Provided by Outlet

According to the Center for Disease Control, LGBTQ+ youth are almost five times more likely to make a suicide attempt than their heterosexual peers.1. They also experience harassment and homelessness, have higher drop-out rates and report feelings of isolation at disproportionate rates. The risk of depression, suicidal ideation, substance use and HIV/STD contraction significantly decrease when queer youth have family acceptance and community support. Outlet is committed to developing LGBTQ+ affirming individuals, schools, families, work environments and communities.

Outlet was founded in 1997 to provide affordable support for LGBTQ+ youth in Silicon Valley. LGBTQ+ youth needed a place to come together as a community, discuss how to stay safe and live healthily, and learn about positive communications, behaviors and relationships. Support and education were needed not just for the youth, but also for the adults in their lives: parents, teachers, coaches, allies and other LGBTQ+ youth service providers. Outlet is a youth-centered program which aims to honor and respect the individual identities of all members, and work together to build a safe and inclusive world. Outlet does this through advocacy, education, support groups, mentorship and mental counseling services. In 2013, the program was officially adopted by Adolescent Counseling Services, an organization that provides a wide range of resources aimed to provide youth with crucial emotional and behavioral support. It was a natural fit for Outlet, as social-emotional support for LGBTQ+ youth is one of the program’s top priorities.

Outlet holds peer support groups in Redwood City, Mountain View, Half Moon Bay, and San Mateo. However, since California’s shelter-in-place order has gone into effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has been hosting virtual meetups using online platforms. Outlet regularly hosts groups with different individual focuses, such as the Trans Femme Youth Group, a peer support group for individuals aged 14-25 who identify as members of the trans-femme community or who are questioning their gender identity. Another example is the Monday Night Group, a safe and confidential space where LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 10-18 share experiences and build supportive relationships in an inclusive environment. All of Outlet’s groups are free of charge to participants.

Along with groups, Outlet also provides counseling and resource referral services. The program partners with local schools and families to help create safe living and learning environments for LGBTQ+ youth. This includes individual after school counseling for students provided on a sliding scale. Those interested in starting a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance/Gender Sexuality Alliance) at their school may consult with Outlet free of charge. Although from the outside the Bay Area appears to be a progressive region affirmative of LGBTQ+ youth identities, 61% of youth have reported feeling unsafe at school. This sad reality is bolstered by recent incidents of hate speech at local schools in Palo Alto and Burlingame and only highlights the necessity for Outlet’s work in the community.

Outlet also offers fee-based educational workshops that are tailored specifically to each audience to provide intersectional education and training about queer experience. These workshops cover topics such as: trans youth experience panels, walking out{“type”:”block”,”srcClientIds”:[“6b5179a1-067d-4dfb-9072-49b7260e422b”],”srcRootClientId”:””} of the closet (understanding the complexities of the coming out process), laws that protect LGBTQ+ youth, SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity & expression) and 2S-LBTQQIA+ 101. Some of the local organizations that have requested Outlet’s educational workshops include school administrations, nonprofits, churches, corporations, and employee resource groups.

Outlet’s ability to provide youth programming, resource referrals, and consultations free of charge, removes the financial barrier between community members and access to resources they adamantly need to support queer youth in becoming their best selves. Outlet continues to make the pledge to build a safer culture for current and future LGBTQQIA+ youth in the Silicon Valley.

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