“What’s happening with the LGBTQIA+ kids in the foster care system here?” My question landed with a thud. “Crickets,” as they say.
I have no idea how the mic made its way to my hand or how I ended up on my feet in front of a group of about fifty strangers and a few friends. My husband and I were at a community conversation about the LGBTQIA+ community in our town and my intention had been simply to be a good ally. To vote with my feet. To show up. To, as my friend Dr. Debra Reble says, listen with love. After all, one of the first things a good ally learns is that events like these are not about me. Our job is to support our family members and friends in delivering their message.
[bctt tweet=”What’s happening for LGBTQIA+ kids in the foster care system here?” username=”AndreaPatten”]
And deliver it they did. A local business owner. A handful of retired mental health providers. A civil rights worker. A sprinkling of pastors.
We had attended another community conversation the week before. It was about economic disparity and it, too, was sobering. And powerful. But this one had me in tears. While I knew about discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community, some of the statistics hit me right between the eyes. Did you know that, nationally, the suicide rate in that community is three to four times higher than in the general population? And for transgender individuals, that figure rises to TEN TIMES higher.
[bctt tweet=”No fair housing. No fair and equal employment. No guarantee of safe bathrooms.” username=”AndreaPatten”]
We were reminded of the fact that in more than half the country, discrimination against LGBTQIA+ folks is perfectly legal. No fair housing. No safe and equal workplace. No accommodation in schools. No guarantee of access to medical care. Or safe bathrooms. Or wedding cakes. We heard about couples in the room who don’t feel safe holding hands on our main street.
And, sadly, of course, there were stories of kids being thrown away by their parents. Despite years of working closely with the foster care system in another community, this still fries my brain. When gay kids are thrown away in your community, where do they go? I, for one, intend to find out.Let’s connect on social media.