A local nonprofit dedicated to serving LGBTQ youth has recently created a support group for LGBTQ youth of color to address the specific struggles they may face in expressing their multifaceted identities.
The organization, one-n-ten, runs a youth center minutes away from the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. The meetings for the new support group, called Queer of Color, are targeted to people ages 14 to 24.
De’Shay Thomas, a doctoral candidate in social work at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, is an assistant manager and volunteer coordinator for the one-n-ten youth center. Thomas, who is the coordinator for the Queer of Color group and will facilitate the group's meetings, said "queer of color" is an umbrella term that includes anyone who identifies as an LGBTQ person as well as a person of color.
“Our intention for this group is just to create a safe space for our youth to explore their identity and experience,” Thomas said.
Joel Mills, program specialist for one-n-ten, runs the donations and sexual health programs for the organization and has worked for one-n-ten for a year and a half. Mills said that the support group is needed to help provide a safe space for attendees to address their multifaceted identities.
“The main goal is for youth who identify as LGBTQ, but also have the intersectionality of being a person of color, to have a space to break down those two different intersectionalities that this youth face everyday,” he said.
According to a 2011 study featured in the American Psychological Association's Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology journal, members of the LGBTQ community who are also racial and ethic minorities may face dual stressors from both racism and heterosexism, and historically, had reported facing exclusion from the LGBTQ community in some cases.
Mills said that youth of color do not always have connections to the LGBTQ community, and that the group will aim to help solve that.
"A lot of the youth we run into don’t always have the best connections to the LGBTQ community so this is a great way to get started," he said.
The support group will meet every first and third Sunday of the month with varying programs designed to empower and create a supportive environment for those who attend.
“We have a variety of programs that range from self-esteem building programs to youth empowerment,” Thomas said. “We have movie nights and game nights and anything that gets the young adults interacting with each other.”
Allies are welcome too, but Thomas said allies should also identify as a person of color.
She said ASU students are welcome to join the group as long as they are within the age range.
“I think with the ASU community, there is a lot of misconception about one-n-ten and if this is a resource they can access, and it really is,” Thomas said. “It’s for the LGBTQ community broadly, especially those within our age range.”
She said she feels personally connected to the group because she identifies as a queer person of color and said she hopes that ASU students are able to feel connected to the group as well.
“This is a group and organization in general for all youth within our age range," Thomas said. "So if they are interested in having a good time and hanging out with those in the community, they can come and access our services in our youth center.”
Dani Logan, a program coordinator for one-n-ten and an ASU senior majoring in public service and public policy with a concentration in sustainability, has worked for the nonprofit organization for almost two years.
“Our mission is to serve LGBTQ youth and young adults through empowering social and service programs that function to promote self expression, self acceptance, leadership development and healthy life choices,” Logan said.
She works on specific programs within the organization and said the Queer of Color support group was a necessary addition to the youth center.
“I identify as a Latinx queer person and so my take is that this is a group that is very much needed,” Logan said. “I’m really excited to see this group grow and flourish.”
She said the group is important because being queer is not necessarily visible to outsiders and that this group allows participants to gain visibility and acceptance.
“I think groups and organizations like one-n-ten are important because they provide a space to be out and find community and know that the community is there for them,” Logan said.
She also said that the support group will present opportunities for gaining leadership and communication skills that align with the overall mission of one-n-ten.
“I think that there are opportunities for them to hone their skills, whether that’s through a peer leadership role or coming to partake in any of the various workshops,” Logan said.
Mills said the support group fits well into the broader mission of one-n-ten.
“Our main mission is to empower LGBTQ youth to be great citizens within their community, empowering them to lead, empowering them to go out and be a change in their community in the way that they want to be,” Mills said.
Mills said the new support group welcomes all queer youth of color, regardless of being out or not. He said the beauty of one-n-ten is how the organization as a whole inspires young adults to be true to their identities.
“I love that we put both of those together for our youth and connect them to all sides of their identity,” he said. “We empower people to be open and authentic with themselves, but we understand that maybe this is the only place to do that."