The Definition of Equality? By Anna Livia Chen, Outlet Youth Advisory Council Member Here is the irony: as red and pink equals signs flood our Facebook newsfeeds, we have yet to concretely More »
The Definition of Equality?
By Anna Livia Chen, Outlet Youth Advisory Council Member
Here is the irony: as red and pink equals signs flood our Facebook newsfeeds, we have yet to concretely define what equality means. Equality under the law? Which laws? Social equality? How is that to be measured? The truth is that equality means something different to everyone—and that is what has caused such a polarizing tizzy within the queer community.
Let’s start with the dissenters of the red HRC logo—not those who simply don’t post it, but those who actively speak out against it. Most who have raised issues with the red logo are against it for one or both of the following reasons: to criticize the notion that marriage equality is the only aspect of queer rights—a conclusion that can be inferred from HRC and other organizations’ extreme focus on the marriage equality movement; or as an ideological refusal to endorse the Human Rights Campaign because of the many grievances it has committed, including its historical disregard of trans* people and trans* rights. Many of these folks argue that marriage rights are a white, middle-class, cis-gendered priority that does very little for youth, queer people of color, lower-class queers, and the trans* community. They seek greater examination of other issues like safe schools, job and housing security, and the extension of current marriage rights—such as immigration, hospital, and tax rights—to non-married couples. These practical rights that affect a wider range of queer people are their definition of equality.
Fierce advocates of marriage equality are fighting for the same cause—queer liberation. However, their definition of equality differs. They strive to have their love recognized in the most touted institution in our society, from Sunday church to Hollywood (even if celebrities get divorced 6 months later, their multi-million dollar wedding was still on the cover of all the tabloids). The marriage movement is the queer issue that has risen to prevalence in our society; it is the one that gay rights organizations focus on, and it is the one that allies most often rally behind when demonstrating their support. Why? Because marriage equality is understandable, relatable, and because the solution is relatively straightforward. In this sense, marriage equality has become representative of queer rights to many.
I think there are problems with both extremes. Is it problematic to see queer rights as one-dimensional as marriage equality? Enormously so. But it is also greatly problematic when radical activists, in their attempts to expand the conversation, end up shifting the conversation solely to their concerns and ignore the merits and importance of marriage equality. As a queer youth of color with two moms, I do think that there is a symbolic significance to the issue of marriage equality. I also think that a lot more needs to be done. I want marriage rights to be won because they should be, but also largely so that the queer community can take off their marriage equality blinders and begin legitimately expanding the conversation.
However, until marriage equality is no longer an issue we can talk about, what we need to remember is what has always been at the core of minority movements: solidarity. It is crucial for both extremes to empathize with the other; for everyone to understand the value of a multi-issue queer platform that includes safe schools, job and housing security, immigration rights, hospital rights, tax rights, bullying, homelessness, depression, suicide and marriage equality, among many others. Equality shouldn’t be defined as any one of these movements; it is a gradual and ongoing process that is furthered by the success of each and all of them.
We are all on the same team—we shouldn’t need reminding to stand in solidarity with each other.
Rae had heard about Outlet, but didn’t come until a friend brought him along to Monday Night Group a year and a half ago. While he was nervous at his first meeting, he has grown to see Outlet as a place where he truly feels safe, can relate to other folks, and maintain respect for differences. Rae has learned a lot in the past two years about himself and the larger community. Since he graduated high school early, Rae has been volunteering with Outlet in the office and has become a regular speaker telling his story in front of classes during our UNIQUE workshops. He recently started attending Outlet’s “Grown Folks” group for young adults to help him transition to college life.
In all settings, he offers compassionate listening as well as gems of wisdom that group participants can relate to. He often gets praise from teachers as well as students for his bravery in sharing his personal coming out story as a transgender youth. Rae can be found sporting a dashing smile at various Outlet events, and sometimes bringing fabulous rainbow colored baked goods too!
Rae thinks “there’s nothing that Outlet needs to improve on”, but when persuaded to think of something, he said Outlet “could be a little bit bigger.” He is looking forward to attending Humboldt State University next fall and while he will miss Outlet, he will continue to learn about gender and sexuality, as well as contribute to communities that share in the values of diverse representation and safety. The advice he would like to give to younger Outlet participants is to “be true to yourself and not let your fear of what others might say hold you back.”
