Inspire 1,000's of LGBT youth & allies in CT & US

May 7, 2014

The Difference YOUR dollars make

Dear Friend,

It has been a wild ride this past quarter!  Most of our efforts focused on hosting our 21st annual True Colors Conference on March 21 and 22, 2014 - our largest ever with more than 3,000 attendees - and in fact, more than 600 walk-ins on Friday alone!  Whew.  Your donations helped us scholarship or reduce fees for more than 900 of those attendees!  From just a few of the attendees your support helped us fund:

    "I honestly never felt such peace with so many people before..."

   "true colors was more than just an event for me, it was just a reality check. That i needed to stop being so narrow
   minded and accept these people who essentially accepted me in their environment with open arms and big smiles."

    "True Colors was a phenomenal experience.  The creative and accepting atmosphere is what we all wish the rest of
     the world could have; maybe one day."

During the same time frame, your support helped us provide weekly social and recreational activities for LGBT youth in out-of-home care; to advocate on behalf of students in elementary, middle and high school, to update and produce our comprehensive resource guide, and to find both mentors and homes for kids whose family had rejected them.

This work is our life and our passion. We are so grateful to you, and all of our donors and supporters, for making such important work possible.

Thank you!

ps.  We would LOVE to hear from you!  What parts of our work would YOU like to hear more about?  Is there an area of LGBT youth advocacy where you would like to see us invest additional time or energy? How would most like to be communicated with?  Via these quarterly reports?  Occasional phone calls?  Targeted emails or snail mail?  Let us know!

Feb 5, 2014

Sara & Jen: stories your donations make possible

Jen and Ju getting ready for a youth training
Jen and Ju getting ready for a youth training

Dear True Colors Donor,

Your support makes a world of difference. Some of the youth we serve, like Jen, just need a little bit of help – She is a kid with the passion to make a difference. President of her GSA, young activist and fireball, she is already on a mission in life. Our role (which, by the way, your donations make possible) has been to develop her leadership skills – help her learn to facilitate other’s learning rather than let her passion run away with her mouth. It’s a core skill and yet, we all know what that is like – talking when we should be listening, right? These youngsters are not just the leaders of tomorrow – because of your continued caring, they are the TODAY’s leaders, making a difference in their own communities and schools every day.

Other youth, need True Colors to act as an advocate on their behalf. Consider Sara*. When Sara was born, people thought she was a boy (after all, she had the parts that usually come with a male identity). It wasn’t until early adolescence that it became clear that ‘boy’ was the wrong identity for her. Sara is a girl, a transgender girl. By then, through no fault of her own, she had experienced terrible violence – sexual, physical, emotional violence at the hands of people who were supposed to love her. Her rage, her sadness, her volatility are all symptoms of abuse she suffered as a child. That past however can’t excuse a tantrum that resulted in a staff member’s severe injuries. But, when the system tried to punish her in a men’s prison, True Colors was able to step in and advocate for her. Yes, there have to be consequences for bad behavior – and Sara will experience those consequences, but in a woman’s facility where, for the moment, she belongs.

There are few grants or private foundations that fund this kind of work – one-on-one as a support – or as an advocate for LGBT youth out in the world. Most of the work, is funded by people just like you – individuals who care enough about our kids to turn their dollars into action. You make our work possible. And we will be forever grateful!


Nov 7, 2013

3rd Quarter 2013 Update - Look what YOU did!

It was a conundrum.  A Federal Agency with a less than stellar history with the LGBT community recently created an LGBT liaison position.  They reached out to us to see if we might allow them to do workshop on youth empowerment with LGBT youth in our program.  What to do?  Some staff had very strong feelings about this agency - yet, several of our youth indicated a strong interest in working for them after high school or college.  Who's feelings should take precedence? Ultimately, it was a no-brainer. We are here to serve our youth not the other way around.  We invited the speaker in. I, for one, are glad we did.  One of the youth in our mentoring program - someone who never makes eye contact, who has trouble sitting still, and who had never spoken at an event previously, was transformed by the experience. He took notes, asked questions, made eye contact (a little bit) and walked away with a begining plan for his next steps toward that dream. His dream.  

