November 23 2015

The Queer and Trans Youth Leadership Summit was probably one of the most enlightening retreats I’ve ever been to. I didn’t know what I was expecting. People of the LGBTQ+ community coming together to talk about stuff? About their personal issues with being in their communities, identifying as they do? About how to combat these and improve Californian’s attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community? Yes, this is what I expected. We did talk a little about some of this, but we learned much more.

The first thing the coordinators asked us to do was to bring something that shows visibility or makes you proud. I didn’t really know what to bring and it took me a bit of thought. Personally, I thought the prompt was about being queer or transgender so I was going to print out a picture of me and my friends. Every year for Bisexual Visibility Day (BiPride Day), I use my makeup to show my pride. I use pink, purple, and blue lipstick to make the bisexual flag and the same color eyeshadow for my eyes. This year my friends and I all had the lipstick on. The colors didn’t come out right so I drew a picture that had a lot of symbolism to me. I drew the bisexual flag lips on a blank face connected to a black neck with a rainbow heart necklace. I fell in love with the picture because of how it made me feel: happy, proud, and awesome.

Meshayla's drawing
Meshayla’s drawing

The opening circle after we arrived was interesting. Of course, people introduced themselves with their name, proper pronouns, and organizations. But what interested me was that we were given the option to reveal any identities that we wanted to. You can say your sexual identity and gender identity only if you wanted to so you didn’t have to be outed if you didn’t want to be. There were allies there, of course. But you could also say your racial/ethnic identity, that you were a soccer player or a parent or a student. Any way that you identify yourself as. That was the best part of the first day.

The sessions were really educational and fun. The one that was memorable to me was our very last session. We split up into our Building Healthy Communities (BHC) sites and talked about what was available to the LGBTQ+ youth in our communities. In Long Beach, the only thing that I knew of were the Center and the various Gay/Straight Alliances (GSAs), Queer/Straight Alliances (QSAs), and Pride Clubs in schools. We then talked about how each of our organizations are inclusive to our community. I realized that I really didn’t know much about my community. Then we developed goals for one year and five years. One goal that I was excited about was to have LGBTQ+ classes including sex ed., history, and more.

Going on this trip made me proud of who I am and the people who stand with me. Proud of the people who support my community. I hope that others will be able to feel as happy and proud as I did.

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