“We’re all one, we’re all a community, and [PGMC] welcomes everyone with open arms.”
So said a teen from Philly’s Lankenau High School after the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus performed for her and her classmates. Another young woman at Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush expressed a similar sentiment: “I love everything that PGMC stands for, that it’s okay to be yourself.”
These students are a part of PGMC’s Outreach program, aimed at empowering LGBTQ and allied teens in Philadelphia-area schools by sharing our music and our stories. A new national survey conducted by an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that offering a sense of community and acceptance to LGBTQ teens could be more important than ever.
This year’s edition of the biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey was the first ever to ask high school students – 15,600 total – about their sexual identity. The results confirmed what other, smaller surveys have been reporting for years: that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer teens are at a much higher risk than their heterosexual peers for depression and suicide, being raped or having other acts of violence committed against them, and drug use.
The New York Times wrote about the survey, noting that “More than 40 percent of these students reported that they had seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent had made attempts to do so in the year before they took the survey.”
Why are LGBTQ teens at increased risk? “The intensity of homophobic attitudes and acceptance of gay-related victimization, as well as the ongoing silence around adolescent sexuality, marginalizes a whole group of young people,” Dr. Elizabeth Miller of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh told the Times. This, in turn, “increases their vulnerability to exploitative and violent relationships.”
PGMC won’t single-handedly save the world or change everyone’s minds when it comes to anti-LGBTQ thoughts, statements, or actions. But it is our mission to entertain audiences, support communities, and foster acceptance, not only through our music, but also by sharing a piece of ourselves and our experiences with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth in Philadelphia. Little by little, we hope that attitudes change, and that these deeply unfortunate statistics become a thing of the past. We hope that every teen will feel welcomed by everyone, no matter their sexual or gender identity. That is our goal.
Interested in helping us spread our message of acceptance? The easiest (and most fun!) way to support our organization is to attend our annual Fall Ball fundraiser on October 15, 2016. This year’s theme is Prohibition, and it’s sure to be a fabulous evening. Tickets are available now.