Growing up 'Q'

When Damien Dine, 21, started visiting the Q Center when it opened in 2006, he was looking for a place where he could be himself and be around others like him.

An East Syracuse Minoa High School student, Dine had come out to his family as a gay male two years earlier, at age 14.

Although he had friends at school, Dine said he felt they didn't really know what he was going through.

"You feel like you're the only one," Dine said. "It's very much, you feel like the only one when in actuality you aren't-but no one's around you saying that."

The Q Center, a program of AIDS Community Resources' Youth Services, is now in its fifth year of providing a safe, nonjudgmental place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth and their allies, between 13 and 22 years old, for free. The non-profit center is the only one of its kind in the greater Syracuse area.

Q Center Program Coordinator Heather Crate said finding a sense of belonging is probably the most important thing for any LGBTQ youth who walks in the door for the first time.

"A lot of times, regardless if they're 13 or 18 or 19, they feel like they might be the only person who is LGBTQ," Crate said.

With approximately 50 youths using the Q Center each month, and staff and volunteers who are often LGBTQ themselves, Crate said youths quickly realize they're not alone in their experiences.

Once they've found a place they feel they fit in, the Q Center becomes a resource for LGBTQ to get information.

Crate said the center runs several group sessions each week for youth, including a new group for parents of LGBTQ kids, an after school program and social events (the Pride Prom is coming up later this month). The groups address any relevant topic, from how to come out to their families to how to talk to their doctors, LGBTQ students' rights in schools, how to deal with bullies, and current events.

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