Youth Advocacy Coalition

The Spahr Center’s Youth Advocacy Coalition is a group comprised of queer and trans youth, high-school aged and up, who are passionate about activism and changing societal norms surrounding the LGTBQ+ community in Marin. Founded in March of 2018, the Youth Advocacy Coalition meets every week to organize and plan our events. Nina Friedman was our first program coordinator, and over the last three months, Fel Agrelius has taken that role. 

The group is entirely youth-led and directed. We pursue projects that we are most passionate about, and we prioritize those that show the most demonstrated need in our community. We initially started out planning social events, but as we grew together as a group, we realized we wanted to focus more on activism and community advocacy. Our group provides a way to get involved with other LGBTQ+ identified folks and create meaningful change, connecting those in and outside of the community and reducing the ignorance and prejudice with which we have personal experience.

Because we saw a need for more understanding about transgender issues specifically in Marin, we developed a training on transgender basics. We initially did a fair amount of outreach to specific organizations to offer our training as a resource, but as people learned about our work, we were asked to do trainings for all kinds of organizations and schools around Marin. Over the last year, we have trained over 1,000 individual teachers, service providers, and youth. That number continues to increase – on average, we do a training for a different group almost every week. 

 We’ve spoken at middle school hate speech assemblies, trained teachers at the Marin County Office of Education, run workshops for peer health clinics, and more, tailoring each training specifically to the size and background of the audience. The participants of the training leave with a better understanding of issues faced by our community, and tools to take action and improve the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ folks around them. We also share our experiences and stories on panels, lead both by the Spahr Center and other community activists. 

 Additionally, we organize social and intergenerational gatherings to unify the local LGBTQ+ community. Events like Marin Pride Picnic and marching in SF Pride help to bridge the gap between youth and elders. We also host fun events such as Dungeons and Dragons games and an LGBTQ teen book club! 

 Alongside trainings and social events, we have organized and participated in both local and statewide activism, from small-scale events such as community protests, to larger events like LGBTQ+ lobbying in Sacramento with Equality California. We are proud to be active in politics from the community level to nationwide. In July, we are starting up a weekly evening where LGBTQ youth come together to take action on different political issues, the first focus of which will be calling our representatives to demand the detention centers in Texas and in the Southwest US are shut down. 

Participating in the Youth Advocacy Coalition has been very impactful in our lives! It is rewarding to see the immediate effects of education and direct action in our communities. Many times queer and trans youth feel powerless and disenfranchised, but taking direct action is empowering and allows us to make real change in our lives and the lives of our queer youth to come. Activism and allyship have a ripple effect, and we believe that our actions encourage those around us to feel empowered to take action in their own lives. On a more personal level, it’s a ton of fun to be around other queer and trans youth! It has been wonderful to connect with the community and find role models. This work has also inspired career paths and taught us advocacy skills.

 Honestly, a lot of what we experience in our personal lives and what we hear in the media is upsetting, and can really drag us down. With the current political climate, it’s especially difficult to be LGBTQ+. Being able to take direct action through the YAC and seeing real change in the community reminds us of our personal power and the collective power of the LGBTQ+ community. 

 This summer, we are working on some new and exciting projects! We are currently creating a resource guide to help transgender people in Marin navigate the world of transition. This will ultimately be a website that covers all aspects of transition — medical, legal, social, and more. We are planning an intensive seminar for the Tamalpais Unified High School District on LGBTQ equity; and our long term goal is to train all teachers and school staff in Marin County. Additionally, we are developing curriculums for integrating LGBTQ+ experiences and histories into all academic subjects, as well as compiling a list of LGBTQ+ inclusive media. We are also working with members of the Senior Discussion Groups to interview people born before Stonewall and document their stories. 

 If you are queer/trans, between the ages of 15 and 25, and passionate about LGBTQ+ advocacy and building community, we would love to have you in the Youth Advocacy Coalition! You can learn more about us by reaching out to Fel Agrelius at agrelius@thespahrcenter.org.