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Apr 3, 2018

Our 25th Anniversary Conference and you

Conference Welcome Rock
Conference Welcome Rock

"Last year my nana," she said, "cried every time she looked at me and remembered I was a lesbian. This year, she paid me for me to come to the conference." Her friends in the youth speak out line held her as the happy tears spilled down her cheeks.

I am writing to say, “Thank You!” Our 25th anniversary True Colors conference was a huge success. Your donations helped make that possible.  We couldn’t do it without you.

Here’s what the numbers looked like:

  • True Colors 25th Anniversary Conference attracted a total of 3,482 participants representing 128 high schools, 9 middle schools, 18 colleges and 11 states.

But, the numbers only tell a part of the story. The real story lives in the hearts and experiences of the people who attend.  One teacher said, “This year's conference was epic! My students and I enjoyed every ounce of True Colors.”  "I never felt like I belonged anywhere." said the young, qenderqueer student who stopped me in the hall. "I feel like I belong here." The youth ducked their head, blushed and hurried away.  One presenter asked the youth who attended to write a 10 word ‘story’.  Below are some examples of what they said. I hope you are also struck by their profoundness and creativity.

  • She's going where she belongs and I wish her well.
  • Depression and anxiety won't tear me up anymore.
  • I flipped the page and then came to a realization.
  • I am always trying not to wish my life away, trying to be present instead.
  • His autistic way of thinking made "ask her out" impossible.

I overheard a youth say to a group of friends, "I got to put my pronouns on my name tag!" with obvious delight. Moments like these. That is why the True Colors conference matters so much.

More than half of the youth who attend receive some sort of scholarship or reduced rate to participate.  Donors, co-sponsors, people who purchase ads and/or tables, and volunteers make it possible for us to create these amazing experiences for our youth.

We are very grateful to people like you who make events like the conference possible for our youth.  Thank you!

Robin McHaelen, MSW
Executive Director

Uconn Welcome
Uconn Welcome
True Colors Conference Drag Show
True Colors Conference Drag Show
Clsoing performance, youth and adults
Clsoing performance, youth and adults
Getting ready to perform
Getting ready to perform
TC 25 montage
TC 25 montage

Links:

Feb 21, 2018

2017 was a challenging year but your support helps us make it better

Celebrating drag - we have fun too!
Celebrating drag - we have fun too!

We are more grateful to you, our donors and supporters than ever. 2017 was a challenging year – politically, financially and in terms of the growing need for advocacy.  A recent study looked at LGBTQ acceptance across the US and found that it has dipped under 50% for the first time in several years.  The researchers attribute that to the polarized political climate.  It now seems more ‘acceptable’ for people to express biased views about many groups including LGBTQ youth.  That new ‘freedom to be mean’ impacts our kids in many ways.  More depression, more substance use, more social isolation.  We know that it is more important than ever for True Colors to be in the forefront in making the world a safe and affirming place for all youth, including those who are queer.  And we know that we can’t do it without you. 

Here is some of what YOUR support made possible in the last quarter of 2017:

We visited 15 Gender/Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) in Connecticut schools during this quarter. We noticed that GSA visits have become way more serious over the last year. Most are much larger than they used to be (20-30 members as opposed to 5-10) and had clear goals involving the school climate and student body’s awareness level.   Here are some examples:

  • The New Britain High (MBH) GSA is intensely invested in improving their school climate. They brainstormed several campaigns for this during our visit, eventually settling on gathering their stories together in a zine and then hopefully having other students read them aloud on video (keeping anonymity but adding emotion). The heartbreaking thing about NBH was asking them “what are you up against?” as a conversation starter and hearing multiple stories about staff bullying students for being queer. One was denied entry into homecoming with his boyfriend and other students snuck them into their own dance. When the advisor said she hadn’t heard about this, the student said, “You didn’t ask.” It seems bullying by an adult is so commonplace it doesn’t seem like something that should even deserve a report.

