Astraea Condemns Violence and Calls for Comprehensive Change

Published on Oct 20, 2010

We at Astraea are deeply saddened by the recent LGBTI youth suicides and condemn the current wave of homophobic motivated violence. Amid the outpouring of public support that is desperately needed, we know these events are symptoms of much larger problems that reverberate far beyond these individual tragedies. From the recent bombing of the Pride parade in Serbia, to a U.S. election cycle that is increasingly marred by anti-gay rhetoric, this culture of hate is inexcusable and reprehensible. But, there is a groundswell of people who are working for something different. Youth teetering on the edge need immediate support and we have young leaders speaking out and taking bold actions. Together, youth and adults can make the systemic changes in society and in our institutions that can make suicide and violence unthinkable.

USA- Illinois- Chicago- New York

Every day, Astraea grantee partners around the world are working for safe, affirming and even liberating societies for all people.  Youth-led LGBTI organizations from New York to Nigeria are taking real risks to challenge the status quo and push forward for solutions that address all facets of their lives. We want to share with you two examples that we hope will inspire you to speak out and take action as well.

Astraea Grantee Partners have been speaking out:

FIERCE (New York, NY) is dedicated to building power through leadership development, artistic and cultural activism, political education and campaign development for transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, queer and questioning (TLGBTSQQ) youth of color in New York City.  Astraea has endorsed FIERCE’s campaign to officially designate October as LGBTQ Youth Empowerment Month in New York City. Sign the petition here.

Excerpt from the FIERCE statement, which can be viewed here.

“These recent incidents highlight serious issues that countless LGBTQ youth face everyday. We know that for every one story heard on the news, there are dozens more that go unreported to police, unnoticed by school officials, and ignored by the media. At the same time over these past few weeks, we’ve also experienced the resiliency and strength of our community as we’ve organized and turned out to vigils and community actions and mourned our losses together. We’ve created and received messages of hope from LGBTQ community members, allies, public officials and even celebrities. Together, we’ve raised the nation’s awareness to issues that impact us, but we must keep pushing–now is the time to take action and demand changes that address the full scope of issues impacting LGBTQ youth. We need solutions that go beyond messages of hope. We need concrete changes that positively impact the daily lives of LGBTQ youth, particularly youth of color whose voices and needs go unheard far too often. We need our government officials to pass policy changes that ensure safes spaces in our schools and jobs, increase funding for LGBTQ youth services and prioritize creating more safe spaces for LGBTQ youth to congregate and organize together in order to take leadership in our efforts for safety and respect.”

Gender JUST (Chicago, IL) is a multiracial and multigenerational youth-led organization working to support all LGBT youth in Chicago.

Excerpt from the Gender JUST statement, which can be viewed here.

“While youth violence is a very serious issue in our schools, the real bullies we face in our schools take the form of systemic violence perpetrated by the school system itself: a sex education that ignores queer youth and a curriculum that denies our history, a militarized school district with cops in our schools, a process of privatization which displaces us, increasing class sizes which undermine our education and safety.  The national calls to end the violence against queer youth completely ignore the most violent nature of our educational experience.  Our greatest concern is that there is a resounding demand for increased violence as a reaction, in the form of Hate Crime penalties which bolster the Prison-Industrial-Complex and Anti-bullying measures which open the door to zero-tolerance polices and reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline.  At Gender JUST, we call for a transformative and restorative response that seeks solutions to the underlying issues, takes into account the circumstances surrounding violence, and works to change the very culture of our schools and communities.  Gender JUST had a momentous victory towards this end in early 2010: through grassroots youth-led organizing, Gender JUST developed a Grievance Procedure based on the principles of Restorative Justice for Chicago Public Schools.