Press Advisory



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 9, 2008

Press Contact: Marisa Ragonese, 718-204-5955 (w) or 917-428-0250 (c)
or via email at  MRagonese@QueensCommunityHouse.org


LGBT Youth Drop-in Center Responds to Gay-Bashers Assault
on Astoria Priest

In aftermath of Monday’s assault on Father Braxton, Director of Carmen’s Place, a homeless shelter for LGBT youth, participants gather to discuss hostility they face daily in school and in the streets of Queens

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Astoria, NY – On Thursday, July 10th at 3 PM, youth participants of Queens Community House’s Generation Q, the sole drop-in center for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) youth in Queens, as well as residents of Carmen’s Place a homeless shelter that serves the same population, are holding a press conference in front of Carmen’s Place, located at 31-14 Steinway Street. Father Lewis Braxton, director of Carmen’s Place, was attacked in front of the shelter by four teenaged boys on Monday night after stepping in to defend one of the residents of the shelter who was being harassed and threatened.



“I’m shocked that this happened on such a busy street,” said Father Braxton. “This speaks to the need for a real conversation about the safety of trans people in this city.



With somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identifying as LGBT and statistics showing that LGBT youth are 3 to 5 times more likely to commit suicide, this shelter meets an essential need. These young people, many of whom have been thrown out of their homes, depend on safe havens like Carmen’s Place and Generation Q to fulfill their emotional, psychological and social needs, and in the case of those without homes, their most basic needs.



The youth at Generation Q would like to take this opportunity, while there is a spotlight on the homophobic assaults in Queens, to speak directly to the media and public about the dangers they face daily and the need for hate crimes law, school-based initiatives such as Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) that focus on prevention of hate crimes as well as interventions of identity-based bullying, and funding for safe havens like Carmen’s Place and Generation Q.



“This attack is not isolated or an aberration” states Marisa Ragonese, the director of Generation Q. “Our youth come in here frequently with stories of being spit on, chased, harassed, or hit as they travel from the train less than 2 full blocks away to Generation Q.



In response to the harassment that LGBT teens have been reporting for years and the city and state’s failure to implement the (DASA), Generation Q facilitates workshops, free of charge, to schools, after-school programs, and community spaces on homophobia, hate speech, confronting harassment, and developing anti-slur policies. They also strive to create a safe space for LGBT and allied youth facing discrimination, harassment, and assault on a regular basis.



However, attacks such as this one further demonstrate that there is a great need for increased services to protect this vulnerable population. More resources would allow community-based organizations to keep drop-in centers open for longer, and open them in more locations, as well as the opportunity to provide educational, leadership, and social services for the hundreds of youth in the city’s largest and most diverse borough.



“I shouldn’t have to feel afraid to walk down the street with my partner because of people who don’t want to accept homosexuality,” says Shanel Ford, a 17 year-old Astoria resident who works at Generation Q.