Since August, I have been one of the leaders of a group called the Network. The Network was started around three years ago by a small group of high school students who wanted to create a safe space for LGBTQQIIAP teens in New York City. An individual’s membership in the Network is confidential in order to create a safe space in which kids who may not necessarily be out don’t have to fear they will be outed before they are ready. Anyone who falls anywhere in the acronym can be a part of the Network, even if they are just questioning. The group has a private Facebook group that can only be seen by it’s members and people can only join if they are invited by an existing member. People post links that are relevant to LGBTQ rights and issues as well as post personal and individual opinions and experiences. Each month there is a Network meeting, usually hosted at someone’s house, where any LGBTQ teen can attend. The two other Network leaders and I plan the meetings, choosing a discussion topic and writing discussion questions and/or activities for the meeting. Similar to one’s membership, things said in the meetings are meant to be confidential to further foster a feeling of safety.
Being a leader of the Network has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’ve met kids from all over the city from numerous schools and a multitude of different backgrounds. Most of the members don’t have access to a resource like the Network, and I’ve felt honored to to have a larger role in helping to create a safe space for them. The Network is one of the only spaces, if not the only one, these kids encounter in which they are part of the majority rather than the minority. Many do not have accepting family or do not feel comfortable in the environments they’re in every day. Many are still grappling with their identity or are not yet sure where exactly they fit in the acronym. For these reasons, the Network is so important because it can help foster confidence and a feeling of security that allows it’s members to accept themselves, be true to who they are, and even gain the courage to come out and be open about their identity. The discussions at the meetings are always amazing, with numerous different opinions, point of views, and stories being shared throughout. I leave each meeting feeling moved, inspired, and with more knowledge and perspective than I had when I walked in. My involvement with the Network has left me with a motivation to continue work with LGBTQ youth in college and afterwards. I am endlessly grateful for the chance the Network has given me to give back and support so many people who never cease to inspire me.