For those born in to bodies that are historically marginalized because of our gender, ability, skin shade, nationality, or religion, we at least have the benefit of having some measure of built-in solidarity through our connections to community, family, friendship, and faith. LGBTQ youth, however, are not always born into families that love them unconditionally, faiths that honor them spiritually, or attend schools where their friends or faculty support their identities.
I hear all too often that “LGBTQ kids have it so easy these days,” from folks who forget that in our hyper-polarized national climate, violence and discrimination against LGBTQ youth is on the rise, and too often from within their own homes.
For generations, the shame and stigma that has been historically associated with being LGBTQ prevented our community from mentoring our young people to become the next generation of leaders. From battling the Briggs Initiative in the late 1970s so that LGBTQ teachers could keep their jobs to fighting for inclusive curriculum and facilities in 2018, the struggle to support our LGBTQ youth continues.
While many of this region’s schools and school districts are working to improve their policies and practices in support of LGBTQ youth, so too are anti-LGBTQ organizations working to chip away at that progress.
For these reasons and more we are proud to host the Pride Youth Leadership Academy. YLA was created to bring LGBTQ youth together from across the region to engage, educate, and inspire our next generation of leaders. Youth who attend YLA come away with the practical skills and committed passion to become agents of change within their own schools and communities. By supporting our youth, we are securing our future. As each of our generations learn from and lift up each other, we can truly Persist with Pride.