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Gov. Deval Patrick names Amherst, Haydenville residents to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth commission

Gov. Deval Patrick swore in a pair of Hampshire County residents last week to a state commission that advocates on behalf of LGBT youth.

Donna Harlan of Haydenville and Brandon Sides of Amherst were among 50 new and returning members named to the Massachusetts Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth.

The commission aims to improve the lives of young people by improving access to services, training and education around sexual orientation and gender identity and nondiscrimination policies and guidance.

Patrick also used the swearing-in event to highlight his administration’s progress at improving life for LGBT youth. Among the items he touted are improving LGBT youth access to safe homes, expanding training and education programs for agency staff and providers that interact with LGBT youth, and recognizing gender identity in the analysis of youth health and safety.

There is room for improvement, Patrick’s office said. According to a youth risk behavior survey conducted last year, gay, lesbian and bisexual youth in Massachusetts are seven times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year, twice as likely to be bullied, to skip school because of feeling unsafe, and to be injured or threatened with a weapon at school, among other disparities.

The commission is an independent state agency founded in 1992 to advocate to all branches of state government for policies, programs and resources to help LGBT youth to thrive.


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