NAGLY, based in Salem, serves kids and teens in Marblehead and across the North Shore with programming, resources and supports. Learn more at nagly.org.
“Democracy dies in darkness,” the Washington Post balefully declared on its masthead in 2017. On introducing the slogan — the first in the paper’s history — the Post’s owner Jeffrey P. Bezos said, “Certain institutions have a very important role in making sure that there is light.”
The LGBTQ+ community is desperate for light. Disinformation campaigns are targeting our community and making us fear for our rights and, increasingly, our lives. As of 2020, approximately one out of every five hate crimes committed in the U.S. was motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
We can have differences of opinions. We can argue and debate issues and perspectives. But there are not two sides to facts. And the facts, according to the Trevor Project’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, are that “anti-LGBTQ victimization contributes to the higher rates of suicide risk reported by LGBTQ young people.”
At NAGLY our mission is to honor, respect, educate and empower GLBTQ youth. We are also bound to protect them — difficult to do when we are overwhelmed with misinformation and worse. Earlier this month, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD announced the creation of a coalition of more than 10,000+ New York Times readers from all 50 states demanding that the Times stop printing irresponsible misinformation about trans people, meet with trans community leaders and hire trans writers and editors. The New York Times is getting it wrong in an ill-informed attempt at reporting “both sides.” There are no “sides” to facts. There are no “sides” to truth, especially when one of those sides is threatening the lives of LGBTQ+ youth.
Why are we even having this conversation? It should be so simple: We should be fighting hate wherever we see it or hear it or experience it. We should be combating misinformation, not spreading it. Having a local independent nonprofit news organization committed to bringing accuracy and fairness to the issues we care about is an important part of making sure our community is safe.
Pride Month was recognized after the Stonewall uprising on June 28 in 1969, a result and response to constant harassment of gay men and women in what they thought were safe spaces for them. These days of protests sparked the gay rights movement. What began in violence and hate ended in a celebration of our community, progress of a sort. This progress was evident during the recent pride flag raising ceremony at Abbot Hall and locations all over the North Shore. Young and old, gay and straight, cis and trans, and people of every color of the rainbow celebrate at these events to show their support as allies with our community.
The Trevor Project report concluded, “The fact that very simple things — like support from family and friends, seeing LGBTQ representation in media and having your gender expression and pronouns respected — can have such a positive impact on the mental health of an LGBTQ young person is inspiring, and it should command more attention in conversations around suicide prevention and public debates around LGBTQ inclusion.” These are the facts that need to be shared. Loud and proud support from family, friends, educators, faith communities and community leaders helps save lives.
The irony is that despite the prevalence of unique challenges, barriers to care and relentless political attacks, LGBTQ young people find ways to remain hopeful and resilient.
As do we, their friends, allies and protectors.