Garden State Equality, the group that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in New Jersey, is launching a statewide listening campaign.

According to Kayvon Paul, the group's community outreach coordinator, meetings will take place in all 21 counties over the next several months.

“We understand we lack a presence in certain parts of New Jersey and we want all of our members to engage with our organization," Paul said.

He notes Jersey is a progressive state but not everyone is tolerant of people with different sexual orientations.

“We do understand that members of the LGBT community do face unique issues in different counties, so the issues in Cape May, it might not be necessarily the same that they face in Bergen County or Monmouth.”

Paul said “there are more issues of discrimination and harassment that we get from members in South Jersey compared to Monmouth County, where there’s a relatively large LGBT population.”

He explained to lay the groundwork for respect and tolerance, Garden State Equality is holding workshops at hospitals and schools to promote policies to create safe and inclusive environments.

He said Garden State Equality is working with school administrators “to provide culture competency training so that the LGBT youth in those schools feel comfortable and educators are well-equipped to handle situations they may encounter.”

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy estimates the LGBT population in New Jersey to be 3.8 percent of the population, which would mean roughly 340,000 people in the Garden state are either gay, bisexual or transgender.

Paul’s message to people in the Garden state is simple.

“Be accepting and go above and beyond to understand people that are different. Try to get involved and help in whatever way you can because it’s a group effort.”

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