Tuesday, October 20, 2020

LGBTQ+ and Youth Allyship

By Guest Blogger Eva Jo Meyers, Spark Decks

Eva Jo Meyers
According to an article published in Keshet this summer, crisis calls to the Trevor Project’s hotline doubled during the quarantine.

Prior to the pandemic, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2017 LGBTQ teen survey showed that:

  • 77% of LGBTQ teenagers surveyed reported feeling depressed or down over the past week; 95% percent of LGBTQ youth reported trouble sleeping at night; and more than 70% reported feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week;

  • Only 26% said they always feel safe in their school classrooms -- and just 5% said all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people;

  • 67% reported that they’d heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people


In addition, according to CDC data taken from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior (YRBS) Survey of LGBTQ students,
  • 10% were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property

  • 34% were bullied on school property

  • 28% were bullied electronically

It is because of statistics like these that Spark Decks said, “Yes!” when we were approached about making a deck to support LGBTQ+ Youth Allyship. Or, actually, what we said was, “NO! But we will work with young people to create a deck BY youth, for youth.” And so that’s what we did.

Like the name suggests, Spark Decks are decks of cards. Each card contains one idea, or “micro-practice” that can be implemented in youth-serving programs. We have decks on topics ranging from SEL to Supporting English Language Learners, to Self-Care. Users pick one card at a time, try it out in their program, and then reflect on how it went.

But while all of our previous decks have been for adults, this one is different - because this one is for youth. 

Source: Eva Jo Meyers, Spark Decks

Thanks to the support of San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families (DCYF), this past fall, prior to shelter-in-place orders, we hosted six sessions with Middle, Highschool, and Transitional-Aged youth, focusing on the question, “What can an ally do to support LGBTQ+ youth and staff at our school?” 

We started each session with an icebreaker, then spent time discussing the statistics outlined above. Did these numbers match participants’ experience? (Yes!) Did any of the statistics surprise them? (Yes!) 

After creating collages that illustrated allyship, (you can see parts of the collages on the box of the new deck!), we spent an hour doing a brainstorm activity to generate ideas about how an ally could be a support, and put those ideas into categories. It’s those ideas and categories that now live in our new “LGBTQ+ Youth Allyship” deck.

Source: www.spark-decks.com

As with all Spark Decks, the new deck has 52 ideas, culled from the six sessions. Based the cards, here are a few actions youth in your program might consider implementing during the pandemic, and beyond:
  • If you’re in a Zoom session, don’t assume someone’s gender. Instead, ask people via private chat what pronouns they use.

  • Be vocal about your support of LGBTQ+ people at your program or school. Be loud and proud!

  • Advocate and plan classes, clubs, and assemblies online through your school so that people can learn more about LGBTQ+ support, issues, and history. 

  • Plan an online fundraiser that makes money for an organization that helps LGBTQ+ youth. Make the fundraiser event fun - like a trivia or comedy night online.

  • Let LGBTQ+ people know that they are safe when they are around you - whether in a Zoom class or on Social Media - and that you will not let anyone hurt or tease them.

Once the school year gets underway, Spark Decks will be offering Training-of-Trainer style workshops that teach staff how to run an allyship workshop using the deck either at their sites -  or virtually. 

And what did participants have to say about being part of the project? “That people will dedicate themselves to learning pronouns is inspiring.” “I learned that it is really important to be an EDUCATED ally.” “I learned that advocacy starts with communication and collaboration.” “Thank you for holding space for us to talk about this.

I hope you will all join me in making space to “talk about this,” even - and especially - during the pandemic.
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Eva Jo Meyers is the co-founder of Spark Decks and the author of the book, “Raise the Room: A practical guide to participant-centered facilitation.” She has held positions as a program leader, manager, and district coordinator for afterschool programs. To learn more about Spark Decks, visit www.spark-decks.com.


Check out My Pal, Luke! My Pal, Luke is designed to address many social emotional elements through his words and questions, including a check-in with kids. Luke also reads his favorite books and educates kids on how to make sense of current events and the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be easily embedded in distance learning efforts or used with in- person programming. To watch an introduction to My Pal, Luke, click here.


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