Coming out can be, after years of hiding in the closet, a heady time. And it’s a time when it’s incredibly important to have a support network. In those first months you have to grow up fast – you wouldn’t have had years of preparation, like the straight kids at school, and not only do you have to deal with the emotional side of relating to other LGBT people, you also have to come to terms with your new identity. This is not something that your straight friends can really understand. The aim of the Queer Youth Network is to provide that support with a private social network, Queer Youth Radio, and an organisation that champions youth issues.
The Queer Youth Network was founded in 1999 by David Joseph Henry and CN Lester under the name Queer Youth Alliance. Its objectives have focussed on exploring ways to represent the needs of LGBT youth through campaigning for greater visibility and equal rights as well as providing a support network for those who are in the process of coming out or experiencing homophobia. In the early years it campaigned for the abolition of Section 28, which effectively prevented teachers from supporting pupils who were questioning their sexuality, and equalising the age of consent.
QYN is one of the founding bodies behind the Coalition for Marriage Equality (UK), together with OutRage! and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. It is also active in the Education for All coalition, which is led by Stonewall. David Joseph Henry has been outspoken on the issue of bullying, and described the British education system as an “inherently flawed fossil directly responsible for rising rates of suicide in young men, record number of children on anti-depressant drugs, spiralling anti-social behaviour in particular ‘youth on youth’ crime including bullying activities”. It has also run campaigns to guarantee the rights of trans youth.
In 2009 and 2010, the Queer Youth Network was awarded “Youth Group of the Year” by Pink Paper readers. This is a testament to the work of the volunteers and supporters who have reinforced the principles that the network started out with in 1999.
If you are a young person who needs support or you just want to know more about there organisation you can visit their website here.