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Rainbow Youth volunteers talk LGBTQ kids off ledges- Meet them!

The Rainbow Youth Project are LGBTQ+ people, mental health professionals, and plain ordinary folks with a passion to spread love

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Graphic of LGBTQ youth by the Hlliburton Foundation

Editor’s Note: This story contains details about teenage suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. If you feel hopeless or helpless, please dial 988 or call the Rainbow Youth Project at (317) 349–4073. 24/7.

By James Finn | DETROIT – It’s the middle of night, and Brandon’s heart pounds as he Facetimes a 16-year-old boy with a noose around his neck. The boy is crying. He says he’s going to hang himself RIGHT NOW because he can’t stand the hate he’s getting for being LGBTQ.

Thirty-six-year-old crisis counselor Brandon reaches deep into his experience and professional training to center himself. He slowly, gently, calmly talks the boy down. Brandon is not alone.

Hundreds of miles away, Lance sits up in bed, awakened by a SIP (suicide in progress) alert. He follows along as case manager Kristen, an RN with decades of experience as a rape-crisis counselor, marshals Rainbow Youth Project resources to keep that Texas boy alive.

Soon, an entire crisis team has the boy’s back. Brandon and Kristen are in Indianapolis, Lance is God knows where, traveling as he constantly does on Rainbow Youth business. Now, crisis experts in Texas are getting involved too. Brandon stays on the phone for a couple hours, until the boy is out of immediate danger.

That’s only the beginning of Rainbow Youth services

Within a day, Kristin has arranged for intensive, daily counseling with an LGBTQ-experienced child psychologist, and a Rainbow Youth lawyer has obtained signed parental consent for treatment. Lance has arranged to pay for it all at steeply discounted rates.

Today, the boy is stable and improving.

He’s down from five days of therapy a week to two, and he no longer feels so alone and rejected. Rainbow Youth volunteers check in with him every day just to say hi. They send him cards and little gifts to show him they care. They’re helping him build a friend network in his own community.

And Brandon?

That wasn’t his only crisis call that night. Tonight, the very night you’re reading this story, he’ll probably get at least one call like it, and a SIP alert will once again jar Lance and other Rainbow Youth principals out of dreams.

Graphic from the Rainbow Youth Project website. Used with permission.

Meet the Rainbow Youth Project

Over the last few months, Lance, a retired gay business executive, has become a friend of mine. He and most other Rainbow Youth founders share something important with me. We each tried to commit suicide as teenagers because of our LGBTQ identity.

If you follow my columns in Prism & Pen or the Los Angeles Blade, you might have read my interviews with trans and gay teenagers Rainbow Youth have helped out of extreme crisis.

Today, I’m writing about Rainbow Youth itself, to introduce a remarkable, fairly new organization too few people know about.

Meet Lance, founder and driving force

On the phone yesterday, I ask Lance how it all started. “You retired fairly young. What moved you to spend your time helping LGBTQ kids at risk?”

I’m thinking he’s a fit, handsome man who looks like he’d focus more on gay circuit parties than volunteer work.

He tells me how he became active on social media after he retired, meeting queer people from different backgrounds, learning about social problems few people know about. He tells me the ball started rolling after he began funneling some of his own money “into LGBTQ people with legitimate need.”

Then came the the epiphany.

Sitting in an Uber one day, he read a “really hateful message” in reply to a mom struggling to find help for her transgender son. “What the fuck!” shouted Lance, so loud the Uber driver looked ready to kick him out of his car.

“So I DM’ed with her,” Lance tells me. “If nobody else would help that mom, I would.”

“But helping one mom wasn’t enough,” he says. “At 2:30 am, I called friends and said ‘we have to do this.’ Within a week, we were registered and put boots to pavement.”

Rainbow Youth Project came into existence then and there, born (symbolically) in the back seat of a cab.

Lance tells me, “We aired commercials in our target areas, like Texas and Florida, and we networked through the community, gay bars, restaurants, etc. Teachers across the country helped out by spreading the word. Within 13 days of our founding, we were paying for the mental healthcare of 13 kids who had fallen through the cracks.”

Meet Kristen, a no-nonsense nurse

She’s one of the first professionals the new organization recruited with a series of ads in Indianapolis, chosen as headquarters because of its heartland location.

On the phone, Kristen strikes me as a “best friend” and “worst enemy” type, hard-boiled but all in fierce advocacy for her patients.

