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

by True Colors, Inc. Sexual Minority Youth and Family Services of CT
Vetted
beginning the day with meditation
beginning the day with meditation

Transformational is the definition of Queer Academy.

S* came into Queer Academy that first day, with her head down, hair in her eyes and covering her face and speaking in a nearly inaudible voice.  Six weeks later, she was on stage at “Draguation” singing a Capella.  T* started the program as an angry young lesbian struggling on a daily basis with unsupportive group home staff. He left as a confident young trans man who performed his own spoken word piece to a standing ovation that included some members of that same group home staff.

For some folks, summer days are for lazy afternoons, vacations and taking life a little slower. The summer at True Colors is as busy – or busier – than other times of the year.  Our main event is Queer Academy – a six week intensive summer youth program designed to develop LGBTQ youth personally, professionally and academically.

This year’s theme was “Standing at the Intersections of You and Me.”  Youth explored the elements of their own identity – beginning to see themselves and each other as intersectional beings. Some recognized for the first time the ways in which one element of their identity (queerness) impacted other elements of their identity (race, ethnicity, family structure, etc.)

They explored their identities through experiential activities, research projects, discussions, films and field trips.  They went to Northampton to learn about the ‘queerer’ side of Emily Dickinson at the museum dedicated to her.  The visited the Stonewall Bar and learned about the beginning of the LGBTQ rights movement in a way that was inclusive of transgender youth of color who helped launch the riots.  They spent time at UCONN learning how to use the library and exploring the cultural centers.  

They ‘operationalized’ their thoughts with art, spoken word, research posters and through a “presentation of learning” where they described their experiences and what they learned to people from the community – donors like you, legislators, family members, clinicians, and even group home staff.  

It was transformational. And YOU made it possible. Queer Academy has no direct funding source except people like you who donate $5.00, $50.00, $500.00 and in one case, even $5,000. YOU change lives.  And, we are so grateful.

Queer Academy Logo thanks to Artist Ricky Mestre
Queer Academy Logo thanks to Artist Ricky Mestre
Lunch after the Emily Dickenson House visit
Lunch after the Emily Dickenson House visit
At Stonewall
At Stonewall
Presentation of Learning
Presentation of Learning
Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter

Our work this quarter was made even more poignant by the recent events in the US – the murder of 49 innocents at Pulse in Orlando; the murder of another two unarmed Black men in Minnesota and Baton Rouge; and the murder of 5 police officers in Dallas. Each of these tragedies directly impacts the LGBTQ youth we serve – especially the LGBTQ Youth of Color.

True Colors’ organizational theme is intersectionality – the recognition that each of us is made up of different identities – race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, class, religion, ability and many more. We believe it a core part of our work to respect, reflect and honor the different lens, privileges and experiences of our board, staff, volunteers and constituents. That means walking the talk and we are working hard to do that. 

  • Last year, our Board of Directors took on anti-racism as a strategic initiative.  Our board and staff have objectives related to personal and systemic biases within our organization, our work as organizers and advocates, and in the society at large.

  • True Colors and our board/staff and volunteers are active participants in the Black Lives Matter movement across Connecticut. In fact, our Executive Director was arrested for civil disobedience at an event last year.

  • True Colors collaborated with the Islamic Community in CT after Orlando to host a rally and a teach-in exploring the ways in which homo/trans phobia and Islamophobia are connected. We are now part of an on-going LGBTQ, Islamic, Christian and Jewish initiative to continue this work.

This theme of intersectionality plays out in all the work your support allows us to do. In the second quarter of the year, in part because of you, we were able to provide:

  • Youth Leadership and Mentoring: In April – June, we hosted 29 social and recreational activities for 212 youth! We also met face-to-face with 9 school Gay/Straight Alliances reaching a total of 280 additional youth. Your donations directly support that work.   Imagine how many kids were impacted because you care.

  • Training for professionals to more effectively meet the needs of the LGBTQ youth and families we serve. In this quarter, we provided 48 trainings to over 1,540 youth serving professionals – CT and nationally. Many of those workshops were offered free or at reduced costs to schools or other non-profit organizations. Imagine how many lives each of those participants go on to touch? Imagine the difference your support continues to make.

Thank you for your support. It truly makes a world of difference.  We know we couldn’t do what we do without YOU! And we are very grateful.

Mentoring Teamwork
Mentoring Teamwork
Walking the Talk
Walking the Talk
A recent mentoring activity
A recent mentoring activity
After Orlando
After Orlando

Links:

Making Connections
Making Connections

In the first quarter of every year, True Colors is all about our annual conference - and preparing for this year's 23rd Anniversary event was no different!  There are thousands of details to attend to.

It takes a village to put together an event with more than 3,800 participants, 300 presenters, 285 workshops and school buses full of youth from 123 different school districts. Whew! 

As a donor, you are so important to our work.  We are grateful you are a part of the True Colors 'village'.  Here is just a taste of what some of the youth had to say about their experiences.

  • I could compose 13,000 tweets about how much I love True Colors and all the people & performers there

  • I've never felt as proud as I am today to be bisexual I was surrounded by so much positivity and great, understanding people

  • So excited to have been the true me at #TrueColors23

  • The one time in my life I've felt truly accepted #TrueColors23

  •  #TrueColors23 was supa lit yesterday. The reason I keep coming back

  • I was feeling low, so they took my hand. We're one family #TrueColors23

  • Loving how accepted, happy, and loved my students feel when we come here every year!!! 

