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Resiliency in the Face of Tragedy

Northwest Youth Services is devastated in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando. As we struggle to comprehend this loss, we know that we are not alone in this struggle, and that people all across the nation are hurting too. Our hearts go out to communities in Orlando and the loved ones and survivors who are coping with unimaginable grief. In particular, we extend our love and support to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people.  

Attacks on LGBTQ communities come in many forms. Recently, they have come in the form of legislation attempting to restrict access by transgender people to public bathrooms. This weekend, they came in the form of an unprecedented, horrifying act of terrorism. All these attacks are born out of homophobia and transphobia - hate and fear directed at the LGBTQ community. We mourn everyone who lost their lives in the attack in Orlando. We also mourn the loss of so many members of the LGBTQ Latinx community, who were celebrating Latin night at Pulse on Saturday night. Like so many violent acts directed toward the LGBTQ community, young people of color were disproportionately impacted.

Here at Northwest Youth Services, we have made it our mission to support LGBTQ youth in our community. Nationwide, 40% of young people experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ. Our Queer Youth Project, and all our programs, prioritize the safety and well-being of LGBTQ youth. We know that events like the shooting in Orlando leave these youth scared for their safety. We must do better for these youth.

Grief can sometimes give us a desire to take action – but to feel unsure about how we can make a difference. If you feel moved to do something to prevent tragedies like this in the future, know that you are not alone. Across the nation people are mobilizing, and there are many things you can do right here in our own community that will make a difference, especially for young people.

What You Can Do:
  1. Speak with a young person in your life about this tragic event. Listen to their thoughts on what happened in Orlando over the weekend and explore with them the impacts homophobia has on people’s lives. This violence affects all of us, not just those of us in LGBTQ communities.
  2. Speak out against efforts to equate homophobia with Islam. Stand up for our Muslim community members who may be facing discrimination and violence in the wake of this attack.
  3. Donate to victims of the shooting in Orlando and their families
  4. Take care of yourself. Your grief is real, and your need to process is important. Give yourself time, understand that grief comes in waves, and connect with your support network. Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed.
  5. Learn how to support LGBTQ youth. Spreading knowledge throughout the community builds safety and understanding. We all interact with young LGBTQ people professionally, personally, or both. Contact April Hinkle-Johnson, our Queer Youth Project Coordinator, to schedule a free training.
  6. Ask about your workplace’s nondiscrimination policy. Make sure it protects people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
  7. Straight and Cisgender Allies: You can do something special to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again. Take on the work of eradicating homophobia and transphobia from your communities. Listen to what LGBTQ people want, and take action to make that change happen. Tell your lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning friends, children, parents, loved ones that their safety is important to you. Understand that LGBTQ communities are tired; our hearts ache from generations of victimization and violence; and many of us are afraid to come out, to be our whole selves. You can help change the climate of hate to one of love and acceptance.
We would like to close with a message specifically to young people:

Hate crimes against LGBTQ people can make it hard to imagine freely and proudly being yourself. We want you to know that fear is not shameful. Fear is a natural response when your community is under attack. You are allowed to be afraid when homophobic and transphobic violence threatens your existence. During this month, the month of Pride, we urge you to prioritize your safety above all else. For decades we have celebrated the Stonewall Riots every June, honoring the trans women of color, homeless queer teens, gays, and lesbians who fought for human rights. This Pride month, as we mourn those who lost their lives in Orlando, we are reminded how important this fight still is.

Northwest Youth Services will be celebrating LGBTQ Pride at several upcoming events. For youth and young adults, our Rainbow Scavenger Hunt will be taking place this Friday, June 17th, from 5 – 7pm at the Bellingham Public Library. You can also join us in marching in the Bellingham Pride Parade, or visiting our booth at the Bellingham Pride Festival on Sunday, July 10th.

We support you. Our hearts are with you. Our doors are always open for you.
320,000 to 400,000 LGBTQ youth face homelessness in the United States every year. Learn what Northwest Youth Services is doing to support young people through our Queer Youth Project.

Northwest Youth Services
1020 North State Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
(360) 734-9862

For more information, contact us

Our mission is to collaborate with at-risk, runaway and homeless youth to foster self-reliance.
Our vision is that all young people have a place to belong: to be safe, heard, and valued.

In light of any disabilities requiring further assistance for program accessibility, please contact our office at 
(360) 734-9862 or visit us at 1020 North State Street. TDD relay services number is 1-800-833-6388.

Northwest Youth Services provides equal access to employment and services without discrimination against any legally protected classification.