“I’m involved with every significant call,” she tells me, “from DMs on TikTok to other social media. People call in by phone too. My primary focus is on follow-ups. For teens in acute crisis, I decide on next steps depending on what psychologists recommend.”

She adds, “I sometimes make young people mad by asking for welfare checks [from local authorities].” By the end of our conversation, I understand Kristen isn’t one to let “mad” get in the way of keeping her patients alive and healthy.

Her schedule is crazy and emotionally exhausting.

“The majority of our contacts come in midnight to 4:30 am. After each contact, which could last an hour to three hours, we’re required to take a 30-minute break and debrief with another professional. I work in the office and remotely. It’s a 24/7 commitment.”

Oh, and did I mention she’s a volunteer? She and Brandon both have “day” jobs, as do all Rainbow Youth crisis counselors and case managers.

Kristen says she doesn’t need money: “There’s no bigger paycheck than watching a young person go through crisis and come out OK, a better person who loves themself.”

Meet Brandon, a young gay professional on a mission

Brandon and other counselors like him are the Rainbow Youth front line. They receive extensive training and background checks, all for the “privilege” of donating their time to teens who have nobody else to turn to.

Like Kristin, Brandon splits his time between home and the Rainbow Youth office. The entire founder team comes in at least once a month, usually more often. Lance often flies in to make sure he gets personal time with the staff, to make sure they’re okay.

Brandon says he’s fine, and he sounds cheerful and focused, but his job sounds super tough, more than I could probably handle. “We talk them off the ledge, literally,” he tells me. It takes me a minute to realize he means he does that every day.

He says call volumes are crazy, most of them from states that have passed anti-trans laws. He names Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Idaho, adding that Arizona calls are picking up now. Texas is especially bad, because the state is conducting “child abuse” investigations of the parents of trans teens.

That scares kids to death, more than I appreciated before talking to Brandon.

He says clinicians in anti-trans states are scared too, often afraid of counseling trans teens. “I just ran into that this morning with a [suicidal] client in Alabama,” whose therapist dropped him out of fear of legal trouble. Brandon adds, “Sometimes clinicians are afraid of treating gay teens too, in case they begin to ID as trans.”

I’m shocked when Kristen reminds Brandon they have four cis/straight teens on their caseload, kids bullied and traumatized because their parents are gay or trans, kids who feel alone and helpless because of intense and growing anti-LGBTQ sentiment.

Brandon tells me about a straight kid he counseled who didn’t bring photos of his summer vacation to his Florida classroom as part of a required assignment. He got ridiculed by classmates, and when he told his teacher he didn’t do the assignment because his parents are a same-sex couple, she excused him. But she didn’t tell the class why. She’s probably afraid of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.

That cisgender, straight boy now feels ashamed and stigmatized. He called Rainbow Youth because he didn’t know where else to turn.

Brandon tells me about a funeral Rainbow Youth recently paid for, for a 16-year-old boy in Texas Brandon was not able to talk down. His voice turns hard as steel, and I know for sure I’d never be able to do his job.

I wish I could introduce you to the rest of the team

There’s the super-serious, super-careful D.C. attorney who won’t do phone interviews because he’s afraid of making a misstatement that could do harm. There’s the trans man who works as a long-haul trucker and has a big TikTok following. There are well-heeled gay business executives, Lance’s friends and peers, who help him keep operations afloat with cold hard cash. There are the dedicated volunteers who jet around the country to help clients with practical matters like living arrangements or talking to parents.

I interviewed a trans girl once whose mother kicked her out of the house. Within 24 hours, one of those volunteers flew over a thousand miles to get the girl accepted into a halfway house where she’d be safe.

There are the major trans players on TikTok forming an advisory committee to spread the word about Rainbow Youth and help staff understand trans issues on a deep, personal level.

I can’t introduce you to most Rainbow Youth principals, because they’re not safe

They’ve received bomb threats and death threats, which are getting worse as time passes. The FBI reached out to Lance to warn him to keep a low profile at Pride events last summer. He didn’t, but FBI warnings about “credible threats of violence” have him on edge.

That super-careful lawyer I wrote about went to pains to make sure I knew not to print Brandon’s and Kristen’s last names — out of fear for their safety.

He’s not imagining things. Kristen was creeped out recently when she left the office to find that somebody had zipped-tied her car-door handles shut. She’s certain that was not a random prank.

