By Ronnie Dong, GSA Network Digital Coordinator
GSA Network hosted our first community briefing, Rooted & Connected: Digital Organizing for Trans & Queer Youth Power, with our National Association partners and key funders on Tuesday, October 13th, to discuss how we can better reach and support trans and queer youth across the nation as we shifted from in person to virtual spaces. In the last 5 years, there’s been a marked growth within the young generations in using social media as a means of organizing and building community. This trend has only grown stronger this year in the face of a global pandemic and national protests against police brutality.
In our conversations with youth since March of this year, we’ve found that the major issues they face now is finding a stable sense of community and navigating digital fatigue while trying to stay involved in various arms of youth organizing and support systems- all while adapting online learning and a major shift in how they connect with peers and educators. Finding a new sense of balance between short term immediate needs of survival and long term goals of organizing and resisting has been understandably difficult for youth to varying degrees: some find the transition to virtual spaces to be a blessing when they weren’t feeling safe physically in school, while others may struggle with access to resources and community due to unsafe homes or lack of Internet access.
In the face of these emerging needs and challenges, we discussed new initiatives to better support our youth, including uplifting our Two Spirit youth and Trans girls of color, who have historically been overlooked even within inter community spaces. We are dedicated to strengthening digital tools youth have already been using and finding new ones to reach a wider audience than we ever did before to include students who may not be in traditional learning spaces or otherwise would not have been able to access our in person events.
Much of our organizing strategy prior to the pandemic rested on our regional and national in-person meetings and programming, and we have had to change our models and methods to keep up this year and adapt to virtual organizing.One of the major shifts we implemented was moving from our regional organizing roles to a more national focused model, drawing on our strengths from statewide digital organizing to adapt to these new times, while still focusing on movement building in the Southeast region.
Ultimately, we are here to continue to support and advocate for trans and queer youth in their needs as they grow their online organizing power, as seen through the use of major hashtags and live streaming platforms, that now allow for youth to reclaim the news and their experiences in an unfiltered and personal way. As we move further into election season, we will continue to prioritize youth voices and their overall health and wellness by rolling out more virtual leadership opportunities to uplift them as they foster their vision for a better future.