Part of our job, part of the work we do as advocates for our youth, sometimes lead us to making unpopular decisions or taking unpopular actions on their behalf.  Funders don't always like controversy.  That is why we are expecially glad to have folks like you in our corner.  Your support, your donations help us be a stand for our kids in ways that we might not be able to otherwise. 

Since our last report, your support helped us:

  • Host a GSA summit where 30 students from across the state explored and debunked stereotypes; 
  • Begin working with 25 student and adult volunteers to organize our annual conference in March - the world's largest LGBTQIA youth conference!
  • Plan a Youth Forum with several hundred participants that looked at what it means to be LGBT in 2013; 
  • Engage 163 youth and their care-givers in 12 different social and recreational activities; 
  • Provide cultural competency training for 739 youth serving professionals
  • Secure safe, affirming homes for 3 teenagers who would have otherwise been in group homes or shelter
  • Develop affirming procedures for transgender youth, statewide, in Juvenile Justice Facilities

Whew.  We couldn't do it without you and we are so grateful!


Aug 8, 2013

True Colors Update August 2013

Because of your support, and the support of others like you, True Colors is in it for the long haul.  As we celebrate our 20th anniversary this year, it seems like a perfect time to reflect on how far we have come – and how much is left to do.  But, let’s hear Tessa’s story first.

  • Tessa is going to be an 18 year oldfreshman at St. Joseph’s University in the fall.  She came to True Colors as a 15 year old intern who had just come out as bisexual at school.  Her first days with us were a bit rocky – she had no experience working or being around LGBT folks. And mostly she sat back waiting for the work to come to her.  We knew she wasn’t giving it her best – and we gently confronted her. Part of loving our kids is caring enough to hold them to their highestselves – and Tessa was up to the challenge. In that first year, she organized a summit on stereotypes at her school – the result of which was the creation of their first Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA). The following year, Tessa participated in our summer Queer Academy (funded almost solely by donations from folks like
    you!).  She and other participant createdan Ally Workshop (for LGBT youth to ally for each other) which they presentedat conferences in LA, Boston, and Connecticut. Two years later, Tessa became the co-facilitator of Queer Academy –helping to design curriculum, plan activities and facilitate sessions.  In her own words, Tessa says, “I learned so much at True Colors about so many things. But, as a bisexual, multi-ethnic,Puerto Rican woman, one of the most important things I learned was that people have many parts of themselves. We deserve to have all of those identitiescelebrated. That is a message I hope to bring with me to my studies at St. Joe’s.”

When True Colors began in 1993, there were only4 GSAs in Connecticut.  Now there are more than 164 – and because of the support of loyal donors like you, we had a hand in the creation of most of them (see Tessa's story above).  Did you know that GSAs are the only school based program that has been linked to reduced suicidality in LGBT Youth? Our next step in this area is to focus on middle school supports.  The average age that LGBT youth are coming out is 11 - 13 - smack in the middle of middle school.  Yet, there is also a lot of school and
community resistance so we have our work cut out for us.

At our first conference in 1994, there were 90 youth and 250 adults. At our 20th anniversary conference this past March, there were 2,000 youth and about 1,000 adults.  The first year, youth came on their own, mostly. This year, 114 schools used the conference as a field trip.  Donors like you helped us make sure that the conference was affordable for everyone – more than 300 youth came on scholarship or reduced rates because of the generosity of folks like you.

In 2005, True Colors launched Connecticut’s only mentoring program for LGBT youth in out of home care. Since then, we have created a model training program for mentors, mentored other groups seeking to emulate our
success, and have become the CT State Department of Children and Family’s largest provider of mentoring.  In
addition research (and common sense) tells us that youth need peers and safe social and recreational activities in order to thrive.  Because of donors like you, we now provide weekly activities all across the state!