I could describe some of RYP’s clever security precautions, but of course I won’t.

Meet Rainbow Youth’s major challenge

“Rainbow Youth is small,” Lance tells me. “We are not GLAAD or Lambda, but if we can render help, we do it. Youth, adult, whatever. We legally advocated for an adult trans person in Arkansas denied SPAP. We fought for them, and even bought them groceries.”

As a matter of fact, Rainbow Youth are gearing up right now to distribute winter clothing and blankets to LGBTQ homeless.

Staff are asking themselves, “How do we grow? How do we scale up? How do we stay focused on direct services and intense, personal, ongoing support?”

Lance probably doesn’t want me to mention this, but I know he’s digging deep into his own pockets each month to cover expenses that fundraising isn’t meeting. I could tell you how much he’s spent since founding Rainbow Youth, but I don’t want to embarrass him, and I agree with him that singing his own praises would be counterproductive.

“So,” I ask him, thinking about these challenges. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

“We talk about expanding in a sort of PFLAG way,” he says, meaning semi-independent local chapters all over the country. “We want young people to have a place to turn where they live.”

His tone shifts. Big time. He’s so excited about that vision. I can FEEL his dream, one I know Kristen, Brandon, and EVERYONE I’ve spoken to shares. Their vision is SO necessary.

LGBTQ people in the United States are facing a crisis

We’ve become political punching bags and many of us are suffering, especially our youth, who are dying of suicide at scary, increasing rates. The Rainbow Youth Project is a spontaneous, organic, frontline response to that crisis.

The Rainbow Youth Project are trans people, gay people, bisexual people, mental health professionals, and plain ordinary folks with a passion to spread love.

@rainbowyouthproject @chris sederburg @LennyZenith @Tee Mauter @Taylor Rey @Jakob Loven / Doctor Reaper #transhealthcare #trans #translivesmatter #nonbinary #pansexual #lgbtq #lgbt #protecttransyouth ♬ original sound – RainbowYouthProject

Want to help them grow? Want to volunteer your time or services? Want to learn how to donate? Want to offer them moral support or encouragement? Do you need services? Are you an LGBTQ teen who feels helpless or hopeless?

Give Rainbow Youth a call. They may be struggling to grow, but so far they’ve never turned down a queer kid in need.

Here’s a link to Rainbow Youth’s website if you need help, or if you can be part of that help, here’s where to start.

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James Finn is a columnist for the LA Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]

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The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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Texas Christians terrorize church supporting Trans Christians

Neidert often appears to call for violence against LGBTQ people. Twitter banned her from the platform this summer for that reason

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Graphic from First Christian Church of Katy, and Swastika-wearing anti-LGBTQ “Christian” protestor.

By James Finn | DETROIT – Protect Texas Kids, a group led by anti-LGBTQ activist Kelly Neidert (who describes herself as both an Evangelical Christian and a Christian fascist) are protesting today outside the First Christian Church of Katy, Texas.

Neidert made a big name for herself in conservative circles as a student at the University of North Texas when she led protests demanding anti-LGBTQ policies. She often appears on Fox NewsOne America NewsNewsmaxInfowars, and the QAnon-linked Real America’s Voice.

Today’s protest is a serious threat for First Christian Church, because Neidert’s group has a track record of violence and extremism that can fairly be called terrorism.

Neidert often appears to call for violence against LGBTQ people. Twitter banned her from the platform this summer for that reason.

Neidert describes LGBTQ people and symbols like the rainbow flag as “disgusting,” falsely claiming that same-sex marriage has led to a wave of “pedophilia” and “child abuse” across the country. She reserves the bulk of her anger for transgender people and drag queens, although she seems to have difficulty distinguishing between the sometimes-overlapping groups of people.

(Most drag queens are cisgender gay men, although being a gay man is not part of the definition of drag queen. Some trans men and women do drag. Some cisgender straight people do drag too.)

Neidert has not commented on reports of actual, pervasive child-sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches or on findings that the Southern Baptist Convention covered up such abuse for almost two decades, keeping lists of credibly accused Southern Baptist child abusers secret from parents of children at risk.

Image from Transparent Closet, sponsored by First Christian Church of Katy, Texas.

