In the time of COVID, LGBTQ+ youth, families still have a place to ‘go’
By Sarah Connor
The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously brought numerous challenges to families everywhere. However, for families of LGBTQ+ youths, the pandemic has been eye-opening for multiple reasons. Here in Syracuse, many of these families have found support through the Q Center, a resource and support center overseen by ACR Health.
Karen Fuller, a family peer advocate at the Q Center Central New York, says that the times of quarantine and isolation have caused many parents to take a closer look at the struggles of their queer children.
“Parents, one-on-one with me, will share that during this time [kids need help],” said Fuller, likely due to the extra time spent together. “I’ve heard from so many families since March. I used to get maybe two to three families a month. And now I’m seeing at least two to three every week.”
Fuller offers family group therapy for transgender youth and parents. The center also offers other forms of counseling, as well as testing for STDs, HIV and Hepatitis C testing.
In addition to testing, the Q Center promotes the well-being of the local queer community through after-school drop-in programs, support groups for families and special pride events. For LGBTQ+ youth who have been displaced from their homes or are in need of healthcare assistance, the Q Center also offers case management to aid with housing, mental health services, medical care and other needs.
Living with social distancing and other concerns, brings difficulties to all of us. But what is often overlooked is the mental impact the pandemic can have on people. LGBTQ+ youth are already at a higher risk for mental illnesses than others, making the Q Center’s services crucial.
“Families are realizing, ‘OK, I need to start supporting my child, I need to find connection, I need support for myself,’ so we’re continuing to do that,” Fuller said. “We’re providing condoms through the mail, because again, that’s really important. And we are still able to do STI and HIV testing.”
Like other organizations during this time, services offered by the Q Center look a little different right now. The center is currently closed; only open for pre-scheduled STD testing. However, all other services are available virtually through Zoom, including weekly support groups for both youth and parents. Mail-order safe sex kits are also offered, as well as queer life events, provided in collaboration with the local domestic violence support center Vera House. Virtual drop-ins are open for ages 13 to 24 from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, and a weekly support group for transgender youth is offered virtually from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. each Wednesday.
Though the pandemic introduced hardships for the Q Center, the staff has found its way back on their feet. After 27 of the 70 ACR Health staffers were furloughed early in the pandemic, all 27 were rehired by early August. According to Fuller, the clients of the Q Center have been incredibly grateful for the support offered throughout this unprecedented time.
“I have seen a lot of appreciation that we’re still working,” she said of the shift the Q Center has made during the pandemic. “At the start of this, it’s been a place for everyone to express all the concerns — with racial tension, politics and school. We just focus on living today in today’s world with everything going on.”
Sarah Connor is a Newhouse School graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism program. She is an alum of the University of Pittsburgh. Reach out to Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: 835 Hiawatha Blvd West in Syracuse
Phone: (315) 701-2431
After hours support: Call (888) 475-2437
To join a virtual support group, contact QCenterCNY@ACRHealth.org or call (315) 475-2430