Gender and Sexuality Column

Cuomo, NY shelters rightfully create LGBTQ safe spaces post-election

/ The Daily Orange

In the face of President-elect Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and its consequent validation by the national election results, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set New York apart in recognizing the need to protect vulnerable groups: Cuomo recently ordered state police to organize an anti-hate police group to support victimized persons and communities.

Shortly after the announcement, Cuomo highlighted a message of youth safety, rich diversity in New York and zero tolerance for discrimination in a letter to students: “Let me be clear: This is the State of New York, not a state of fear. We will not tolerate hate or racism.”

Cuomo has rightfully acknowledged that safe spaces and security have never been more crucial. And it is essential for other states to follow New York’s lead in tackling any discrimination Trump has inspired. But this is a movement that requires the support of the people. The United States was great before Trump, and citizens need to continue to protect and unite anyone threatened by hatred.

By taking significant strides likes these, Cuomo is paving the way for New York’s creation of safe spaces for the LGBTQ community. The Bronx is opening up its first LGBTQ shelter for people ages 21 to 30, proving the area as one of the few where Trump’s hate rhetoric has mobilized change, not just speech surrounding change.

LGBTQ youth and young adults are among the most vulnerable populations to be homeless and Mattie Barone, an educator and care manager at Syracuse’s Q Center has seen this first hand. The center is an LGBTQ resource center run by ACR Health, which provides health services throughout central New York. ACR Health and the Rescue Mission have also partnered up to sustain Syracuse Rescue Mission division for LGBTQ homeless youth and Barone provides community training through this outlet.

After Trump’s election, the stakes for LGBTQ youth have gotten higher and have put the local community, especially those who frequent the Q Center, on high alert.

“My trans youth and friends are scared to be in public,” Barone said. “I have seen people rushing to get married, or get their name changes done before (Trump) takes office just to give them some sense of safety. No one anywhere feels safe.”

For Barone, people aren’t frightened of one figurehead — it’s the world and the “silent majority” that threatens the LGBTQ community. Because this should be a new age of acceptance and understanding rather than a time for marginalized people to live in fear, safe spaces like the Q Center, the new homeless shelter in the Bronx and the support of Cuomo are crucial following post-election.

Still, individuals like Barone continue to defend safe spaces in the face of criticism.

“I see a lot of people criticizing safe spaces, but to me, I think, what is so wrong making a space for people to feel safe, loved and supported for who they are in their entirety?” Barone said. She hopes the Bronx is able to create a safe space for people to call “home” in the LGBTQ community while keeping in mind the other components of someone’s identity and how we as a community can foster a safe space apart from designated buildings as well.

It is inspiring to see change mobilized instead of unnoteworthy social media rants. But it cannot stop there: Stories like Barone’s and measures like those being carried out across New York are affecting real people and everyday lives. That is how we as citizens, Cuomo as a leader and New York as a state can support a more hopeful future heading into Inauguration Day.

Myelle Lansat is a junior magazine journalism major and policy studies minor. She can be reached at malansat@syr.edu.

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