There is so much more we can tell you, and so much more that needs to be done. LGBT youth are still thrown out of their families, bullied at school and in the community. Too many use drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of
being different.  But, with your continued support, True Colors will be there for the long haul, making a
difference for the many other ‘Tessa’s' we work with every day.

May 9, 2013

First Quarter 2013 Update for LGBT Youth Project

Breaking the Silence
Breaking the Silence

D* was 11 when he came into the True Colors mentoring program a year ago.  He was in trouble at school and acting out at home. His mom didn’t want him to be gay. His dad (with whom he has little contact) told him that if he ‘was like your faggy uncle, I will kill you.’  At the time he was referred to our mentoring program he was our youngest mentee.  We matched him with a middle aged, lesbian couple with lots of patience and love to give. It was a rough year, especially in the beginning.  D* was hospitalized, bounced into and out of a few programs. The mentors not only stuck it out with him, but with his family.  Together they weathered each storm as it blew through.  But, at the year-end match meeting, the results were astounding – D* is in school and getting good grades. And during that meeting the mom, who was so initially reluctant to have a gay son, said, “D*’s cousin is gay and his family isn’t very good about it. I am working on his mom.  But, till then, I invite him to our house every weekend. He has to have someplace where he knows that gay is okay.” What a transformation…. 

 And, donors like you make that kind of miracle possible…

We couldn’t do what we do, without YOU.  Our donors are as important as the youth we serve.  Some donors like to hear about the numbers.  How many people did we serve since our last report?  Other prefer the stories. What impact did their donations make on the people we served?  Most like a little bit of both.  (If you have a specific preference about what you would like to see included in our reports, please do not hesitate to email me at or call me at (860) 232-0050, ext 302.  I would be delighted to hear from you!

 So, here’s what we have been up to in the first quarter of 2013.  Our biggest single event was the conference.  We hosted our 20th annual True Colors conference – the largest and most comprehensive LGBTQIA youth conference in the country.  The ‘numbers’ look like this:

  • Total Attendees:  2,832
  • Youth who were able to attend on reduced rates or scholarships thanks to folks like you:  19 individual youth and 14 schools representing an additional 300+ students. 
  • States Represented:  13 CA, CT, DC, MA, ME, NC, NJ, NY, OK, PA, RI, VT, WA
  • Number of High Schools/Middle Schools that participated: 97
  • Number of Universities/Colleges/Trade Schools:  12

 Here’s what some attendees had to say about their experiences:  

From a youth:  “Well you see for quite a while I have been suffering of depression. I went to True Colors for the first time this year and while there I had a little episode of sadness. I sat down and no more than 10 seconds later someone sat down to cheer me up for no reason at all but to make me feel better. This was amazing and made me want to help others the same way he helped me.” 

From one of our donors:  “I went to the opening session today… IT WAS SO AWESOME!!! I cannot believe the energy I felt in the room. I left feeling so empowered and so inspired. The speakers were all wonderful and their stories… I mean I am still speechless. I’ve always been an ally, so for me, this was so heartwarming  and so moving to witness an event such as this, and see and hear the progress, defeats, and stories from such strong people.” 

From a presenter:  “I just wanted to send a quick note of congratulations and thanks with regard to this year’s True Colors conference.  Once again it was an extraordinary, inspiring experience.  The feeling of joy and freedom among conference participants is very energizing and fills me with hope and motivation.

In addition to the conference, and directly because of the support of people like YOU, True Colors hosted 10 mentoring activities with 171 participants; conducted 5 activist institutes with 55 youth, and provided cultural competency training for 118 youth serving professionals across CT and 54 principals and Vice Principals in Minnesota. 

Thank you.  We couldn't do what we do without you - and we know it!


Queer Academy
Queer Academy
Conference participants
Conference participants


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Project Leader

Robin McHaelen

Hartford, CT United States

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Map of Inspire 1,000's of LGBT youth & allies in CT & US