In September 2010
The mission of the LGBTQ SAVES (lgbtqsaves.org) is to provide safe and brave spaces for social and personal development of LGBTQ youth. Their vision is to build a community where all youth are safe and its physical and virtual programs offer hope in the lives of each youth served.
The programs offer Lifeline chats, scholarship programs, QPR training, youth pride and mentorships.
Sharon Herrera, executive director and founder, is a Veteran of the United States Air Force, consultant and owner of SHARE Link LLC, Executive Director and Founder of LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. and serves as a leader in the LGBTQ community of Tarrant County. She is a compassionate, sincere and dedicated champion for the betterment of working conditions for all employees and an advocate for a better world, especially for our children. Sharon works closely with many organizations, universities and school districts to help further education on LGBTQ issues. She is one of twelve ‘Mujeres Poderosas’ (Legacy of Strong Latinas in Fort Worth). Sharon lives in Fort Worth with her wife Marcel.
Sharon shared with Affinity Inc. Magazine some thoughts regarding the voices of those opposed to the lives of the LGBTQ community and what we can do about this.
Sharon: In September 2010, after several publicized suicides of LGBTQ youth reminded me of a pain I was all too familiar with, I contemplated my own suicide attempt at 16. I knew things had to change and that we needed a community where all children are safe. I knew with peer and community support I could save lives and build a network of passionate and caring individuals to help LGBTQ youth and their allies in Tarrant County. LGBTQ SAVES (Students, Allies, Volunteers, Educators, Support) was born.
Q: What do these transgender laws in Texas mean for the LGBTQ community right now and how are you as an advocate dealing with this and holding it together for your organization?
Sharon: The laws are cruel because they are attacking our children that simply want to be themselves. We are doing everything we can to ensure our youth have not only safe spaces, but brave spaces to be themselves whether it is virtual or in-person. Our life line chat and virtual weekly meetings allow youth to talk, learn and support one another. Our in-person events bring them all together in a space strictly for youth to celebrate and be.
We are working with ACLU and other organizations to help provide answers to families (Virtual Parent Happy Hour meetings) and the youth we serve (special meetings).
Q: Does this add more trauma for the young people you help?
Sharon: Definitely, we have had some parents moving out of the state due to fear of recent laws. These laws are deadly. This is a very vulnerable population of youth and we need to do better in supporting them and being inclusive of all.
Q: With the overall environment in the United States regarding the possible overturning of marriage equality, how do you and your organization feel about this?
Sharon: Of course, I am concerned. My wife and I are married, BUT, as the leader of LGBTQ SAVES, we cannot give up. Our young people within LGBTQIA+ communities are more likely to experience challenges with their mental health. This is largely due to the oppression and discrimination they may face at school, at home, and in their broader community. Our youth need us, rely on us to create the safe and brave spaces for social and personal development and most importantly we must continue to provide HOPE.
Q: Can you give us any glimmers of hope that the fight isn’t over?
Sharon: The fight will never be over. I survived witch hunts in the military, late 80’s, I survived a small town in Texas and I was able to get married to the woman I love and here we are, another mountain to conquer and I won’t stop until I take my last breath, because indeed, it does get better. (I am 58 years old)
Q: What can an LGBTQIA person do to help your cause? How can an ally help your cause?
Sharon: Donate, we are a small but mighty organization seeking grants and donors all the time in order to continue our work of serving, supporting and saving lives. Volunteer, we need you! Most importantly, spread and share our message! A bright rainbow of hope is right here in Fort Worth, Texas and the dreams that you dare to dream of really do come true!