Qmmunity: Stay Strong, Y’all

Reminding ourselves of our resiliency in difficult times

Out Youth Operations & Programs Director Kathryn Gonzales (Photo by Jana Birchum)

I know a lot of us are hurting right now. We're scared about our jobs; our health; the people we love; this erratic uncertainty COVID-19 has introduced in our daily lives. We're a resilient community, but still, I'll admit: I've been concerned about how social distancing mandates – which, don't get me wrong, are absolutely imperative right now – will affect the availability of lifesaving resources, such as orgs like Out Youth that rely heavily on in-person services and programs.

When I reached Out Youth's Operations & Programs Director Kathryn Gonzales, she assured me, "We are looking into all of the ways that we can provide a continuity of service and programming to our clients while also minimizing the disruption." Gonzales explains that while Out Youth will be closing its little blue house until further notice, the org is going virtual in the meantime. Out Youth, which serves Central Texas youth of all sexual orientations and identities, has contingency plans in place for teletherapy and virtual drop-in hours moving forward. For now, Out Youth clients ages 12-18 are able to sign up for a new online engagement platform called Engagement Communities. The portal, developed by MissionBox, allows youth to connect with Out Youth staff and one another while also staying informed about the latest updates and programs (find sign-up instructions at www.outyouth.org/covid19, or email kathryn.gonzales@outyouth.org for info).

Gonzales acknowledges that plans might change as the org evaluates the situation every day, but the bottom line is this, she says: "The one thing that we are certain of is that we are not going to stop our work. We will find a way to do it remotely in a way that is safe for everyone." Especially because, as Gonzales points out, LGBTQIA youth are "already marginalized, ostracized, isolated, in many ways," and so a long-term closure would be a "severe detriment" to Out Youth's clients. "Creating safe spaces for people to come together to talk about what they're going through is still going to be a critical piece of what we do," Gonzales emphasizes. "We might have to do it in ways that we've never done it before," but, she adds, "we will not be sidelined by this."

"We are a resilient, rageful, creative, and commanding community." I've been thinking about that line from my introductory column a lot lately. I forgot one word though: supportive. The outpouring of support I've witnessed in the community these last few weeks has been incredible. Whether it's folks livestreaming their performances, orgs working hard to move their services online, leaving that older neighbor a note offering to grab groceries, or a DM checking in on someone, these acts have the ability to lift us out of a seriously dark place right now.

Let's keep focusing on that. Let's keep checking in on each other. Let's hold space for the fear, but keep our eyes on the future. Stay strong, y'all.

2 to Do

Digital Drag When you can't go to the drag show, the drag show comes to you! Presented by Biqtch and Megna, this online extravaganza features the many talents of drag performers from around the world, including Austin's very own Louisianna Purchase. Turn on yer mobile device, tune in to Twitch, and get ready for legendary lewks. Fri., March 20, 9pm. Online. $10 suggested donation. www.twitch.tv/biqtchpuddin.

Out Youth Virtual Storytime In order to help the community stay connected, Kathryn Gonzales is hosting a nightly virtual storytime. LGBTQIA folks of all ages are invited to join via a mobile device, computer, or by calling in. Daily until in-person operations resume. 8pm. Online. Free. www.outyouth.org/storytime.

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Austin LGBTQIA, COVID-19, social distancing, Out Youth, teletherapy, Kathryn Gonzales, Engagement Communities, MissionBox, Louisianna Purchase, coronavirus, Biqtch, Megna, Twitch

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