A Community with Pride

Posted on: Tue, 01/18/2022 - 14:37
By: Riley Keenan , Program Director, Coordinated Assessment Kaleidoscope Advocate


9% of LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out, or run away.

1 in 3 LGBTQ youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their LGBTQ identity.

10% of LGBTQ youth reported undergoing conversion therapy, with 78% reporting it occurred when they were under age 18.


Almost half of all LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in 2020. At the same time, only half of the youth surveyed could access wanted mental health care.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) youth need support now in order to live healthy and fulfilled lives as adults. That’s why programs like Kaleidoscope are vital to the South Jersey LGBTQ+ community more than ever.

Kaleidoscope is a community-based Gay Straight Alliance that offers monthly youth-led meetings where allied teens can gather, socialize, organize, and help each other. What makes Kaleidoscope so unique is that participating youth share what they are interested in and meetings are tailored to their needs. Instead of having adults talk at them, LGBTQ+ or allied adults facilitating Kaleidoscope meetings are there to listen and make them feel comfortable. Often, these meetings are the only place our youth have where they do not have to apologize for their identity, so one meeting a month really can make a difference in their lives.

When I was a teenager, I could never have imagined that one day I would have the privilege to be supporting LGBTQ+ youth that are just like me. Growing up, no one ever mentioned the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Because of that, I was lost and spent time trying to figure out who I was and what was wrong with me. Back then, if I had had a group like Kaleidoscope it would have saved me from self-destructive behavior, and I would have known that there was at least one accepting and loving place where I could be my true self.

One of my goals as Kaleidoscope advocate is ensuring that participating youth feel connected to one another. Community plays a role in every aspect of life. Being a part of a community can make you feel as though you are a part of something greater than ourselves. It can give you opportunities to connect with people, to reach for your goals, and makes you feel safe and secure.

However, community can be difficult for LGBTQ+ youth to come by. With Kaleidoscope, LGBTQ+ youth have a safe environment where they are welcomed and celebrated for being themselves. In this setting, their self-esteem and self-acceptance are boosted and they are able to feel a greater sense of belonging. This ultimately leads to a smooth transition into adulthood.

It’s inspiring to see the youth work together and be role models for their peers. The youth to help create a supportive environment by regularly sharing their own experiences, giving each other advice, and encouraging one another to be kind and patient with themselves. 


So how can the average person support LGBTQ+ youth? It’s as simple as listening and providing a safe environment. Statistics show that using chosen/affirming names of transgender and nonbinary youth is a major mental health benefit. That alone can decrease the risk of severe depression by 71%. Using someone’s affirming pronouns can also be incredibly validating. Another great way to show your support is donating to local programs like Kaleidoscope that work with your community.

These are just a few key ways you can work towards becoming an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. If you’re interested in learning more I recommend reading the resources below or connecting directly with Kaleidoscope. We’re always happy to help raise awareness and educate those in our community who are interested in learning and growing.

Remember, ally is not a self-appointed title, it must be earned through action.




Other Helpful Resources

The Trevor Project

Parents, Families, ad Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Mazzoni Center

Garden State Equality