New Resource For Iowa's Latinx LGBTQ Teens
A national program is reaching out to Iowa’s Latinx LGBTQ youth with a new resource.
The goal of Q Chat Space is to reduce isolation for LGBTQ teens. The founders discovered Latinx LGBTQ young people in Iowa are especially in need.
Juan Carlos Vega is the Latinx and Spanish language outreach and engagement specialist for Q Chat Space. He said he focused on Iowa because with the majority of the population being white, he noticed most resources for LGBTQ people are also geared toward white communities.
“[Out of] the few LGBTQ resources available, or LGBTQ competent resources in Iowa, very few are really competent to deal with Latinx, Hispanic, immigrant and Spanish speaking communities," Vega said.
Vega said adding a rural environment complicates the outreach.
"Then you add the different backgrounds from where the families come from, why they're here, how they're here, you know? So all those kinds of things make a very stressful family for Latino communities," Vega said. "And then how do we provide safe spaces for those youth within those communities that not only have to deal with the first layer of being LGBTQ youth, but then being a Latina, Latino, Latinx, youth that may not know that much English."
The answer was a bilingual chat room to allow LGBTQ teens aged 13-19 to talk with others in a facilitated, supportive and anonymous environment. Vega said this aspect was extremely important for Latinx youth who may not have as many safe spaces.
Vega explained many times, Latino households can have larger, multigenerational families, so a resource where the teen can text for support allows for more security and privacy.
Deborah Levine, the founder of Q Chat Space, said she wanted to make sure Iowa's Latinx LGBTQ young people had a positive resource as they live through a pandemic.
“We were in the middle of the pandemic planning and launching this new program, because we knew that those youth were even more isolated, and really needed to make sure that this program is in place," Levine said.
She hopes Q Chat Space's national outreach in Iowa will inspire more support systems in the state.
"Online is a great space in which to catch those youth. To be really talking to them before they start to struggle, or as they're initially struggling. But before things become more serious," she said.
Levine said the number of Q Chat Space users has tripled since the initial launch. Now that the program is available in Spanish, she expects even more users as outreach continues.