In the midst of toxic local and national anti-LGBT+ backlash, creating safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ youth is paramount. Our WLP peer education and prevention education workshops educate students to identify and analyze how gender stereotypes, sexuality, and racial identity are represented in the media and society. We also discuss how youth can challenge homophobia and transphobia in their school-communities, while affirming LGBTQIA+ and gender expansive youth identities and safe spaces as allies and/or community members. We also use culturally responsive and affirming Black LGBTQIA+ literature such as George M. Johnson’s landmark memoir manifesto All Boys Aren’t Blue. Writing about the importance of chosen family as a critical support for LGBTQIA+ youth, Johnson said:
“My grandmother had always seen the damage that happens when children who are ‘different’ aren’t nurtured and loved the same way other kids are…I often think about what it would be like if the world existed with a ‘Nanny’ in each family. Why was my Black queer experience one of unconditional love when others have become the standard of hate and familial violence? Family dynamics is a topic that comes up often in LGBTQIAP+ culture. ‘Created family’ is a system in which friends from many walks of life create extremely tight friendship circles in an effort to ensure a familial type of environment for the many who are not accepted at home.”
As one of the most banned books in the nation, Johnson’s memoir has provided support and guidance to scores of queer youth who are struggling with microaggressions, family rejection, and homophobia and transphobia in their homes, schools, and communities. Another work that is critically important is Kacen Callender’s King and the Dragonflies, which examines the lived experiences of a middle school age Black boy growing up in Louisiana.