Neidert’s group is protesting because First Christian Church is raising money to support local transgender people

The church runs a modest charity called Transparent Closet, a free boutique aimed at supporting young LGBTQ people, including trans teenagers, in the conservative west Houston suburb of Katy.

The church’s work feels to me like genuine Christian love in action.

LGBTQ youth in conservative areas report feeling isolated and alone, under attack by lawmakers and activists. Groups like Trevor Project and Rainbow Youth Project USA report that crisis calls from suicidal transgender teens in Texas are flooding in at alarming and increasing rates.

Trevor Project has announced hiring and fundraising drives to address what it calls an unprecedented spike in demand.

Rainbow Youth case managers have told the Los Angeles Blade that over 66% percent of their crisis calls nationwide come from Texas.

First Christian Church is reaching out locally to offer love and support to a uniquely vulnerable group of people. They recently announced a fundraising evening of “adult bingo” featuring “family-friendly” drag entertainment.

For those who may not know, drag is a tongue-in-cheek art form that features exaggerated costumes and (usually) lip syncing to vocals by pop music stars. While drag for adults occasionally parodies burlesque, “family-family drag” means performances that are free of sexualized content.

Neidert’s “Christian” organization has a disturbing Texas track record

At Texas events protesting LGBTQ events last summer, members of Protect Texas Kids showed up waving guns, wearing white nationalist and even Nazi symbols. The supposedly Christian protestors shouted slurs like “faggot” and “pedophile” at families that included teenagers and young children. Men wearing swastikas (like in the tweet above) and other white-supremacist symbols often surrounded Neidert as bodyguards.

For more photos of Nazis and white supremacists at Neidert’s “Christian” protests last summer, see this story in The Houston Chronicle.

When did conservative Christianity decide to focus on hatred?

I was raised Baptist and spent part of my childhood in Baptist churches in the South, but I don’t recognize the faith of my childhood. I recognize perfectly well that Baptist churches have always taken strong theological stands against homosexuality, but what’s happening today in that Texas protest is something very different.

Screaming profanity, threatening violence, and marginalizing vulnerable people is something Baptists of my youth, even the most conservative Baptists, would have distanced themselves from at all cost. In my day, Evangelicals seemed to take Jesus’s teachings too seriously to engage in open terrorism.

I should add a strong caveat that some of the Baptists of my childhood were outspoken racists, so I’m not trying to paint them in an entirely positive light. I’m just saying that waving swastikas, brandishing guns, and screaming at parents and children is an escalation I would never have expected from 21st century Christians, no matter how conservative.

But that’s exactly what’s happening right not, maybe even as you read this story.

Protect Texas Kids protestors are expected to show up today outside First Christian Church at about 5pm Houston time. A group of Christians who say they hate the “LGBTQ agenda” will begin screaming profanities at Christians working to welcome and support beleaguered transgender people. Only one of those groups of Christians seems to remember Jesus’s words in the Gospel of Matthew:

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Speaking of “doing for the least of these,” First Christian Church did not cancel their fundraiser when they learned about the planned protest, despite having suffered vandalism three times in recent weeks in attacks they say are related to their message that LGBTQ Christians are welcome and affirmed in their congregation.

They’re going ahead as planned, apparently because they take seriously Jesus’s command to love.

What about you? Do you want to help push back against astonishing waves of hatred coming from self-described Christians? Whether you’re Christian or not, you can help First Christian Church in Katy by reaching out on Facebook with encouragement and love.

Do you know LGBTQ families in need? Do you feel helpless or hopeless? Rainbow Youth volunteers are ready to help. Right now.

Also, please consider contacting Rainbow Youth Project USA to learn how you can make a difference in the lives of LGBTQ teenagers in crisis.

Click to visit Rainbow Youth

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James Finn is a columnist for the LA Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]

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The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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Meet Kody & his Mom: Homeless LGBTQ refugees from Florida

It was either leave Florida or watch her 16-year-old transgender son wither and possibly die- She had good reason to fear

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A group of LGBTQ young people at a homeless shelter (Blade file photo)

By James Finn | DETROIT – What would you do as a parent if your comfortable home and middle-class lifestyle were killing your kid?

Pack up whatever possessions you could fit in your car? Drive 1,300 miles over four anxiety-filled days, spending almost your last penny to get your son to safety? I can hear parents everywhere shouting, “Of course! That’s what parents do!”

