In honor of our 35th Anniversary, Dr. Leader shares her memories of the early days of Teen Line in a series we like to call…
TEEN LINE FOUNDATIONS
By Elaine Leader, Ph.D., CGP, BCD, FAGPA
Chapter Sixteen: Community Connections Continued – LGBTQ Community
One of our most important and rewarding connections has been with the LGBTQ community and on so many different levels and in varied settings. As I think back over the years there is so much to write about it is hard to know where to begin! In addition to launching an LGBTQ outreach to working with Project 10 (forerunner to the Gay/Straight Alliance) to my participation on important Task Forces.
There were two important Task Forces that impacted LGBTQ Youth. One was with the State Department of Education. This required taking flights to Sacramento to give input to amend the law requiring California schools be responsible to combat discrimination. The amendment was to include sexual orientation and gender identity along with religion, ethnicity, etc. We were successful. We then followed this with conducting anti-bias trainings for LAUSD school administrators, counselors and faculty. We were part of a team with Project 10, the Alliance for Children’s Rights and Human Rights Watch to which we provided an LGBT youth as one of the team.
Another meaningful Task Force we attended was held at the Edelman Childrens’ Center. This was the Task Force to End Homophobia. These meetings were a very meaningful experience. It helped us to fine tune our LGBTQ Outreach while giving us the opportunity to collaborate with other organizations with the mutual goal of ending prejudice against LGBT teens and homophobia. I became friendly with Michael Ferrara who consulted me about his wish to start a mentoring program for LGBTQ students which he called Lifeworks Mentoring. He has since achieved much more and has grown his program to become an essential component of the LGBT Center.
In the early 90s we featured a panel of lesbian, gay and transgender teens at our annual Food for Thought Luncheon. Our honorees were Ellen DeGeneres and her mother Betty. This was an outstanding and moving event as Ellen had just lost her TV show when she had come out as a lesbian on it. This spurred two of our teen panelists to want to be part of an LGBTQ outreach to speak to students. It became our Sheldon Andelson Growing up Gay Outreach and an integral component of our educational outreaches.
I would be remiss if I did not include a very important relationship that continues to this day. I first heard about Project 10 from doing regular outreach at Fairfax High School. It was the mid-80s when Virginia Uribe started Project 10 at Fairfax High as a lunchtime venue for gay students to connect and to feel valued. This led to my meeting Gail Rolf who had started a similar program at another LAUSD school. Gail became an important speaker for educating our teen volunteers about LGBT issues and a good friend of mine and Teen Line’s. She and Virginia went on to develop the Models of Pride annual conference for LGBTQ youth at which we have always participated with a suicide prevention workshop and a resource table. This annual conference is now held at USC to which over 1,000 youth attend at no cost and sponsored by Lifeworks.
Although there have been many positive changes in our community with regard to acceptance of LGBTQ youth there is still much more to be done. Just two years ago we had to move our annual luncheon from the Beverly Hills Hotel to the Sony Pictures Lot when we learned that the hotel owner, the Sultan of Brnuei, came from a country that stoned gay people. This revelation led to a lot of media coverage. We had seven days to make the change which turned out to be one of our most successful events.
On a final note I want to urge you to view our LGBTQ video on the Teen Line website – we are very proud of this video and want to thank the Matthew Silverman Foundation for funding it.
Miss an earlier Foundations Blog? Catch up here: