Last evening at The Hollywood Athletic Club was memorable and inspirational for many reasons. Actually, this is a bit of a no-brainer – any event featuring Cyndi Lauper is bound to be unforgettable. What makes the Damn Gala by the True Colors Fund so special is the unified effort by all the participants to support the nonprofit’s mission to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth across America.
The punk carnival themed gala featured spectacular performances by multi-Grammy Award winning artist Jason Mraz, Tony Award winning artist Sara Ramirez with Raining Jane, and of course, the one and only Cyndi Lauper, who performed “True Colors.” An inspiring keynote address was presented by Julián Castro, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
The event was well attended and supported by Catherine Hardwicke, James Paxton, and Tyler Young of USA Networks’ new series Eyewitness as well as Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank. The gala also gave away one of the coolest awards out there – the Pretty Damn Awesome Awards – to the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which was accepted by Simon Costello, Director of the Children, Youth & Family Services at the LGBT Center.
Since it was co-founded by Cyndi Lauper in 2008, the True Colors Fund has ceaselessly striven to provide a safe space in which LGBT youth could feel free to express themselves. Through community organizing work, public engagements, public policy, research, and youth collaboration, they hope to not only end LGBT youth homelessness, but to also prevent it from occurring.
Why is LGBT youth homelessness in America such an important issue? Of the 1.6 million young people experiencing homelessness each year, up to 40% of them identify as LGBT, a figure that is both shocking and alarming, considering that only 7% of the youth population identifies as LGBT. Homelessness is much more common among the LGBT community due to homophobia, transphobia, poverty, failed systems, and more importantly family conflict, which often arises over their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the True Colors Fund, half of the teenagers receive a negative reaction from their parents when they come out to them, and more than 1 out of 4 are thrown out of their homes.
You might think that just because you don’t work at a shelter or service provider, you are not in a position to help homeless LGBT youth – that is simply not true! You can make a difference by showing care towards them, and by supporting organizations such as the True Colors Fund. As Ziggy Keyes, a 40 of the 40 Honoree, put it, “Even if you think you can’t change something, you have the power to change the whole world.”