Meet the YouthResource Leaders
The 2013-2014 YouthResource Leaders are:
My interest in the youth sexual health and rights movement began when I was in high school when I was introduced to the ideas of human sexuality. From then on my eyes were opened about some of the things that were happening at my school. I noticed the discussions regarding contraception, sexually transmitted infections, HIV, abortion access and sex education. However, I noticed that the conversation were widely inaccurate but there was no one there to give correct information because at the time where I attended high school could only provide abstinence-only education. The only education we had was us trying to help each other. This was my ultimate motivation. When I attended The University of North Carolina at Greensboro I noticed those conversations I heard in high school were expanded to sex, gender and identity. It was then I found Advocates for Youth.I want my generation to understand their responsibility as members of this society to take the upmost care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is most important because if we don’t do it, someone else will and it is our OWN responsibility. It’s our job to advocate for our rights and respect or else it will all be taken away.
Being in foster care helped spark my interest in the movement. I met LGBT youth who were disproportionately affected by a series of issues. The concept of intersectionality was introduced to me and I gained a better understanding of the importance of sexual health and rights. I choose to be a youth advocate because I believe in taking a stance. It’s important to have a say in the policies that affect you.
I am a college student in Michigan and a contributor for Amplify. I participate in activist and advocacy events whenever possible, but I’m always seeking to find more ways to help. I enjoy playing guitar and reading and I love to write. There are so many obstacles out there that are actively and intentionally keeping young people from the information and protection they need. I want to become part of something that helps to dismantle those obstacles by being a source of support, information, and understanding. Progress is both inspiration and aspiration.
I still remember the day I walked into my first college class and my professor said “Don’t worry what others think of you or what you did wrong in the past. Be tireless, passionate, and a visionary for your future.” Those memorable words have stuck as my motto as I carry out my college career as a student and advocate.
As a gay Latino from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas throughout my teenager years I felt as if I was trapped in a bubble. It was as if I lived two different lives: a straight son to my parents and a bubbly, gay friend to others. Stemming from culture and tradition, it was as if I wasn’t allowed to “be who I was”. Then, that’s when college hit me; I’ve been able to explore and understand what it means to be a gay male. I used my experiences as a teenager to fuel my passion for advocacy in the arena of gay rights and sexual health. If you would ask any person who knows me, they would say that what keeps my drum beating is my passion for advocacy. I consider myself a proud student leader at my university. In spring 2013, I undertook the role as a Youth Ambassador for National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. My area of advocacy lies within the ever-growing circle of social justice, specifically HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
I believe that knowledge is the key to solve many social issues. LGBT youth need exposure to understand social adversities; however, they also need to be mobilized to act on these issues. Youth, like me, can move mountains as powerhouses of active citizens and advocates of social issues that need to be solved. I’ve learned we have come a long way as a society to accept these challenges and take actions on them, however, I believe that there is more to be done. However, it all starts with a call to action—people to fight for justice, voices to scream and raise hell, the courage to do what is right. It all begins with one person, one idea, and one action—all are a step in the right direction.
When I was 15 years old I came out as openly gay. Personally I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me, and there isn’t anything wrong with me, but the community I was in didn’t feel the same way. I was bullied and treated horribly in school by everyone, because I was openly gay and it was noticeable. At this point in my life I didn’t have anyone to talk to, I was isolated by everyone around me. Soon after experiencing countless amounts of verbal and mental abuse I decided to transfer high schools. I transferred to Harvey Milk High School, a transfer school designed for LGBTQ youth who need a safe haven. This move was the best move I ever made. I was surrounded by people who were just like me. People who understood the struggle I went through every day at my old high school.
At Harvey Milk High School I was empowered. I became someone new because of support and the ability to be myself. I learned many things and these things guided me to be in the position I am in now. I want to be the voice for teenagers who were just like me. The teens who think life is over because they are a little different than the rest. I have lived through all the horrible experiences of coming out and having to face the world and I want people to know that it is not okay to mistreat LGBTQ individuals. This is the motivation I have to be an advocate because I needed someone to advocate for me and no one did. I refuse to not stand up for people like me and let them know that this isn’t life, that there are many people just like you and many places in which they can feel comfortable.
Hey friends! My name’s Jerome, I’m 20 years old and I currently live in the Windy City, Chicago, IL. I’m a simple guy. I love to laugh. I enjoy casually perusing my Tumblr dashboard. Eating fresh fruits and veggies. Making art! I am a frequent of my local thrift shop and enjoy watching crappy shows on Netflix. Now that we’ve got all the boring stuff out of the way, I can began telling you about my second life as a kick-ass youth advocate.
I began advocating for adolescent pregnancy prevention and contraception access four years ago in my home, Atlanta, GA. With the help of great organizations like the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (GCAPP) and Advocates For Youth, I’d become equipped with the knowledge of proper condom usage and ready to argue anyone who thought ‘Abstinence Only Until Marriage’ educational programs were a good choice for young people. Before I knew it, I had become “that guy.” I remember having stashes of condoms and dental dams and pamphlets stowed away in my locker and I was always on call for friends who needed advice.
