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GLBT Community Center of Colorado offers safe space, resources for at-risk youth

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The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado (The Center) is deeply troubled by the recent suicides of five gay teens nationally because of suspected bullying and harassment.

The five teens who took their own lives are: Raymond Chase, 19, a student at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island; Tyler Clementi, 18, a Rutgers University student; Seth Walsh, 13, of Tehachapi, California; Billy Lucas, 15, of Greensburg, Indiana; and Asher Brown, 13, of Houston, Texas.

"It's tragic that these young men with so much life ahead of them took their own lives because of anti-gay bullying and harassment. Our hearts go out to their families and friends," said Center Executive Director Carlos Martinez. "These unfortunate events serve as a reminder that all students should be treated with dignity and respect, and that we need to ensure that anti-bullying policies in schools and universities are followed and enforced."

Unfortunately, suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth is nothing new. LGBTQ youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey. And for every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made, according to the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey.

In Colorado, 70 percent of more than 300 LGBTQ youth surveyed by The Center in 2010 reported being called names and not feeling safe at their school. Nearly 40 percent reported that they have contemplated suicide.

The good news is that there are many organizations locally providing services and resources for LGBT youth. The Center's Rainbow Alley -- a drop-in center for LGBT and questioning youth ages 12-21, their families and allies -- experienced an average of 600 visits a month in 2009.

Rainbow Alley provides health services, counseling and referral, youth-led events and activities, and life resources in a safe and supportive space.

Also, Rainbow Alley each year hosts Queer Prom so LGBTQ youth have a safe space to celebrate the popular rite of spring. The Alley also hosts Gaybutante -- modeled after the debutante tradition -- where LGBTQ gaybutantes share their inspiring coming-out stories in front of a group of caring and supportive adults. This year's Gaybutante celebration is Saturday, Oct. 9, at 6 p.m. at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel.

In addition, Rainbow Alley staff work closely with high schools' Gay-Straight Alliance organizations and various community service organizations to prevent anti-gay bullying in schools.

Other resources available to Colorado LGBTQ youth include the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, LGBT centers and alliances in Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Grand Junction, the Colorado chapter of The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, the Gender Identity Center of Colorado, OASOS (Open & Affirming Sexual Orientation & gender identity Support) in Boulder; LGBT student centers on college campuses and many others.

The GLBT Community Center of Colorado is the only statewide, nonprofit community center dedicated to empowering and advancing Colorado's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population. It serves as a catalyst for community organizing, support services, social activities and cultural events. To learn more about Rainbow Alley and The Center, please go to our web site at www.glbtcolorado.org.

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