Tag Archives: Growing American Youth

Youth Art Opening at LGBT Center


Squires will be graduating from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis in May with an MFA in Visual Art. The St. Louis native has been an active volunteer advisor with Growing American Youth since 2010 – Growing American Youth is  a social support organization servicing St. Louis area youth who may identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) for over 30 years.


The work shown at the opening celebrates the organization’s first public collaboration with an artist and further demonstrates the organization’s commitment to a strong partnership with the LGBT Center of St. Louis.

On December 6th, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered Remarks in Recognition of International Human Rights Day – her speech broadly addresses the rights of LGBT people as human rights.   

With the support of Growing American Youth, Squires facilitated a series of four Saturday afternoon workshops with interested LGBT young people using a video of the speech as a catalyst for reflection, discussion and creative projects. Youth participants made posters, wrote letters, created testimonial videos and edited a copy of Secretary Clinton’s speech. Reproductions of all materials created by youth have been mailed directly back to Secretary Clinton’s office in Washington, D.C.

“Being able to access this speech was very personal for me, as an LGBT youth,” said Cairo Delgado, a Growing American Youth workshop participant. “I didn’t know anything about this address to the United Nations before we discussed it in a group, and I feel that it’s important for Secretary Clinton and all of Congress to hear our voice, in addition to the St. Louis community.”

LGBT youth come of age hyper aware of the nuanced complexities in their relationship(s) to and within the world around them. In response to their responses to the ‘Remarks in Recognition of International Human Rights Day,’ Squires made a silkscreened poster every day for 30 days (January 23rd-February 21st, 2012). These posters are wheat pasted to the exterior of the LGBT Center.

The youth participant’s art will be on display through the Spring. The LGBT Center is open every day from 9a.m. – 9p.m.



GSA Summit, March 17


The summit aims to connect students with the tools and support needed to create and maintain strong GSAs in their own schools. More than 140 students participated in the conference when it launched last year. This year, organizers expect more than 200 students, parents and educators.


“Last years conference really helped us get the year started and get a lot of stuff done in our GSA.” Says Johan a leader of the Clayton GSA.


Gay-straight alliances benefit all students, not just those that identify as LGBT, says Morgan Keenan an organizer with Growing American Youth.


“Research shows that when you have a GSA, it’s not only LGBTQ students that feel safer, all students feel safer,” Morgan says. “A GSA summit is the place where we can connect youth people with each other and give them skills and tools needed for success in their school.”


Unfortunately, GSA organizations often face difficulties, especially here in the Bible belt.


“The difficult thing is that in Missouri, there can be a lot of obstacles in setting up a GSA, whether it’s difficulty in finding support or fear of disclosing that you’re queer or trans,” Morgan says.


Support from adults, whether parents, school faculty or staff, is crucial, he says.


Workshops for this year’s event include “Starting and Developing a GSA,” “Connecting Community Advocacy with GSAs” and “LGBTQ Pop Culture and Transgender Identities.”


The St Louis Young Advocate Award will also be given to a “deserving youth who has demonstrated a commitment to LGBTQQA advocacy in his or her community.” Nominations for this award are done at time of registration and all are encouraged to nominate.


“I am really looking forward to the Sping GSA summit.” Kendra President of the Kirkwood GSA.


The keynote speaker for the conference is Precious Jewel a rising Trans Youth Advocate working full time at the Center on Halsted in Chicago. Her personal story of growing up in the Midwest to now being one of the nations leading youth advocates is sure to inspired and excited the advocate in you.


Following the summit, there will be an organized social activity in Loop. Come prepared to have fun and meet lots of new people.


Contact info and Registration for event and promo video:





Talking Suicide & LGBT Youth



Suicide and bullying are difficult problems to address. While a large majority of students are bullied, not many actually become suicidal. In short – bullying doesn’t cause suicide. Sure, there are factors that can be a result of bullying which can contribute to suicidal thoughts, but we have to be careful when looking at these issues in a larger framework.


The Trevor Project, along with GLAAD and a number of collaborating partners, recently released a report titled “Talking About Suicide and LGBT Populations”. You can view the report by clicking here. The report urges caution when discussing suicides and our community. Let’s examine why.


