As we celebrate Pride Month, it is crucial to highlight and support our Queer and Trans youth, whose safety and liberation are at a critical juncture, particularly in this election year. With increasing legislative attacks on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ+) rights, the well-being and future of these young individuals hang in the balance. This blog post seeks to elevate the voices of LGBTQ+ community partners and members within the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA), who share their insights and experiences regarding the challenges and resilience of Queer and Trans youth. Statistics reveal a sobering reality: nearly two in five LGBTQ+ youth have been forced into sexual activities against their will, and they face significantly higher rates of mental health challenges compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers (Trevor Project). In New Jersey, these youths are at heightened risk, necessitating immediate and comprehensive support from our communities. By understanding and addressing the unique struggles they face, we can work towards creating safer, more inclusive environments where all youth can thrive.

It is with great pleasure that we introduce our interviewees for this blog post: Jesselly De La Cruz (Latino Action Network Foundation), Ashante Taylorcox (You Are More Than Inc.), Elizabeth Schedl (Hudson Pride Center), Kayden Sarria (YWCA Northern New Jersey’s healingSPACE), and Quadeer Porter (Brothers Building a Better Nation).

Click here to learn more about our interviewees.

Interview questions

Extended version available here.

Question #1: Young students across the country, like Nex Benedict, are being abused, bullied, assaulted, and murdered. According to the Trevor Project, nearly two in five LGBTQ+ youth (39%) reported they had been forced to engage in sexual activities against their will at some point in their lives. Additionally, LGBTQ+ youth face higher rates of mental health challenges than their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts. Please share with us your wisdom or advice on how we as Americans, but more importantly stewards of the anti-sexual violence movement, should be viewing and engaging with LGBTQ+ youth and minors.

Elizabeth (Hudson Pride Center) shares: Viewing and engaging with LGBTQ+ youth and minors requires a compassionate and proactive approach, especially in the context of addressing sexual violence and mental health challenges they disproportionately face. Here are a few ways we adults can be supportive. First, we should always listen and believe them. It’s crucial to believe their stories and validate their feelings without judgment. We must create safe and supportive environments where LGBTQ+ youth feel comfortable sharing their experiences. Secondly, educate yourself. Take the time to become educated on LGBTQ+ issues, including the intersectionality of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual violence. Understanding these dynamics is essential for providing effective support. Thirdly, promote inclusivity in all aspects of life, from schools to community organizations. One way to do this is by ensuring policies and practices are inclusive of LGBTQ+ individuals and address their specific needs and vulnerabilities. Finally, collaborate and coordinate with LGBTQ+ organizations, community leaders, and allies to strengthen support networks and create comprehensive strategies for addressing sexual violence. By viewing LGBTQ+ youth through a lens of empathy, respect, and understanding, and by actively engaging in efforts to support and protect them, we can contribute to creating a safer and more inclusive environment where all young people can thrive free from violence and discrimination.

Question #2: As anti-violence, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive service providers, what more can we do for our LGBTQ+ youth?

Ashante (You Are More Than) shares: We can do better at cultivating safe and affirming environments for the youth we serve to thrive in rather than excluding them from care. This can look like ensuring that our resources are inclusive and gender expansive, not having one narrowed viewpoint of how and who should show up as the ideal survivor. This can also look like “calling our community partners in” when doing the work by advocating and ensuring that partner agencies are equipped to serve LGBTQ+ youth. If they are not, refer them to agencies like You Are More Than Inc. and Hudson Pride Center, to support them in increasing their capacity to serve LGBTQ+ youth. When doing prevention work, we can encourage our community members to get more involved in the youth’s lives through advocacy work (e.g., joining the PTA, getting involved with the school system on a local level, running for school board in your county, or volunteering at your local LGBTQ+ community center). All of these things can drastically improve the lives of the LGBTQ+ youth who come through service providers’ doors. 

Question #3: How do your identities, as part of the LGBTQ+ community, inform the work you do as a steward in this movement?

Jesselly (Latino Action Network Foundation) shares: Racism is so embedded in every system that responds to sexual violence, including the nonprofit organizations that provide the services. Unfortunately, there are few spaces where I could be my whole self as a queer Latina in the social justice space. The intersections of my ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation have been really complex to navigate at work, especially in the anti-sexual violence movement that is dominated by the voices of white women. However, I use my experiences to inform how I go about training and supervising others in the field and challenge misconceptions about queerness and what that looks like in Latino communities.

Question #4: Explain, in your own words, why Trans* People are people. Additionally, explain how these systems of oppression (patriarchy, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, etc) exclude trans and nonbinary people from society and nurturing communities

*= encompasses the entire transgender spectrum

Quadeer (Brothers Building A Better Nation) shares: Trans people are people because they are living, breathing human beings who deserve love, compassion, and support just like anyone else. Unfortunately, trans people often face exclusion from societal norms and recognition. Throughout human history, marginalized communities have frequently been singled out and used as scapegoats for societal issues. Systems of oppression such as patriarchy, colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism actively work to exclude trans and nonbinary people from society and nurturing environments. Patriarchy enforces rigid gender roles and discriminates against those who do not conform, while colonialism and imperialism impose cultural norms that erase diverse gender identities. Capitalism often prioritizes profit over people, leading to systemic barriers in healthcare, employment, and housing for trans individuals. These oppressive systems collectively marginalize trans and nonbinary people, denying them the acceptance and support they need to thrive.

Question #5: Share with us 3 positive words or phrases to describe LGBTQ+ youth and minors. How do you want the world to see LGBTQ+ youth and minors?

Kayden (HealingSpace) shares: Resilient, beautifully vulnerable, unstoppable. I’d love the world to see LGBTQ+ youth just as they are; human, worth loving, advocates for change, powerful, beautiful, and deserving of equitable opportunities.

In closing, these conversations with our membership, community council, and community partners underscore the urgent need to protect and uplift Queer and Trans youth. Their experiences, resilience, and authenticity call for our unwavering support and advocacy. As we move forward, let us commit to educating ourselves about the LGBTQ+ community, not through silence but by actively engaging with and listening to Queer and Trans youth. Their stories are not just statistics; they are testimonies of strength and courage.

Another great way to support, uplift, and protect Queer and Trans youth is by protecting and uplifting the organizations and local community leaders that are risking their lives to create safe spaces where Queer and Trans youth’s needs are met. Donate to organizations like the Latino Action Network Foundation, You Are More Than Inc., Hudson Pride Center, YWCA Northern New Jersey’s healingSPACE, and Brothers Building a Better Nation. Engage with their events, movie nights, Queer proms, and Pride Parades, not just during Pride Month, but consistently throughout the year. By fostering environments of understanding and inclusion, we can ensure that every young person is celebrated for who they truly are. Let us champion their right to live authentically and safely, urging our society to recognize their humanity and dignity.


Standing in Solidarity