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A Publicity Update and Definition February 19, 2009

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We have a couple events scheduled now (which are described on the Calendar page), and we have sent some posters to the copier (aka Dev).  Anyway, our posters follow two major themes – DID YOU KNOW? and HOME … We are pretty excited about them because they are simple, direct, and striking visually.  We think they will be on bright yellow paper, and probably everywhere (we’re getting 50 of them!), so keep an eye out.  The DidYou Know? posters detail some startling facts about the issue of LGBT homelessness, suchas that 26% of LGBT youth are kicked out of their homes when they come out, up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, and that around one-third of homeless gay youth engage in survival sex.

Survival sex is not always a familiar concept to people, so I will quickly define it for you.  It is especially overlooked in the U.S.A., where our government takes such a normative approach to sexual pleasure and sex work.  I do not endorse sex work, but the paranoia around “promoting prostitution” demonstrated in HIV/AIDS policies and the lack of support for sex workers, who I view as victims, is a disservice to this often vulnerable population.  Anyway, survival sex is when people, in this case LGBT homeless youth, prostitute themselves in order to afford food, shelter, or drugs to numb the pain.

Some people may say drugs don’t count as survival, but numbing the pain is sometimes a necessity if you are rejected from home (many are even physically assaulted when they come out), homeless, and forced to sell your body for food.  Anyway, that could be a completely different post.  My point is that while the government treats the people who engage in survival sex as deviant criminals, they should be treated as victims of systemis and cultural failings, and supported so they can remove themselves from a psychologically and physically detrimental mode of survival.

As for our events, we will be tabling Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon of next week, the 24th-26th, and we are volunteering that Saturday, the 28th.  We may or may not have a speaker, since the group we were working with on that had to back out because of other commitments.  We will have a film we can screen about homeless youth if the speaker doesn’t work out, though, and so the backup plan makes me much more comfortable about our prospects.

Additionally, I was doing a lot of the organizing early in the process due to my status as contact person with the shelters, but now Alexandre and Ruth have both taken on a lot more logistical details – getting transport, tabling, a script for legislation, designing posters, etc.  I have really enjoyed getting knee-deep in this issue and my compatriots have been great so far, really keeping me grounded when I go off on crazy or overly ambitious ideas.  I am so excited for next week, now that things are finally falling into place.

– Jane

Status Update February 8, 2009

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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