The space created that day via workshops and an evening celebration brought joy, healing, connection, and, I can only hope, a blueprint of what is possible. In one day, I saw more queer and trans folks than my whole time growing up in that town and a solidly intergenerational turn out. In the registration process, folks shared what they were hoping to get from the event and any needs they had. One parent noted that they were looking for literally anything that could help them support their trans child, how they were feeling at the end of their rope and exhausted with both discrimination in settings like healthcare and lack of access to resources and community. Stories like these only further motivated me and the planning team. In the evaluations afterward, when respondents were asked to name the most pressing trans healthcare need in Wyoming, overwhelmingly, the response was access to gender-affirming healthcare and education (for providers, teachers, community at large) to prevent discrimination.
As much as the political and legislative landscape attempts to steal joy and hope from our day-to-day lives, I find so much hope and promise in LGBTQIA2S+ youth and young adults. This year I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with so many who show me both their determination to not let these things knock them down and their hope in a future beyond patriarchal leadership structures and systems of harm.
While social media are very much a part of the current generation’s life, so is an awareness that organizing power is not dependent on adults’ permission or participation. I think of young leaders who are working hard to effect change for the LGBTQIA2S+ community and finding ways to do so! This is the power and magic of youth and young adults empowered and supported to create the change they hope to see.
How can you help?
A protective factor is defined as “a characteristic at the biological, psychological, family, or community (including peers and culture) level that is associated with a lower likelihood of problem outcomes or that reduces the negative impact of a risk factor on problem outcomes.” Put more simply, protective factors help buffer harms that might come our way and the chances that they will have a more lasting or intense impact.
All youth and young adults need protective factors, which in turn help them thrive, but this is especially true for folks, like LGBTQIA2S+ youth, impacted by minority stress. As shown in the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health mentioned above, youth and young adults have so many ways they go about accessing protective factors they call “sources of joy.”
If you are looking for ways to support trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming youth, let that list of sources serve as a starting point. Often, as adults and allies, folks can overthink what support looks like and think they don’t have anything to offer. While legal, legislative, and systemic change is needed, so is day-to-day support in young people’s lives, like connecting them to an affirming therapist, supporting them in their first endeavors in drag, making sure they have access to spaces that aren’t just centered on their identity but can affirm their identity (like sports), driving them to a queer art fair, or helping them find helpful and accurate online resources. These activities and experiences become protective factors in a harsh world, as well as spaces youth can turn to when they need support. This is something we all can do right now for the young people in our lives—I hope you’ll join me!