SAN ANTONIO – Fiesta Youth provides LGBTQ+ youth with a safe space in San Antonio to be real and authentic themselves.
Gay and trans youth experience higher rates of suicidal thoughts, depression and substance abuse, according to the Trevor Project National Health Survey for LBGTQ+ Youth. However, numerous studies show that suicidal ideation is reduced when LBGTQ children are exposed to space that affirms their identity, pronouns, and choice of dress. In San Antonio, that place is Fiesta Youth.
Teens are experiencing a low point in mental health
Sergio Gonzalez, 17, is bisexual. He said he only had friends online at one point.
“Life wasn’t perfect,” Gonzalez said.
Matthew Crow, 13, is transgender and bisexual. He said he was bullied at school because of his identity.
“Like being dragged around relentlessly. It definitely damages you to an extreme degree,” Crow said.
Both teenagers said they struggled to find friends who understood them and their mental health was at an all-time low.
Their feelings deepened after Governor Greg Abbott ordered state officials to investigate parents of transgender children for child abuse.
“I feel like I have a target on my back, like everyone in power is watching my every move,” Crow said. “It’s stressful. It’s especially when it comes to kids who just want to be themselves. People in power won’t let kids just be kids.
Break down statistics
Young LBGTQ+ people experience higher suicide rates than other people their age, according to national and local data.
Nationally, 1 in 5 transgender and non-binary youth have attempted suicide, and LGBTQ+ youth of color have reported higher rates than their white peers, according to the Trevor Project.
San Antonio is experiencing similar trends. According to the survey results, LGBTQ+ and gender-diverse populations reported a higher rate of suicidal thoughts and wanting to harm themselves. The total population reported 28% suicidal ideation. LGBTQ+ youth reported 55% and 58% of gender diverse groups reported having suicidal thoughts.
According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth who felt high social support from their families reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or received moderate social support.
Fiesta Youth helps children thrive
At Fiesta Youth, children can express themselves fully and truly.
“No matter what, I leave thinking, ‘Oh, people really care about me. People would notice if I wasn’t there,” Crow said.
Young people can enjoy crafts and open mic nights, get wellness checks, and meet LGBTQ+ guest speakers in the community.
“They can have skills to move forward, you know, in life, they can have the confidence to experiment with their identity,” said Gideon Del Rio, a Fiesta Youth facilitator.
Gonzalez said the weekly meetings at Fiesta Youth improved his mental health.
“Overall, I feel a lot better because I don’t feel as bottled up as before,” Gonzalez said.
Parents and guardians are invited to meetings to get to know each other. It allows them to share their experiences, meet facilitators and understand what their children are learning.
Find more information about Fiesta Youth programming here.
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