Katy Erker, a Jamaica Plain resident, works at the women homeless shelter Rosie’s Place in the South End and sees women who could have benefited from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) services.
That is one reason, she said, she is “really excited” to join the state Commission on LGBTQ Youth.
“Nowhere else in the country has this commission. It’s beyond progressive. It’s pioneering,” said Erker, who was sworn in on Feb. 12.
She said she first heard about the commission a couple years ago at Rosie’s Place, as one of her co-workers is also on the commission.
Erker said that some women she interacts with at work left home as young teens because they came out to their families, had no support and went into survival mode. She said that a disproportionate number of homeless youths are LGBTQ. Erker said some of them had to drop out of high school to get a job and ended up in the commercial sex industry.
Erker said LGBTQ youths face an array of obstacles, including a high suicide rate, unhealthy sexual behavior and homelessness.
“It’s pretty striking,” she said.
Erker said that the commission, which is an independent agency of the state, advocates to different branches of the government and community about policies, programs and funding to make sure that people like the aforementioned women have an “equal chance” during their youth.
Erker’s role will be legislative affairs, where she said she will continue to educate state representatives and senators about LGBTQ youth issues. She talked about the importance of groups like the national youth leadership organization Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and having “safe spaces” at high schools, where LGBTQ youths can go to be “healthier, confident and empowered.”
Erker, who grew up in Missouri, said she did not have such support systems when she came out as a lesbian in high school.
“I could have really benefited from knowing I had adult support,” she said.