Our History and Progress
The Israel Gay Youth organization was established in 2002, as part of the Israeli national GLBT association, that, in order to provide social support net to LGBT and questioning teens. Since then, the organization grew and is now operating about 40 different programs, in more than 25 cities and local authorities. In addition, IGY operates different leadership and outreach programs, designed to empower our teens, and train them to be the future leaders of not only the gay community, but the entire Israeli society.
Social and Support Groups:
IGY operates social and support groups that meet weekly in 24 Israeli communities, providing a welcoming environment where LGBTQ youth can explore sexual orientation and gender identity issues. According to a 2004 study of the American Public Health Association, LGBTQ youth make up a disproportionately high number of homeless teens; LGBTQ youth are also up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey. These are only two examples of the high-risk behavior of many gay youth, resulting from highly stressful situations, such as increasing awareness of same sex attraction, disclosure of sexual orientation to family and friends and victimization provoked by their sexual orientation (verbal abuse, threats of physical violence, etc.). In most cases, these youth lack support systems that are crucial to coping and leading healthy and productive lives. In addition, many of these youth do not know others who may have similar thoughts and feelings (and who are also victimized) and thus they feel alone, isolated and abandoned. This painful situation results in high risk behaviors that could be prevented.
IGY operates about 40 social and support groups that meet weekly in 20 communities throughout Israel. The groups’ central goal is to provide a welcoming environment where youth can freely express thoughts and feelings concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. Each group is led by a counselor who is trained and supervised by professional staff. The groups are divided according to age level, serving teens (ages 15-18) and young adults (18-23). Teen groups explore sexual and gender identity development and formation, coming-out issues and school environment issues. Young adult groups focus on issues regarding military service, academic studies, leaving home and personal independence. Counselors seek to instill a sense of belonging among all participants, who learn they are not alone and are part of a larger LGBT community that is an integral component of Israeli society. This process fosters a sense of empowerment, motivates social activism and develops young leadership.
In the year 2009, a Youth Lounge was established, in a goal to broaden the assistance for the youth. The purpose of the launge is to be an open space for the youth. In the lounge they can talk to volunteering counselors in a supportive atmosphere. From the day the youth lounge was founded, we recognized that the youth that came to the lounge are different than the youth we met in the social groups. While the youth in the social groups are looking for social framework, the youth who arrived to the lounge had other difficulties besides the ones that are connected to their sexual orientation: running away from home, jaywalking, at risk of prostitution, not connected to any educational or employment framework, having bigger difficulties with their parents or their extended family, substance abuse. The shooting attack on August 1, 2009, in the LGBT "Youthbar", uncovered existing fears and intensified them. In the search for a fitting framework to express their distress, the youth discovered the IGY youth lounge as the appropriate place to say what is on their mind.
Because of the youth lounge's specific needs, we are starting to upgrade, broaden and professionalize the services that are provided. The suggested program will include upgrades such as operating the lounge more often, bringing in professional people who will work to locate and treat the distressed youth who arrive to the lounge, turn them to the aiding authorities in the community and perform activities that are designed to rehabilitate and imbuing skills for this youth, in order to assist them in returning to normal daily activities, while decreasing the distress condition, renewing the connection with honest aid authority (family, friends, therapists in the community) and returning them to the educational and employment lane that is fitting to their age and characteristics. It is estimated that the suggested program will speak to about 1,500 LGBT teenagers in the age of 14-18.
In 1.8.09 an armed man walked into a building, where a gay youth group ware meeting, and started shooting. In that day the gay community lost two of her sons. However, the Israeli society lost a grater thing. From a society where a political murder constituted the pick of violence, we have become a society in which occurred a hate crime from the first degree – a murder of teen on the base of homophobia. For us, the active members of the gay community, this hate crime is the highest level in the ladder of hate we encounter every day. The highest – but certainly not the last. IGY (Israel gay youth) members all over the country encounter physical and verbal violence from their colleague in school, in youth movements and in the street. "Hoshen" volunteers encounter objections and exposures of homophobia while coming to lecture in the basic education institutions, academies and the army.
Because of that, the leading organizations in the gay community all over the country, teamed up, for a project that it's purpose is to overthrow the exposures of homophobia in the Israeli society. In the framework of this project, that had been named "the ambassadors", the youth are trained for different explanatory courses, accordingly to the different purposes. Over the course of this project, the members meet with the different communities, from different community centers, up to senior citizens' home, and facing them with the real face of the gay community. They do that with their individual stories, theoretical lectures and related workshops. Until now the members had lectured in many communities, including schools, youth movements and community centers. Four of the members even traveled in last spring to San Francisco, where they contended with members of the Jewish and gay community, and lectured before them how it feels to be a gay teen in Israel.