What does homophobia and transphobia look and feel like? What is important in relationships? Where do LGBTQA youth find support? These were some of the important questions that a group of talented and resilient lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, queer, questioning and allied (LGBTQA) youth living in rural Berkshire County explored. Coordinators from the Live Out Loud Youth Project (with funding from a DPH Youth Suicide Prevention Grant*) worked with a group of LGBTQA youth on a project called Photovoice. Eight young people came up with a set of questions that summarize the issues they face daily. Armed with cameras, these young people set out on a journey to answer these questions through photography. The group met for 10 sessions, sharing their photos and discussing the questions and issues raised. The project concluded in a public exhibit that allowed community members and providers to engage in much needed dialogue and begin to understand the needs and perspectives of LGBTQA youth living in Berkshire County.
These participants were empowered by the experience. One young person shared that, “It gave me the freedom to express myself with pictures. Sometimes it’s hard to say what you mean, but if you put it in a picture, you can put down what it means to you. Also you can get other people’s input and then it can mean more to you.” Another photographer expressed how important this project was to them: “This project gave me something to look forward to – something better to do than sit in the house and mope. It means a lot to me to be here and be able to be myself.”
Beyond taking incredible photos, participants made new friends and felt more connected to community with this project. “The best thing about being a part of this project,” one youth shared, “was making new friends and being around people that are like me.” The power of community was shared by another youth:“I finally got to express how I feel about things. Like about how I’ve been made fun of and stuff, and I finally got to let it out. When you let it out you don’t feel as bad.”
Watch “Photography from the lives of LGBTQA youth in Berkshire County” below.
What can you do to create safe spaces for LGBTQ youth?
- Support and advocate for the LGBTQ people in your lives.
- Speak out against statements and jokes that attack or degrade LGBT people.
- Educate yourself with accurate information, resources and materials so you can be a resource; become familiar with terminology, read books and watch films. For suggestions, click here.
- Arrange safe spaces/LGBTQ sensitivity training for your school, workplace, faith community or community programs with Greater Boston PFLAG,the GLBT Youth Support Project, and transgender-specific training with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.
- Be a mentor to a LGBTQ young person or volunteer at a LGBT ally organization.
For more ways to be an ally, please click here.
*Funded by the DPH Suicide Prevention Program and a SAMHSA Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Grant