As we celebrate Pride Month this June, we talk with a local youth organization dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community in the Greater Springfield area.
Originating in 1995, Out Now began as a weekly support group for queer youth and has since grown into a non-profit organization that gives young people a voice in speaking on social issues.
Zydalis Bauer spoke with members of the organization to learn more about the resources and programs that they offer, and how we can celebrate Pride year-round.
Read the Full Transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: And as we continue to celebrate Pride Month, we take a look at a local youth organization dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community in the Greater Springfield area.
Originating in 1995, Out Now began as a weekly support group for LGBT youth and has since grown into a nonprofit organization that gives young people a voice in speaking on social issues.
I spoke with members of the organization to learn more about the resources and programs that they offer and how we can celebrate Pride year round.
Holly Richardson, Out Now Director: We use a youth development model, which essentially means that we are guiding young people through all aspects of their lives. And one of the aspects that intersects with Out Now is this one about really learning about and fighting for our rights.
And so, when we think about harm reduction and reducing the harm around substance use and abuse or HIV/AIDS, we really want it to be led by the youth for the youth. So, peer-to-peer interventions are widely known as most effective, so we like to train the young people to then train the other young people
Zydalis Bauer: One of the testimonies on your website speaks to the environment that you all have created at Out Now. It says, quote, Out Now has been the first place in my life where I feel safe, not only in a physical sense, but I am also safe to open my mind, to think about things I never thought possible.
What are some examples from the youth participants that have really inspired you all?
Tianna Thomas, Out Now: The Student Speaks project with Harvard Law and the Harvard Law students is probably, like one of my favorite things that we’re doing right now, just because it gives a lot of our youth the chance to speak about their experiences in school. And also like see how knowledgeable they are. Like words that I never knew meanings to, they know meanings to.
And now, we’re thinking about making a mural, like, from this little thing to this to this to see, like, the youth come up with these ideas and strategizes and like, do all this work together.
Like, it’s great and it’s definitely inspiring. Makes me super happy that if I potentially decide to set back, that these kids are not kids.
Youth are going to come up full force and take everything by the horns. And I’m really, really excited to see where they go and what this project goes to.
Zydalis Bauer: As our society continues to move towards becoming a more inclusive environment, what does allyship mean? And how can one become an ally to the community?
Holly Richardson: Showing up, showing up, showing up. Listening, listening, listening. Following a bit; taking some leadership, too. And I think you’re not really an ally until the group identifies you as such.
Elithia Vazquez-Crescentini, Out Now: You can’t just say you’re an ally without backing it up. If the group doesn’t say you’re an ally, you’re not an ally. You can’t just put yourself out there and say you’re an ally without backing the story up.
Zydalis Bauer: Well, I wanted to mention that what I read on your website that I thought was really interesting was that you emphasize that it’s really on yourself to educate yourself. You can’t rely on others to educate you for yourself.
Talk about that and how people can educate themselves on the issues happening in the community and everything going on.
Holly Richardson: Well, the sky’s the limit on the interwebs. You can look things up, you can read things. Certainly, you can try to get involved with organizations like Out Now and then you can come along and learn as you go.
Elithia Vazquez-Crescentini: Overall, you just have to like throw ignorance and close-mindedness out the door if you want to learn and help others.
Zydalis Bauer: Pride Month is celebrated once a year and raises a lot of awareness. But the needs of the LGBTQ+ community are year-round.
How important are awareness and allyship during the other 11 months of the year, when the spotlight is off of the community?
Tianna Thomas: I think it’s super important to continue this, no matter what, especially with Black trans people. We really need to step up and show up for them. I’m tired of losing friends and family.
Holly Richardson: And the attacks that are going on around the country right now on trans kids are really a wake-up call that the work is not done. People thought it was. Lots of people think because gay marriage found its way, you know, that everything has arrived for the LGBTQ+ community and that just isn’t the case at all.
There’s a lot more work to do. There’s a lot of issues, racial justice, and economic justice, and social justice-oriented, where we all, as queer people, intersect.