Last week I was at a great talk in which Scott McCloud talked about stories being driven by desire. As long as the desire lives and unfolds, the story is unfolding and being driven. Yesterday I was reminded of McCloud’s framing of stories at the 2018 Models of Pride conference. As a parent I attended for my nonbinary child, and as an LGBTQIA ally I attended for the learning community I serve as the teacher librarian at El Cajon Valley High School. We can think of our personal development, our life, as the unfolding of a personal story. What we desire out of life moves us forward. Our desires keep us going. So, how does this connect to empowering LGBTQIA+ youth?
We should value everyone in our community. We should strive to create learning communities in which we welcome each other. We should seek inclusion. This is how things should be, but this is not the way things are. Groups of young people on our campuses get marginalized. Often, they face that same marginalization outside of school.
At the Models of Pride conference, Michael Anthony-Nalepa shared that thanks to neuroplasticity, long term suffering and damage can be caused when young people are forced to endure prolonged, sustained negativity around their LGBTQIA+ identity. How can allies seek to empower LGBTQIA+ youth in this context? We’re not able to change institutions overnight; we can’t change the hearts of those clinging to bigotry and hatred with a snap of our fingers; and we can’t be everywhere to call others out when they seek to dehumanize our LGBTQIA+ youth. What can we do?
Michael Anthony-Nalepa advocates using double listening as a way to listen for the desires of LGBTQIA+ youth. What he means is that as LGBTQIA+ youth express their frustrations and their traumas to us, we should listen in two ways. Yes, listen to bear witness to what our young people have to deal with, but also listen to their underlying desires. Their story, their path of empowerment, is wrapped up in those underlying desires. What do they desire? That desire is linked to what they hope for. What hope is wrapped up in that desire? Hope is what we do, what we have, when we have faith that our future can be better. Desire is what we do, what we have, when we believe we can achieve something better than what we have. When our LGBTQIA+ youth share with us, what do their stories reveal about their self value?
Helping LGBTQIA+ youth reach a statement like, “I want to be loved and accepted” reflects an underlying that desire is a belief that “I deserve to be loved and accepted.” That statement, that recognition of a desire to be loved and accepted, reflects a moment of empowerment.
To me, this is a beautiful, empowering way to view being an ally for LGBTQIA youth.
So, each and every time that we see marginalized individuals standing up and speaking out about the shit they have to put up with, we should recognize that as a moment of empowerment–of a switch being flipped–wherein a statement is being made about their value.
If we agree that we all have value, that we all have rights, that we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, then we should respect those individuals that we see in our communities who are being themselves in spite of how the world treats them for who they are. They are some of the host human people in our communities. Celebrate them. Be there for them. Love them. Support them.
My child had an amazing time at the youth events. This conference did a great job of providing amazing youth activities/sessions as well as positive, useful, authentic learning experiences for parents and professionals seeking to empower our LGBTQIA+ youth. I’m looking forward to the 2019 Models of Pride conference in Los Angeles.