YTH works to empower young people to advocate for health and social justice issues and give them a platform for leadership at YTH Live, the youth + tech + health conference. One of the most engaging campaigns featured at YTH Live 2016 was #MyStoryOutLoud, a digital storytelling campaign from Advocates for Youth. The #MyStoryOutLoud campaign empowers young LGBTQ students of color to share their stories and advocate for safe, inclusive spaces on university and college campuses.
For LGBTQ Pride Month we spoke with Cydney Brown, a young leader with the #MyStoryOutLoud campaign, to learn how they use digital storytelling to amplify the voices of young LGBTQ people of color.
ERIN: We love the work that the #MyStoryOutLoud campaign is doing to amplify the voices of young LGBTQ people of color. Can you tell us more about how you started it and what your mission is?
CYDNEY: #MyStoryOutLoud began when a group of beautiful, queer young people of color got together at Advocates for Youth’s annual Urban Retreat. We wanted to provide queer students of color with an outlet to share their experiences as they navigate the collegiate world and how they face obstacles that meet them at their intersections.
ERIN: You primarily collect stories from college students that you share for your campaign. Why do you think storytelling has so much power to create change?
CYDNEY: There’s nothing easier to relate to than a story. Storytelling captures the unique experiences of diverse individuals and allows people to find a common thread between their own lives and the collective. It brings awareness, compassion, and community all at the same time.
ERIN: #MyStoryOutLoud emphasizes intersectionality across your platforms. Can you share a little with our audience about why this is important to you?
CYDNEY: Often, queer students of color are faced with dichotomizing their identities when they’re placed in educational spaces that often either don’t recognize that it’s possible to have two or more simultaneous ways of existing, or blatantly ignore it. I am a masculine presenting person who attended a historically black university, and in most of the spaces that existed outside of the queer community we created for ourselves, my identity as a queer person was ignored. I’ve been told that not everything has to surround being gay or queer and that certain spaces don’t serve as the platform for LGBTQ rights. When I heard that, it felt like they wanted to ignore that particular part of me. But I can’t ignore it. I don’t have that option. And I don’t believe anyone should have to. People should be able to show up as their whole selves in any space and be honored in their wholeness.
ERIN: What do you think adults need to know about LGBT youth safety? What kinds of barriers do you see existing between safe spaces and adult allies?
CYDNEY: Creating a space of love and acceptance is so so imperative, especially within the home and schools. When youth see adults operating from positions of compassion and understanding, it creates a safety net for them. They can be themselves without feeling attacked or ostracized. As far as barriers go, I think it’s for two reasons. 1) People want what they feel is best for their kids, even if it’s to the detriment of the young person’s self-expression. 2) Adults don’t take youth seriously. We’re young, we know. But we know what we’re talking about. We know our hearts and bodies better than anyone else. Adults need to listen.
ERIN: What kinds of change do you see being made online and off as a result of LGBTQ youth activism? As a result of your campaign?
CYDNEY: Online, I see more and more people being unapologetic about who they are and their experiences and I love it. They’re fearless, and the Internet provides a platform to raise our stories to the forefront of everyone’s newsfeed, timeline, dashboard, whatever. And the [#MyStoryOutLoud] campaign really just accentuates that. We make that space specifically for LGBTQ youth to be themselves and provide validation for what they’re going through.
ERIN: How can other LGBTQ youth use the power of social media to share their stories and empower their communities?
CYDENY: Share, share, share! You never know who is reading your posts and resonates with what you’ve said.
ERIN: What message would you share during LGBTQ Pride Month for youth who are struggling or looking for support?
CYDNEY: You’re not alone. And you’re more powerful than you think. We created #MyStoryOUTLoud to provide that support and community, but it’s your stories that make it impactful.
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