Philly hosts options for underage GLBT people beyond the bar scene

Several organizations offer up events and services to those GLBT youth who may need help the most.

Several organizations offer up events and services to those GLBT youth who may need help the most.

It was recently brought to my attention that the GLBT spaces I write about, particularly the ones in my last column, are spaces under-21 queer youth cannot enjoy.

I hate to admit when I’m wrong, Qchatters, but the person who pointed this out stands corrected. Since many of you are likely younger than 21, I have failed you.

But more importantly, so has the GLBT Philly scene – more than a fair share of the places in the Gayborhood and any outlier GLBT-friendly scenes are not accessible to those younger than the legal drinking age.

Unless you find solace in Woody’s all-ages Wednesday nights or thoroughly enjoy Café Twelve (formely Brew HaHa) on 12th Street between Locust and Walnut streets, the city tends to be a drag.

This is especially awful considering GLBT youth are ones most in need of safe, fun, supportive spaces.josh fernandez qchat

Lambda Legal, a national organization that advocates for GLBT people and those living with HIV/AIDS, reports that age 16 is the current average for gay and lesbian youth to come out – a significant age drop from the 19-23 age range that studies once cited.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network reported in its 2009 National School Climate Survey that roughly 85 percent of GLBT middle- and high-school students reported being verbally harassed. About 41 percent of these students also reported being physically harassed, and approximately 18 percent reported being physically assaulted at school because of their sexual orientation.

The June 2010 study by the Center for American Progress reported even more depressing statistics on GLBT youth. According to the Center, GLBT youth disproportionately represent more than 39 percent of homeless youth in the United States. Between 1.6 million and 2 million youth experience homelessness each year, according to the study. If that’s true, that means as many as 320,000 to 400,000 GLBT young people are homeless.

These statistics should ignite anger in the collective GLBT community. However, instead of providing youth-specific spaces, our community enjoys the seven or more GLBT friendly bars or clubs in the city.

As a result, GLBT youth at Temple and other nearby universities need to avoid hesitation and turn to the two best environments queer youth could ask for.

The Attic Youth Center, at 255 S. 16th St., is full of friendly faces who want nothing more than to be pillars of support for queer youth. I might be biased because I’m currently interning there, but I genuinely mean it when I say this building and the people who work inside have a special place in my heart for what they do.

Executive Director Carrie Jacobs, Director of Development Alyssa Mutryn and J. Mason, director of the Attic’s Bryson Institute, which provides training workshops on GLBT issues, along with the endless list of people at the Attic, have created a safe social scene for youth in need of a community and a place to build lasting bonds.

The Attic offers weekly support groups, social groups and so much more. Interested queer youth should stop by the building any time after 3 p.m., or visit for more information.

Around the corner from the Attic, at 1315 Spruce St., sits the William Way Community Center. The organization’s web address – – should say enough without me having to go into William Way’s mission statement.

The first time I went to William Way, I was dressed in all black and wore a pink tie. And no, it wasn’t because I was feeling like an emo/goth hipster – I was appropriately dressed for William Way’s annual all-ages spring prom, which was the complete opposite of – but just as fun as – your garden variety, heteronormative senior prom.

William Way offers many more social opportunities for the entire community, and welcomes youth with open arms. Whether it’s “Guys’ Night Out” for gay men, “SisterFire” for queer-identified women or “TransWay” for transwomen, William Way is way gay for the GLBT community, and queer college students shouldn’t hesitate to hop on board.

Queer youth should also seek out the two GLBT-specific Main Campus organizations, Temple Queer Student Union and Purple Circle, if they need something closer to their Temple home. The leaders of both organizations are on top of their game for this school year so far, and members seem more than happy with QSU President Nina Melito, a sophomore biology major, and Purple Circle Founder and President Ash Yezuita, a senior women’s studies major, as well as their respective executive boards.

There aren’t many options until the 21st birthday comes, but that doesn’t make creating a social circle completely impossible.

And as a disclaimer: If anyone ever feels there is a certain group I am forgetting in this column, I encourage you to e-mail me about it. The queer community is a lot for one person to cover, and no one group should be denied the chance to have a voice in this newspaper, especially if the group is Temple family.

Josh Fernandez can be reached at

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