One of Utah’s many formerly homeless queer youth has just launched a blog, youspeakyouthempower.yolasite.com, to help empower gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning teens and young adults in similar situations.
Katrina Oakason, who identifies as queer, spent two years on Salt Lake City’s streets and is now the first youth ambassador for Operation Shine America. This is a program co-founded by Chloe Noble and Jill Hartman, two Utah women who spent most of 2009 walking across the United States to raise awareness of what they called the queer homeless youth epidemic. Nationally, 40 percent of homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning or non-straight. In Utah, that number is roughly 42 percent.
On the blog, Oakason wrote that she speaks to “various groups of people” about topics including “LGBTQI homeless youth and their situations, and Queer-straight alliances and the importance of straight allies.”
“My personal purpose is to empower youth to go out and make a difference in your communities,” she wrote. “Whether you are queer or straight you can make a difference and help bridge the gap to create one community as opposed to two separate communities. It is time for change so come and join me in the quest to speak out, empower one another for a world where stigmas and stereotypes between the worlds no longer exist. Want the change, live the change, be the change.”
In the first entry, dated Oct. 10, Oakason said she was prompted to start blogging by increasing media attention on bullying and bullying-related suicides of gay youth, at least nine of whom killed themselves in September.
“I have found many people wondering, “Why the sudden increase in LGBTQ suicide?” Oakason wrote. “The fact is that, the suicide rate is not increasing, however the coverage is and my hope is that we, as an American society, start realizing that there is in fact a problem.”
Oakason encouraged youth to consider the impact of their words and actions, including making casual anti-gay slurs. She also encouraged youth being bullied or experiencing suicidal thoughts to talk to a trusted adult or the Trevor Project’s helpline if they don’t have such a person to confide in.
“My e-mail is also open if you wish to just tell someone what is going on; however, I am not a trained professional and the extent of help I can provide is an e-mail back to let you know that I did in fact receive and read your e-mail, and depending on your personal situation and location, point you in the possible right direction for support in your communities,” she added.