Tagline: Until the Work Is Done
What I Learned at Equality California
August 7, 2017 at 5:35 pm

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By Imani Allen, Coro Youth Fellow

This summer, I spent two weeks doing the one of the most amazing and valuable things I think I’ve ever done. I got to be a part of an organization important not only to the LGBTQA community in Los Angeles or California, but to the nationwide fight for LGBTQA civil rights. Let me explain how. I am a Coro Youth Fellow. Being a Coro Youth Fellow means I am part of a program that allows high schoolers, like myself, all throughout Los Angeles to experience different opportunities. These experiences help them to gain skills that they can implement in their communities and affinity groups to more effectively lead and enact change. I have a strong passion  for the LGBTQA community and was given an internship with a LGBTQA organization, working with Coro Alumna and EQCA Program Associate, Estrella Lucero.

My passion for advocating for this community stems from two experiences. The first was the experiences of my peers who proudly identify on the LGBTQ spectrum. I knew people in middle school who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual but, once I started going to Harvard-Westlake, I was able to immerse myself with people who were so passionate about the rights of the LGBTQA community. I was with people who celebrated with the community at pride events and fought for them when change needed to be invoked. That is why, at 14 and early into my freshman year, I joined my first official GSA, the only straight co-leader and only straight member of the organization.

It wasn’t until my second year as GSA co-leader that my solidarity to the LGBTQA community was tested. As an ally with close ties to the community, I saw people who identified as many different identities on many different spectrums, but I also saw how they were gravely mistreated by others. I saw straight people taunting LGB people, or making jokes about their sexual orientation. I saw cisgender people verbally attacking transgender people, bashing and mocking their gender expression or gender identity because they did not understand it, chose not to understand it, or did not believe it could exist. From then, I knew I could not continue to be a bystander and still claim to advocate for equality. It was my responsibility to take action and to stand with the LBGTQA community because it was not their responsibility to end anti-LGBTQA discrimination. It is up to all of us, despite gender identity or sexual orientation, to fight for and with them. I could not be a silent ally. I became a bridge between the sexual and gender minority and the sexual and gender majority.

The second came from something I did not fully and may not fully understand, which is my own sexuality. I am straight, and I can say that as much as I please, but I can never truly be certain of that. I may never be certain of that. As I became older, I realized that sexuality is not clear cut or black and white, but rather, it is a fluid spectrum, in a similar way gender is. Anyone can choose to identify and express their sexuality (and gender) as whatever makes them the most comfortable. One I started to recognize that, I only became a stronger ally because, in a way, I was better able to connect with the people on a more personal level.

The two weeks I spent here at Equality California have been so incredible. I was able to work to bring change and understanding, as well as my own personal input as an ally youth, to people who may know much about LGBTQA people and people who many know little. I was around incredible people who were passionate about the work they’re doing and supportive of the people they do that work with and work for. They made sure all parts of the LGBTQA community were adequately being advocated for, including people of color and commonly overlooked groups in the LGBTQA community. I was able to absorb how the directors and program managers lead and how they kept the rest of the staff engaged. I was able to see how the work that is being done at the local level has an impact at the state or federal level. I was able to see how important collaboration and communication are, and how these two things are important in keeping an organization like EQCA as organized and influential as it is. And finally, I saw how intersectionality is vital in any organization like this, and in order to adequately create action and educate others, intersectionality must be taken into account. My scope has been widened and I now realize that all communities must be considered, even when advocating for one.

I want to use all of this to help recreate my GSA into something that once again efficiently helps all sectors of the LGBTQA community as well as its allies. Recently, my school’s GSA has been unable to be as active as it used to be. We were not planning events, our leaders did not communicate effectively with each other, and we were beginning to lose sight of what our goals and mission are. Through my time at Equality California, I hope to take what I have learned and absorbed here to help my GSA function more effectively, so that more focus is redirected from the leaders and their personal achievements to the group and its accomplishments. I hope to help the leadership of my school’s GSA take charge and be able to communicate and function smoothly with administration and students alike. And finally, I hope to create more opportunities for us as a GSA to educate about the issues that currently exist in the LGBTQA community and why we should make a collective effort to enact change and help gain equality for all.

 


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