BAYS meets LA!

The weekend of October 12-14 was a big weekend for BAYS. Jason and I took a trip to LA in order to establish partnerships with various organizations that do incredible work in LGBT-youth empowerment and also create safer environments for these youth in their respective communities.

Friday was especially important, as we met with representatives of a few key organizations that have made huge impacts in the activist world. The first organization we met with was the ACLU of Southern California, which also serves as the hub for the organization. We sat down with Joey, the organization’s liaison for all things LGBT, including LGBT youth empowerment. Joey provided incredible insight into what work needs to be done in schools, particularly within the public school system where diversity coordinators and directors are not present due to funding restrictions. Jason and I gleaned a lot about what steps BAYS needs to take in order to effectively and efficiently implement the Middle School Safety Initiative (MSSI), especially taking into account the fact that it is uncommon for public middle schools to have any formal education on LGBT-issues. This work is unprecedented, but thanks to the resources and advice that Joey provided, BAYS is so much closer to realizing its goals.

With the conclusion of this meeting, Jason and I headed over to SoCal’s “gay Mecca,” West Hollywood, where we had another meeting scheduled. This meeting was with GLAAD, another organization that does incredible work regarding LGBT empowerment, but also is responsible for the majority of LGBT-related media and censorship. We met with Max, the Entertainment Media Strategist, who is responsible for a lot of extremely important components of the media including censorship of potentially inappropriate language and exposure of all things LGBT. This meeting was really important for BAYS because Max gave us great ideas for workshops that BAYS can have at the summit next Spring. Even more exciting, Max gave us advice as to how to go about contacting certain celebrities and other public figures who would be great additions to the speaker set at the summit. It is the combination of these components that will make the summit a real success, so Jason and I are truly grateful for Max’s help.

Saturday was also exciting because Models for Pride, one of the largest (if not THE largest) LGBT conferences in the nation took place at the University of Southern California campus, and BAYS was one of the many incredible organizations represented at this conference. Jason and I joined the plethora of organizations that had set up tables for passers by to stop and check out. The number of people that came up to our table was incredible. We received so many positive responses, and we even formed tentative partnerships with some organizations interesting in taking part in BAYS’ GSA Day of Action next February.

For me, the biggest takeaway from this entire trip was how important and necessary BAYS’ work is and will continue to be as the organization continues to grow. Everyone that Jason and I talked to said the same thing, that the voice of the youth must be heard. The work that must be done is daunting and we are treading waters that have never been explored before. This trip revealed to me that the work we do at BAYS needs to spread and benefit other parts of our nation. Once we have created a strong foothold in the Bay Area, BAYS will surely set its sights on expansion and be able to engender change in other areas of need. In the end, BAYS aims to firmly establish this youth voice, and with the continued support of our allies and generous donors, we will succeed (fiercely and fabulously :]).

 

Nick Spears

Deputy Executive Director

Categories BAYS UpdatesTags #ACLU, #BAYS, #GLAAD, #GSADOA, #LA, #LGBT, #ModelsofPride, #Summit2013 Comments

National Coming Out Week Wrap-Up

By Darcey Pancoast

I thought I’d reached the end of National Coming Out Week last night at the party held on campus by QSA and some assorted sponsors, but I apparently thought wrong, as I was surprised to find out today that that a friend I’d assumed was straight is actually much more fluid with her sexuality. She wasn’t keeping it a secret, but also wasn’t spreading the word, and recognizes that she “fit[s] too easily into a hetero-normative framework” to be labeled as queer by most people (her words). Her close friends know, and everyone else is kept on a need-to-know basis, while she is “negotiating the terms of…[her] sexuality,” both consciously and unconsciously.

While I was negotiating the terms of my sexuality, however, I was in middle school and high school. Looking back, I don’t think I really had that open support network, or at least it must not have felt that way, because I consciously and unconsciously fought my sexuality instead. Eventually, I was forced to come out to myself when I found myself smacked with a large crush on my best friend my sophomore year of high school. I came out to both of us at the same time when I told her I that thought I might like her. Thinking about how I came to terms with my own sexuality and comparing it to this friend made me realize that my coming out process is exactly why I am a board member of BAYS. It is so important to create a safe and open space for LGBT people to be out, in order to create a better environment for those that are questioning and figuring themselves out. That’s why there are those that argue that if you are queer you should make the move to come out, to spread awareness, and to create that environment. But that’s not what I believe. Because while I think that the goal of creating safe and open space to be out is an important goal of the LGBT movement, I also believe that a goal of the movement should be to change the current mentality wherein people continually care about who people are having sex with and why. Our goal is not only to be able to create safe and open space for out people, we want to be able to leave space for those who like to keep their sexual lives private. To give queer people the same right as straight people to not feel the need to shout out their sexuality—When’s the last time you heard someone come out as straight?

So, how do we do this? By breaking down heteronormativity. Getting people to realize that if you’re straight, you might get hit on by a queer person, because we come in all shapes and sizes. It shouldn’t matter any more to you than when you get hit on by a member of the opposite sex who you’re not into, and it shouldn’t matter to you whether or not you already knew they were queer. It shouldn’t matter much to you when someone comes out, because straight should not be your default mentality for everyone, and you shouldn’t change the way you think of anyone after they come out, because unless you’re suddenly interested, it doesn’t really effect you. But to create that type of environment, we must first create an environment where it’s both acceptable and expected for not everyone to be straight. So that everyone is comfortable hitting on and being hit on by anyone, regardless of either gender or appearance. Here at Stanford, we come close to having that environment, (not everywhere, but in many places) but some other colleges, and most middle and high schools don’t have that environment anywhere. That’s why I’m an activist. I’m working so that others can have the pleasure and choice to keep their sexual lives private. I fight not only under the slogan “we’re here, we’re queer, and you have to accept us!” but also under the slogan “in does not mean closeted”. Because frankly, who I want to take to bed is none of your business, unless I think you should know. But if being perceived as out helps create the shift that’s needed to make my heteronormativity-free future a reality, so be it.

But who’s to say I’m out anyway? Unless you’ve talked to me, you probably made an assumption about my sexuality. But that doesn’t bother me, because just as I think you shouldn’t care about my sexuality, I reserve the right to not care what you think. And so do the people who “pass” that get called closeted.

Moral of the story: if you feel closeted, I want to create an environment where you can come out. And if you don’t? Great. I’ll focus my activism elsewhere.