Life is hard for LGBTQ kids everywhere, but particularly in the South. Every year, thousands of young Southerners are disowned by their families, and that’s tragic: It’s neither civil nor Southern. But such kids can find family again, thanks to organizations around the South that have stepped in to provide the unconditional love that’s lacking back home. Today, Amelia Hess visits four organizations — from Texas to North Carolina — that fight with stubborn, Southern ferocity to help LGBTQ kids lead productive, happy lives.
For hundreds of years, Southern communities have been shaped by traditions that bring people together. A rich history of storytelling has allowed Southerners to explore their past, pass along values to younger generations, and bring change to their communities. Southern identity is also shaped by a fierce loyalty to the land. For generations, the South and its people have also shown perseverance through resistance.
At their core, Southerners are defined by a fierce loyalty to family. This bond is unwavering and — supposedly — unconditional. But time and again, sexual and gender identity tear Southern families apart.
Thousands of young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer are kicked out of the house every year by their families. LGBTQ youth make up an estimated 40 percent of the total homeless youth population.The consequences of family rejection and discrimination are often deadly.
But oddly enough, Southern identity may be a saving grace for young LGBTQ people here. For decades now, organizations all around the South have done something remarkable: When young LGBTQ people are rejected by the families they were born into, these organizations step into the breach. If you’re kicked out of your family because of your sexual identity, organizations such as Alabama’s Magic City Acceptance Center uphold the Southern value of family first. It’s their job to help LGBTQ kids find new families, families of choice, and find new sources of the support to get the love that all families are supposed to provide.
The South is a constantly evolving place where communities understand the consequences of turning their backs on one another and the power of unity. Southern LGBTQ organizations have been pivotal in leading conversations and movements against issues of discrimination, violence and isolation of LGBTQ people.
Today, we visit four such organizations: from the mountains of Appalachia to east Texas. Read more via Bitter Southerner