The Biden Foundation, a charitable organization founded by former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, is seeking stories from LGBTQ+ people as part of their new campaign, As You Are: A Family and Community Acceptance Campaign. In their press release, the foundation expressed the initiative as seeking to “raise awareness of the importance of family acceptance in the lives of LGBTQ young people.”
Biden, who is a practicing Catholic, has been outspoken on LGBTQ equality issues. Bondings 2.0 has reported on his criticism of the discriminatory North Carolina bathroom law, as well as the wedding of two former white house staffers, both men, at which he officiated in 2016, among many other actions and statements he has made. With the As You Are campaign, it is clear that Biden intends to continue to use his platform for increased LGBTQ visibility and community support. The press release describes the program:
“The As You Are campaign is collecting personal stories—from LGBTQ youth, parents, siblings, educators, social service providers, coaches, and others—to help educate the broader public about the critical importance of affirming, accepting, and supporting our LGBTQ young people, and the harms these youth face when their families and communities reject them. Because stories like these have incredible power, the Foundation will share these narratives with the hope that they will serve to inspire, to create communities, to heal families, and to change the broader culture to ensure a bright future for all LGBTQ young people.”
In the video announcing the campaign, Biden and a number of leading activists recount the successes the LGBTQ community has won in the past decade, while also focusing on the work that needs to be done in reducing rates of bullying, suicide, and rejection.
“We’ll use our resources to highlight the harms of family rejection,” says Biden in the foundation video. “And lift up research, best practices, and personal stories to show the importance of family acceptance.”
Arit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, is a member of the Biden Foundation’s LGBTQ advisory council. In the press release, he give statistics showing the urgency of this project:
“Family acceptance can save lives. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth are more than four times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide. And 40% of transgender and gender nonconforming adults report having attempted suicide at some point in their lives, most of them before the age of 25. That’s why it is so important to support LGBTQ youth and let them know that they are not alone.”
Dr. Caitlyn Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project, sees similar long-term benefits of encouraging families sharing their stories and supporting the LGBTQ young people in their lives:
“Our research shows that LGBTQ young people who are accepted by their families are healthier, have higher self-esteem and are much less likely to report depression, abuse substances or attempt suicide. Family acceptance is like a vaccine that protects their LGBTQ child with love and helps them deal more effectively with challenges, adversity and stigma.”
The importance of acceptance among religious communities is noted by Judy Shepard, co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. She and Dr. Ryan are also members of the advisory council. Shepard stated:
“No matter who you are, where you live, or how you pray, surely we can all agree that we ought to live in a society where all our young people are supported and affirmed. It’s not enough to change laws and policies. We have to change hearts and minds.”
Shepard’s words and the aims of this initiative come as a powerful reminder that all faith communities have a responsibility to support and care for the young people in their midst. Sharing stories by LGBTQ Catholics is essential in recognizing all members of the church family, and we are all stronger for hearing them. To submit a reflection to the As You Are campaign, please visit the ‘share your story’ page on the Biden Foundation website.
—Catherine Buck, New Ways Ministry, August 30, 2018