Through his foundation, former Vice President Joe Biden has spent his time out of office working on issues like ending violence against women, strengthening the middle class, and supporting military families. Now, the focus is expanding, and the Biden Foundation's LGBTQ youth campaign wants your stories of family, love, and rejection.
The campaign, called "As You Are," launched Tuesday, Aug. 7, with a star-studded YouTube video and an op-ed in The Advocate. The Biden Foundation is asking that you go to their website and share an experience of family or community acceptance or rejection and how it has impacted your life.
The foundation plans to highlight these stories — from LGBTQ youth, their parents, siblings, teachers, social service providers, and others — to change hearts and minds in society by educating the broader public on why acceptance is important and the harm that rejection can cause, whether that's through kicking out a child, sending them to "conversion therapy," or otherwise keeping a supportive LGBTQ community at arm's reach.
"I’m so proud to announce the Biden Foundation has launched this campaign," Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement. “We’ll use our resources to highlight the harms of family rejection—and lift up research, best practices, and personal stories to powerfully show the significant value of family acceptance.”
The Advocate op-ed was penned not by Biden but by Emily Hecht-McGowan, the director of LGBTQ programming at the Biden Foundation. She writes that coming out is one of the key moments in the lives of LGBTQ people, particularly youth and that family members' responses are vital to well-being. And while pro-equality laws can help, projects like this can change culture.
"We can — and should — work to pass laws and implement policies that protect LGBTQ youth across the spectrum of their lives," Hecht-McGowan writes. "But laws and policies are not enough. We must also change hearts and minds. We need to change the culture."
The "As You Are" campaign comes in addition to a collaboration with the YMCA, announced in May 2018, to grow LGBTQ inclusion at locations nationwide for the next three years. At the time, the Biden Foundation explained it was trying to use existing "networks and institutions" to create more LGBTQ acceptance.
This project is the first large-scale undertaking that the Biden Foundation is carrying out on its own — albeit with support from some big names in the LGBTQ community who are on its advisory board, like Judy Shepard, co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation; Dr. Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project; and Amit Paley, CEO & executive director of The Trevor Project.
The experts expressed the need for greater family acceptance, including Paley, who said in a statement that "family acceptance can save lives." He said that gay, lesbian, and bisexual are four times as likely to commit suicide as straight counterparts, and for trans kids it's even higher.
"Forty percent of transgender and gender nonconforming adults report having attempted suicide at some point in their lives, most of them before the age of 25," Paley said. "That’s why it is so important to support LGBTQ youth and let them know that they are not alone."
Biden and his foundation hope that by sharing stories, they can convince young LGBTQ people that they aren't alone.