You know from our past reports that we are grateful for your support and your generosity. We have often been able to tell you wonderful stories about the difference your dollars have made. All of that is still true. AND. This has been a rough couple of months for us at True Colors. So this report is going to look a little different. Two of our youth died by their own hands last month. Both had been struggling with depression, identity, and just trying to get by. Most times, our kids (with your support and ours) muddle through the tough times. Sometimes they don't. We have spent much of the last few weeks supporting other youth in the program, helping them mourn and deal with their loss and hurt and anger. It is amazing how we blame ourselves when something like this happens...
Rather than talking about what we have accomplished together this quarter, we want to focus on making sure that together we can prevent other kids from making that same heartbreaking choice. We want to make sure that every youth and adult we come in contact with knows some basic skills for preventing suicide. Each one of us can be the one to start the conversation - each one of us has the potential to save a life. Just ask.
People are often afraid to ask youth (or adults for that matter) about suicide because they fear it will make them suicidal. It doesn't! One of the risk factors for suicide is that a youth knows someone who attempted and/or completed the act. With two recent suicides in CT, everybody should get trained or learn QPR (question, persuade, refer). It is a great tool. Here are the key questions:
• Have you ever wished you were dead or that you wouldn’t wake up in the morning? (if yes, ask #2)
• Have you actually had any thoughts of killing yourself? (if they answer yes, ask the next 2 questions. If they say yes again, they are at significant risk and need a referral to clinical help immediately. It is important to stay with the youth (or adult) until help arrives)
Here's how to get immediate help:
Be the ONE TO START THE CONVERSATION!
Thank you for your on-going support. Clearly it can mean the difference between life and death for our kids. And we are very, very grateful.
With your help and the help of caring people like you (and Margo), we are making it better NOW.
Consider Julie*. She has been in the ‘system’ for a while and was living with foster parents. She was referred to the True Colors mentoring program when she came out as trans* at 13. We were able to match her with Margo, a lesbian identified woman who has a deep commitment to youth and especially trans* youth. Almost immediately, Margo began to realize that Julie’s foster placement wasn’t good for her. (Her foster mom, for example, told Julie that ‘as long as he had the parts God gave him, he was a boy in her eyes!’).
When, as expected, the foster home placement deteriorated to the point that Julie had to leave, Margo helped True Colors find a new, affirming home for her. Then, Julie’s social worker started dragging her feet in arranging for Jennifer to connect to a gender affirming/competent therapist. So, Margo stepped in again. She not only found a great therapist, but she convinced her to work with Jennifer pro bono until such time as the State insurance could kick in. Julie is now doing amazingly well. She is living full time in her affirmed identity as a girl. She is connected to her peers, visits weekly with her mentor and participates in True Colors activities. Because of the on-going support she received, Julie at nearly 16 is poised to grow into a healthy, productive young adult.
Other youth are not quite as lucky. Consider Jane. She also was referred to True Colors when she first began coming out at trans* as a not-quite 12 year old. She was living at the time in a residential treatment facility and like Julie had experienced significant abuse and neglect prior to coming into care. But, in spite of looking for almost 4 years, we were unable to find someone willing to invest the time and commitment this youth needed. She is now incarcerated. Her adult plans focus on running away to Atlanta as soon as she turns 18 and becoming a dancer and a reality TV star. It is possible that a mentor might not have made a difference with this youth – but imagine what might have been possible, if someone had stepped forward.
For every Julie, there is Jane. Part of what keeps us going is that for every Jane, there is also a Julie.
And that is where you come in. As a True Colors donor, you give us the tools and resources we need to keep on fighting for all the Janes and Julies and Mikes and Sams… We don’t always win. But you make it possible for us to always, always try. Remember the story about the woman on the beach, picking up and saving one after another of the stranded starfish? A man comes along and asks her, ‘why are you bothering? You can’t save them all!” She replies, “You are right. But I can save this one. And this one. And this one. And …”
Thanks for making our work possible. Oh, and spread the word, please? We need mentors, mentors, mentors …
It has been a wild ride this past quarter! Most of our efforts focused on hosting our 21st annual True Colors Conference on March 21 and 22, 2014 - our largest ever with more than 3,000 attendees - and in fact, more than 600 walk-ins on Friday alone! Whew. Your donations helped us scholarship or reduce fees for more than 900 of those attendees! From just a few of the attendees your support helped us fund:
"I honestly never felt such peace with so many people before..."
