GSA Network Blog

SoCal #WerkItTour builds youth leadership

Last month, GSA Network of California’s #WerkItTour officially began with its first stop at Long Beach. We were welcomed with open arms by a loving and wise pastor and a warm church. It felt fitting in a way that the tour begin in a Church; not because of the religious aspect, but because it just goes to show that all spaces can potentially be queer spaces. We are not confined to certain areas in order to feel welcome; or at least more spaces are beginning to open up.
The nerves kicked in as I saw people beginning to trickle in and take seats in the pews. They (the nerves) weren’t there for very long, however, as I looked out over the faces of my fellow youth. I felt excited. I was excited about the knowledge that I gained in the last year and excited to pass it on to the amazing people that decided to dedicate what turned out to be almost their entire Saturday to our workshops. As we went through the workshops with one another, the atmosphere began to shift. Everyone began to come out of their shells more and more. Participation rose and rose until it reached a steady constant. Smiles were frequent and conversation flourished. The day was no longer just about the transference of activist knowledge, but about strengthening connections in order to build a stronger movement. As the day went on, I witnessed relationships strengthened or built and connections made. A foundation was being formed as we empowered one another through talking about homophobia, transphobia, patriarchy, and more.
There were definitely some hiccups and dry areas scattered throughout. Our ability to adapt was definitely by time constraints. However, by the end of our 9 hour day, I was proud of what we accomplished. Personally, as a youth trainer for the workshops, the task was both exhausting and extremely rewarding. I hope and imagine my fellow youth felt the same way by the time the summit came to a close.
Nayeli Altamirano is a GSA Network youth trainer from SOAR High School GSA in the Antelope Valley.
Since the Long Beach Summit, the #WerkItTour has wrapped up with summits in Oceanside and Boyle Heights. Here are some quotes from other #WerkItTour participants:

"When I found out about the GSA Network summit my goal was to learn more about the LGBTQ community and how I could help. I also wanted to share my story, something that had been bothering me for a very long time, and that's what I did. The people there was amazing and I felt at home!
I knew what bullying meant and I had seen it before at school, but I never thought how horrible it felt to be on the other side. While I was out of the country for three years, I had to hide the fact that my mom was a lesbian because it could affect her work, and that to me was very difficult. People were very homophobic and talked ill about gays and lesbians. I went to a private Catholic school where it was taught in religion class that marriage was only between a man and a woman, and that's where I would push the subject about gay marriage. There was a specific boy in my class that was very homophobic and always had something mean to say, but usually I ignored his comments, except once. He said gay couples shouldn't have adopted kids because they would grow up confused, and it hurt me so bad not being able to tell him that that wasn't true. I had never been bullied before, but that to me felt horrible. As the years went by my goal was to make a change in the way people viewed gays and lesbians, and that's what I did. During my last year in South America that same boy that always made rude comments came up to me and told me that he still didn't agree with gay marriage but that he had learned to respect it.
- Emily Fernandez (pictured left), Poly High School 
"I had marvelous time at the GSA Network #WerkitTour. The student leaders taught us about intersectionality with other movements, white supremacy, and how to have a kick ass GSA. The one that resonated the most with me was the white supremacy and white privilege workshop; every time I participate in the workshop I am reminded my position in society and how the ‘system’ is set up here in the states. I notice white privilege a lot more now, especially in the media. It is like candy cane to the rotten sweet tooth."
- Johari Hunt, David Star High School

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