Be the Gift
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The power of giving to LGBTQ youth
During the holidays, we’re encouraged to make an extra effort to reach out to those in need. For some folks, “in need” means they’re struggling to find the basics: food, shelter, and clothing. For others, “in need” means they have been ostracized by their families, are struggling through difficult life changes, or are feeling generally alone in the world.
For many LGBTQ youth, “in need” means all of the above. So how can solo parents reach out to support them this holiday season and beyond?
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has an LGBTQ youth center, such as LYRIC in San Francisco or the Ali Forney Center in New York City, they will be easy to find. If not, you might need to do a little research. The GLBT National Help Center offers a search engine for LGBTQ centers and groups all over the United States. If you have no luck there, maybe you’ll find a welcoming church (try a search at GayChurch.org) or synagogue (try a search at Keshet). Also, check in at your local schools to see if any of them host LGBTQ groups or clubs.
Find out what they need
Different clubs and organizations are going to have very different needs. A high school–based club might be raising money for a pizza party. A homeless shelter might need warm clothing or gifts for residents. An LGBTQ youth center might be looking for adults to chaperone a trip to a job fair.
Offer what you have to give
Solo parents are notoriously busy, but anyone can make a difference in the lives of LGBTQ youth—just be realistic about what you have to give time-wise, energy-wise, skill-wise, and money-wise. A fat donation to the youth fund at a welcoming church might fit well for you. Or maybe offering a bimonthly knitting class or a résumé-writing workshop is more your speed. The possibilities are endless.
Tap your resources
Solo parents are as resourceful as they are busy. So put some of your resources to work for LGBTQ youth. Does your employer make charitable donations? Propose that your employer donate movie tickets for a field trip or set up an internship for a member of the LGBTQ community. Do you work for a restaurant? Maybe the owner will donate food or host a gathering. See? You can help by helping others help LGBTQ youth. That’s a whole lotta helping right there.
Reach out to individuals, too
While LGBTQ organizations benefit greatly from the help of community members like you, individual LGBTQ kids benefit greatly from your good old-fashioned kindness and respect. Reach out to your own kids’ peers, the barista at the coffee shop, or the kid wearing freedom rings to a conservative church. Make eye contact, show interest, learn their names, ask about their lives, compliment the heck out of them, tell them what you appreciate about them, celebrate their successes, listen to their dreams, encourage them. Do this as though you’re the only adult in their lives who does because, sadly, you just might be the only one.
Be the gift that keeps giving
After the generosity wave of the winter holidays subsides, find ways to keep giving. LGBTQ youth will need you long after that ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
If you know of or discover any fabulous nonprofit organizations, please submit them to our LGBTQ Resource Section.
Cheryl Dumesnil, ESME’s LGBTQ Resource Guide, is an author, educator, writing coach, all-around do-gooder, and one of two moms separately coparenting two amazing boys. You can follow her on Twitter at @cheryladumesnil.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.