PFLAG Nevada County working to expand its reach
Know & Go
WHAT: Community Volunteer Recruitment Gathering
HOST: PFLAG Nevada County — parents, families, friends and allies united with LGBTQ people
WHEN: 7 to 8:30 p.m. tonight
WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains, 246 S. Church St., Grass Valley
In 2017, the Human Rights Foundation and the University of Connecticut published a survey of more than 12,000 LGBTQ teenagers across the nation.
The largest survey of its kind, the data revealed what researchers called “distressing details of the persistent challenges so many (of these teens) face going about their daily lives at home, at school and in their communities.”
Research gathered from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., found that 77 percent of LGBTQ teenagers surveyed reported feeling depressed or down over the past week; 95 percent reported trouble sleeping at night; and more than 70 percent reported feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week.
Additionally, only 26 percent said they always feel safe in their school classrooms and just 5 percent say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people. When it came to home life, 67 percent reported that they’d “heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among youth who identify as “sexual minorities,” the likelihood of death by suicide is estimated to be two to seven times greater than heterosexual youth.
LOCAL PFLAG CHAPTER ESTABLISHED
Disturbing findings such as these are nothing new and come as no surprise to members of Nevada County’s LGBTQ community, whose statistics most likely mirror those of the country-at-large. In 2002, PFLAG Nevada County was formed to lend support to local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons and their families should they meet with “unaccepting or threatening attitudes of the general public.”
It was also formed to educate the general public regarding the realities of this population and to advocate for equal justice in the areas of employment, marriage, housing, and any other areas where discrimination is seen to exist.
Coming up on its 17th year, while PFLAG Nevada County organizers say they have served as support for countless individuals (even life-saving, in some cases), the organization is hoping to broaden its reach.
Not only are they concerned that far too many members of the community don’t know a local PFLAG chapter exists, but also many may be missing out on key support services. That’s why the organization is hosting a “Volunteer Recruitment Gathering” tonight, geared for all community members who may be interested in helping to publicize PFLAG’s mission, upcoming events and expanding programs.
ALLIES ARE CRUCIAL
But the need for support, education and acceptance community is not exclusive to those who identify as such, said Pat Rose, PFLAG’s volunteer chairperson. This is a community and human rights issue, regardless of one’s sexual orientation. That’s why PFLAG Nevada County is now on a mission to bring in more allies.
“We aren’t looking for LGBTQ people only,” said Rose. “We’re looking for straight allies who can share what we do with the community through education and advocacy. We’re hoping more people will get out there and make presentations to service clubs, in schools and the workplace on behalf of PFLAG. Even in senior care centers. It’s all about awareness and education.”
Historically, the embodiment of “allyship” has often served as the tipping point when it comes to societal change. When members of the majority population help, support, include and advocate for a minority population, attitudes often begin to shift, benefiting society as a whole.
Many point to the 1963 March on Washington as the moment when allies helped to convince white America that the civil rights movement was everyone’s fight. According to the The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford, of the estimated 250,000 people in the crowd, more than 95,000 were white allies.
The march was considered to be the reason the John F. Kennedy administration initiated a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress.
Back in Nevada County on a smaller scale, Rose said that interested volunteers — allies or otherwise — are encouraged to get involved with PFLAG in a myriad of ways.
A sampling of volunteer opportunities include being a board member, treasurer, secretary, provide support group assistance, send out emails and newsletters, oversee social media, represent PFLAG on the Suicide Prevention Task Force, give presentations to community groups, provide technical support, work at the fair booth, take part in the Constitution Day Parade, help organize the annual picnic, take part in fundraising efforts and much more. Many volunteer duties only take a small amount of time and some don’t even require leaving home.
“We know that there are a great number of people all over the world who are not out, so getting numbers is very difficult,” said Rose. “Many people are missing out on support services because they’re afraid to go get them. We still have a long way to go. We need to get the word out on the real value of PFLAG and what it means to someone struggling with identity. If you put all these little volunteer jobs together, that adds up to a lot.
“Many hands make light work — and can transform a community.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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