Harnessing the healing power of community support to address LGBTQIA+ needs in SVVSD

Dear TRENDS Diary - 

My name is David Breña (he/him) and I work for Boulder County Public Health’s OASOS program, which offers positive support and fun for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA+) youth. I also co-facilitate the Saint Vrain Valley Safe Schools Coalition with Mandy Blumreich. Saint Vrain Valley Safe Schools Coalition (SVVSSC) is important to me because it’s a space in which community members come together to seek solutions to the issues impacting LGBTQIA+ youth in our area.

As a transgender immigrant man, I’ve experienced prejudice, discrimination, and violence in my communities. I’ve also experienced the healing power of community support and community organizing. When I can navigate systems that already have figured out strategies to support transgender people, I feel supported because I know that those changes were made by people who advocated to make them happen. I want LGBTQIA+ youth in our school district to also experience that community support.

SVVSSC fulfills our community’s need to imagine and work towards a supportive and accepting community for LGBTQIA+ youth. It has brought district youth together through our GSA summits in which we have educational and fun sessions for youth to socialize and learn important skills. The coalition also creates bridges between community members, district supports, and community resources.

We’ve worked in collaboration with our school district to bring literature that reflects the identities and experiences of LGBTQIA+ youth to our school libraries. We’ve also supported the founding and maintenance of GSAs (Gay Straight Alliances/ Gender and Sexuality Alliances) at most middle and high schools. We’ve provided support to youth and parents who are navigating situations of bullying or changing their names. Seeing themselves represented, having supportive peers and mentors, and receiving help navigating systems and advocating for themselves is crucial to LGBTQIA+ youth mental health.

There is a lot of work to be done and we’d love to have you join our coalition! To get involved, look us up on facebook as “St. Vrain Valley Safe Schools Coalition” or email me at dbrena@bouldercounty.org.

- David Breña as told to Will Betke-Brunswick