Updated: Jun 9, 2019
by: Barbara Peterson May 11, 2019
With today’s rise in discrimination, intolerance, and attacks on members of the LGBTQ community, we need organizations like Seacoast Outright (SO) now as much as ever. Their work provides valuable support and guidance for LGBTQ+ youth, by offering safe space and connections to services. Founded in 1993, they have been fighting for 25 years for the needs and rights of people who are marginalized because of their sexual identity and gender expression.
2019 opened with SO hiring a new Executive Director, Hershey Hirschkop. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for 35 years promoting social justice. Additionally, she has a background in working with the LGTBQ community and affordable housing. Her professional experience brings to the organization a strong balance of nonprofit skills and a passion for nurturing pride and empowerment to some of the most vulnerable in our community. Strong leadership and a committed, experienced Board enable Seacoast Outright to continue their important work in providing safety and a welcoming acceptance to the youth of the LGBTQ community.
LGBTQ+ individuals are particularly vulnerable to not only attacks from society but from feelings of inner hopelessness and despair. LGBTQ youth are three times more likely than heterosexual youth to seriously contemplate suicide, and five times more likely to attempt it. Among people between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the second leading cause of death, and among all who make attempts, LGBTQ youth are five times more likely to require medical treatment than heterosexual youth. And for those LGBTQ youth who come from unsupportive families, they are more than eight times as likely to attempt suicide. Finally, LGBTQ youth who experience harassment or abuse are two and half times more likely to engage in self-harm than heterosexual youth. From this data, we can see clearly why the work that Seacoast Outright does in providing support to young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, or questioning is so very important. In addition to providing safe spaces, SO also partners with Chase Home and New Heights in offering training as part of the Seacoast Youth Suicide Prevention Network.*
To help youth find their voices and feel a sense of community acceptance and pride, Seacoast Outright hosts fun, informal youth group get-togethers every Friday evening from 7pm-9pm in the basement of South Church in Portsmouth, NH. These groups are discussion-based, guided by trained and fully-vetted adult facilitators. Anyone 21 or under who identifies as lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, queer, intersex, pansexual, questioning, or allied can attend and participate in the positive conversations about relationships, identity, and community. These meetings are confidential, protecting the privacy of all who attend. Anywhere from 20 to 30 youth typically attend, and the discussion groups are split between those who are younger than 16 and those who are 16 and older, so everyone can feel free to share their stories with appropriate-aged attendees.
In addition, Seacoast Outright works with family, loved ones, and allies of LGBTQ youth. They host a Parent Support Group on the first Friday of every month. Parents of LGBTQ kids can come together from 7:15pm-8:45pm to share their stories at the Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth. SO also field calls from people who are looking for referrals to other important resources, particularly mental health and medical services. Their aim is to help all members of the LGBTQ community have a safe place to socialize, reflect, and come to better understandings of themselves and others so they may come to find acceptance and empowerment in who they are and choose to be with.
Seacoast Outright hosts and coordinates events to raise visibility and create safe spaces and positive collaborations between youth and the community at large. Their most visible and largest annual event is Portsmouth PRIDE, held downtown Portsmouth, this year on Saturday, June 22. As stated on their website, it is “a day full of celebration, reflection, and community-building.” The event begins with a march that starts at Market Square and ends at Strawberry Banke. Entertainment programs provide all with a variety of family-friendly activities throughout the day. There is a Marketplace held at Strawberry Banke where local non-profit organizations and vendors will host booths, and area restaurants will serve visitors some of the best food in the Seacoast. An after-party for youth is held that same evening at the First United Methodist Church. There is also an after-party for adults at 3S Artspace, featuring Bunny and the Fox drag show. To find out more about Portsmouth Pride and to support this event, people can visit their website listed below.
We can read about the positive and important impact Seacoast Outright has on youth. On their website, we hear from Ella who states, “When I first came to Outright, I was shy and I would barely even talk. Now, I’m usually the one coordinating where we’ll all go out after. I love the friends I’ve made here!” The sense of belonging LGBTQ+ youth feel at SO enables them to find value and worth in who they are, something too many in society attempt to strip away. Tadd shows that schools can be places where one doesn’t fit in, where it’s difficult to be accepted for who one is. He said, “It’s nice to have somewhere to go outside of school. School can be so cliquey. At group, people like me the way I am.” Seacoast Outright’s Friday youth groups provide a needed space for LGBTQ folks to find community and pride. In addition, their parent groups offer insight and support for family and loved ones who are looking for acceptance and understanding.
In a world that is increasingly intolerant toward marginalized folks, members of the LGBTQ community are at risk more now than they have been in the recent past. Legislation that protects people who try and take away their rights to marry, to receive fair treatment by all businesses, to use public facilities that match their gender identity, and to live without oppressive abuse and attack is creating a society that is often hateful and dangerous for LGBTQ individuals, their allies, and their loved ones. Seacoast Outright plays an essential role in providing a safe space for these folks to come together, foster a sense of community, build relationships, become empowered, and learn to feel valued and worthy so they may pursue their lives and dreams with as many opportunities as everyone else.
Supporting Seacoast Outright
- Volunteers are always welcome to facilitate groups and events.
- Help is always appreciated for Portsmouth Pride Day.
- Groups of volunteers are needed for several ongoing projects to form committees for completing specific tasks
- Donations are always welcomed!
Members, Affiliations, and Contact Information
Seacoast Outright is a largely volunteer, grassroots organization
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Facebook at Seacoast Outright
Annual Portsmouth Pride: https://www.seacoastoutright.org/portsmouth-pride-2019-nh
*Source: The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/#sm.0001hln1t51cwkffesogy2nn5ltla