Since forming in the spring of 2011, LGBTQ Connection has grown from a small support group into a comprehensive, multi-county initiative fostering healthy, diverse and inclusive communities in the North Bay.
From the beginning, young emerging leaders have driven the organization, which annually engages 3,500 LGBTQ people, their families and their community and trains providers from local organizations across Northern California to increase the safety, visibility and wellbeing of LGBTQ residents.
This fall, LGBTQ Connection invites the public to nominate individuals age 14 to 24 to join the organization’s youth leadership teams and continue the community-wide work to create positive change in Sonoma and Napa counties.
Each semester, LGBTQ Connection recruits interested and motivated youth to work with the youth leadership teams in five- or six-month cycles in Napa, Santa Rosa, Calistoga or Sonoma.
This upcoming semester, these teams will be meeting virtually to maintain social-distancing practices in the wake of Covid-19. Without any transportation barrier, LGBTQ Connection plans to connect these once-separate cross-county teams into one virtual ensemble.
This past spring and summer, LGBTQ Connection was forced to cancel all in-person events when the shelter-in-place orders went into effect in Napa and Sonoma counties last March. In place of those events, the organization has transitioned into online programming via video or telephone services.
This programming includes weekly online meet-ups for youth and young adults, twice-monthly video check-in meetings for older adults, free online counseling appointments with LGBTQ-friendly therapists, wellness calls for youth and seniors, LGBTQ information and referrals for all ages and much more. All of these services are offered in English and Spanish, serving the entire community.
Together, this fall’s youth leadership teams are responsible for creating more virtual events and internet-based initiatives that advocate for increased awareness, visibility and wellness of North Bay LGBTQ youth.
In partnership with LGBTQ Connection, these teams give young people the opportunity to learn how to be a part of a team and to be community leaders. Each team meets once a week for five intensive months.
“That intensity is what we’ve found that it takes to come together as a team and organize impactful projects and events for our community,” LGBTQ Connection organizers write in a statement. “These projects bring people together across generations and cultures to build a stronger, more vibrant, and more inclusive LGBTQ community.”
This fall, the youth leaders chosen to participate in LGBTQ Connection’s cross-county teams will work on one of two initiatives. First, a community connection team will work on a project centered around community building and creating inclusive spaces; in addition, a community change team will work on a project centered around advocacy and systems change. In response to current events regarding police protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, both team’s projects will include racial justice as a primary focus.
“The modern LGBTQ movement erupted through uprisings against police brutality led by Black and Brown transgender women. We will work to remain connected to their legacy … throughout the many months ahead,” LGBTQ Connection organizers wrote in a statement last month. “LGBTQ Connection was founded with the goal of listening to and lifting up underrepresented LGBTQ voices, changing unjust systems, and investing in community leadership—especially with our youth, people of color, elders, transgender people, and people from rural areas. Today, we recommit ourselves to those values, to continue to be in relationship with our communities, and to let our actions speak as loud as our words.”
LGBTQ Connection is a program of On The Move, a nonprofit that partners with communities and mobilizes emerging leaders to take action in pursuit of social equity. Those interested in learning about becoming a Fall 2020 youth leadership team member can attend an information meeting hosted by LGBTQ Connection via Zoom on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 3pm. If you know a youth that would benefit from being on this team, nominate them. If you’re a youth, apply now.