Youth Outlook Provides Safe Haven for LGBTQ Teens

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 19, 2012 | Go to article overview

Youth Outlook Provides Safe Haven for LGBTQ Teens


Byline: Christie Willhite cwillhite@dailyherald.com

On the national stage, homosexuality is mired in politics and science and religion. The hows and whys are debated right along with the who can and who can't.

But none of that matters much to the high school freshman feeling the blush of a crush, the uncertainty of the other's feelings, the sense of estrangement because the crush isn't on the "right" person, and the fear of what would happen if everyone found out.

And none of that matters to the teens who know how they feel, have told their families and friends who they are, and who go to school every day hoping this is the day no one whispers behind their backs, the day no one mocks them in the hallway, the day no one throws them against a locker.

, a Naperville-based nonprofit group serving four counties, aims to provide a safe environment for teens who are homosexual or bisexual, questioning or uncomfortable in their gender identity, or just generally uncertain.

The organization staffs drop-in centers in DuPage, Kane, Whiteside and DeKalb counties, and offers a youth leadership program and recreational activities. Through community education programs, Youth Outlook volunteers work with school districts and corporations to change the social culture that makes youth feel threatened.

The on Friday, Oct. 19, is Youth Outlook's largest annual fundraiser, with proceeds supporting the drop-in centers. Lesbian comedian headlines the event, which also includes community awards for individuals and organizations.

Today, Youth Outlook Executive Director Nancy Mullen tells us more about the organization.

Q. What is your mission?

A. Youth Outlook is committed to creating a safe, supportive and respectful environment for youth, whether they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender-variant. Youth Outlook's programs facilitate ongoing personal growth and the development of a positive identity for the people we serve.

Q. How do you work toward accomplishing that goal?

A. Youth Outlook provides wellness education on a variety of topics, leadership development and social space. We also conduct community education programs for organizations such as school districts and corporations in order to change the social atmosphere that imperils LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) youth.

Q. Whom do you serve?

A. Youth Outlook is the only agency in DuPage, Kane, Whiteside and DeKalb counties dedicated solely to serving LGBTQ youth. Since our beginning in 1998, Youth Outlook has expanded our services, now offering four drop-in centers in four counties, as well as a youth leadership program, a group for transgender youth, off-site recreational activities and mobile programming. In 2012, we expanded to begin cooperative programming at the middle school level to accommodate youth who are coming out earlier.

Q. When and why did Youth Outlook start? How has it grown?

A. We had our beginnings in 1996 when a group of community members in DuPage County met to discuss their concerns over the lack of area resources for LGBTQ youth. …

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