Yesterday was my first day for my externship at InsideOut, a LGBT youth services center in downtown Colorado Springs. I met Eric Pizana and Ashley and in their office they were writing grants to local organizations, asking them if they would be able to provide any food or money for InsideOut. Eric gave me a tour of their space – the ceiling was covered with paper butterflies with encouraging messages to inspire the youth, and with the lounge area housing a pool table and a kitchen in the back, the space was a great place for the youth to come together and connect with one another.
After the tour, I helped with some filing and set up the projector for the movie that was going to played later at 5:30pm. The movie was To Wong Foo, which involved three drag queens traveling the country. I wasn’t able to finish the movie since I went to attend the PEAQ (Proud Empowered Advocates for Queers) Panel at the Urban Peak Center. The panel consists of InsideOut Youth leading a discussion for an hour regarding LGBT issues and allowing the public to develop a better understanding of terminology and how it feel to be a member of the LGBT community.
The first activity involved using a purple ball that had a plethora of LGBT terms written on it and the audience would roll the ball around and eventually someone would pick it up and read the term that their left thumb landed on. Some of the terms were: gender roles, cisgender, transgender, sexual orientation, transsexual, and gender identity. Because of my exposure to the terminology in feminist and gender studies classes, these terms seemed very basic to me, a privilege I often forget about since my education allows me to understand the world in a much broader manner than most people. When people guessed what each term meant, it was quite an eye opener for me to realize how much the public doesn’t know about terms that I use on a daily basis. The activity seemed very beneficial for the group since they developed a better understanding and perception about LGBT issues that they would have otherwise not acknowledged.
The second activity was about describing your crush without using gender pronouns, such as: girl, guy, woman, man, boy, dude, dudette, etc. For example, you would say: “This person is____. They are very funny and a great person.” Although the activity wasn’t as serious as the previous one, the public did realize how uncomfortable it felt to describe a person without pronouns. This exercise was supposed to show the public how it would feel to be someone who is not out to their family or friends about their sexuality and how it would feel to be someone who had to hide their crush’s gender as a result.
The third activity was similar to the Privilege Walk, in that the moderator would say a statement such as “Step forward if you have ever been bullied” and people will be lined up and if they agreed to the statement they would take a step forward.This activity involves being silent. It was interesting to see what everyone could relate on and what statements only a few people stepped forward. Afterwards we discussed how the activity affected the group and people remarked how it felt uncomfortable to own up to some of the statements (Step forward if you have ever gossiped).
During the discussion and activities, people could write anonymous questions and put them into a fishbowl in the middle of the table and at the end they would be answered, as deemed relevant to the topics. It takes great strength and professionalism to have a poker face when questions are being read, something that I noticed some of the youth needed more practice in. While some of the questions seemed offensive to me (ex. “Why is the term ‘fag’ offensive to gay people?”), the youth did a good job answering them in a manner that the public could understand and take into consideration after the panel.
Overall, my first day was a great exposure into InsideOut and what it does for the youth and the community. I’m really excited to seeing what other things the organization does during this time I get to work with them.