Improving Support for Gay Youth

By Rachel Martin

August 26, 2012 Updated Aug 26, 2012 at 5:46 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – "It's hard to pretend to be something you're not"...that's the message from an Indiana social group, that says Fort Wayne can do better on supporting gay youth and their civil rights.

Graham Brinklow says there is a serious lack of support for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in Fort Wayne high schools. That's why he traveled from Indianapolis to the Center for Nonviolence in Fort Wayne to educate community leaders on setting up a community support group.

“It's really important to try and reduce homophobia and transphobia in schools and just to let them know there's a safe place for them, that they're not alone,” said Brinklow, Educational Outreach Coordinator for Indiana Youth Group.

“Unlike other minority groups, usually you have your family to rely on if there's a particular issue about who you are that comes up. GLBT youth, they don't have that,” said Nikki Fultz, Director of Fort Wayne PRIDE. “Even adults who don’t have the family support that you would normally see, you have find more support in the community.”

In fact, out 259 people who were surveyed at this year's Fort Wayne PRIDE, only nine people claimed to be receiving support from a social service.

“Fort Wayne is a little bit different than larger cities. We don’t really have a community center or a lot of organizations dedicated solely to LGBT community. Fort Wayne PRIDE is one of the only ones that puts on events and things like that, which is why we are working with some of the other organizations so they would have more places to go. I think that's the main thing, is they just don't know where to go,” said Fultz.

By forming a gay-straight alliance in the community, Fultz and Brinklow believe it could help reduce bullying in general.

“It’s a lot easier for the straight allies to talk to the homophobic and transphobic students in the school than it is for the LGBT students to say hey leave us alone,” Brinklow said.

When it comes to protecting gay youth in public schools, Brinklow says administrators need to separate church from state and churches can play a major role by showing their support.

“I think a lot of administrators are afraid that the churches are going to come down on them. Even though it’s a public school and they really should separate the church from the state, they still get a lot of pressure from the local churches,” he said. “If the local churches who are welcoming and affirming can step up and say guess what our youth go there too and we want these youth protected and you need to separate church from state.”

But when it comes to the political issue of gay rights and gay marriage, Brinklow, who is gay and considered himself married, and Fultz, who is a lesbian and considers herself married with a family, say those ideas infringe on their civil rights and they feel they’re being attacked.

“It’s discouraging,” said Fultz. “Anybody that has their rights attacked, feeling like they’re not equal, that’s a hard thing to deal with. It's difficult to not have the same rights, not be able to be protected at my job, and to not be able to be legally married to my wife.”

“All those people absolutely have the right to think that I’m going to burn in hell tomorrow,” said Brinklow. “What they don’t have the right to do is take away my rights.

“When it comes to how that affects my life legally and whether or not I can go to the hospital and see my husband as he lays dying in his bed, or if I’ve got to pay an exorbitant amount of fees or sell my house because I can’t pay the inheritance tax, all the stuff that should be coming to me automatically because my husband and I are together, should be the same thing if we're husband and wife as well,” he said.

“But, when it comes to a point of damaging my rights or the rights of other youth, that makes a big difference.”

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