"true colors was more than just an event for me, it was just a reality check. That i needed to stop being so narrow minded and accept these people who essentially accepted me in their environment with open arms and big smiles."
"True Colors was a phenomenal experience. The creative and accepting atmosphere is what we all wish the rest of the world could have; maybe one day."
During the same time frame, your support helped us provide weekly social and recreational activities for LGBT youth in out-of-home care; to advocate on behalf of students in elementary, middle and high school, to update and produce our comprehensive resource guide, and to find both mentors and homes for kids whose family had rejected them.
This work is our life and our passion. We are so grateful to you, and all of our donors and supporters, for making such important work possible.
ps. We would LOVE to hear from you! What parts of our work would YOU like to hear more about? Is there an area of LGBT youth advocacy where you would like to see us invest additional time or energy? How would most like to be communicated with? Via these quarterly reports? Occasional phone calls? Targeted emails or snail mail? Let us know!
Dear True Colors Donor,
Your support makes a world of difference. Some of the youth we serve, like Jen, just need a little bit of help – She is a kid with the passion to make a difference. President of her GSA, young activist and fireball, she is already on a mission in life. Our role (which, by the way, your donations make possible) has been to develop her leadership skills – help her learn to facilitate other’s learning rather than let her passion run away with her mouth. It’s a core skill and yet, we all know what that is like – talking when we should be listening, right? These youngsters are not just the leaders of tomorrow – because of your continued caring, they are the TODAY’s leaders, making a difference in their own communities and schools every day.
Other youth, need True Colors to act as an advocate on their behalf. Consider Sara*. When Sara was born, people thought she was a boy (after all, she had the parts that usually come with a male identity). It wasn’t until early adolescence that it became clear that ‘boy’ was the wrong identity for her. Sara is a girl, a transgender girl. By then, through no fault of her own, she had experienced terrible violence – sexual, physical, emotional violence at the hands of people who were supposed to love her. Her rage, her sadness, her volatility are all symptoms of abuse she suffered as a child. That past however can’t excuse a tantrum that resulted in a staff member’s severe injuries. But, when the system tried to punish her in a men’s prison, True Colors was able to step in and advocate for her. Yes, there have to be consequences for bad behavior – and Sara will experience those consequences, but in a woman’s facility where, for the moment, she belongs.
There are few grants or private foundations that fund this kind of work – one-on-one as a support – or as an advocate for LGBT youth out in the world. Most of the work, is funded by people just like you – individuals who care enough about our kids to turn their dollars into action. You make our work possible. And we will be forever grateful!
It was a conundrum. A Federal Agency with a less than stellar history with the LGBT community recently created an LGBT liaison position. They reached out to us to see if we might allow them to do workshop on youth empowerment with LGBT youth in our program. What to do? Some staff had very strong feelings about this agency - yet, several of our youth indicated a strong interest in working for them after high school or college. Who's feelings should take precedence? Ultimately, it was a no-brainer. We are here to serve our youth not the other way around. We invited the speaker in. I, for one, are glad we did. One of the youth in our mentoring program - someone who never makes eye contact, who has trouble sitting still, and who had never spoken at an event previously, was transformed by the experience. He took notes, asked questions, made eye contact (a little bit) and walked away with a begining plan for his next steps toward that dream. His dream.
Part of our job, part of the work we do as advocates for our youth, sometimes lead us to making unpopular decisions or taking unpopular actions on their behalf. Funders don't always like controversy. That is why we are expecially glad to have folks like you in our corner. Your support, your donations help us be a stand for our kids in ways that we might not be able to otherwise.
Since our last report, your support helped us:
Whew. We couldn't do it without you and we are so grateful!
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