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Mobilization and Framing February 18, 2009

Posted by aufderhr in Uncategorized.
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So we have finally gotten to the point in our movement where we have actual dates and times for activities.  We have scheduled a volunteer day for the Saturday of 8th weekend and we are now working on organizing transportation and the other organizational details.  We had someone who volunteered to speak at Carleton as well, however they have not been in contact with us and so we have not been able to confirm.  Our original goal was to focus most out activities in one week; so in preparation for volunteering we booked a table is Sayles and plan to start our letter writing campaign to support the Minnesota Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.  Now that we have activities we face the challenge of selling in to the Carleton community.

To start, of course, we need to advertise so people know these activities are happening.  Carleton offers many ways to get information and event dates out to students: the NNB, the all-campus emails, and centrally located postering opportunities.  I also plan to email existing Carlton groups that might have an interest in our topic: the GSC, MPIRG, and maybe WHOA.  One of the advantages of having activism on a college campus is we have these communication resources available to us, however though we have all these resources we have to compete with the myriad of other activities and issues at Carleton.  How can we present this issue in a way that will make students willing to sacrifice a part of their Saturday to come up to the cities; what will make them willing to sign a letter or call their representative as we table; and, if we have a speaker, what will make them willing to sacrifice a Monday or Tuesday night to hear them speak?

Our goal is to make students notice not just our events, but also our issue.  In order to achieve this we would like to start with some posters.  Our plan is to have a few different posters around campus that begin with, “DID YOU KNOW” and then are followed by some fact about LGBT Homeless youth.  We simple posters with little text that people can read as they walk by, but that have a message.  The goal being that when they see our ads for a speaker, volunteering, and letter writing they will be more likely to stop and take notice.  My psychology professor would call this priming.

We also want to convince people that something like going to a speaker, writing a letter, or volunteering once can make a difference.  I have found that if people feel like what they will be doing will not help anyone then the probably will not participate, and of course on the reverse, increased efficacy leads to increased participation.  I have talked to people in the organization we contacted that are very excited that we want to help support the MN Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and have assured me that some letter writing and a few calls could go a long way, so while we still have to convince Carleton students of the same thing, this is a start.  Convincing people to volunteer may be more difficult because it is a greater donation of time, however we are not trying to recruit as many people to participate in the volunteer work and hopefully we can use the social networks at Carleton to convince people already interested in these sort of issues to come a long and bring their friends.  But even to recruit these people, we still need to make the not-particularly-glamorous volunteer work sound a like a good use of time.  We probably will not really be interacting with the kids at the shelter because unless there is some sort of organized activity just socializing often makes the kids uncomfortable which is obviously not what we want.  Instead we will probably be helping sort through the clothes that are donated to the shelter.  It is something the shelter needs but might not be something that will inspire people to action.  I have never really tried to organize people that were not already interested in an organization and I am very interested to see how it goes.

Ruth

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Status Update February 8, 2009

Posted by cellardoor10 in Uncategorized.
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So, we’re halfway through the term, and what has Carleton OUT on the Streets organized so far?  Well, we have gotten in touch with a great organization called The Bridge for Youth, which does a lot of work for homeless youth, providing a safe space 24 hours a day, with special support programs for LGBTQ youth.  We have contacted Chelsea Miller, the Development Coordinator there, and we’re working on getting together a speaker and tour of the facility.  We are still working on something volunteer-related, though.  It can be difficult to find a need for a large group of people, especially when a lot of the services provided are counseling or housing or another long-term support which requires training.  Hopefully we can find something fun and helpful for the youth there.

We also tried to get in touch with District 202, a queer youth community center, which is well known around the community.  In fact, I was watching a documentary called After Stonewall, narrated by the one and only Melissa Etheridge, and they mentioned District 202 and the amazing work it does.  I haven’t heard back from my initial email requesting information, so I think we’re going to pretty much exclusively work with the Bridge for Youth, which will provide some continuity and focus.

We haven’t done a lot of work about the legislative end of our movement yet.  We need to come up with a script and have laptops for use for emailing and letter writing and things.  I would prefer, however, to use mainly calls and letters, as those have a greater impact.  We would need to talk to Campus Activities, I think, in order to arrange tabling in Sayles.  We will also need to have this capability at our speaker presentation, so people can do this right after hearing about the issue, and maybe even after our volunteer day.  We tried to get in contact with some groups/people suggested by Adrienne, but one didn’t respond and the other directed us elsewhere, so those didn’t work out.  I was a bit disappointed about one of them, because this person sounded like an excellent resource for our cause.

I am worried that a lot of it will come down to that particular week – doing lots of last-minute planning.  I think we have the groundwork, but we need to solidify dates, schedule things, reserve spaces, and get the word out.  That’s a lot to do before 8th week – we decided to wait until 8th week because of our planning progress, and scheduling around other activities on campus – a lot of people active with the Gender and Sexuality Center will be doing OWL training 7th weekend, and we anticipate a lot of our potential volunteers will be involved with the Gender and Sexuality Center.  Hopefully people’s general busy-ness levels won’t make that timing a problem.

I am worried about this being short-term.  I want to have an interest meeting the week before our activities and get a group that will help table and be interested in volunteering.  In addition, on a personal level, I would really love to continue working with the Bridge for Youth or District 202 or any of the other great organizations that I have discovered in this search.  I have managed to find an issue I really want to help with, and hopefully I can convey that to the organizations and possibly talk with the ACT Center about setting up a regular arrangement or extending awareness of this into Spring Term and beyond.

