I came out to my friends and family in 2012. The feelings I felt? Scared. Worried. Nervous. Even though I knew (deep down) that those close to me would be accepting, I still had these emotions constantly present. The butterflies in the pit of my stomach, having a difficult time saying the short phrase, “I am gay.” After that courageous moment of being proud of my identity, I figured that was the end of it. That I could now move on and not have to deal with that topic anymore. Boy oh boy, was I mistaken.
As I began to get more involved with the LGBTQ community, I quickly realized that not all those in our community had such a wonderful, feel good coming out story. I realized that there was pain, abandonment, and a lack of belonging in some of the experiences that were shared with me. I was heartbroken to learn this. As a CASA Teen Advocacy Specialist, I began to learn that our youth who identify as LGBT in care are more likely to face physical and emotional abuse and become homeless as a result. My heart broke to pieces knowing this information. I got sad. I got angry. I got motivated.
Knowing that there are some individuals in my community suffering or hurting really got me motivated to get involved. I organized marches for National Coming Out Day. I got involved with Austin Pride and currently sit on their Board of Directors. I launched a YouTube channel tackling issues pertinent to the LGBT community. I wanted to ensure that when people ask me what I did to make it better for those in my community, I would be able to say that at the very least I attempted to make a difference.
This is where you come in! As we celebrate Pride here in Austin this week, it is important, now more than ever, to get involved with CASA of Travis County and help advocate for a child or teen who not only is going through one of the toughest moments of their lives, but who also identifies as LGBT. I have had youth in care tell me they have never met other LGBT friendly adults in their entire life until they met their CASA volunteer. As a CASA volunteer, you can be the supportive advocate for these youth. As we celebrate Pride right now with a festival and a parade, let us ask ourselves, “How are we celebrating Pride on a daily basis?” and, “How are we ensuring that the next generation of those in the LGBT community have the support and love they need to be successful?”
I think about the positive and loving people in my life daily. Their love and support helped raise my voice and I hope that through the work we do as an organization and as individuals, we can help raise the voices of many others in our community who long to be heard.
If you’re interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, head to the volunteer page of our website or stop by our booth at the Austin Pride Festival on Saturday, August 27th to learn more.
LGBTQ August 2016