To the editor:

This past week I received a letter addressed to the Salem State University School of Social Work. Some of the words were slightly illegible, but the writing was neat. The title of the poem was clear: “Gay Community.”

At first, I was a bit startled and was not sure of the writer’s intent. Some perceptive SSU faculty and staff quickly deciphered that the writer of this poem was maybe an older adult who quite possibly identified as LGBT and was reaching out to find a community for support. As the chair for the School of Social Work at SSU, a place that prides itself on being accepting and inclusive, I want to alert the anonymous writer of this letter that SSU is a community that is inclusive and supportive. The city of Salem is also welcoming and affirming. You can access many resources. You can join a community. I am sure our mayor, Kim Driscoll, would agree that we hope you reach out to us so we can get you connected. We have a longstanding relationship with North Shore Elder Services, co-sponsoring the LGBT Elder Services Conference. One place our anonymous letter writer can reach out to is the Over the Rainbow Coalition of North Shore Elder Services.

It is Pride Month and many towns and cities are proudly waving rainbow flags and hosting parades. Our country has come a long way in making strides toward accepting people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or transgender (LGBTQ) and ensuring their civil rights are protected. However, given the current climate with in this country, there are many spaces that are not safe for those individuals. There are people who still struggle with being able to be open, feel safe and comfortable with identifying as LGBTQ. There are people who are looking to find a community that is welcoming and inclusive. We should watch for our neighbors in need, most especially our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and those who are older and may feel isolated. I wanted to reach out and say that we are here for you. Salem State University and especially the School of Social Work is open to have you join us, hear you and help you if you need. It felt important to reach out, in hopes that the anonymous letter writer reads the newspaper. There are people who will listen to you. You are welcome here.

Shannon Butler-Mokoro

Chair of the School of Social Work

Salem State University