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Letter: Black gay youth

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As Chicago's largest African-American-owned program serving LGBT youth of color, we felt the need to respond to the big issue at hand facing the population we serve which are at the forefront of media attention and one that will never get media attention.

This past week marked the eighth time a Youth Pride Center ( YPC ) youth was jumped, beat, held up at gunpoint or harassed because of his sexuality—in the same area ( 95th/Dan Ryan, at the end of the CTA Red Line ) since February. Because it happens so much, YPC members have stopped reporting it because, in their words, "it's inevitable."

YPC, a program of Youth Pride Services, Inc. agrees with its youth. As long as there is no visibility on the South and West sides of Chicago, it is inevitable that this will happen. As long as there is no equal media representation ( gay and mainstream ) on West and South Side events, agencies and other concerns, we will continue to collect stories from youth who can't afford to go to the north side of Chicago where all the money, media attention and events are held. As long as every citywide LGBT event is only held north of Madison, the youth on the West Side will have to continue to fight for their lives.

It is no surprise to us that the recent data from CDPH looks grim for gay youth of color, who predominately live on the South and West sides of Chicago. Can anyone even name the two agencies that serve LGBT youth of color on the West and South sides? Combined, they see more youth go through there doors than the Belmont/Halsted area does on a hot day, because when the weather is not ideal ( 10 months out of the year ) , they prefer to stay closer to home.

Youth Pride Services ( YPS ) has never been able to get adequate HIV testing at its events, usually because we "have a million youth," as one agency put it. And this is well-known, and has been a complaint from board members of YPC and YPS for three years now. We are quick to say that youth don't care about their status or sexual partners but not quick to say who is actually putting them in these positions in the first place.

A grassroots organization on the West and South sides will never get as much HIV prevention support or services in Chicago as a mainstream one will—too many barriers in place. Maybe a spot at the table will help people understand how youth think. They don't respond to messages created for them—they respond to messages created by them. They can't afford to go to HIV Prevention Conferences or Summits like most adults can, but they are ready, willing and able to take control of their own health when listened too.

Lastly, these two issues tie in together and are everyday issues for small agencies with huge youth populations on the South and West sides. They are not all on drugs, stealing, going to balls ( although nothing is wrong with that ) and dropping out of school. Some LGBT youth of color are the most talented young people in this city, and are going to colleges that would make your eyes pop open.

Until there is some LGBT visibility and support other places than the North Sde of Chicago, YPC will continue to collect more stories of hate crimes—but until then, "it's inevitable."

The Youth Pride Services Family

( YPC, YPC Entertainment )

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