Outright Vermont & LGBTQ+ Youth Battle Doom & Gloom

In an era when doom and gloom dominate the headlines, Outright Vermont has a message for LGBTQ+ youth: find the queer joy. 

Vermont youth who are queer or other-gendered stand at the intersection of two groups struggling with mental health challenges. The combination increases risk of serious concerns, and this shows up in mental health stats. But that narrative doesn’t capture the breadth of what’s happening in LGBTQ+ young people.

David Glidden is the statewide support coordinator for Outright Vermont, a 30-year-old organization serving Vermont youth 19 and under. He is the primary “youth-facing” advocate at the agency, meaning he works directly with young people. Support group facilitator, program developer and conference planner are among his roles. His finger is on the pulse of the youth LGBTQ+ community across the Green Mountains.

Not All Doom and Gloom

Vermont youth “are well aware” of the depressing statistics and stream of negative stories about their community, Glidden says. But it’s only one piece of the picture. “It’s easy to grab onto one narrative and miss the other threads that are out there. The narrative is often really depressing for LGBTQ+, and it disguises the real picture of these incredibly resilient youth,” Glidden says. 

From the front lines of being young and queer in Vermont, he tells a different story. It’s a story that celebrates joy and resilience. A story of helping someone you just met in group get through a panic attack with breathing exercises. A story of LGBTQ+ “elders” joining at the bandstand in Lyndonville to support the next generation.  

Just bringing the community together creates opportunities for connection and joy. “The queer community in itself is incredibly healing,” Glidden says. “To be with friends and not have to explain your gender is incredibly healing. It’s about creating those spaces where queer joy and resilience arise organically.”

Advocating for LGBTQ+

With 30 years of advocacy work in Vermont – a pioneering state for LGBTQ+ rights – Outright Vermont is working throughout the state to build community, foster healing and create joy. Programs across Vermont include:

  • Support groups for youth, including the popular Friday Night Group and Gender Creative Kids.
  • Social support groups for parents, caregivers, foster parents, or other trusted adults
  • Summer camp for LGBTQ+ youth
  • Building social networking communities online via Discord, Minecraft, and other platforms
  • “Day in the Park” socials with LGBTQ+ elders
  • Affinity spaces for BIPOC, transmasculine, transfeminine, disabled, aromantic/asexual
  • Supporting a broad network of middle- and high-school chapters of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), including an annual summit attended by 600 students

Reaching Rural LGBTQ+

The pandemic has been a double-edged sword for the queer community, Glidden says. On the one hand, it has opened up their previously in-person support groups and peer-to-peer sessions to a much broader population. That has helped bring in youth from rural areas of the state that were previously unconnected. “Zoom makes it so much more accessible for rural kids,” Glidden says. “I just can’t imagine that there are many folks in rural areasrurally where that community exists in the same way.” 

Another benefit of the online experience is that “you can be in a group and be in your own space at the same time,” Glidden says. This allows kids to have more control over their environment and have available whatever self-soothing tools work for them. Outright intends to continue the option of virtual connection regardless of what happens with Covid.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that community doesn’t look like just one thing,” Glidden says. “We’ve been able to find community in different ways through continued access to the communities we like.” It’s a “queering up” of the idea of community, he says, redefining it on young people’s own terms, just as youth culture has been doing for a while.

Learn More and Find LGBTQ+ Resources

Find out more about Outright Vermont’s programming and support groups, events, and news.

Outright Vermont’s Mental Health Resource Guide lists mental health counselors with experience working with LGBTQ+ clients.

The Pride Center (Outright Vermont’s sibling org for 18+) is a great local-to-Vermont source for all things LGBTQ+. The organization’s Vermont Diversity Health Project seeks to bridge people seeking healthcare to ”safe, affirming, supportive and effective healthcare providers.”

In the Burlington and Champlain Valley area, find resources at Spectrum VT Youth Services.

The Trevor Project is a highly rated source of support and information for LGBTQ+ youth, including short-term crisis counseling. 

For more on helping young people navigate gender identity and sexual identification, read How to Support Kids Who Are Questioning fron the non-profit Child Mind Institute.

Blog written by Brenda Patoine on behalf of VCN/Vermont Care Partners for COVID Support Vermont, a grant funded by FEMA and the Vermont Department of Mental Health

Need to Talk?

Call 2-1-1 (in Vermont) for assistance.

In Crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825; text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health center for 24/7 support. 

Find Help

Find resources and tools for coping with stress at www.COVIDSupportVT.org.

One-click translation to 100 languages of most everything on the COVIDSupportVT.org website, plus Multilingual Resources.

Find your local community mental health center by visiting Vermont Care Partners.

COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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