Amidst my submergence into the sexual health advocacy world, I was becoming more and more aware of my body, my needs, my desires. This movement had given life to many things I never knew existed inside of me, as well as giving light to things I’d once tried to hide. I became aware of my sexuality at a very young age. Out of all the memories I have as a young adult of my life, the ones encompassing sexual identity stand out the most. How could something that I felt to be so natural be completely dismissed by others? Luckily I was given a ferocious strength and will and I was able to rise above the bullying and teasing. But like many queer youth, there were still dark times. I remember feeling as if I’d been trapped in these inescapable pits of rage and pity. I now know that having someone there who’d walked similar paths would’ve played a major role in making those times a bit easier. When I was given the opportunity to join the YouthResource program, I knew that would be my opportunity to give back to young people what I wish I had when I was younger.
I hope to continue some great work year with Advocates’ and the YouthResource program. Lifting up young people and helping gain visibility to issues relevant to our movement.
I am motivated to be an advocate for sexual and reproductive health because I believe that youth have the right to knowledge and resources to help them lead safe and healthy lives. As a queer woman of color, I am also motivated to fight for the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the reproductive health movement, and to eradicate reproductive health disparities that affect poor people and people of color.
Growing up in Florida, the sex education I received at school was inadequate. It was only after independently educating myself that I realized that the sex education program at my school taught us incomplete and false information, and provided no information on LGBTQ issues. This sparked my interested in sexual and reproductive health and rights.
After graduating from college, I decided to join yearlong service program where I worked to educate youth in Washington, DC about sexual health. This experience further exposed me to the realities of why comprehensive sex education and access to services are needed, as many youth in DC, like others around the country, do not receive comprehensive sex education at school, and lack access to reproductive health resources.
It is important that youth demand access to sexual health information and resources because these are rights that should be preserved, and that unfortunately are often being taken away. I want young people to know that they do have the power to make change in their own lives and in their communities. Through YouthResource, I hope to empower LGBTQ youth with the tools they need make a lasting impact in their communities.
I have always been comfortable being vocal and noticed the injustice and inequalities around me. Growing up, I always considered why and looked for ways to “fix” things. This was the beginning of my activism story.
Fast forward to college, I started wanting to bring awareness to issues that LGBTQIA individuals face and to do something about the stigma associated with identifying as LGBTQIA in our community.
I began raising awareness, on my campus, around HIV/STIs, homophobia, and diversity. The main framework for my work was intersections of identities. I moved from a place of colorblindness to understanding how each of our identities simultaneously affect our understanding about the world around us and how we navigate that world.
As a young person, I felt it was important to advocate for awareness around HIV and sexual health because it is a natural part of life and so many young people are under informed or misinformed, which is not okay, especially when this information can help us make important decisions about our health.
One area that my work focused on was insuring that college students had access to comprehensive sexual health information and to contraceptives. As a sexual health peer educator I had the opportunity to present on HIV, STIs, and healthier relationships.
My motivation for being an activist started off as wanting to help others and transitioned to understanding how I can contribute to the LGBTQIA/Queer movement. The most important points to take away from my activism story and my interpretation of activism is: it is a process, don’t be afraid to get dirty, never stop examining your motives and check yourself.
I began my social justice education through the Racial Awareness Program (RAPP) at the University of Cincinnati; this was the foundation of my knowledge of racism, sexism, and homophobia. After completing this program, I was eager to expand my knowledge and get more involved with activism work. As a queer person of color, I decided to focus my energy on LGBTQ activism by joining a campus group called GenderBloc. GenderBloc is a queer activist group that focuses on transgender issues. Knowing that ignorance and misinformation are key factors in the perpetuation of homophobia and transphobia, I set out to educate the world about what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community and what it means to be an ally. It was through GenderBloc that I began working with Advocates for Youth as a Campus Organizer. After about a year of educating my campus about trans* inclusive policies, I decided to start my own student group to facilitate discussions and offer social support for queer people of color and allies.
As a transmasculine person of color, I have discovered that oppression is a daily battle. Sometimes I am an activist because I have to be. I started out by advocating for myself, researching the protocols for my own transition; but this soon turned into advocating for other trans* people by working to educate my campus community and to change cissexist policies on campus. I continue to do this work because I know how it feels to face the overwhelming reality of discrimination that all LGBTQ youth must overcome. I know how this feels and I want to be a part of making it a thing of the past.
I became a sexual health activist after I realized that my peers and I were being misrepresented in educational resources and policy. Being fueled by my anger and rage, I have gone on to advocate for many marginalized groups including young people of color, the LGBTQ community and the disability community. I have been involved with many projects including being a youth organizer for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health and an avid member for the Illinois Youth Policy Council.
I am a DePaul University alumna and currently a Bilingual Health Educator/HIV Tester for a Chicago based community-based organization and the Illinois Department of Public Health in Chicago.