Meet a Grantee Partner
Outright Vermont (Burlington, VT) is a youth organization that provides direct services to LGBTQ youth and raises awareness on issues facing LGBTQ youth in Vermont, including: racial profiling, transphobia, bullying in schools and pro-tobacco advertising targeting youth.
Being a teenager is never easy. Peer pressure to "fit in" can be unrelenting and at times, cruel. For a teen in a rural area—who has come out with a queer identity—life can be downright dangerous. It can mean rejection from family and friends. It can transform school into a scary place. And it can result in agonizing isolation and self-doubt.
In Vermont, no one knows the lives of queer teens better than Outright Vermont—the state's only organization dedicated solely to serving queer youth. Outright was founded in 1988 in response to the horrific suicide rates of queer youth. Since then, it has transformed itself into a lifeline for young people who otherwise would be all alone.
The group can not underscore enough how imperative it is that queer youth feel and experience support. "Part of being an ally, is being visible," said Outright's Executive Director, Lluvia Mulvaney-Stanak. "And queer youth," she continued, "need to know that there are people out there who will support them."
Armed with only a staff of two, a board of fourteen and a cadre of dedicated volunteers, Outright provides an array of services for queer youth including a daily drop in center, and free HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and counseling services. Their toll free hotline (800-GLB-CHAT) serves youth in four states; and their lending library contains over 1500 volumes of works geared toward engendering an "I am not alone" spirit of validation for queer youth. Their Youth Pride Parade (now in its seventh year) remains one of the only queer youth parades outside of a major urban area.
Outright's website and listserve is perhaps their most utilized service: "As queer youth agencies around the country struggle to keep their doors open," says Mulvaney-Stanak, "[our] website becomes increasingly important as a starting point where queer youth can find reliable and current local, state, and regional support through our resource links. Youth frequently identify our website as their first experience with Outright Vermont or how they found out about our programs and services."
According to the 2005 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey, queer youth are at an alarmingly higher risk for attempted suicide and substance abuse than their heterosexual peers. Additionally, the Vermont State Board of Education reported that during the 2004-2005 school year, gender and sexual orientation related incidents of harassment accounted for 550 of the 710 total reported incidents.
Outright believes that, "The relationship between harassment and the lack of support is clear—queer youth growing up in environments hostile to their very existence suffer extreme physical and mental health consequences." The organization is a leader in the state providing training, support and technical assistance to students and educators creating safer school environments for all youth.
In 2005, moments before Outright was to begin an Anti-Bullying Workshop for seventh graders, school administrators encountered a small group of parents angry that the session was to be led by Outright. Outside the school, comments including, "Gay people are child molesters and pedophiles," were heard, and the principal canceled the workshop. Not surprisingly, thanks to community support and Outright's steadfast leadership, the workshop was rescheduled.