By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at the first “Federal LGBT Youth Summit” on Monday, praising homosexual youth and reassuring them that they have a staunch friend in the White House.
CNSNews.com is reporting that the conference, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, was held at the Washington Court Hotel in the nation’s capital on Monday and Tuesday of this week. The purpose of the event, according to Sebelius, was to “really tackle the issues facing the LGBT youth in our country.”
Sebelius was introduced at the summit by Pam Hyde, a homosexual member of her staff. Hyde told the youth that Sebelius “gets us” and is “tireless” in her support of LGBT youth.
“Your federal government has finally come out of the closet in support of LGBT youth,” Hyde said. “It’s great to see so many young faces out there, all gay and proud.”
Sebelius went on to congratulate the teens and “20-somethings” who attended the summit and had ample praise for her boss in the White House, who is facing a tough re-election campaign next year.
“Since President Obama took office in January 2009 he has led a commitment, shared by all those in his administration, to make sure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans have a chance to reach their full potential,” Sebelius said. “I want to tell you, you have a friend in this administration, who will stand beside you each and every step along the way,” Sebelius said.
She also said that LGBT youth are more likely to experience depression, thoughts of suicide, have other emotional problems or abuse drugs or alcohol, and blamed these problems on the environment.
“We know these behaviors are not the result of who these young people are,” Sebelius said. “They are the result of what’s happening to them.”
In addition to speeches, which included one from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, CNS is reporting that the two day summit also involved “break-out” sessions that were not open to the media, despite the fact that the summit was sponsored by the Department of Education. Topics for the breakout sessions ranged from bullying to “programs creating safe environments and reducing risk behaviors.”
A large number of gay activist groups were also involved in the summit, including the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network – which was founded by the controversial former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education, Kevin Jennings. The National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Health, the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, the National Education Association, Advocates for Youth, American Federation of Teachers and the Human Rights Campaign also participated.
A packet distributed at the summit included photos by Rachelle Lee Smith, a lesbian activist who also displayed her poster/photos at the invitation of Jennings, Smith told CNS.
One of her photos was of “Max” who tells her story: “In high school I dated boys. I was a straight girl. After starting college, I indentified as a card-carrying dyke. Soon I realized that what I was feeling wasn’t about sexual orientation, it was about gender. I came out as a guy the summer of ’99. Now I live my life as a gay man – a punk rock queer boy who happens to also be in love with a girl. Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll grow a tail.”
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