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Social media can be a safe space for LGBTQ youth 

Whether on Instagram, YouTube or TikTok, queer youth are able to connect with stories and insight that they not only relate to, but can use to help cope with and resolve their own struggles. 



With all the bad press social media gets when it comes to teens, its significant benefits to LGBTQ youth – including relating to others like themselves – can be overlooked, mental health experts and queer teens say.  

Members of racial and ethnic groups who have long been underrepresented or misrepresented in the media often say they find it empowering to follow and watch influencers with whom they can relate. In turn, they feel more understood and accepted. 

Queer social media influencers are willing to talk about topics general audiences may be uninterested in, but what can be frequent occurrences in the queer community, such as disrespect, bullying, misgendering and loneliness. Influencers draw from their own life experiences. Whether on Instagram, YouTube or TikTok, queer youth are able to connect with stories and insight that they not only relate to, but can use to help cope with and resolve their own struggles. 

 A September 2022 meta-analysis of 26 studies in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found social media may help LGBTQ youth with connection to LGBTQ communities,  identity management and support from peers, which all contribute to better mental health and well-being. However, researchers concluded that more robust studies are needed. 

Don McClain is a 16-year-old Baltimore youth advocate, social media entrepreneur and artist of multiple mediums, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. They said it’s important for them to “be able to engage with queer influencers because it shows me that it’s okay to be authentically me.” 

“It makes me feel loved and even makes me smile,” they said. “Seeing people like you always helps.”  

McClain’s favorite queer influencers include Jewish social justice and LGBTQ+ activist Matt Bernstein, who has 1.3 million Instagram followers, trans woman Zaya Perysian, who chronicled her transition on TikTok, where she has 4.5 million followers and Ve’ondre Mitchell, a trans woman with 6.6 million TikTok followers who is an advocate for Black and transgender people. 

Engaging with queer content creators can help viewers with acceptance, reassurance, and even safety. And it can provide answers to the questions that frequently overwhelm queer youth.  

Washington, D.C.-based clinical psychotherapist Rose Shelton, who owns Your Thought Center in Washington, D.C. and often treats LGBTQ patients, discussed mental health trends in queer youth.  

”Questions around self-worth, anxiety – usually associated around acceptance – violence and violent response…contribute to high levels of depression,” said Shelton. 

She also cited insecurity around who’s “a real ally,” “a verbal ally” and “an actual actionable ally.”  

This can have deadly consequences.  

Forty-five percent of LGBTQ youth seriously contemplated attempting suicide between September of 2020 and December 2021, according to survey of LGBTQ youth conducted in late 2021 by the LGBTQ suicide-prevention nonprofit The Trevor Project. The survey also found that 78% experienced symptoms of anxiety in the past year and 58% experienced symptoms of depression. 

Of the LGBTQ youth surveyed by The Trevor Project, 45% were of color and 48% identified as transgender or nonbinary. 

The study, released last year,  also found that 89% of LGBTQ youth reported that seeing LGTBQ representation in TV and movies made them feel good – a key indicator of the importance of representation to queer youth and seeing yourself reflected in the media. 

“The fact that very simple things — like support from family and friends, seeing LGBTQ representation in media and having your gender expression and pronouns respected — can have such a positive impact on the mental health of an LGBTQ young person is inspiring, and it should command more attention in conversations around suicide prevention and public debates around LGBTQ inclusion,” Amit Paley, Trevor Project’s CEO, wrote about the survey.  

These serious trends in mental illness for queer youth are influenced by a variety of factors, but a primary issue is not feeling accepted, which is largely due to a lack of acceptance at home, the report concluded. The lack of adequate representation in media including television and film makes matters worse.  

Representation is important, but incomplete if it does not accurately paint a whole picture, experts say. Representation in traditional media, such as in books, films, and shows for the queer community often presents a portrayal that’s different from reality. In roles beyond the typical typecast queer character, the focus is usually on sensationalizing the struggle to come out or the struggle to combat anti-LGBTQ action.  

Canadian writer Katelyn Thomson published an analysis of LGBTQ representation in TV and film in 2021 in Ontario-based Wilfrid Laurier University’s Undergraduate journal, Bridges.  

