Just a few blocks away from the Stonewall Inn, a historic monument to the gay liberation movement, lies the LGBTQ+ center in Greenwich Village. Last year, I joined The LGBTQ+ Center in order to learn more, as a queer individual, and find community.
I landed an internship as a youth advocate for safer sex. In youth advocates, we learned about HIV/AIDs and how to prevent the contraction and transmission of this deadly sexually transmitted disease. Our job was to teach adolescents, both in the LGBTQ+ community and outside, ways to practice safer sex, detailing the facts and myths surrounding HIV/AIDS, and enlightening people in order to end the stigma towards people who live with HIV/AIDS. One of the key pieces was to challenge the stigma that HIV/AIDS comes solely from the homosexual community.
This internship transformed not only the way I view these issues, but also my own perception of myself as a leader and an agent of change. During my time at The Center, I grew more sensitive about the different spectrums of gender and sexuality and learned about the issues that plague the community. By joining The LGBTQ+ Center,
I realized that my past apathy was not effective. I now understand that to effect change, I must be part of it. I have to lend a hand and fight for what I want my world to become.
After the internship, I took the responsibility of educating adolescents very seriously; I brought all the information I had learned into my Gender and Sexuality Alliance club in school. There are not many students who identify as LGBTQ+ in the club, but there is an immense amount of support from heterosexual members. In the club, many people are not exposed to different gender identities, sexual orientations, and gender expressions. When students in the club make ignorant comments, assumptions, and have questions, I am able to correct, educate, and answer. I want to build tolerance for the LGBTQ+ and stop the discrimination and victimization happening in the community. I have led several workshops in our GSA on topics such as sexual identity, pre-exposure, and PEP to treat HIV.
As an artist, I am using my skills to create a painting that shows how bullying, victimization, and discrimination against transgender people can be harmful, potentially leading to suicide. I am currently engaged in an integrated art and history project that will educate my school community about suicide prevention in the transgender community. The main message is to advocate for schools to teach gender identity so that students can become accepting of others not like themselves.
It is crucial that members of the LGBTQ+ community represent and attempt to reach out to other communities in order to educate them. That is the first step towards ending the discrimination that members face on a daily basis. I am proud to be a representative of the LGBTQ+ community and I will work tirelessly to better the community that I call home.