By: Naomi Suskind

The YMCA of San Diego County recently had the privilege of attending the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Time to Thrive conference in Anaheim, CA.

The conference is one of the biggest national conferences on LGBTQ rights and advocacy, LGBTQ youth support and empowerment, and other LGBTQ initiatives conducted on a local and national scale. LGBTQ populations continue to face discrimination and marginalization in society, and to a young person still coming to terms with his/her/their identity and sexual orientation, these actions convey the message that LBGT individuals still lack acceptance in mainstream society.

This isolation leaves youth vulnerable to manifesting a sense of hopelessness in risky behaviors or adverse experiences. Studies reveal that LGBT youth have a 40% higher rate of suicidality[1], are more than twice as likely to experiment with alcohol and drugs[2], and have a 120% higher chance of experiencing homelessness compared to non-LGBT youth.[3]

A dedicated forum to honor LGBTQ identities is significant, especially to instill a sense of hope in youth who feel marginalized and increase their resilience in the face of past trauma. Conference sessions focused on promoting safety, inclusion, and well-being for LGBTQ youth and gave youth-serving professionals the opportunity to learn about current and emerging best practices, access resources, and network with leading experts and national organizations in the field. 

As one of the providers of the San Diego County-funded Our Safe Place program, we had the opportunity to connect with other local and national organizations and highlight our work supporting San Diego’s youth, including our first-ever camp for LGBTQ young adults, Camp Trailblazers. It was also a wonderful work with our friends from the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) and its Diversity and Inclusion team for a strong contingent of representation.

For the first time, the YMCA was a bronze sponsor of this year’s conference, which allowed us to share resources and hold a panel on the exceptional work the YMCA is doing nationally to foster access, equity, and inclusion for all.  The panel highlighted the collaboration of Y-USA and the Biden Foundation, to promote LGBTQ equity and inclusion at YMCAs in various regions across the country.

The YMCA of San Diego was proud to support our Y-USA partners in their work with the Biden Foundation and to champion the efforts they have been making to truly create a Y for all.

YMCA of San Diego County tabling with YMCA of the USA

Our Safe Place Program Director with Betty DeGeneres, conference keynote speaker and mother of celebrity activist Ellen DeGeneres

YMCA of the USA panel


[1] James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.