“Ultimately, anxious displacement is how TV shows try to ‘normalize’ the lives of LGBT characters,” Thomson wrote. “However, the process ends up taking away from the identity of the LGBT characters and enforces negative codified stereotypes of LGBT people and their lives.” 

While film and television depictions of the community can cause inaccurate portrayals, having queer representation is crucial to queer youth to feel accepted and allow them explore different identities and expressions. 

 “When used correctly, media can be a vital tool for representing, accepting, and discussing minority groups in society,” Thomson said. 

McClain agrees.  

“I believe queer youth can be better represented in the media through the displaying of our stories and breaking the stigma around our everyday existence,” they said. “For instance, we need more accurately queer characters and not the ones who are poorly stereotyped.” 

So while there is frustration with social media, there are benefits too, especially because it lacks some of the flaws that can arise with queer representation in other forms of media, experts say. Social media can help break through the often one dimensional narratives and depictions of the community presented in film and television through its authenticity. Rather than the creation of a writer or director, it is more often an expression of raw authenticity. Queer influencers shouldn’t be taken as a way of how you should feel, how you should present yourself or how you should look, but instead as a way of seeing that there are many ways of doing so, making it beneficial to follow multiple queer influencers. 

“I think sometimes the reason it’s important for social media, instead of…through media itself, is that media also has its own bias,” Shelton said. “And it loves to create stories and narrations and create characters out of people. So with social media, a lot of times people are just presenting their true self.” 

Through different faces, forms, and presentations, queer influencers offer an impressive look at queer culture and talent. Here’s a look at some of them: 

Noah Schnapp (He/Him)  

The 18 year old actor, Noah Schnapp, is mainly known for his role as Will in the wildly popular Netflix series, Stranger Things. Noah is not only known for his acting, but also his very popular TikTok and Instagram accounts. He has cultivated more than 50 million followers between both accounts, where he often posts funny videos, TikTok dances and pictures with his castmates and friends. The Gen Z star recently came out as gay, sparking many of his co-stars, friends and fans to share their positive messages to Noah on social media. Seeing celebrities congratulated for accepting and embracing their sexuality helps other queer youth feel not only more represented in their favorite media but also confident in themselves knowing that their sexuality is something to celebrate and share. 

Bretman Rock (He/Him) 

Bretman Rock is a 24 year old Filipino beauty influencer, who is openly gay. He currently lives and produces content from Honolulu, Hawaii. His YouTube channel, which has more than 8 million subscribers, includes comedic lifestyle and beauty videos along with content including his family, friends and collaborations with other influencers. He also has over 18 million followers on Instagram as well. His charismatic and energetic personality and loyal fan base has helped him win many influencer awards and become the first gay man on the cover of Playboy magazine.  

Tom Daley (He/Him) 

The British gold medalist diver and openly gay 28 year-old has become famous not only for his incredible athletic capability but also his internet personality. He has over 3.2 million followers on instagram and is known for his lifestyle, cooking and knitting content. He is a father to one child, married to American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and very open and proud of his sexuality. 

Dylan Mulvaney (She/They) 

The 26 year old trans influencer began to rise to fame on TikTok with their viral series, “Days of Girlhood” that documents each day of Dylan’s transition. The series began to become so popular it has helped Dylan generate 10.8 million followers on TikTok. Beyond being a content creator on TikTok, Dylan is also an actress, comedian, model and trans rights activist who was recently featured in what’s been described as a “polarizing partnership” with Bud Light.  

Sarah Schauer (She/They) 

Sarah Schauer is a popular queer social media influencer known for her Instagram and TikTok accounts, YouTube videos and podcasts with influencer Brittany Broski. She is also known for her previous Vine account. Sarah’s lifestyle and comedic videos helped her grow her fan base into what it is today – more than 3 million on the three social media platforms combined. 

Emily Hawkins and Shane Gomez are juniors at Annandale High School working with the DMV-based Youthcast Media Group. YMG founder and former USA TODAY health policy reporter Jayne O’Donnell contributed to this report.  



