LGBTQ youth in America are at higher than average risk for being bullied, harassed and attempting suicide. Having support from a trusted adult through mentoring can be key in helping these young people confront and cope with the challenges they face while exploring their sense of identity.
Ann Rodhe Payes of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America joins Robert Traynham for a meaningful discussion on how her organization is providing LGBTQ youth with mentors and other available resources to tackle this issue. See more of the discussion in part 2 of Mentoring LGBTQ Youth.
Interview recorded June 14, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: There are 3.2 million LGBTQ youth in America, and while many children experience challenges with acceptance at some point, LGBTQ youth are higher risks than their heterosexual peers for being bullied, suffering from depression, and even attempting suicide. Hello, everyone, and welcome “Comcast Newsmakers.” I’m Robert Traynham. Joining me is Ann Rodhe Payes, with Big Brother, Big Sisters of America. Ann, welcome to the program. It’s good to see you.
Payes: Thank you for having me.
Traynham: I wish we were here talking about a little bit more cheerful, upbeat topic, but this is important. Why do you think LGBTQ youth are more susceptible to being bullied and being harassed and even attempting suicide?
Payes: Well, children really start the coming-out process at about age 10, when they’re finding out what their sexuality is and having some attraction to the same gender. And as they go through this process, they come out by the time, typically, that they’re age 16 to 17. And during this time, they’re just really susceptible to a lot of challenges, and people make inadvertent comments that they don’t realize might be offensive.
Traynham: I want to read some stats to you, which I think are important. Out of the 3.2 million LGBTQ youth that I mentioned a few moments ago, 61% are girls, 39% are boys. The majority of youth are of color, 52%. And 56.7%, a majority, felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. What I find even more interesting about the statistics that I just mentioned, Ann, is that the Big Brothers, Big Sisters, your organization, is involved in this. How did you get involved in this?
Payes:Well, it initially started with some our agencies across the country. They were seeing that youth were —
Traynham: A trend?
Payes: A trend. Youth were susceptible to challenges. There were clusters of suicides of youth that were homosexual, and they were having a lot of problems. And we decided Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America is accountable for making all youth have a safe, secure place, and we wanted to help more youth with my organization.
Traynham:So, Ann, speaking of help, what are some of the programs you have in place? Is it perhaps finding LGBTQ “bigs”? In other words, mentors that perhaps are in the same community or same sexual orientation. Is it youth programs or a combination of all of those things? What might it be?
Payes: It is a combination. It’s not necessary that a mentor be part of the LGBTQ community, but that is certainly welcome. And we want to match a child with an adult who can help them by being positive influence, have some of the same interests, and help them find the resources that they need during this process.