When I lived in Germany, I met parents who fled conflict zones and impoverished themselves to give their kids a shot at safety and happiness. I never dreamed I would meet fellow Americans who chose to become refugees right here in the U.S.

Then two nights ago, I spend two hours on the phone with “Kate” and “Kody,” who just fled Florida for a New York homeless shelter.

53-year-old Kate tells me she had no choice. It was either leave Florida or watch her 16-year-old transgender son wither and possibly die.

She had good reason to fear.

Years ago, she spent a month sleeping on a sofa in the living room with Kody. He was only 13, he’d tried to overdose, and even though he said he was fine, she wouldn’t let him out of her sight.

Everything got better for a while. Kody made friends with other trans kids, he started puberty blockers, he felt good about himself, and life seemed okay. Kate let her guard down, and then … all hell broke loose.

This is Kody’s story. And Kate’s.

Kody tells me on the phone that he first realized he was trans when he was 7. I’ve only emailed the family up to now, and I’m interested to note that Kody sounds like a typical 14 or 15-year-old boy. His voice is reedy and rough — not yet a man’s but no longer a boy’s. He’s sharp. Talkative. Well informed. If I didn’t already know he was 16, I might have guessed 17 or 18.

He and Kate are on speakerphone with me, and he tells me he didn’t have a label for transgender at 7, but he knew. When he was 8, he told Kate.

Kate says her first instinct was denial.

“I went through all the stages-of-grief process, including fear and terror, in about 15 minutes. He was just looking at me, and I didn’t say anything. Then I said to myself, ‘Shit, this isn’t about me.’ I thought about how scared he must be about all the things he would have to face.”

Kody tells me, “My mom’s support and her open mindedness was pretty quick. The next day she was like, ‘What do you need me to do, and what do we do next?’”

He didn’t come out to anybody else for years, but he was a stubborn little boy. He couldn’t bring himself to wear a uniform skirt to school. “The staff was adamant, but I refused. They finally stopped trying to make me. Otherwise, I flew under the radar.”

Then as puberty started, Kody started to spiral. Kate says she’d been worried, knowing the changes would be traumatizing. One day when Kody was about 11, he walked into the bathroom to take a shower and noticed his shoulder-length hair in the mirror.

“I had started puberty early, and did not want to be viewed as a girl. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was like, ‘That has to go!’ I took my grade-school baby scissors and chopped it all off.”

Kate laughs a little, remembering how crazy Kody’s hair looked. Then she says, “When you came out of that bathroom, it completely broke my heart.”

She took him to a barber, got him a buzz cut he loved, and that began his difficult public coming-out process.

“Mom knew how serious things were getting. I was beginning to lose friends, so she researched community support. She eventually found a program called Compass.”

Compass is an LGBTQ community center in Palm Beach County that offers a peer-support group for youth. Kody started attending and making friends when he was 12.

“That’s when my social transition got more pronounced. I had my name picked out, and I was sort of telling teachers as I went along. Then I came out to my dad. He was often busy at work and was not as present as average, but we had a decent relationship.

“One morning when he got up about 6:30, I asked him if he could talk to me for a second. He was in my room beside my bed. I took my blanket and threw it over my head so I couldn’t look at him. I blurted really quickly, ‘I think I might be trans.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, that’s it?’ I took the blanket off, and he said, ‘That’s OK.’”

Kody’s dad did not reject or mistreat him, but he remained in Kody’s words, “not present.”

Despite family and peer support, Kody spiraled further.

“I had just gotten into 7th grade at a new [public] school and it was the worst school year of my life. I was getting bullied a lot. I was extremely depressed and started seeing a psychiatrist and taking anti-depression medication. It wasn’t working. I was still bullied and severely depressed. Staff were not queer friendly. There was only one other trans student at school.”

Students and staff constantly bullied Kody and the other trans kid. “The guidance counselor told both of us separately that Jesus would save us [from being trans]. She said we still have time and we don’t understand what we’re feeling, but Jesus does.”

Kody tells me with a mixture of amusement and anger that the other kid is Jewish. Kate was incensed, but there wasn’t much she could do. Besides, she had her hands full.

Kody began to have “meltdowns.” He says, “When mom got me up for school, I would scream, cry, kick, whatever.”

One day on the way to school, “Mom handed me the bottle of antidepressants and I stared for about 30 seconds. Then I opened it to take my medicine, and in one swell swoop I took all of them.”