First, let’s review a few facts regarding suicide and the LGBT community (Courtesy of the Trevor Project):


  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 15-24  year olds, accounting for over 12% of /deaths.
  • For every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100-200 attempts are made.
  • LGBT youth are up to 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual peers.
  • Nearly 1/3 of LGBT youth report having made a suicide attempt.
  • Nearly 1/2 of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives and 1/4 report having made a suicide attempt.
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are more than 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide than LGB peers who report no or low levels of family rejection.


The most recent case to make national attention is Jamie Hubley from Ontario, Canada, and it followed closely on the heels of Jamie Rodemeyer from Buffalo, NY. The cases are very similar in nature; the boys shared a first name and were close to each other’s age; their interests were similar, and their expression of their own self-identity mirrored one another; and both chronicled their struggles with bullying. It is because of these similarities that the Trevor Project urges caution when we discuss these kinds of cases.




There is often a link between high profile cases of suicide and an immediate increase in deaths attributed to suicide; this is known as Suicide Contagion. The case of Rodemeyer and Hubley highlights this grim phenomenon.  Hubley may have been influenced by the similarities between Rodemeyer’s life and his own. Bullying was involved in each case, but it was only one of many contributing factors. It is more likely that mental health concerns contributed more to Hubley’s death.


Persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of rejection, isolation and despair, but remember, while a large majority of youth are bullied (according to GLSEN, 9 out of 10 LGBT youth report harassment in school), very few attempt suicide. Suggesting that suicide is a natural response to bullying can increase the contagion risk.




First and foremost, use the assistance line at the Trevor Project – 1-866-488-7386 (866-4-U-Trevor). It is staffed with trained volunteer counselors.


If you are concerned for someone’s safety and believe that person to be at risk, check out Trevor Project’s Y-CARE program:


  • Y – You – You are never alone. You are not responsible for anyone who chooses to take their own life. As friends, family and loved ones, all you can do is listen, support and assist the person in getting the help they need.
  • C – Connect – Connect the person to resources and to a supportive, trusted adult.
  • A – Accept – Accept and listen to the person’s feelings and take them seriously.
  • R – Respond – Respond if a person has a plan to attempt suicide and tell someone you trust.
  • E – Empower – Empower the person to get help and call the Trevor Lifeline – 866-488-7386. It’s ok to seek help.




While there’s been a lot written in the mainstream press about the stressors on LGBT youth and links to suicide, there’s been very little written about the amazing resilience of the vast majority of LGBT youth. As noted above, about 90% of LGBT kids report being harassed by their peers in school, yet most do not attempt or even contemplate suicide. What we, as a community, need to know is that this resilience can come only from “community” itself – from providing a healthy, affirming place where our youth can feel that they truly have a safe home. Since we in the LGBT community cannot simply assume the norms of the society we live in – since the facts of our lives seem to challenge those very norms – our own strength comes from our necessary intentionality in relationships and our redefinition of loving family structures.


At the heart of these issues for LGBT youth is the frustration of feeling alone and isolated. Promoting good public policy – through non-discrimination laws, anti-bullying measures and even marriage rights – increases the quality of life for everyone in the LGBT community, young, old, and in-between.  Those of us who have lived long enough to grow to adulthood owe it to those who came before us to do all we can to nurture the resilience of the LGBT youth who will follow in our footsteps. We can do this by creating healthy communities, by working for equality in the political and policy arenas, and by celebrating the strength, creativity, and resilience of our LGBT youth.



Growing American Youth Thriving



Being a teenager is tough—and for LGBT teens this fact rings doubly true. But today’s youth are embracing visibility on a level never seen before. Sure, those of us who came before helped pave the road—but the current generation has seized the wheel with vigor. Whether forming Gay/Straight Student Alliances at area schools or taking their same sex date to prom; today’s LGBT youth are quickly shattering the prism through which our community is viewed.


In late 1979, Al Macabeo, a member of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) recognized that there was a complete lack of information or any legitimate activities for Gateway City LGBT youth. Accordingly, he obtained permission from the church’s Board of Directors to organize a social support group.


