Thought Leader Spotlight: Mardi Moore on LGBTQ youth of color

To elevate awareness and ignite action around our community’s social, economic, and environmental issues, we periodically feature local thought leaders to enhance the stories and data analyzed in our current TRENDS Report
By Mardi Moore, Executive Director, Out Boulder County (OBC) – a grantee of the Community Foundation’s Community Trust
In late fall 2017, I attended “13 Reasons Why Not” – a presentation by Longmont youth on youth suicide prevention.
Fantastic panelists presented data from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey – the same findings that OBC and other youth-serving groups have been using as the basis for illustrating the reality of bullying, drug and alcohol use, and other health risk indicators prevalent among local youth.
For years, every presentation and grant report listed the percentages of white, black, brown, and LGBTQ youth in categories, comparing one to the other – but not once acknowledging that black, brown and white kids are also LGBTQ. So I called the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and asked for the numbers of LGBTQ youth by race and ethnicity.
Upon analysis of the numbers, we began seeking funding to address the reality and the reasons why not many youth of color were attending social-support groups at OBC – and to address some of the specific concerns the data revealed. For example, drug and alcohol use, as well as online bullying and bullying based on race and ethnicity, are higher among LGBTQ youth of color.
With a $3K grant from Community Trust, we hired Lau Malaver to meet with youth, and to collect data and stories to help inform development of an ongoing support group for LGBTQ youth of color.
Under Lau’s leadership, OBC’s pilot program has taken off. Our youth program –“Spectrum” – launched this month at the Longmont Youth Center (LYC). “Spectrum” represents the myriad identities we all hold – from race, ethnicity and class to gender identity, sexual orientation, and many more. These identities simultaneously interact, and result in some people feeling unwelcome or marginalized, depending on their environments. “Spectrum” provides an opportunity for youth whose identities fall within these identity intersections to come together to share their experiences and learn about themselves.
At our first session, we came up with group agreements that establish trust and safety; we discussed the meanings of gender and sexual identities as related to being a person of color; and we began answering questions and curiosities about terminology within the LGBTQ community.
Upcoming “Spectrum” programming includes visiting the Longmont Public Library and learning about LGBTQ literature for youth; touring the Out Boulder County Longmont office; learning about community resources with representatives from Teen Clinic and OASOS; and continuing our conversations about gender and sexual identities. In short, “Spectrum” serves as a safe space where LGBTQ-identified youth who are also people of color can learn and enjoy acceptance and empowerment in a welcoming environment.
Additionally, we’re exploring what other programs need to be developed to address cultural and religious beliefs. So far, in our one training with Latino parents, we were met with such perceptions as “psychologists classify LGBTQ people as mentally ill,” and “the Bible says being LGBTQ is a sin.” Views like these exist in white communities, too, but there are even fewer conversations among local communities of color that address such lack of understanding.
There’s a lot to do, and we hope you’ll help us as we bring all LGBTQ communities together under the umbrella of Out Boulder County. Support this program by contacting OBC at 303-499-5777, or email me at .