By Beverly George
Creating an inclusive community for LGBTQ teens is vital for them to feel safe.
“I remember what it was like being a kid, feeling alone and afraid that my family would reject me out of ignorance and fear,” Emma Vosicky from Naperville’s Youth Outlook told ACE members on June 2. ACE celebrated Pride Month with a panel that included Vosicky, as well as Nancy Mullen, Youth Outlook’s executive director; Carrie Noe, development director, Youth Outlook; and Laura Welch of Naper Pride.
Youth Outlook drop-in centers are places for LGBTQ kids to come and feel included, safe, supported, and celebrated. In addition, the organization empowers families through parent and peer support groups and develops allies throughout the community, including with schools, health care workers, and corporations.
Youth Outlook began 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, said Mullen. Back then, the youth involved were primarily 17- and 18-year olds. Now, that age has dropped to 12- and 13-year olds.
From a single drop-in center in 1998, Youth Outlook has grown to eight centers today in Geneva, Palatine, Elgin, Ottawa, Sterling, DeKalb, and two in Naperville. A ninth will open in Elmhurst in the fall. This year, the DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church Youth Outreach Group held its first prom for transgender students. More than 50 attended.
Welch said the emphasis of the new Naper Pride organization is on LGBTQ families and to make families with LGBTQ parents or children feel at home in Naperville. They have many events coming up this summer, including the following.
- Sunday, June 23, at 1:30 p.m.: A Marathon Film Festival will be held at the First Congregational Church in Naperville featuring three films: “Zootopia,” “Love Simon,” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
- Saturday, June 29, 12-4 p.m.: Participation in the inaugural Joliet PrideFest, at the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park & Theatre, 201 W. Jefferson Street, Joliet.
- Thursday, July 18,: Mission Tour of the trans students’ drop-in center at the Unitarian Universalist Church.
- Saturday, August 10: A Wellness Fair is scheduled at Community United Methodist Church in Naperville, focusing on whole health, also experts on divorce and other legal issues, adoption, financial issues, the Veteran’s administration, DCFS for foster care/adoption issues, yoga, massage, and diabetes testing.
“By Youth Outreach partnering with Naper Pride and participating in all of the Pride events scheduled throughout the area this summer, it sends a strong message to LGBTQ kids that there are many people behind them, supporting them, and celebrating them,” said Noe.
ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.