By Nina Friedman, LGBTQ Youth Coordinator

The Spahr Center’s Q’d In LGBTQ+ youth programs are dedicated to supporting and empowering LGBTQ+ youth and young people ages 12-25 across Marin County. All of these programs are youth driven and directed. Together, we lead community drop-in support groups in Novato, San Rafael and Mill Valley, as well as in-school support groups in the Tam district.

Another integral part of Q’d In is the Youth Advisory Committee that prepares The Spahr Center’s educational trainings for students, educators and community members. Since its inception one year ago, the Advisory Committee has trained hundreds of educators, students, and providers across Marin county. In addition to leading trainings, the Q’d In Youth Advisory Committee plans engaging events for LGBTQ+ youth, young people and families. We hope to continue planning community events and providing educational trainings to increase the safety, visibility, and well-being of LBTQ+ youth and young people!

A shocking 8 in 10 LGBTQ+ students are regularly harassed at school because of who they are, with a harrowing 75% of transgender students reporting physical harassment at school (GLSEN, 2018). I often hear narratives of great progress on LGBTQ+  issues in Marin county, and that “we are in a bubble, within a bubble, within a bubble.” Unfortunately the above statistics are realities present in Marin schools and suggest that, while there has been progress, we have farther to go to build a truly welcoming community.

I started working at The Spahr Center with a larger goal of “supporting LGBTQ+ youth.” When we think about “supporting” any group of people, we often think of direct support — therapy groups, individual counseling, etc. That idea of support often negates the bigger picture and does not account for the environments that people are in; the everyday, the minute. In order to fully support someone, you must ensure the environment they are in is supportive. I recognized the need for an advocacy group made up of students and young people in the community who felt the need to respond to things happening on their campuses and in their lives. The committee had to be peer driven and directed. A year and over 25 trainings later, I still joke that all I do is buy the snacks and open the door.

The Youth Advisory Committee focuses their trainings on education and awareness. Most of our curriculum focuses on LGBTQ+ basics; we provide a framework for talking about our personal experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community and then move on to talk about how best to support LGBTQ+, and specifically transgender and gender expansive, students in schools. Committee members address issues like micro-aggressions, pronouns, and offensive jokes. They successfully address how to interrupt this behavior.

For the past year I have had the privilege and honor of seeing Youth Advisory Committee members lead these trainings, speaking from a place of powerful personal narrative. Starting April 1, I will be transitioning out of my current role.  I have loved working with and alongside LGBTQ+ youth in the Marin community. I will greatly miss facilitating groups. While I am incredibly sad to be leaving The Spahr Center, I am excited to see where the program goes. I learn something new from the youth I work with every day, and have immense gratitude for all the wonderful community members I have worked with.

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 Basic Terminology:

*Cisgender/Cis | A term for someone whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned to them at birth.

*Non-Binary | Someone who does not identify on the male/female binary. Non-binary people may identify as being both male/ female, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. While many non-binary people also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do.

*Transgender/Trans | An umbrella term encompassing many gender identities of those who do not identify or exclusively identify with their sex assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. Note that transgender does not have an “ed” at the end.