By Ginna Brelsford and Geoffrey Winder, Co-Executive Directors
Trans and queer youth continued to push forward their vision for liberation in 2021. We emerged from one of the toughest years in recent global history with a renewed enthusiasm for our work, ready to reinvent the traditional models for youth leadership development and leverage the collective energy for youth organizing in a digital world. It wasn’t easy. However, we have been inspired to forge ahead by courageous young people who believe that they can create change in their schools and local communities. Here are a few of our achievements this past year:
- Gender Justice Leadership Programs: In collaboration with Transgender Law Center, we launched this program to propel forward and solidify a trans youth movement, strengthen movement-building efforts focused on gender justice, and build collective power to create lasting policy change for trans youth of color. TRUTH, also a collaborative project with TLC, is one of the main flagship programs under GJLP.
- Our Trans TRUTH: The past year has been a record-breaking year for anti-trans legislation with over 150 bills introduced from various representatives throughout the US. In response to this attack on trans youth, TRUTH created the No Pride Without Trans Youth zine and held an Instagram Live series titled, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop! Both platforms featured trans and nonbinary youth exploring what people can do in solidarity with the community and how trans youth can empower themselves.Learn more about these programs at ourtranstruth.org
- Roses- Trans Girls of Color Initiative: Housed within the Gender Justice Leadership Programs, this initiative expands and focuses our work on trans girls and non-binary femmes of color. From rapid relief initiatives to youth organizing for justice, Roses works to give trans girls their roses while they are here and transform this world into a space where they stay alive and thriving. This past year, they focused on community video-making, photography and memory, graphic design, and resistance centering the voices of Black, brown, and Indigenous trans girls.
- Two-Spirit Initiative (TSI): Formally announced in 2019, TSI has built out its vision and a structure in order to bridge the gap between Native youth organizing and LGBTQ+ youth organizing. This identity-based initiative was built out to provide space for youth to bring their cultural practice into their organizing activities and supports our organization’s efforts to decolonize our curricula. TSI is currently led by an Advisory Panel with members of Native-led organizations in Alaska, Hawaii, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Montana.
- Digital Organizing in the Southeast: Grassroots partners in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina collaborated with us to increase their capacity in digital organizing, social media, and strategic communication. These local organizations launched campaigns to raise awareness for anti-trans bills, engage youth in their programs, and strengthen the way they talk about their programs.
This year, we also expanded our team to the largest it’s been in GSA Network’s history and have expanded our investments. We now have an incredible staff of 25, who are committed to racial and gender justice, and set forth an expanded organizational budget to support new programs, all aimed at ensuring that even more LGBTQ+ youth in California and across this country have access to quality education and access to GSA clubs to support their social, emotional and mental health.
As we look back, we are extremely proud of the work of the thousands of youth, many staff at GSA Network and organizations across the country and our countless allies and supporters continue to do, in the face of difficulty and an uncertain future. More than ever we hope for wellness and health for all in the New Year.
Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network (GSA Network) is a next-generation LGBTQ racial and gender justice organization that empowers and trains trans, queer, and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize, and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities. In California, GSA Network connects over 1,000 GSA clubs through regional summits and youth councils. Nationally, GSA Network leads the National Association of GSA Networks which unites 40 statewide networks of GSA clubs, and GSAs Unite, an online campaign and petition platform supporting youth organizers across the country.