Fathers should speak to kids about drugs, alcohol

Highlight dangers of illicit substances, how to manage peer pressure



What does it take to be a good father? While there are many answers, it generally involves showing up daily, playing an essential role in their life, being there for them, and loving them unconditionally. 

Fathers are there to provide abundant love and support. Most fathers know the sacrifice it takes to ensure their children are loved and cared for. A father is always there for their kids, offering guidance, support, and education. The greatest joy for any father is seeing their children thrive, do well in life, and be healthy. 

However, things can get derailed in life, and teens and young adults take risks, such as experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Fathers have a responsibility to speak to their kids about drugs and alcohol and help them understand the risks and consequences. 

Data has shown that more than half of LGBTQ youth used alcohol in the last year, and more than one in three LGBTQ youth used marijuana in the previous year. Approximately 11% of LGBTQ youth reported regular use (defined as daily or weekly use) of both alcohol and marijuana.

Illegal drugs today are more readily available than ever before. According to the DEA, drug traffickers have turned smartphones into a one-stop shop to market, sell, buy, and deliver deadly fake prescription pills and other drugs. Amid this ever-changing age of social media influence, kids, teens, and young adults are easily influenced.  

Drug traffickers advertise on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. The posts are promptly posted and removed with code words and emojis used to market and sell illicit drugs. Unfortunately, digital media provides an increased opportunity for both marketing and social transmission of risk products and behaviors. 

Fathers are responsible for protecting and preparing our children for the world. Drug education is essential. Take the time to speak to your kids about the dangers of illicit substances, how to avoid and manage peer pressure, and what to look for. Be prepared to share personal experiences and help them understand that some choices have consequences. 

However, it can be challenging to see our kids struggle with things in life, and as fathers, we can also face our own difficulties, making it more difficult to help our children. The responsibility of raising children can be a lot; there are many challenges along the way, and the pressure of being a good influence can get the best of us. 

All of this makes it vital not to ignore our mental health; children, especially younger kids, mimic what they see. How we cope with frustration, anger, sadness, or isolation impacts our children in several ways. 

Our actions have consequences. Children see how we handle every situation, and while no father is perfect, we must be conscious of the fact they are impressionable when they are young. They look up to us, mimic our actions, and see when we are doing well in life mentally.   

The key for fathers caring for children is to take the time to care for themselves. However, if you are struggling, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Taking care of your mental health is the same as taking care of your physical health; it is an integral part of your well-being and contributes to you being the best father you can be.

Nickolaus Hayes is a healthcare professional in the field of substance use and addiction recovery and is part of the editorial team at DRS. His primary focus is spreading awareness by educating individuals on the topics surrounding substance use.

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In debate, Biden must stay on offense

President needs more lines like ‘I am running against a 6-year-old’



President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

On June 27, President Joe Biden will debate the man he has called a six-year-old. A great line, and he needs a few more like that. Unless there is a clear stumble by either candidate, we know what they will say. Trump will call Biden ‘sleepy Joe,’ among other names. But the reality is, people are used to it. They are not as used to Biden returning the favor. And Biden, aside from referring to Trump as a convicted felon, needs some lines that will make headlines the next day. Something with a little humor in it, but still making a strong point. 

Trump is scary. The recent column in the Washington Post on how Russ Vought, the former president’s budget director, is laying the groundwork for a broad expansion of presidential powers, is truly frightening. Now if it were me, I would be able to use my usual litany of words when referring to Trump: racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic pig, found liable for sexual assault, and convicted felon. I may even go as far as suggesting society replace the word felon with “Trump.” People at trials could be convicted of 34 “Trumps.” But Biden can’t really use that. Maybe Biden can do something like look him in the eye and say, “You can’t really believe all the BS you keep spouting!” Then add, “The world is a complicated place, and even most six-year-olds seem to have a better understanding and grasp of it than you do.” 

Then there is the focus on the very serious part of the debate. The discussion of issues including the economy, abortion, contraception, and foreign policy. Reminding people, it was Trump who killed the immigration bill in Congress, telling energy billionaires if they raise him a billion dollars, in essence bribe him, they can “drill baby drill.” The president needs to speak to African Americans, Latinos, women, and the young. He needs to tell each of those groups what will happen if the six-year-old he is running against, were to become president again. 

