Amid growing national uncertainty about the security of LGBTQ rights, Rochester must stand firm as a national leader in providing services to and defending the rights of our LGBTQ citizens. There are several things we can and must do to ensure our LGBTQ residents have equal access to programs and services that provide the same quality of life afforded to the rest of our community.
Emphasis on LGBTQ Youth
Rochester can and must do more to support LGBTQ youth, a disturbing percentage of whom are homeless. This would be accomplished by a Sheppard administration in the following ways:
● Lead a local coalition that includes the Center for Youth, the GAGV, the RCSD, local faith groups, and other community partners in working to eliminate youth homelessness within 4 years, with a prime focus being LGBTQ youth.
○ Ensure a special emphasis on support structures for transgender youth, who are especially prone to violence and homelessness and are at a much higher risk for suicide and depression.
● Open an LGBTQ youth homeless shelter. Such a facility would provide counseling, medical, educational, and logistical support services geared specifically towards struggling LGBTQ youth. Such a shelter would only be possible with effective, sustained leadership and engagement involving the entire Rochester community.
● Partner with the RCSD and other allies such as Planned Parenthood to promote programs and services to dramatically reduce STD rates, especially HIV, among LGBTQ youth.
● Provide any and all resources to ensure local groups are maximizing state and federal financial assistance for LGBTQ youth programs. If these resources aren’t enough, City Hall will work aggressively with community partners to ensure vital services for LGBTQ youth are not threatened by changes in federal policy.
● Work with the Boys and Girls Clubs and other community partners to establish and LGBTQ Youth Mentorship Program to provide positive role models to youth who often have none.
Ban Conversion Therapy
The safety of our youth should be one of our highest priorities, yet LGBTQ youth often face a lack of acceptance and understanding from those closest to them. Extreme cases include being forced to undergo dangerous and destructive ‘treatments’ to ‘cure’ their ‘illness,’ often times resulting in depression and even suicide. Sexual orientation and gender expression are not ‘curable’ diseases, but a fundamental part of the human fabric. As Mayor, James Sheppard will introduce strong anti-conversion therapy legislation, similar to laws passed in Cinncinati and Miami, to ensure that no LGBTQ youth is forced into harmful and baseless efforts to change their sexual orientation or gender expression.
Focus on LGBTQ Seniors
Rochester must provide all necessary support to the rapidly growing LGBTQ senior community.
● Senior housing options must exist for LGBTQ seniors, and City Hall will work with community partners such as SAGE to ensure Rochester has the right housing options for everyone to feel comfortable and secure.
● LGBTQ seniors face specific medical and health obstacles, especially a rapidly growing number of HIV positive seniors. City Hall must ensure all necessary support services are available for this particularly vulnerable population.
● Facilitate outreach for LGBTQ seniors to mentor LGBTQ youth, especially homeless youth, providing intergenerational support that benefits both communities.
Equal Access for LGBTQ Rochesterians of Color
LGBTQ Rochestarians often face obstacles large and small in their day-to-day lives, yet these obstacles can be even more devastating when they occur at the intersection of race and ethnicity. As Mayor, James Sheppard will advocate for and advance the rights of our LGBTQ neighbors of color by:
● Ensuring that MOCHA and other advocacy groups focused on the intersection of race and sexuality have a voice in City Hall and a seat at the table when it comes to issues of LGBTQ health, legal protections, and community support.
● Due to barriers of resources and acceptance, critical medical and emotional support may be unavailable when needed most by our LGBTQ neighbors, especially those of color. A James Sheppard administration will establish strong partnerships with Trillium Health, URMC, and other outreach groups to address the spread of HIV and other STDs in not only the broader LGBTQ community, but specifically LGBTQ communities of color and to ensure every Rochestarian has access to the medical resources and support they need to live happy, productive lives.
As Mayor, James Sheppard will bring the visionary, inclusive, community-based leadership that is critical to ensure every LGBTQ citizen feels welcomed and empowered in our city.