When the group first met at the church; a Victorian three-story house on Waterman in the Central West End, they didn’t have a name and the meetings were quite small. In early 1980 the group took the name “Pride” and the late Bill Cordes, who would play an instrumental role in the organization’s success over the next 20-years, came on board as sponsor. But the church was uncomfortable with some older people hanging around the group and organizers quickly changed the name to “Under 21 Group.” Few liked the name; so in June 1980, members voted and “Growing American Youth” was born.


While the format of the youth group has changed throughout the years to suit the needs of its current members, it has remained a constant in our community. It is a safe-haven for our young people and continues to produce generations of well adjusted and productive LGBT community members.


I first discovered Growing American Youth my senior year of high school. I’d known I was gay since before junior high and sadly, started experimenting at far-too-young of an age. Luckily in 1989 someone did me the favor of talking to me instead of just taking me home. I’ll never forget his words—“You need to take your happy butt to Our World Too and talk to Bill Cordes.”


Our World Too was St. Louis’ gay bookstore. It sat next to Magnolia’s on Vandeventer and was owned and operated by Bill from 1987-1999. I can’t begin to tell you the level of love and affection I have for that man—he changed my life. There was never a stupid question you could ask him and believe me, I had plenty. Bill opened my eyes to the possibility and power of community—he gave me books to read and I quickly became a student of queer history.


All of these things have remained a constant in my life. Still the greatest gift he gave me was entry into Growing American Youth. In 1989/90 the group met in the basement of the old MCC Church on Dolman.  The neighborhood may have been run-down, but seemed like grandest place on earth. There, I had found my tribe—peers just like me and together we discovered ourselves, our community and each other.


Back then sneaking into your first gay bar was the right of passage—the Internet was still a government secret, and there were no gay coffee houses or 18-and-up nights at the clubs. It seemed all we had was The West End Cafe, the Hampton “Gay Denney’s and the safety of our group—but that was more than enough.


I remember interviewing Bill for Vital VOICE shortly before he died; we both got such a kick out of it. I’ll share a bit of what he said:

“Our community is our home. Let it become a shambles, ignore it and it will not shelter you when you need it. Put in the necessary maintenance and it can be something from which you can draw support, friendship, love and much more. Community quite literally has made such a huge difference in so many peoples’ lives—often giving them the means to survive.”


Indeed, Growing American Youth has given our young people not only the means to survive—but to thrive. I still see a few of the peers from my class and not surprisingly, we are all active within the LGBT community. That’s a testament to Bill and Growing American Youth. And given the strides the present generation has made—there’s no telling of the heights our community will reach.


For more information check out www.growingamericanyouth.org or if you’re an alumnus like me – join the Growing American Youth Alumni Page on Facebook.

MLK: The Dream Endures



“For too long, our nation has tolerated the insidious form of discrimination against this group of Americans,” she continued. “Who have worked as hard as any group, paid their taxes like everyone else, and yet have been denied equal protection under the law… I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

It’s 2011:  The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality movement made great strides last year for sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in various parts of legislation with more anticipated in the near future.  But we must not forget some of the most ground-breaking framework for civil rights movements in our country – especially, the movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, King evoked the name of Lincoln in his “I Have a Dream” speech, which is credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation and prompted the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The next year, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Monday (Jan. 17) marked the 42nd observance of Dr. King’s birthday in St. Louis since he was gunned down in 1968.  Events were held all over the city, but the main event was downtown at the Old Courthouse – the very location that Dred Scott fought for freedom from slavery 164 years ago.  The rotunda was diversely packed with people of all ages and races who intently listened to the speakers comprised of politicians, religious leaders and community organizers.  Notable speakers included Missouri Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan; U.S. Senator Roy Blunt; City License Collector, Michael McMillan; Lewis Reed, President of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen; and St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom.  

Chief Isom said the mission of the civil rights movement must be redefined “to inspire the nation to have the moral obligation to educate all our children.”

Following the speeches, hundreds of citizen assembled outside the courthouse and marched down Martin Luther King Blvd. to Grand Ave. where an Interfaith Ceremony was held inside Powell Symphony Hall.  Among the many groups marching for equality and justice was Growing American Youth, the St. Louis based LGBT youth group which symbolically held up the rear of the march.  Carrying the now-infamous 26-ft rainbow flag, both youth, adult advisors and other allies made sure a queer presence was felt among the ranks.