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A Safe Place

 

While authorities look for clues as to why a gunman opened fire and killed 49 people in a gay club in Florida last Sunday, ACR Health Executive Director Wil Murtaugh says, to counter hate crimes, we need to foster understanding of LGBT people.

 

ACR Health has always been considered a safe space for lesbian, gay,

bisexual, and transgender people - safe because people are free to express themselves here and not be judged. We are comfortable with the label and public in our defense of LGBTQ rights.

 

A safe place for gay people is more important now than ever because, according to the FBI, LGBT people are more likely than any other minority group to be the target of hate crimes; more likely than Jewish, Muslim, Black, or Asian populations. 

 

Hate crimes against LGBT people have increased in recent years, but surprisingly at the same time the general public has become more accepting and issues like marriage equality and equal rights for transgender individuals have become commonplace.  Why the paradox?  Does LGBT equality threaten anti-gay people?  Is it that they do not understand what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning? 

 

Was the Orlando shooting a terrorist act or an anti-gay hate crime?  While authorities decipher the rationale behind the attack, we at ACR Health want to decrease incidence of LGBT hate crimes and increase public understanding of what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.  We offer "Cultural Competency" workshops LGBTQ Sensitivity trainings for agencies and organizations who work with youth. Additionally, we offer support to local Gay-Straight Alliances in schools.  Call us at 800.475.2430 to learn what you can do to foster understanding of LGBT people.

 

In 2006, ACR Health established a bricks and mortar safe space - the Q Center for LGBTQ youth - and guaranteed a permanent nurturing space for young people who are often alienated from their families or bullied at school.  Over the years we've helped hundreds of youth on their way to successful adult lives, having learned to be comfortable in their own skin, and confident that there's a place for them in the world.  Now, once again, graphic proof that a safe place can be elusive.

 

Of all the fearfulness unleashed by the killings in Orlando, perhaps the most disconcerting is the return of the original fear of LGBTQ youth - that there is no safe place, not really, and there never will be.  Our Q Center youth are working through the after effects of anxiety, even panic caused by the Florida shootings.  They and we were rocked by the anger and hate of it, and the anxiety that spread outwards from it, but we are not defeated.

 

As ACR Health comes to grips with re-establishing the inner calm and safety of youth at our Q Centers in Syracuse, Utica, and Watertown, we will stay open and proactively work to stay safe and accessible.  

 

ACR Health is holding a Service in Solidarity with Orlando Victims and Survivors tonight at 7 pm at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Watertown. Please join us for this service or in Syracuse this Saturday at the Youth and Family section at CNY Pride!

 

Wil Murtaugh

Executive Director of ACR Health