OPEN LETTER: Jack’d Proudly Supports #BlackLivesMatter Activist DeRay Mckesson for Mayor of Baltimore
This isn’t something we normally do. As a company, getting involved with politics can be a sure-fire way to bring unwanted attention and divisive criticism. Yet, when news broke of your announcement to run for Mayor of Charm City, it was impossible not to feel inspired.
DeRay: you are a voice for our generation. Through your work with #BlackLivesMatter and Campaign Zero, your relentless commitment for justice has compelled the nation to reflect and respond. Your focus on education reform and job development will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed and grow.
Baltimore is home to one of our largest communities on Jack’d. As a leading social network for gay men known to have the most diverse users in both ethnicity and personal interests, we see it as our responsibility to support those who exemplify authenticity and goodwill on behalf of those who seek to make meaningful connections and foster community. We believe you can be the champion needed to help advance the many struggles gay people in Baltimore still experience.
Given your experience with youth programs, advocacy for justice reform and addressing poverty, we would like to offer our assistance and draw attention to three key issues still affecting Baltimore’s LGBTQ youth.
- Youth homelessness
- Abuse in the juvenile justice system
- Discrimination in our schools
On behalf of the entire Jack’d team, I would like to extend our support for your candidacy with the maximum monetary contribution allowed. We are happy to provide additional resources to your campaign through in-app messages, social media, and press outreach to educate citizens and get out the vote.
With your leadership, we hope to initiate a dialogue on how we can work together to help influence positive change, setting an example for all of Maryland to be proud of.
Thank you, and good luck.
Director of Marketing
Key Areas for Advocacy and Collaboration
While Maryland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer/questioning community has secured several new rights, including the right to marry, and the right to be free from gender identity discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations, there are still many issues needing desperate attention, especially with regard to our LGBTQ youth.
Based on a recent study by the J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group, 52% of millennials between the ages of 13–20 identified as gay or bisexual. For Maryland, that means there could be as many as 500,000 LGBTQ youth throughout the state.
Below are three key issues we would like to offer our assistance and draw your attention to with recommendations on how to move forward, as documented in the 2014 report “Living In the Margins: Challenges of LGBTQ Youth in Maryland” by the Youth Equality Alliance.
> Youth homelessness
National statistics show than overwhelming 40% of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Half report an initial rejection by their parents, 30% are physically abused by family members, and 26% have been told by their parents or guardians to leave home after learning of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ youth who have been rejected by their families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide, while 58% of LGBTQ homeless youth reported being sexually victimized.
Pathways for Progress
· Identify needs of LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system, and develop appropriate resources.
· Develop, adopt, and enforce statewide LGBTQ-specific nondiscrimination policies in all child welfare agencies and contracting organizations.
· Create points of contact throughout the entire foster care system for youth and professionals.
> Abuse in the juvenile justice system
High rates of homelessness result in an increased risk of involvement with the juvenile justice system. LGBTQ youth are 40% more likely to be arrested than non-LGBTQ youth, with approximately 80% of juvenile justice professionals citing physical safety as being a critical problem for LGBTQ youth in juvenile facilities.
Pathways for Progress
· Identify specific needs of LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system, and develop resources that meet those needs.
· Develop, adopt, and enforce statewide LGBTQ-specific nondiscrimination policies in all justice agencies and subcontracting organizations.
· Promote inclusivity within the system.
> Discrimination in our schools
There are more than 30,000 LGBTQ students attending Maryland’s public schools. According to a GLSEN national report, the vast majority of these students are bullied regularly; 82% of LGBTQ youth report being victims of verbal harassment and bullying, forcing a third of students to skip school in fear. Sadly, only 60% of LGBTQ youth harassed and assaulted chose not to report incidents to school staff for fear that nothing will be done. And how could they, when 57% of LGBTQ youth report hearing homophobic remarks made by teachers and other school staff?
Pathways for Progress
· Implement comprehensive local anti-bullying/harassment policies as required by state law, and develop mechanisms for oversight and local accountability.
· Work toward the development of Gay-Straight Alliances in all Maryland middle and high schools.
· Provide mandatory professional development for school staff and administration on special issues facing LGBTQ students in our schools.
· Increase student access to LGBTQ-inclusive resources.
Jack’d is one of the largest and most diverse social networks for gay men with 80% of users under the age of 30. Serving 1.5 million monthly active users around the world, top cities in the US include New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles. Jack’d is available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Apple Watch, with more free features and profile options than any other gay app.
This spring, Jack’d will introduce a new campaign to “Change the Game,” focused on projects and partnerships that will leverage its global network reach to promote positive attitudes and meaningful conversations about dating, race, and self-empowerment in a bold, exciting way.
ABOUT KEVIN LETOURNEAU
In 2012, Kevin Letourneau founded Go Out Loud, an LGBTQ startup to promote community events and advocacy in the Boston area. Named an “LGBT Leader You Need To Know” by Boston Spirit Magazine, Letourneau has worked with US Congressmen Barney Frank and John Tierney to champion marriage equality, raised money and awareness for low-income families and individuals with support from US Senator Elizabeth Warren, helped Salem, Massachusetts become one of the first cities in the state to pass a non-discrimination act to include transgender protections, and crowned RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sharon Needles “Official Scream Queen of Salem” with a platform to support LGBTQ youth.