janitor to the gods. ♥
I wrote the following as a reply in a thread about Google offering free coding lessons to women and minorities. The post I was replying to was one of several which seemed to cast such offerings as a form of reverse racism, needless in modern society. I reply from the point of view of a bisexual male extensive experience offering services to & advocating for minorities, including queer youth.
One of my first jobs out of/during high school was interning at LYRIC maintaining/creating their information infrastructure & open computer lab. Many of the clients served at my location were queer youth in poverty, some of whom came in directly from during tricks in the park across the street.
Others on staff offered jobs training courses and c.v. help, and many of our clients wound up using the lab to send out c.v’s and find jobs that didn’t place them at high risk of crime and STD’s. Many had no other safe place to be (bringing them to the LYRIC building and youth programs in general, not just the computer lab). Not all were homeless and not all were in poverty, but many were in group homes or housing environments that didn’t do a good job at sustaining them.
If not for an LGBTQQ-specific youth center, most would never have come upon job assistance/placement/etc. These were not first-tier services much of the time - many youth discovered them in the course of showing up for the general youth groups (which, across varying programs, could mean from 12 to 24, usually within age-appropriate groups).
So yeah, in principle it would be nice to have these services for the community at large, but in reality you have to satisfy considerations like “Is this going to be a safe atmosphere,” “Does this provide services that poverty or other considerations might exclude the constituency from,” etc. before you can just plop services out there and assume that one size will fit all.
I was very much the exception - I was out in high school, the only out student at my various schools at the time, and was lucky enough to have a good parents and a good support mechanism at home. I went on to be on staff at LYRIC after my internship ended, as well as serving on a mayoral task force on GLBTQQ youth issues, lobbying state legislature, helping to organize and host GLBTQQ youth lobby days, and going on to work for the San Francisco Youth Commission as well as a nonprofit law firm specifically serving youth in poverty. I worked to create the infrastructure that I saw firsthand the world needed.
And having seen it from the other side of the equation, it’d be cool if all people were bootstrappy and helped the world to become the place they needed it to be, but many are likely to slip through the cracks as a statistic without these sorts of specific support mechanisms. The reality does not satisfy your expectations - this need exists, especially for communities up against the weight of social expectation and prejudice from day one.
Anyone who knows my politics knows that I am not kind to people of any demographic who expect the world to change to suit their whim rather than changing to suit the world. To cite a prominent recent-ish example, I thought Adria Richards was full of shit. But it does not create inequality to make inroads in offering services that historically have not existed for peoples who have been historically excluded by accident of birth, class, family wealth, or other factors beyond their control.