Then he needs to look directly into the camera and say to the audience at home, “It isn’t only Trump you need to fear, it is the people he will surround himself with. His sycophants and cult, who will let him get revenge on anyone who says a word against him.” You can count on the fact it will be much worse than the last time around when he tried to stage a coup, because no decent person will work for him.

The first debate will take place 18 weeks before the Nov. 5 election. So much can change between then and the election. Remember when we talked about an October surprise? In today’s world there could be July, August, and September surprises as well. Between now and election day we will be treated to an overload of polling, most of it wrong. We will read hundreds of headlines, many of them clickbait. If you watch TV you will get to listen to hundreds of talking heads, many knowing no more than you. The difference being, they are being paid to spout off on the election, giving not facts, but their opinions. 

It seems every four years we hear this could be the most important, the most crucial, election of our lifetime. Well, this time those who say it just may be telling the truth. One candidate, convicted of 34 “Trumps,” is telling you he will be a dictator, and using Hitler’s words. He has the likes of Russ Voight advising him, and openly says he will seek revenge. Nothing could be more frightening. He is telling the young he doesn’t care about climate change, and telling the poor their programs will be cut because he will cut taxes for the rich.  

He calls our soldiers, those who sacrificed their lives and died in wars, “suckers and losers.” He called John McCain “a war hero because he was captured,” saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.” This frightening, sick man, with the world view of a warped six-year-old, will lead the United States if we aren’t willing to stand up to him, and his MAGA cult. Yes, I am afraid! And you should be too! If you are a woman, a minority, a member of the LGBTQ community, or just poor, be scared, be very afraid! If Trump and his cult win, you will lose what little you think you now have.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Why you should celebrate pride with a musical about GenderCannibalism?

Rose: You Are What You Eat, through June 23 at Woolly Mammoth.



Photo courtesy of Woolly Mammoth.

Because when I came out as trans my aunt told me it was because I ate my twin in the womb…and that’s what the show is about

Because…remember that time when you decided to dress like exactly like your older sister; or you stole your mothers’ makeup or your brother’s tie; or you decided to dress up like Katherine Hepburn for halloween when you were (i dunno) 10; or you started to look eerily like your lover…..that’s all gender cannibalism

Because because because because because….” because if you know that song this was made for you…and if you don’t…it’s okay, we’ll work on it

Because you can probably find a cute date at the show irl instead of just swiping in your phone…think of theater as an in person dating app without as much drunkenness as the bar

Because maybe that cute date is me

Because you can sing along to music written by a bunch of queers from Philly and D.C. 

Because we are all so hungry and so so thirsty 

Because I guarantee you will leave feeling fed

Because cannibalism puns are tasty

Because it’s a comedy

Because there are pay-what-you-can tickets

Because it plays all of June

Because we are consuming gender all the time but rarely watching what and how we eat it 

Because it’s an anti-assimilationist endeavor: the corporations can’t co-opt “gender cannibalism” for pride month (but there is merchandise available at the show…)

Because it’s only 75 minutes

Because I dance around in tighty whities with socks on my hands

Because there is a free clothing swap and treats in the gallery next to the show

Because why not?

Because you will be cast as my Mother, and that’s the role of a lifetime (or at least my lifetime)

Because you won’t know what will happen; you can’t pause or rewind the show; you will be taking a risk; you will find it’s more than just entertainment; you will feel me talking right to you

Because I’ve been writing this show for 34 years and am finally ready to share it with you

Because I’ll be in the lobby afterwards to say hi, and receive hugs, stories, and phone numbers 

Because I made this piece for you, my dear deviants, trans folx, genderful ones and for the people that care for us. It is a good laugh and a good cry and meant as a gift, a way to end your day feeling loved, nourished and worthy

Because don’t you want to be nourished and reminded that you are loved and worthy? 

And frankly because art needs you to survive and you need art to thrive

Because I took the time to write this letter to you and you took the time to read it, and neither you nor I want to waste that investment

Because you won’t want to miss it

Get tickets to Rose: You Are What You Eat, playing through June 23rd.

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