Co-Chairs Jeffrey Adair and Melisa Buie would like to invite you to register for Out to Eat 2013! Out to Eat, the Outlet Program’s annual gala fundraising event, raises money to help Silicon Valley’s LGBTQQ youth. On Friday, May 3, 2013, supporters of Outlet will gather at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View to celebrate and fundraise for our work empowering LGBTQQ youth and educating the community.
Exciting silent and live auctions, Hors d’oeuvres, desserts and compelling youth speakers combine for a festive and enjoyable evening for an estimated 400 guests, including prominent residents of Silicon Valley and the Mid-Peninsula.
Out to Eat 2013 is celebrating 16 years of empowering LGBTQQ youth and educating the community and is expected to raise more than $100,000 to support this critical work.
Out to Eat is proud to host an evening that highlights and emphasizes the community nature of the event. The event will start off with a community reception with passed Hors d’oeuvres and delicacy stations throughout; during this time we will continue to host a silent auction along with the addition of a raffle. The main program will follow the reception and be accompanied by sit down desserts at each table.
Register online here!
Outlet is privileged to work with many adult volunteers each year and we would like to highlight Tommy, an amazing volunteer who shares in his own words below what it means to be involved with Outlet. Enjoy!
Reflection by Tommy:
I heard about Outlet at age 25 and reached out to see how I could get involved. I was too old to participate as a youth, so I began volunteering. When Anthony Ross interviewed me, I knew I had found a family.
Outlet is not just a haven for the youth; it’s a refuge/safe place for everyone involved – including me. All of the staff and volunteers over the years have been incredible. Anthony has been like an older brother to me. If life called for hot coco and a supportive conversation, Anthony was there. If I needed a hug, Dulce would hold on tight until my worries started to melt away. If I needed to express my frustrations about immigration issues, Rodrigo would lend a supportive ear. If I needed a friendly encouraging smile, Sammy was always there. If I needed a beautiful trans face mirrored back at me, I could turn to Spencer. I do not have enough room to mention all the irreplaceable people that I have met through Outlet who have enriched my life. Thank you to all. Outlet is not just a support group; it is a family.
The only reason I left Outlet after serving for several years is that I have recently been admitted to UC Berkeley. Many of our young adults from the “Grown Folk” group have gone off to colleges this fall as well. Recently I heard from one of the youth and she said, “I still feel pretty lost and not quite settled…Outlet spoiled me! Now I have to go out and make those communities on my own! It’s easy to forget that they aren’t just waiting for you. I thought Smith was some sort of queer heaven, but since it’s assumed, it isn’t discussed and it isn’t an intentional safe space like Outlet.” Her words are spot on. Outlet is unique in that they welcome you right away; they want to support you whether you are exploring your sexual orientation or coming to terms with your gender identity. There is no place like home and Outlet is my home.
Becca Shipper is an Outlet youth and a freshman at Smith College. She created Queermunity: Why We Need Safe Spaces, a video for her senior project. In her words, “Queermunity explores the importance of having safe spaces for queer youth, and how Outlet aims to provide that. Outlet is changing the lives of queer youth in the Bay Area by providing support and community.” Enjoy the video!
De Ambiente youth attended a weekend leadership retreat on September 7-9, 2012 at the YMCA’s Camp Campbell. Twelve young latinos spent two days and two nights participating in an array of fun and dynamic activities. The group practiced their leadership and communication skills in the Low Ropes Course and they strengthened their personal confidence in the High Ropes Course. A night hike with a bonfire and s’mores was the perfect setting for developing deeper bonds within the group. These young men were also trained to be a part of Outlet’s youth Speakers Bureau, increasing their skills and confidence to participate in workshops and panels. This retreat was truly an unique experience that Outlet was able to provide to these young and upcoming leaders thanks to the support of our funders and supporters. Special thanks go out to the YMCA and particularly the young staff at Camp Campbell for their unconditional support.
De Ambiente marched, for a fourth year in a row, with the largest LGBT Latino contingent in history: Latinos de Ambiente del Area de la Bahía (Queer Latinos from the Bay Area) at San Francisco Pride. Adrian, Angel, Daniel, Edgar, Edwin, Mauricio, Neftali, Oliver, Pedro, Oliver, and Richard showed their creativity with the colorful outfits that they created. The contingent that included seven other groups from all over the Bay Area was awarded the “Absolutely Fabulous Musical Contingent” by the judges and was also nominated for the “The Most Fabulous Contingent Overall”.