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.