  • I recently attended the conference at UConn and was blown away at what an amazing conference it was. Thank you for all the wonderful workshops, speakers, and useful information.

  • A* LOVED True Colors! It is so great to hear about his experience. I am so happy to hear that you were able to take him this past weekend-it is a great experience for him!

As a True Colors donor, you make these experiences possible.  Consider:  We were able to give away nearly $8,000 in youth scholarships this year.  That wouldn't have been possible without the support of individuals like you. Next year we hope to be able to do even more.*

I hope you will take a minute to check out some of the pictures - if you are on twitter, check out #TrueColors23 to see more responses from participants. It takes our whole staff of 5 and interns and more than 200 volunteers to make the conference happen. The impact on the youth we serve makes it all worthwhile. 

Thank you for being a part of the True Colors 'village'. 

 

Robin McHaelen, MSW
Executive Director

 

 *We had just under $17,000 in requests for support this year - we raised enough to meet 47% of those requests -- better than last year but not as good as we hope to be next year. 

Conference fashion
Conference fashion
Our welcoming committee
Our welcoming committee
Allies are welcome too
Allies are welcome too
Welcome!
Welcome!
A few of the 200 volunteers
A few of the 200 volunteers

Links:

A GSA celebration
A GSA celebration

We are so grateful to you. 

You make so many moments possible. Much of the work we do with students is unfunded, except through donations from generous people like you. Consider:

  • Melissa, our youth activities coordinator, was meeting with a group of youth at an event in New Haven. She started to tell them about our annual conference but got interrupted by kids who wanted to tell their own stories about the conference. Turns out, they had all gone to a workshop called, “I’m Beautiful, Dammit”. They connected with each other there and created their own Facebook group -- they haven’t seen each other for a year, but they stay connected and engaged and can’t wait for the 2016 conference when they can see each other again face-to-face. Donations like yours made the scholarships several of those youth attended on, possible.

 

  • During the last quarter of the year, True Colors and one of their interns began working with individuals, organizations and agencies in the Bridgeport area of CT to try to develop some programs for LGBT youth in that area. Although there are programs 30 minutes away, they might as well be in another country for Bridgeport kids without transportation. We hosted our first group last Friday with 8 youth. One middle schooler said, “My parents are trying but they don’t get me. They want me to just ‘choose’ like, be a lesbian or something. I didn’t know that there were other people who could understand that that it isn’t about who I like. It’s about me. I am not just a girl or just a boy. I am a little of both.” The first and third Fridays of every month will offer a free social and recreational program for LGBTQ youth in Bridgeport in locations that are on bus lines and easy to get to. Last year, we helped create programs in Waterbury. After Bridgeport, we are headed to Litchfield. None of this work is grant supported. It all comes from you. We couldn’t do this work without you.

 

  • Yesterday, we hosted our annual youth in the mentoring program holiday party. The theme was rainbow reading. Every youth got a book donated to us by an LGBT author. They also received special gifts designed to help them create new memories: live theater and live concert tickets, museum admissions, activities gift cards. All of those gifts were donated by individuals like you. People who care about the next generation and want to make the world a better place for them…

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Wishing you and yours the happiest and healthiest of New Year’s. You are a blessing to us and the youth we serve.

Robin McHaelen, MSW
Executive Director

Rockville GSA at the conference
Rockville GSA at the conference
A Gay/Straight Alliance (Summit on HIV prevention
A Gay/Straight Alliance (Summit on HIV prevention
Getting ready for craft night
Getting ready for craft night

Links:

GSA Summit for young adults
GSA Summit for young adults

Fall can be a magical time. Crisp, autumn air; new school clothes and books; seeing old friends missed over the summer and meeting new ones. It can also be a terrible time. A reminder that you don’t fit in, that your most authentic self isn’t acceptable, let alone valued or affirmed.

The numbers are staggering. Truancy, violence, homelessness. Especially for transgender and gender creative children and youth. Consider:

                                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tInLr6RX_zA

At the same time, and largely because of people like you, there is hope.

A 2014 study demonstrated that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who receive support both at home and at school reported higher levels of life satisfaction and self-esteem than their straight peers. Wow. Who would have thought?

Emerging research regarding transgender and gender expansive children demonstrates that when kids are allowed to express their authentic, gender-creative selves, they flourish. They are happy, healthy, well-adjusted, regular kids with their own unique and creative gender web.

It’s because of people like you that the world is changing. Individuals like you who are either actively doing the work – or actively helping to ensure that the work gets done through well-timed and generous donations.

As the leader of an organization that works all year round to ensure that LGBTQA youth are welcome, valued and affirmed, I feel extraordinarily grateful for you. I know that my life’s work is possible because you care enough to support it. I know that the lives we change, the environments we transform and the differences we make are due to you.

This update is not a request for money. It is a recognition that you matter, and an opportunity to tell you just how much.

Thank you for all you make possible for LGBTQA youth with your support of True Colors. We are deeply honored to work with you.

Youth summit
Youth summit
Mentoring hike
Mentoring hike
Dragon Boat racing
Dragon Boat racing
Rainbow Friday
Rainbow Friday
Mentoring in the park
Mentoring in the park
 

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Project Leader:
Robin McHaelen
Hartford, CT United States
$9,410 raised of $30,000 goal
 
195 donations
$20,590 to go
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