Out Youth emphasizes the importance of support for up-and-coming generations of the LGBTQIA+ community.
By Anastasia Vastakis, photos courtesy of Out Youth
Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
The world has made strides in educating people about diversity and inclusivity, but we aren’t all the way there. Out Youth is a facility in Austin that serves to educate LGBTQIA+ youth, their friends and their families on acceptance and loving their journey. Kathryn Gonzales, the Operations and Program Director of Out Youth, says, “At the end of the day, the primary goal is that anyone who comes in contact with Out Youth knows that they are loved and acknowledged and accepted exactly as they are.”
Where It Started
In 1990, two graduate students from UT who experienced a sense of isolation and loneliness from growing up queer in the ’70s and ’80s founded this organization. “They took it upon themselves to create peer-facilitated support groups,” says Gonzales. “Which are really just safe spaces for the youth to come together and talk about what they’re going through.”
They would congregate in the living rooms of people’s homes and share stories of their experiences. Whether about their loneliness, their relationship with their families or with their community.
In the early ’80s, an onslaught of HIV/AIDS slammed the U.S. Throughout the decade, people watched their loved ones fall ill. The LGBTQIA+ community suffered heavily. Out Youth opened on the heels of the growing AIDS crisis. Thousands lost their lives. And with them thousands of stories and experiences that could have been shared with the upcoming generation. “The concern remained,” Gonzales says. “What Out Youth has always seemed to struggle with is that we lost an entire segment of an entire generation of our community. That’s why we try to be as inclusive and all-encompassing as we can be. We want to make sure those stories continue and that we can keep creating stories.”
Where It Is Now
Thus the need for education. Educating family, educating friends. Everyone knows someone who is a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. (Whether that person is open or not.) Healthy households exist through love, nurturing and a willingness to learn and understand each other. “When you boil it all down, we’re doing what needs to be done for the way we know that humans work,” says Gonzales. “Humans don’t want to be rejected. Humans don’t want to be alone in general. Whatever we can do to eliminate or lessen the loneliness is what we do.”
Out Youth has many programs to help the youth learn about their identity. The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), the Drop-in Center, the Clinical and Social Services Department also offer counselling for friends and family. A healthy home is a happy home. It is important to educate and understand our kids, parents, our aunts and uncles. Especially in a time as emotionally taxing as 2020.