Recently, a young person staying at our Casa de Los Amigos program (Casa) for unaccompanied, undocumented youth, bravely opened up to staff about his struggles with coming out. He had experienced constant bullying for being himself in his native country. Casa de los Amigos staff welcomed him immediately with love and acceptance.
This set off a chain of curiosity among youth in the program. They had lots of questions about LGBTQ+ rights and customs in America. And they were so excited to hear about our community’s annual pride festivities in June.
But why wait until June? Casa staff decided to host their own Casa Pride at YouthCare’s Main Office on Friday!
It was an amazing day filled with education, connection, and acceptance. Youth decorated posters with messages of support and wore colorful tie-dye shirts they made the day before.
They joyously chanted a popular Spanish song as they marched in a conga line through the office. Youth laughed as they engaged with staff during fun activities set up in YouthCare conference rooms.
Some decorated cookies at the cookie-making station.
Some showed off their rainbow handprints with big grins.
But the LGBTQ+ panel was the highlight of the event. Casa staff interpreted questions youth had about the LGBTQ+ community, a group that is highly discriminated against in their countries.
One young person asked about how family dynamics change after someone comes out. Degale, Chief Program Officer, showed photos of her wife and children and shared about her experience with her family.
Another young person asked staff about whether they had faced discrimination. Program Manager Byram, who uses they/them pronouns, said they had: they found it hard to get a job and were kicked out of bathrooms for how they identify. They urged the youth to celebrate their unique identities and lean on their support systems.
Rebekah, our Executive Assistant, said that her coping mechanism to discrimination is thinking about her sexuality as a superpower: the ability to love anyone, regardless of their gender identity.
It was such a rewarding, learning experience for our youth to be able to connect personally with LGBTQ people. After seeing photos of an LGBTQ staff member and her girlfriend, one Honduran client told me in Spanish, ‘Tell her that they are a beautiful couple.’
After the activities, celebrations continued with Spanish pop music, rainbow cake (made by a very talented youth in the program!), and an educational presentation by OutRight Action International, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ people across the globe.
What an inspiring and transformative way to end the week!