I’m not expecting Kody to say this, so I’m shocked into silence. When I catch my breath, I say, “You were only 13. Did you take those pills to send a message or did you really intend to die?”

Kody voice goes whisper quiet. “I really wanted to die.”

He moves on fast. “Mom immediately pulled over to a gas station, called dad and asked him what to do. I tried to throw up and did a little. It was mostly regret but also because I didn’t like the way my mom felt.”

Kody was hospitalized for quite a while, although the medications he took aren’t lethal even at high doses. Doctors worried he’d try again, and when he finally came home, Kate went into hyper-protective mom mode, not letting him out of her sight even to sleep.

Kate realized something had to change fast.

She reached out to Compass Center staff, and they got her a list of six local doctors who do gender therapy. She found one who took their insurance and who eventually prescribed puberty blockers to ease Kody’s traumatizing dysphoria. She panicked over the impossible $4,000.00 annual price tag. Then she qualified for a financial aid program, and Kody received his first of four quarterly injections to put his sexual maturation on hold.

“Did that help?” I ask.

His tone says, ‘Not really.’

“By the time I started them, I was well into being 14. They stopped my cycle, which was the worst part. They slowed breast growth but didn’t reverse existing growth.”

He took the shots for about a year, then on his doctor’s advice, he started testosterone. For almost another year, things started looking up.

That’s when the “hell” I mentioned broke loose.

The State of Florida passed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which filled local news with angry voices of conservative parents hating on trans students and calling their parents groomers and pedophiles. Kody watched carefully as the Texas governor announced child-abuse investigations of parents with transgender children.

When the governor of Florida suggested he’d do the same thing, Kody felt guilt that he might hurt his parents and intense fear that he’d be taken from them. His grades suffered and so did his mental health.

Kate says, “I became terrified of child abuse investigations and Kody being put in foster care. He could not survive in the system. This was a matter of life or death.”

Then as if things weren’t bad enough, Kody’s doctor moved away.

Kate went back to Compass for a referral, but their list of 6 doctors willing to treat trans kids had shrunk to one, and when Kate called up, that practice didn’t take her insurance.

Kody was forced to stop testosterone cold turkey, and his mental health took a nosedive.

Together, mom and son decided they absolutely had to get out of Florida. They planned it for months.

New York was Kody’s idea.

Trans teens he talked to there told him they felt safe and supported at school instead of bullied. He needed that! Kate saved every dime she could, and in a leap of desperate faith, packed the car up at the beginning of September and started driving her son toward hope. She tells me she didn’t have concrete plans, that she struggled with extreme anxiety for the four days the trip took.

I ask her what the final straw was. “What got you in that car?”

Her voice shakes. “My son lost another one of his peers.”

I don’t know what that means, so Kody spells it out. “I had a trans friend I’d known for years and got the news he committed suicide.”

Kate says, “That for me was it!” She became convinced that getting Kody to New York was a matter of saving his life. Nothing would stop her, not even anxiety.

Things are finally looking up.

I first learned about this when Kate emailed me from New York several days ago. She wrote to thank me for my recent article about the Rainbow Youth Project, which provides crisis support for LGBTQ kids. She wrote that she was reaching out to them and felt really hopeful and — finally — not alone.

I immediately contacted Rainbow Youth and after a couple days learned they were working to arrange medical care. Kody is assigned to a case manager now, and from what I know of the organization, they’ll do whatever it takes to get him the care he needs.

By the end of the call, Kody’s voice sounds more than reedy and rough. It sounds happy. Full of hope.

He describes the tiny, kitchen-less room they’re sleeping in as clean and private — as if living in a homeless shelter is the least of his worries. He’s excited about school, which he says he loves. He’s making friends. His teachers are calling him by his chosen name using he/him pronouns. All he had to do was ask!

In Florida, he says, “It’s like pulling teeth.”

About New York, he adds, “I am incredibly optimistic. Obviously, we face a lot of hardships getting into stable living, but I no longer have this looming dread waking up in the morning.”

Kody and Kate are going to be okay, but the desperate situation they found themselves in is shared by far too many LGBTQ families in the U.S.

Many parents of transgender kids in conservative states are scared to death about abuse investigations and lack of health care. Rainbow Youth case managers tell me Kody’s lack of access to a doctor is becoming normal in some red states, particularly Florida and Texas.

