Help arrives at College for youth questioning their sexuality

If you had asked Jeanne Stanley two years ago about attempts to establish shelters for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youths in Philadelphia, the last thing she would have predicted would have been the support of a local Lutheran church.

Sure enough, though, the well-established and well-connected Lutherans were able to help turn the idea for a shelter into a reality, and it hasn’t stopped there: They continue to host programs to educate people on LGBTQ issues.

Stanley shared this anecdote and more when she came to the College on Feb. 7 to give a presentation entitled “Resiliency and Support for LGBTQ Youth.”

She discussed not only her work with agencies to provide support for LGBTQ youths who may feel ostracized at home or in school, but also her soon-to-be-published psychological research on what factors actually affect the self-esteem and resiliency of those who seek help from such agencies.

Stanley’s research identified three “protective factors” as being especially important for the resiliency of LGBTQ youth: the mother’s support of the youth’s newfound sexuality/sexual identity, the support of non-LGBTQ friends and the support found in schools through groups such as the Gay-Straight Alliance.

Stanley conducted the study at the Attic Youth Center (AYC), which describes itself on its Web site as “Philadelphia’s only agency exclusively serving LGBTQ youth.”

Stanley works as a consultant and trainer at the Bryson Institute, a division of the AYC that “offers workshops that provide information and strategies to help support LGBTQ youth more effectively” to schools, churches and other groups, according to its Web site.

During her presentation, Stanley related how she was occasionally turned away when offering free training. In one situation, AYC members were able to provide training to an initially-unwilling school only after some grassroots campaigning was aimed at the district’s parents.

A question and answer period followed Stanley’s presentation.

Evan-James Joannides, sophomore accounting major from Rutgers University, asked Stanley why separate labels were used to refer to gay men and lesbians whereas heterosexual males and females were both referred to as “straight.”

Stanley explained that the difference seemed to be because of the different issues that affect gay men as opposed to lesbians.

She offered as an example the different perceptions that would result from two women hugging as opposed to two men.