To that end, I am excited about the reception we’ve been getting in preliminary discussions of this issue with GSC staff and student workers – they are very supportive, and even looking at incorporating fundraisers for some of these organizations in Pride Planning in April.  Most people have never heard about this issue or feel very insulated from it, but discussions with individuals have been rewarding so far – it might help that those people are my friends.  However, I really hope to not only gain support from the “usual suspects,” but also people who become interested in the issue for reasons other than friendship and simply doing lots of activities with the GSC.  These people are certainly valuable resources and great support, but I would love to see new faces getting involved too.

– Jane

Emotional Responses January 27, 2009

Posted by cellardoor10 in Uncategorized.
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What kind of emotional response is necessary to activate students to think about queer, homeless youth?  Most students are neither queer nor homeless, so where is the appeal?  I have been grappling with the idea of who we can recruit to help in our movement.  We have discussed the idea of Carleton as an apathetic campus.  Students are busy, the weather is cold, there are too many groups fighting for attention and participation – how can we find a niche for such a specific issue that is so difficult to combat from where we sit?  Yes, we can organize a volunteer day, push legislation and raise awareness, but somehow it feels hollow coming from (mostly) white, straight, upper middle-class, educated people.  I believe in the cause, there is no question about that, but it is hard to envision a lasting movement or interest evolving out of this.  The GSC already does so much, and they are still working on expanding to be inclusive and educational about the “T” in LGBTA.  There is honestly an epidemic of homelessness among queer youth, but it feels difficult to comprehend when I feel so insulated.

It feels like a problem that can only be addressed with systemic, societal change, with an LGBT movement that doesn’t just work for middle-aged, middle-class white gay men, but one that works for young genderqueer, lesbian, or bisexual people of all colors and backgrounds.  This is certainly not the movement that exists today.  The fight for marriage equality, while I support it wholeheartedly, is clearly an elitist movement.  Who can worry about marriage when the only source of food is the money you get from prostitution in the bushes, or you are freezing in -20 degree weather?

My point is not to dishearten or reduce feelings of efficacy, only to raise my own personal doubts about how we can enact some form of change.  I do believe that if we are successful in our three events that we hope to put on, that we will be able to make some small contribution.  However, the more I look critically at the issues we’re addressing and the issues being addressed by large mainstream LGBT rights organizations, I find a failing to address the LGBT future – the young people who need support.  Yes, many people need the supports of legal hospital visitation rights or adoption rights, etc., but that seems to pale in comparison to the issues of shelter, food, and the most basic kind of love and support.  Grassroots organizations are the ones doing this, not the large conglomerate coalitions.

But to return to my original topic, I believe we will have to illustrate to people that those young queer kids on the streets could be them.  Your parents don’t like your major?  your significant other? your religious/political beliefs? your friends?  All those are essentially analogous to being kicked out of the house for being gay.  In fact, many of those are easier to hide or change than sexuality.  That’s the angle I think we must use – think of their lost opportunities!  All we ask to help the kids who should be your peers is that you write a letter, attend a talk, and give up part of a Saturday in order to really understand what these kids, who are often your age or your sibling’s age, need in the form of support.  I don’t think fear is the right emotion – perhaps outrage at the lack of support they receive.  Outrage will motivate the legislation drive, I think, while compassion will motivate those who volunteer at the shelter.

We can trigger outrage by providing an enemy to blame – the systemic mistreatment of queer youth by families, religious groups, and even other homeless people.  This seems vague and huge, so the unfortunate side effect might be a lowering of political efficacy – when the fight is too big, one feels very small.  We can trigger compassion by tugging at heartstrings – pictures and stories of youth who chose to freeze to death rather than endure hostile shelter environments, kids with futures who were rejected by their parents and driven to subsistence prostitution, etc., etc.  Ignoring people who may categorically hate queer people, no matter their age, plight, or situation (few of which seem to exist at Carleton, our main target community), the emotion of compassion shouldn’t be hard to evoke.  The challenge will be to make sure students feel empowered to help.  We have to educate and motivate, and then present opportunities to channel that.  Without that ability to package those events like this, we will be unable to garner a decent turnout for either of our action-oriented events.

Welcome to Carleton OUT on the Streets! January 22, 2009

Posted by cellardoor10 in Uncategorized.
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Welcome to OUT on the Streets, a group founded by Jane Sturges, Ruth Aufderheide, and Alexandre Adrian, three juniors at Carleton College in POSC 358: Comparative Social Movements.

We are very concerned with the situation of LGBT youth (and adults) who have become homeless, whether due to poverty, societal/familial rejection, or a myriad of other possible reasons.  The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has estimated that between 20-40% of homeless youth on any given night are identified as queer/LGBT.  This lack of societal support, compounded by age and many youths’ inability to support themselves has resulted in a widespread problem that needs to be confronted.  Queer youth, especially those of color, are experiencing poverty and homelessness disproportionately as compared to their heterosexual, Caucasian counterparts.  The problems of prejudice and misunderstanding on the part of many people have resulted in queer youth being mistreated or turned away from shelters and not given the particular support they need.  In many cases, shelters are unsafe or unwelcoming, and an increasing number of queer youth are choosing to take their chances on the streets, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, weather, hate, and the constant possibility of general crime.  Many resort to selling their bodies and sex for money to survive.  They often are abused or contract STIs, but have little ability to receive the care they need.  In addition, since many of these young people are runaways, they do not have the education or resources to find legal, respectable work.

Our goal is to raise awareness at Carleton College, and to encourage students to take action to support these young people.  We are working on coordinating a volunteer day, a possible speaker, and a possible legislation campaign.  All three facets: awareness, policy, and personal exposure/volunteerism are integral to gaining knowledge and creating a better situation for the young people so greatly affected by their lack of structural support and ability to support themselves.  We are excited and ready to begin this project we find so moving and important to our society.