In Texas, child abuse investigations have been stopped by the courts, allowed again, and stopped again in some cases. Parents have no idea what to expect.

This summer, the outspoken transgender girl Kai Shappley, who has testified multiple times before the Texas Legislature to advocate for transgender youth, announced a fundraiser so she and her family could flee Texas.

Kai and Kody are tips of the iceberg. I hear from LGBTQ families constantly about the danger they feel they’re in — about how becoming refugees in their own country feels like their only option to stay healthy and stay together.

Do you want to help?

Get out and vote this November. Send a message to Republican leaders that picking on LGBTQ families for political gain is a losing tactic. Do you want to help families more directly? Give generously to local and national LGBTQ organizations that provide direct services.

Read about the Rainbow Youth Project USA here, or click the graphic below to learn how you can help by volunteering time or funds.

Do you know LGBTQ families in need? Do you feel helpless or hopeless? Rainbow Youth volunteers are ready to help. Right now.

Click to visit Rainbow Youth

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James Finn is a columnist for the LA Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]

********************

The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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Bisexual activists cautiously optimistic after White House meeting

Sept. 20 gathering took place during Bisexual Visibility Week

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From left to right: Ellyn Ruthstrom, Tania Israel, Nicole Holmes, Mimi Hoang, Ezra Young, Lauren Beach, Belle Hagget Silverman, Diana Adams, Heron Greenesmith, and Khafre Abif. Kneeling: Robyn Ochs, Fiona Dawson and Blair Imani outside the White House on Sept. 20, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Heron Greenesmith)

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, Sept. 20, just in time for Bisexual Visibility Week, a diverse group of 15 bisexual and pansexual activists met with officials from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including Melanie Fontes Rainer, the director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS. 

The 15 advocates comprised a wide cross-section of the bisexual community, including nonbinary, Transgender, female, young, older, Black, Asian and Muslim advocates, people with disabilities and parents. We came from many walks of life: Academia, education, research, health care, advocacy, law, media and community activism. This isn’t unusual: Bisexual people comprise more than half of all LGBT people, totally approximately 12.5 million bisexual adults in the U.S. Strikingly, 15 percent of all GenZ adults — nearly 1 in 6 — identify as bisexual. People of color are more likely to identify as bisexual, as are cisegender women and Transgender people in general. 

It has been a painful six years since the Executive Branch last met with bisexual activists (you do the math.) Those meetings, like this one, were the product of tireless advocacy from a population with zero paid organizational staff and less than one percent of all philanthropic dollars earmarked for the LGBT community. It was these stats and others that we shared at HHS on Sept. 20. 

Bisexual and pansexual people face specific disparities in mental and physical health, intimate partner violence and monkeypox prevention, treatment and care. Did you know, for example, that nearly half of bisexual women report having been raped? And did you know that federal reporting on monkeypox doesn’t disaggregate between gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men, despite evidence that bisexual men are uniquely vulnerable to MPX and other infectious diseases. 

Khafre Abif is a Black bisexual educator, father and person living with HIV. At the meeting with agency officials, Abif shared the story of how staff at his HIV-care clinic initially denied him the monkeypox vaccine, despite Abif being bisexual and thus in a population of special focus for the vaccine. 

“This meeting has been a long time coming for the bi+ community,” said Abif. “I’m looking forward to a dialogue with federal officials about solving some of the health issues we face.”

In order to begin remedying these disparities and more, we presented the administration with a set of benchmarks, including the creation of a Federal Interagency Bisexual Liaison and a Federal Interagency Bisexual Working Group. Other benchmarks included training for HHS staff on bisexual disparities and remedies thereof, funding streams for bisexual-specific funding and interventions, and the disaggregation of data on specific health disparities. 

Robyn Ochs is a pillar of bisexual and pansexual community organizing. At HHS, Ochs shared more about her specific expertise. “Research has made clear our health disparities and invisibility. It’s time for federal interventions to catch up with what we already know through research and lived experience.”

Frustrated by years of inaction by the federal government to release bisexual-specific data, target the bisexual and pansexual community with tailored interventions, or recognize the importance of bi+ health in general, we are cautiously excited by this opportunity to share critical data and remedies. 

Heron Greenesmith is the Senior Research Analyst for LGBTQI+ Justice at Political Research Associates, and the co-founder of BiLaw and the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition. Find Greenesmith on Twitter @herong.

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