By Executive Director Lisa Olcese
June 30, 2016

In light of recent events, I feel it necessary to offer a blog that is more reflective in nature and hopefully will spark some conversation and thought. On June 12th, 2016, 49 people were killed and 53 injured when fired upon by a lone gunman at a nightclub in Orlando targeting the LGBTQ community. On June 23rd SCOTUS declared a tie on President Obama’s DACA and DAPA executive orders, not only sending thousands of immigrant families into an unknown flurry of vulnerability and confusion, but challenging the President's authority to execute executive orders. On June 24th, President Obama declared Stonewall Inn as a National Monument, the first national monument dedicated to the struggle for LGBT rights. On June 27th, the US Supreme Court struck down an extremely harmful law in Texas that aimed to restrict and ultimately close all abortion care clinics in Texas that would have caused women to travel hundreds of miles to receive this service.

There have been reasons to cry and mourn as well as reasons to celebrate and cheer. We mourn the bigotry, discrimination, and lives lost among the LGBTQ community, women, and immigrants. We mourn the threat to immigrant families being torn apart. We cheer because diversity, inclusiveness and medical reason prevail over efforts to downplay the motivations of the shooter, and over sham laws that prevent women from exercising their rights over their own bodies.

It’s times like these that show us how critically important accurate information is when it comes to sexual health. And at Colorado Youth Matter, we believe that this information must be taught in an age-appropriate manner to young people from the very beginning, in order to support their healthy sexual development and grow into contributing citizens that value and appreciate sexual and racial diversity, immigration and have a fundamental understanding that everyone is different and should be respected. Fear and shame based methods for sexual health education lead to discrimination, self hate, and the emotional, physical and mental violence against diverse communities that have impacted us so greatly in the recent weeks. Medically inaccurate information - or total lack of information - about abortion inhibits young people’s ability to plan their lives, and leads to the kinds of harmful legislation we saw in Texas’s HB2. All youth should have access to all forms of safe, legal and confidential reproductive and sexual health services that will enhance their sexual health and ability to plan for their future, including abortion care services.

I feel passionately about this because at Colorado Youth Matter, we believe that in order to support the healthy development of young people, they must be exposed to accurate, age-appropriate information and education that is free from fear and shame. This information and education is best when it comes from Askable Adults - teachers, parents, guardians, camp counselors - who themselves may not have all the answers but are committed to finding them, and to asking questions of, supporting, believing in, sharing with and loving the young people in their lives.

Please join me in committing or renewing your commitment to being more askable - more curious, open and critically thoughtful. Our youth and communities as a whole depend on it.