Seven Jamaica Plain residents were sworn in for new terms on the Massachusetts Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth on June 20 at the Massachusetts State House, in a ceremony with state Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders to recognize the Commission’s 25th anniversary.
“Contrary to perceptions of Massachusetts as a safe haven for LGBTQ youth, we know that queer young people continue to experience bullying, homelessness, criminalization, and lack of access to sexual health information,” said Tanekwah Hinds, Jamaica Plain resident and chair of the Commission’s Community Relations Committee. “We have a responsibility, as a community and as a state, to ensure that LGBTQ youth can thrive across the Commonwealth and right here in JP.”
Governor William Weld swore in the first members of what was then the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth in June of 1992, in response to high suicide rates among LGBTQ young people. Today, the Commission remains the first and only entity of its kind in the country.
“For 25 years, the LGBTQ Youth Commission has played a critical role in the continued struggle for equal rights and protections for our young LGBTQ people all across the Commonwealth,” said state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-2nd Suffolk. “I am proud of my constituents in Jamaica Plain and the South End who have taken up the charge to keep building a better world and a more equal Massachusetts.”
“The Massachusetts Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth does the hard policy work to preserve and advance LGBTQ civil rights,” said state Rep. Liz Malia, D-11th Suffolk. “While we’ve made civil rights gains, with groups like homeless youth, we continue to see the policy and service gaps that need addressing. The Commission has done an admirable job in a necessary role, and I sincerely thank them for guiding the Commonwealth in targeted ways to set LGBTQ youth up for success.”
Commission members work each year with state agencies, schools, and community organizations to advance policies and programs for LGBTQ youth to thrive.
They also draft a set of policy recommendations to state agencies, which were released at the ceremony. This year’s recommendations focus on themes of policy, training, and data collection to address persistent disparities in housing stability, violence and victimization, and health and education outcomes for LGBTQ young people.
Members who are serving their first terms on the Commission include Tanekwah Hinds and Steph Barrak. In addition, members returning to the Commission to serve new terms are Paul Gels, Rachel Kahn, Brett Nava-Coulter, and Erika Rickard.