Every year on the last Saturday in June, people take to the streets for Pride Parades across the country. This tradition was started in remembrance of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, and has resulted in numerous LGBT celebrations throughout the month of June.
R.O.C.K. Juneau’s (Raising Our Children with Kindness) would like to acknowledge and celebrate our community’s LGBT youth in recognition of Pride Month.
Growing up can be difficult and emotional. It is a time where we start to find ourselves and begin to better understand who we are. This can be especially difficult for youth that are questioning their gender or sexual identity. There can be pressures from surrounding peers and family and although we have come a long way in the evolution of LGBT rights, most will continue to face some sort of discrimination or bias.
Callum is 17 years old and has related to several different labels, but typically identifies as a transgender male. He has extremely valuable insight as a young person that is a part of the LGBT community in Juneau. Callum is an active advocate as the leader of Thunder Mountain High School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), a youth advocacy and support group, as well as a member of Teen Council.
“Often when young people come out we have to "prove" our identities, which is tough for teenagers who are still trying to understand and explore themselves in general, so when it comes to such personal things like gender and sexuality, it can be really hurtful for people you trust to not believe you. There are also the standard slurs and sometimes physical violence that are accompanied by being a part of any minority. We find ourselves walking for 10 minutes to find a restroom in which we don't have to fear for our safety, or wondering whether or not to just call our boyfriends our friends.”
Although LGBT youth face these adversities often, there are some supports that can help relieve some of that stress. During the school year, the Teen Health Center is open to all students in the high schools. These centers offer free counseling, sexual health services and other health services. Planned Parenthood also offers sexual health services to all, including the LGBT community, and has recently began offering transgender health services. There are therapists in town that specialize in gender and sexuality, as well as a few doctors that are willing to do hormone replacement therapy for trans youth. Callum has used some of these resources and emphasizes their importance.
“I have been very fortunate to have been able to see a counselor who specializes in gender and who wrote me a letter recommending to my doctor that I start testosterone. I also attend a group that meets once a month and it is for trans youth to just connect with each other. These resources are important because middle school and high school are an especially important time and LGBT youth often don't receive the support they need from family members, friends, or even health care providers.”
There are a handful of supports and events that encourage and celebrate the LGBT community in Juneau, but a majority of them are directed towards the adult population. This can make it difficult for LGBT youth to find a safe space or receive the same supports as adults. Some examples of events or spaces that are safe and specific for LGBT youth are drop-in centers, movie nights, pride proms or just a hangout space designated to LGBT youth. Callum would like to see more of these in his own community.
“We need more spaces for LGBT youth to come together and be unapologetic about who we are.”
ROCK Juneau aims for an inclusive and loving community for all. As Pride Month comes to an end, we encourage you to continue to celebrate and support Juneau’s LGBT community and its youth. Thank you, Callum, for your voice and your time. Happy Pride!
Written by Tayler Shae and Callum Marks