the changes necessary to make life better for LGBTQ people. The project also provides legal services to LGBTQ youth.
PFLAG stands for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. The organization was founded in 1972 and now has over 350 chapters across the U.S. in cities like Boston, New York, and Atlanta. PFLAG’s mission is to promote the well-being of LGBTQ people everywhere through education, support, and advocacy. PFLAG seeks to create a more welcoming society where LGBTQ people can enjoy equal freedoms as their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.
ScarleTeen was founded in 1998 and provides teens and young adults with sexual education information, and is the highest ranked website for disseminating this information. The website includes a variety of resources to help LGBTQ people to practice safer sex, come to terms with and understand their identity, and a listing of resources by location. They feature blog posts by LGBT people, and offer help via message boards, live chat, text messaging, and an advice column. Additionally, ScarleTeen also has a mentoring program for their volunteers, and helped to found the All Girl Army, an online community for young feminists.
The Trevor Project was founded as a spin-off of the 1994 short film TREVOR. When the movie premiered on HBO, the filmmakers launched The Trevor Lifeline, the first national crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ youth. Since then, the project has expanded its crisis interventions to include texting and IMing as well as phone lines. In addition, The Trevor Project offers Suicide Prevention Trainings and workshops for youth as well as adults, and offers a variety of community resources and outreach programs raising awareness for LGBTQ youth and mental health.