National Coming Out Day: We are here

Today is National Coming Out Day. Every October 11, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and allies celebrate the day by holding workshops, speak-outs, rallies and other kinds of events all aimed at showing the public that LGBTQQI people are everywhere.

Yes, WE are here, even on the rural South Coast of San Mateo County. A recent Williams Institute analysis of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex (LGBTQQI) population in counties served by California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. revealed that roughly 136,000 LGBTQQI people live in these mostly rural counties. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of same-sex couples in these counties increased 27 percent.

Lisa Cisneros of Proyecto Poderoso believes this data indicates a rapidly changing culture and helps to quash common stereotypes about gay people as mostly male, white, wealthy and living in urban centers.

Rural gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities reflect tremendous racial and ethnic diversity, and about one-third of the population struggles with poverty. The population suffers pervasive discrimination and higher rates of unemployment, disability and psychological stress compared to heterosexual counterparts.

A 2009 National School Climate Survey of 7,261 middle and high school students found that at school nearly 9 out of 10 LGBTQQI students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBTQQI students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.

In these times of increased attention to bullying and LGBTQQI teen suicide, it is important that our communities develop comprehensive strategies for addressing inequality wherever we find it. And most importantly it is important to provide support for LGBTQQI youth.

At Puente, we understand all too well the connections between discrimination based on sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender, race and legal status. And we are committed today and every day to provide a safe space for ALL youth in our community. If you are looking for a safe place to call home, Puente is that place.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and has mentioned or is considering suicide take it seriously and get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386..

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