The sensitive process of coming out as LGBTQ+ is deeply personal, can unfold over several years and – even in 2021 – comes with challenges and, sadly, life-threatening risks.

Consider these startling statistics:

  • 86 percent of LGBTQ+ youth report being harassed and even assaulted in school.
  • More than half – 51 percent — of LGBTQ+ individuals say they have been sexually harassed because of their sexuality or gender identity.
  • LGBTQ+ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than non-LGBTQ+ identifying teens.
  • LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and over four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers.
  • LGBTQ+ youth and young adults have a 120% higher risk of becoming homeless – disowned, rejected and abandoned by their families.

October 11 marks National Coming Out Day — a time to celebrate the bravery of all who have come out as LGBTQ+ and to raise critical awareness for the importance of creating safe, affirming spaces for kids and teens through their coming out journey.

At Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS), a group of mental health counselors has opened the door for a unique support group to serve LGBTQ+ kids and teens in this community.

SOGIES stands for Sexual Orientation Gender Identity & Expression Superstars.  The group started when CHS counselors heard a reoccurring theme during their sessions with LGBTQ+ identified youth.

“I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere,” they said.

If your child said that to you with tears in their eyes, you would desperately want to take away that feeling – to create a space where they felt heard, understood, loved and accepted.

So, that’s what we did.

We created a safe space for our kids to connect, to express themselves and to find a community where they not only fit, but flourish.

Just recently, Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s All Children – All Families program recognized CHS — for the third consecutive year — for innovative and inclusive service to LGBTQ+ youth and families.

But we are truly just getting started.

While CHS is a safe space for all children and families, we believe that every place should be a safe place for kids – especially those who are struggling to find acceptance.

CHS is asking local community leaders and organizations to join us in supporting our children in honor of National Coming Out Day. We are grateful for our partners at PFLAG for already stepping in to support these initiatives. If you can offer a word of support or extend an arm into more LGBTQ+ safe spaces, we would love to hear from you – please call (863) 271-6801.