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Safe Havens

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To Alison True:

It is with strong ambivalence that I write this to you. I applaud and thank you for running the lead story, "In With the Out Crowd," in the December 11 issue of the Reader. Having worked with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) youth for over five years, I know that the strengths and talents of LGBT young people are not acknowledged enough. This story evidenced the need for the well-deserved recognition of such brave youths as Marieke, Tanya, Kevin, and Nina.

As director of psychosocial services at Horizons Community Services (Chicago's social-service agency for the lesbian and gay community), I read the article with tremendous pride for those young people whom I know and have worked with. Their tireless commitment to creating safe spaces in their high schools should be lauded across building tops and mountains throughout the nation.

And then my ambivalence comes forth. I think about the other hundreds of LGBT young people whom we serve on a continual and intensive basis. Many are struggling in the closet just to make it through the day in their high schools without a safe space. Many have been forced out of the closet and out of their schools. Many are homeless after being kicked out of their house or choosing to leave because of the danger of living at home. Many are strong and vibrant and supported. Many are also confused and alone and in a lot of pain. These are the young people I felt were overlooked in the article. These young people were left without information on places to go, information on places that are in existence for them and have been around for years, providing safe spaces for LGBT youth in their communities and outside of their communities.

It is not enough to highlight the accomplishments of a few young heroes. I ask that you include resources for the thousands of other LGBT young people who are alone and needing a connection to other LGBT young people in order for them to grow and move forward with the strength and confidence that self-acceptance and self-awareness enables. Here are a few places that young people can check out:

Horizons Youth Group (Chicago north- and south-side locations): 773-929-HELP.

Pride Youth (Evanston and Palatine): 847-441-9880.

Prism Youth Network (Oak Park): 708-386-3463.

GLAD (Matteson): 708-747-2708, extension 5728.

QYC (Downers Grove): 630-415-2053.

Lance Toma

Horizons Community Services

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