The problem with these weekly columns is that sometimes you find a really good page but instead of posting it right away, there’s this urge to save it for a month that offers awareness on the issue on a larger scale. Being thematically appropriate is something I love doing, but I wouldn’t dare hold out on this resource for any longer than necessary, especially when it could help the younger people who may be reading this blog.
These days the internet is a huge resource for people who may be questioning their sexuality, gender, or any part of what makes them “them”. While the entirety of the internet has a long way to go before it can be considered a safe space (an incredibly optimistic ideal, given that some people are so dedicated to their hate), there are spaces that are open and friendly to those searching, and even those who just want to learn. However, despite the usefulness of some of these resources, sometimes they’re just not accessible to the younger LGBTQ+ community—be it because of the way things are written, being intimidated by older members of the community, or just not being able to connect to certain things because of the age gap between creator and consumer. Due to this, the existence of sites exclusively catered to younger curious people are vital. So today I’m saluting you, 15 Below LGBT+.
Run by mod Lily—a fifteen year old herself, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community—the site seeks to give the younger generation a place where they feel they can ask questions among peers without the fear of being judged. In her own words, the blog’s main goal is to foster a younger LGBTQ+ community by giving users (on anon or off) the space to “…meet others like them, ask for advice, and tell stories about their experiences as young members of the community”.
At an age where many feel like they must remain silent about who they are—and some have very good reasons for remaining silent—it’s imperative that at least online, these kids have somewhere they can go and feel like they can fit in and discuss these very personal, important issues. The statistics on LGBTQ+ youth in concerns to bullying and suicide are frightening: according to a study done in 2011 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LGBTQ+ teens are four times more likely to commit suicide, and according to stats from the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, more than 50% of the trans community will have attempted suicide once before their twentieth birthday.
We’re in the middle of an epidemic concerning the marginalization and harm done against LGBTQ+ youth. However, with sites like 15 Below LGBT+, there is hope that younger generations will be able to form a strong sense of community and be able to rely on each other, even if their home life isn’t great. I hope to see more resources for younger people in the future, while older members of the community continue acting as mentor figures, helping when asked.