Today marks our 7th Anniversary since we came together to fight against inequality and injustice towards LGBTQ+ youth.
From the early beginnings of the Foundation, we have been driven to do what is necessary, as opposed to what is popular, to encourage healthy dialogue of LGBTQ+ issues and to develop safer spaces for youth that are free from bullying, violence, and discrimination. We have always believed our three-pronged framework of support, education, and advocacy can truly influence a culture shift – one that continues to be evident in your messages to us.
In today’s unequivocally socially conscious society, people are assets to make things happen. The cost of ignoring them is disastrous. Much, if not all, of our successes, are attributed to you – our ever faithful supporters, our Silver Linings. It is not just what we do, but more importantly how we do it. To encourage a culture shift is hard work; work that is dynamic and can be rewarding. Mobilising people is not easy. It is oftentimes full of tensions and trade-offs, celebrations and disappointments. However, when we come together to advocate for the betterment of society, we unleash our competence, creativity and commitment.
Since our inception, we have been flooded with messages from a lot of different people in different situations that speaks to a need for safety, a desire for someone who will listen, cries to have their experiences and existence feel validated. But one general theme always presents itself: “I know now that I’m not the only one experiencing this”. Those words are the sole reason we do what we do.
While full equality still remains a strong pursuit for LGBTQ+ people in our nation, this does not mean our resolve has wavered. In fact, we are committed more than ever to continue to push for the kind of meaningful and hopeful change that will one day see each of us not defined so much by whom we love, but by how we love.
To achieve this, it will take greater understanding from society to appreciate the actual lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people in a land that excludes and discriminates. We started building this support and knowledge pool with the first ever support group for LGBTQ+ students across the campuses of our universities and colleges through our Safe Space program, and then through our 2016 “Bullying and Gender Based Violence in Secondary Schools” National School Climate Study, which provided data showing how bullying at schools results predominantly from prejudicial stereotypes and misconceptions children hold relating to gender and sexuality. The research collected in this report morphed into our Stronger Families project which provides support and knowledge to parents and guardians raising an LGBTQ+ child in a society where homophobia defines the reality of LGBTQ+ persons. To combat this, we engaged fifty-four (54) educators at twenty-five (25) secondary schools around the country to confront the underlying role and influence that gender bias, toxic masculinity and homophobia remain rooted in acts of bullying and aggression displayed by students in classrooms.
And finally, no amount of research, support and education will make a difference if LGBTQ+ persons aren’t included in the conversation towards nation-building. Therefore, every project, initiative, programme and event which SLF has undertaken has been made visible and known to the wider public. We did not shy away from identifying the target audience or the nature of these projects, nor do we have any intention of changing this approach as we look to the future. It is our firm belief as we continue to move forward that if we don’t utilise our bodies to claim space or make our voices heard, our experiences will never find the keys to success that leads towards acceptance and full equality.
Over the past seven years, our advocacy has seen many public rewards. We realised this when, in 2018, our nation held its first-ever public LGBTQ+ Pride parade, which was co-lead and coordinated by many members of our executive team. Additionally, our Executive Director, Jeremy Steffan Edwards was nationally recognised for his advocacy work on LGBTQ+ issues with a nomination at the recent National Youth Awards, hosted by the Ministry of Sport. We have also seen many calls for acceptance of LGBTQ+ people from businesses to organisations, and from private citizens to public officials. This past year, in particular, has shown that visibility for our community is stronger when we stand together. We have shown and will continue to show that LGBTQ+ people deserve to have their human rights and that our communities, and by extension our country, is made greater when we embrace this.
Though the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ people continue to hang in the balance against a wave of ignorance and misrepresentation perpetuated by persons who are intent on holding us back from progression, SLF is undaunted by this challenge as we look towards the future. If anything, this last remaining obstacle provides us with the fuel, strength and optimism needed to cultivate the positive change to drown out hate and usher in a new era where no LGBTQ+ child is made to feel alone or afraid.
In light of this, we want you, our supporters, to know that our goal remains unchanged; our focus is undisturbed and our commitment is stronger than it has ever been. We will not rest or compromise on our beliefs at the expense of any child. We envision a day when every LGBTQ+ child and adult feel safe, protected and accepted in their classrooms, living rooms, board rooms, and bedrooms. We will not stop until that day becomes our reality.
As we look ahead to the future, we want to let you know that none of our achievements would have been made possible without your belief and support in our work and the courage you have shown every day to live your lives openly and free from fear. We take this opportunity to tell each and every one of you that we are appreciative of you and we remain humbled and incredibly grateful for the support that you have given us over the past seven years. Let’s continue to hold each other’s hands together as we journey into year 8.
Happy Anniversary, Silver Linings!