  • Only two students attended the New Haven summit, despite extensive advertising and personal outreach to both advisor and student contacts. The two that attended told me they expected it to be a small group as it isn’t safe to be out in New Haven, and it isn’t safe in the area we hosted the summit (New Haven Pride Center) for many students because it’s the white part of town. This needs major follow-up on our part.

  • Movie Night was “run” by one of our former mentees, Jessie. She comes back to help us clean out our trash buckets (by bringing bags outside) and clothing closet (by bringing bags at a time home), but this is the first time she stepped up to an activity. It was a neat “brave space” moment – and an example of the long term impact of our work.

  • Drag Night brought in a couple brand new faces! This one was a kick-off event, which featured a panel of local performers, including one of our mentors. We took pages of topics that were brought up during the event on sticky-notes so everyone could keep track; we ended up with three pages of material to work with for future events! Fun and history and Queer culture are also a critical part of who we are and what we bring to our youth.

This is just a ‘taste’ of the work your support makes possible.We expect the demand for our services to continue to rise throughout 2018.  The lack of civil discourse at the national level shows no sign of abating; the crises of unkindness continues. But with your support, we will keep on keeping on.  Our kids need us all.

Links:

Jan 10, 2018

one trans girl whipped off her wig

Working with a GSA on inclusion
Working with a GSA on inclusion

Dear Friend of True Colors,

The fourth quarter is always a busy one here at True Colors. We began organizing for our (25th!) annual conference, still the largest LGBTQ youth issues conference in the country with over 3,500 attendees each year. Schools are back in session so our work with school based sexuality and gender alliances (GSA) launches into full swing in this quarter. We hosted 35 activities for youth with more than 300 participants.  We conducted consultation site visits with students in Ansonia, Branford, Hartford, Woodbridge, Enfield, Bridgeport,Windsor, Waterbury, New Britain, Bloomfield, Manchester, Putnam, Trumbull, New Haven and Waterford.  

One GSA advisor said, "The positive attitude your visit brought us has lasted all through the winter vacation break.  Your guidance has assisted us in being a more united club.  We will be reaching out to you in the future about coming back to visit with us."

One of the events we produce each quarter is called Muse Uprising, a youth open mic event. Youth come together to support one another, as well as challenge themselves to try new things and push their limits in a healthy way that encourages them to grow and find their voice. We watch this happen every time. The audience cheered and clapped with the beat to encourage whoever was up. People who swore they’d never perform in front of an audience ended up doing just that! In our October event:

  • One young trans girl whipped her hair off during a song about not having to hide;

  • Two girls who never came before took turns being one another’s ‘mic stand’ and holding their notebooks or phones so the person performing could read off them;

  • Mentees who never speak in front of the group got on the microphone.

    • Jace, who loves to make witty side comments but is incredibly shy if the attention is actually on him, got up to sing—he faced the wall instead of the audience for the entire time, but he did it!

    • Mike, who seldom speaks in the group (sometimes he asks his mentor to even share his name and pronouns during the ice breakers so he doesn’t have to speak out loud at all), said he would perform if his mentor performed, so they both did separate pieces and made it through the entire song.

You know what makes these incredible moments possible? You. Our donors.  All of our youth leadership work is supported solely through the generosity of people like you.  We don’t have our 2017 numbers yet, but we expect them to exceed our 2016 numbers. In 2016, you directly helped us support more than 1,400 LGBTQ youth.  Altogether, because of you, and others like you, True Colors True Colors directly touched 12,263 lives. 

    • Youth Leadership: 1,460 youth with 107 social/recreational activities, 8 high school summits and 26 Genders/Sexualities Alliance (GSA) visits

    • Conference: 3,879 participants from 10 different states, 11 colleges, 110 high schools, 3 middle schools, 285 presenters, 232 volunteers…

    • Mentoring: about 40 mentors/mentees – smaller numbers but huge outcomes!

    • Training: 6,654 educators, social workers, administrators, across CT and nationally

    • Safe Harbors: Statewide policy and programming task force in collaboration with DCF

We couldn’t do what we do without you. We are incredibly grateful!

In Branford
In Branford
Muse Uprising
Muse Uprising
Last year's conference
Last year's conference
 
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