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|All My Children strives to help African-American LGBT youth|
|Written by Sage Nenyue|
|Friday, 22 July 2011 00:00|
Sitting in Outwrite Bookstore, awash in Sunday morning light, Monique Carry appears radiant as she speaks about the All My Children project’s unique marriage of academic research and social justice. AMC is the nonprofit organization that Carry co-founded with her research partner Shannon J. Miller in order to help African-American LGBT youth and their families. Carry and Miller serve as co-executive directors of the group.
AMC works to understand the dynamics of LGBT youth and their families and communities, and “raise awareness about the consequences of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning bias within African American families, faith centers, and communities,” states the group’s website.
Carry elaborates on this, saying that both LGBT youth of color and white LGBT youth deal with many of the same issues, though in uniquely different ways, leading to social isolation. AMC understands that the social isolation faced by African-American youth dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity is created in part by growing up within a culture that does not address these issues.
“It’s an issue of intersectionality that leaves the youth isolated in the two spaces where they can’t address all aspects of their identity simultaneously and holistically,” she says.
And that is really where AMC shines. The organization is basically the detective asking how it can discover or create the space to allow the youth to be able to express themselves in their entirety.
In order to apply the theory to real life, the organization created programs, one being the All My Children Ambassadors, which addresses schools and academic spaces. AMC works with local schools like the University of Georgia, Emory University and Agnes Scott College.
“We began to network with queer youth of color on these campuses, and one of the ways to give them voices was to make them ambassadors at their own campuses, but at the same time, by having a coalition across universities, they don’t feel alone,” Carry says.
AMC also arms the students with tools of empowerment, including leadership and public speaking trainings. The students were then charged with creating a workshop or group session in which they shared their experiences being LGBT youth of color.
From the Ambassadors program, Carry says that she and Miller began to learn through hearing students’ stories that some students were accepted at home merely by virtue of being their parents’ offspring, while not being accepted due to their sexuality. Thus, the Proud Parents program was created. In a way, it is like a “coming out” for families of LGBT youth.
“One of the great things we discovered was that a lot of times, parents react in the way that they do not out of homophobia, as many people assume about minority communities, but really out of protection for their kids. And so they try to hide and protect the kids, which is then interpreted as rejection by the kids,” Carry explains.
“They feel just as socially isolated as their kids — not being able to talk to the people in their churches, in their families…”
She then adds the silver lining to that dark cloud by explaining Proud Parents as a sort of coming out process.
“They go through anger, they go through denial and that’s where the conflict comes in because a lot of kids, when they come out to their parents, have already gone through the process and are ready to disclose, but the parents have to start at square one,” she says.
AMC is positioned in such a way that it can uniquely think about the challenges that face LGBT African-American youth.
“It’s not because we’re geniuses,” Carry says, “it’s literally from the feedback we got from youth, family and schools.”
Top photo: Monique Carry co-founded the All My Children project to research ways to reduce bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity in African-American families. (courtesy photo)
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