Cynthia Ruffin is the Community Relations and Outreach Director, and Fundraiser, for COLORS LGBTQ Youth Counseling Services, based in Culver City. COLORS, she said, launched in 2011 as an initiative of the LGBT Specialization in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University Los Angeles. “Sixteen years ago, the LGBT Specialization was the only one of its kind nationally so that both the Spec as well as the COLORS program fill a serious need in the community,” Ruffin told the News.
“COLORS still stands with its original mission of providing free and unlimited mental health services to LGBTQ identified youth and their families. Originally, COLORS was a standalone service in Macarthur Park.” Ruffin, who has a degree in nonprofit management and is also a playwright with a background is in social justice theatre, described what COLORS does. “COLORS provides free and unlimited mental health services for young people under 25 who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community,” she said. “We also provide services to their families and partners. COLORS is also an internship site for trainees accruing their clinical hours. COLORS is unique because almost all of our clinicians are trained in the LGBT Specialization, one of the only specs in the country.” Sometimes it feels like progress has been made regarding gay rights, but at other times it can feel like society has taken steps backwards. Social media can certain amplify bigoted voices. Still, Ruffin believes that progress has definitely been made. “First, loving who we love is no longer illegal or a sign of insanity meaning we don’t automatically get jailed or committed,” she said. “Add to that, there are more elected officials who openly identify as part of the LGBTQ community which uplifts the relative safety that we have gained. That said, a lot of work still needs to be done. Trans women of color are still being brutalized and killed in record numbers and many youths are still being kicked out of their homes by scared and confused parents. One thing that is very encouraging right now is that more and more parents are calling to find a place that has affirmative services for their gender diverse or gender expansive children. Parents are understanding that a healthier child is one who is able to express themselves fully and have the acceptance and unconditional love of their parents, families and communities.”
It’s comforting to hear that the Culver City community has always been welcoming tio COLORS and other similar programs. “It is a vibrant and exciting town with lots of art and culture which lends itself to people being much more celebratory of diversity,” Ruffin said. How can we help? There are currently no plans to host events this year, and the last two fundraisers were virtual due to COVID. “We are, however, offering new classes on Antioch University’s online continuing education platform,” Ruffin said. “Our Winter and Spring offerings are ‘The Trans Experience,’ ‘Clinical Considerations When Treating Parents of Gender Diverse Youth’ and ‘Working with Gay & Lesbian Elders.’ All classes are unique and not found anywhere else on the AU platform. The classes also speak to the needs of the wider community. These classes come with CE units that are up to BBS standards, are online & affordable with a portion of the tuition going directly to the COLORS program so it’s also a fundraiser. Anyone can find out about the continuing education offering at colorsyouth.org or Antioch. edu/continuing education.”