As part of the several services it offers to and for youth, the Utah Pride Center will host two events this fall designed to help gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children, teens and young adults, their families and the professionals who serve them.
A series of Center-sponsored listening sessions for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer youth in “out of home” living arrangements (including homelessness, foster care and the juvenile justice system) will take place throughout September. Initially slated for August, the sessions were rescheduled for autumn in order to encourage more youth to participate.
“Quite a few people are busy with summer vacations, so we wanted to push [the sessions] back so it’s more conducive to people coming back,” said Jenny Arm, the Center’s training coordinator and research associate. Teachers who work with youth in these situations, she added, will also be back at work.
The series is modeled upon similar sessions held throughout 2003 and 2004 in a number of U.S. cities by Child Welfare Legal of America and Lambda Legal Defense. Its purpose is to let queer “out of home” youth talk about their experiences and work with professionals in changing the systems that serve them to be more accommodating.
In defining youth, Arm said that youth up to age 25 can participate if they have had recent experiences with foster care or juvenile justice (such as recently being released from prison). However, she said that she expected that the majority of youth who will participate will be 21 and under.
“It’s hard to have a cut off, so we’re targeting youth and knowing there’s that five-year range,” she said.
In addition to youth, parents (including foster parents) and professionals from Homeless Youth Services, Juvenile Justice Services, Juvenile Courts and a number of Utah’s schools will attend. Individual social workers and case workers are also invited.
Forums will be held in the following cities. All meetings will be held from 3:30–7:30 p.m, with the first hour dedicated solely to youth.
Utah State University
Taggart Student Center
Salt Lake City
Sorenson Unity Center
Performance Theatre, 1383 S. 900 West
St. George Library, 88W. 100 S.
College of Eastern Utah
Multipurpose Room, Student Center
Provo Library, Room 302
550 N. University Ave.
Unitarian Universalist Church
705 23rd St.
Stories collected at the sessions will be published as a report available to Utah professionals who work with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer youth. Professionals can register for any of the sessions by contacting Sharon Osborne at email@example.com or 801-265-7571. For more information about the sessions, and to download printable fliers, visit utahpridecenter.org.
Equal Youth Services and Volunteers of America, Utah are co-sponsoring the event.
In October, the Center also plans to hold its first family conference. Subtitled “Bringing Families Back Into the Room.” This three-day conference, Oct. 8–10, is for families with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer youth up to 24 years old. It will cover, said Arm, strategies for family preservation and ways to create “safe and affirming family environments for LGBTQ youth” in order to eliminate the risks of homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness that can effect queer youth who don’t have supportive families.
The conference’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Caitlyn Ryan, a San Francisco State University professor who heads up the Family Acceptance Project at the Marian Wright Edelman Institute. The project has been essential in teaching the families of queer youth how to accept and support their children.
“We will also be bringing in other key leaders related to LGBT health and well-being,” added Arm, noting, however, that the guest list is still being created. She noted that the conference will likely include social events and even a film screening as well as tracks for providers and families of queer youth alike.
“We intend to let folks in neighboring states know too, because we think we’re doing some great work here, so we also want to spread the word and provide opportunities for those who are not in Utah,” Arm added.
Ticket sales and the conference’s venue will be announced soon. For updates, visit utahpridecenter.org.