The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Organization reaches out to North Texas teens

Voices fill the pitch-black room of teenagers who are speaking of feelings they can’t ignore: fear of their families, attempts of suicide, drug use and depression. These are the voices heard at Youth First Texas, the only organization in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth (GLBTQ).

“A year after I started working with suicidal teens, I received a phone call from a youth from the center who was home alone and having suicidal thoughts” Bob Miskinis, founder and director of programming at Youth First Texas said. “I told him I was on my way over and stayed on the phone with him while I drove. He asked me where I was, I answered I was five minutes away, then I heard a gun shot.”

Miskinis believes that the boy knew if he reached him he wouldn’t be able to kill himself, so he had to do it then. “I was the last person he talked to, I reached him at some level and I know he wasn’t a failure.” Miskinis knows that situations like this make a center like Youth First Texas a necessity.

In the summer 2008, Youth First Texas conducted a survey of their youth asking about suicide, sexual behavior, family life and coping methods. Of those interviewed, 47 percent have attempted suicide and 33 percent have made a plan to commit suicide in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Thirty percent have exchanged oral sex for drugs or money, 24 percent have been forced to have sexual intercourse, and 16 percent have performed survival sex, meaning they exchanged sex for a place to sleep and eat for a short period of time.

“GLBTQ youth are remarkably underserved,” Youth First Texas volunteer Melanie Pruit said, “school counselors aren’t always much help, not when their response, and this is absolutely true, to rampant bullying is to suggest that maybe the youth would be better served by being swayed to adopt heterosexual behavior which, of course, is a violation of their human rights, since we should all have the reasonable expectation of not being verbally or physically harassed during school.”

For many of the teens, not only at the center but around the world, it is extremely difficult to come out to parents and friends whether due to religious beliefs, pressures from society or pressures from themselves to fit in. Youth First Texas is a place where teens can be themselves without fear of being judged, and can learn to accept themselves and understand who they are as people, instead of being defined by their sexuality.

Youth First Texas has been a type of rescue center for some of their youth. Judith Dumont, the director of administration, recalls her experience of bringing a youth to the center.

“A board member contacted me whose son was at the Pride Institute, a mental health center for GLBTQ, who had met another boy, Tim, who was homeless and suicidal,” she said. “Tim had been kicked out of his home when he came out and was told not to come back. He was tormented at church, having hands put on him to exorcise him of his homosexuality, bullied and beaten at school to the point of dropping out, he self-mutilated, and eventually ended up living on the streets where he was jumped and raped.

“I called Tim and told him ‘we’re here for you’. He called me everyday after that, starting coming to the center for counseling and GED tutoring. Eventually he moved in with the board member and has had no feelings of self-mutilation or suicide since he began coming to the center,” she said.

Chelsea Mauzy, a 20-year-old who has been coming to the center for three years, said, “[Youth First Texas] helped me break my shell and meet other GLBTQ youth who shared the same difficulties in everyday life, such as being bullied at school and coming out to family members. Youth First and the people there have given me the courage to come out to some of my family and to hell with the consequences. If they don’t like my sexuality or me because of it, that’s their loss and their weakness, not mine.”

The mission statement of Youth First Texas is to advocate for North Texas’ gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth through the age of 22 by providing social services, leadership development, educational opportunities and recreational programs. The center has body image groups, a self-defense class, a choir, group night to discuss issues, dinner and movie nights and an open-mic night.

Through all of these activities, Miskinis feels the center is a safe and home-like environment.

“I’m proud of creating a family here, the kids keep coming back because of the family they’ve become a part of,” Miskinis said.

Mauzy reiterated Miskinis’ feelings towards the center when she says “when I walk through the door and see the smiling faces and feel the hugs of my friends it feels more like home than any place I’ve ever been.”

Youth First Texas also prides itself on being a comfort zone for everyone regardless of their sexuality. Charley Scarborough, a 20-year-old who struggled with drug addiction before coming to the center, believes that, “Youth First has really helped me grow as a human these last four years.”

“I’ve learned so many things about myself and the world around me,” Scarborough said. “They open up so many doors and windows of opportunity, and help so much with that god-awful struggle to find where you stand in the world. What’s more, they aren’t exclusively for GLBTQ youth. We will just as soon help a straight ally in a time of need.”

Dumont feels the center is important because she “didn’t realize how damaged these youth are.”

“As a white, straight girl, I didn’t understand the pressure GLBTQ teens go through and how they risk every relationship they have by coming out,” she said. “At Youth First you can come and be yourself, you have a place to let go and breathe into yourself.”

Youth First Texas has been serving and helping the youth of North Texas since November 1999 and hopes to grow and become stronger with volunteers. Miskinis didn’t know what it meant to be bisexual when he was growing up and wants to make sure no youth has to be confused or distraught about their feelings in a society that is still judgmental and discriminatory.

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