Lives of a Different Stripe: An Interview with Zebra Coalition’s Dexter Foxworth
From homelessness and isolation to bullying and substance abuse, Orlando’s LGBT+ youths are invisible casualties of a society in transition. The Zebra Coalition® whose mission is “supporting lives of a different stripe,” is leading Orlando by example.
The Orlandoan sat down with the Coalition’s passionate director, Dexter Foxworth.
How did you get involved with the the Zebra Coalition® ?
In 2010, I was overseas working for a Fortune 500 company. During my business travels I came across many articles and statistics on LGBT youth: gay youth are four times as likely to have attempted suicide; more than 50 percent of transgender youth have had at least one suicide attempt; 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT; LGBT youth are two times more likely than their peers to be assaulted at school. I was horrified as I read these numbers. How could I be so unaware, so ignorant to the scope of these issues?
The exposure to those alarming numbers angered me. I began reading more and as I was introduced to these real-life scenarios, my frustration turned into a goal to do something about it and get involved to help those that need our help most: our LGBT youth. Little did I know at the time that this new commitment would lead to a journey that would change my life completely.
Leaving the corporate world for a non-profit must have been quite a leap of faith. What were your initial challenges and what kept you going?
I had minimal experience working with youth, my background was not in mental health counseling, nor did I know anything about social work. All I had to assist me on this new mission was the anger and frustration that ignited this new passion to help our community’s LGBT youth. I wasn’t going to let lack of experience stand in my way.
As my journey began, I quickly learned that statistics don’t adequately express what these youth face. The suffering; the psychological trauma of being rejected by family and friends; the pain from sexual and physical abuse; the hunger and chronic sleep deprivation from living on the streets are things these young people are dealing with daily.
I saw how these vulnerable kids are placed in harm’s way. My anger intensified as I realized that these LGBT kids were being completely failed by their families, the adults in their lives, and our overall community. But I was most frustrated with the lack of awareness of and response from the broader LGBT community. If LGBT organizations–donors and political leaders–did not demand protection for these kids, then who else would possibly advocate for them?