Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Why do you do Peers for Pride?"

At the end of each Peers for Pride facilitation, we are always asked to introduce ourselves and tell the audience why we do Peers for Pride. While there are many reasons I signed up -- to discuss topics very important to me, to meet new social justice-minded people, because I have a lot of friends who have gone through the program, because I wanted to learn more about LGBTQ+ identities and what's happening in the community -- I like to instead stress that the reason I do Peers for Pride is because I recognize that there are so many different types of activism, and the theater element as well as the casual discussion aspect of our facilitations is appealing to me as an activist.

Last year as a freshman in college, I was in a great organization who's idea of activism was going directly to the Texas State Capitol Building to create change. While I recognize that lobbying is a wonderful way to enact change and to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, and while I'm not writing off the this method completely for myself, the idea of going directly to representatives and speaking their language scared me away. I quit the organization and felt for a very long time like I wasn't cut out to be an activist. I was wrong. There are so many ways to be an activist. 

Whether or not you can devote a lot or a little time to a cause, there's a way for you to create change inside or outside of your communities. For some, activism is joining an organization, going to meetings, protesting, working directly with others, planning events, creating resources. For others, activism means running a blog, posting social justice related photos, videos, memes, ideas on their social networking sites. Some simply talk to the people they know; they educate the people around them, potentially creating more activists or allies. Another way to be an activist, and the method that I prefer, is through art and community building.

What really sparked my interest in social justice was all the great work that was being done with performance art in the queer community, specifically slam poetry. When I was in high school I discovered Andrea Gibson's slam poetry, which introduced me to several other poets and musicians who were spreading knowledge about LGBTQ+ identities and issues through their work. I felt a deep connection to these artists. I discovered a lot about myself and I was able to better articulate my identity and how I moved throughout the world. My time here at UT and in Austin has also exposed me to so many amazing organizations who create change and fight for social justice through art -- Queer Chorus, Voices Against Violence, GayBiGayGay, QueerBomb, Outsiders Film and Arts Festival (a multi-art all-inclusive queer festival happening for the first time in 2015), and of course, Peers for Pride -- just to name a few.

Theater, music, poetry, film, and other forms of art provide a way for people to connect, learn, and grow as a community and as individuals. It was art that got my foot into activism, and it's the medium that I use to educate others, to build community, and to create an ideal world where queerness is celebrated and expressed openly.

As a radio-television-film major looking to begin a career in film as well as queer activism, Peers for Pride has been so valuable to me as an artist and "social justice warrior". I have found my own way to create change in the community. I knew that I don't feel comfortable speaking in front of an important government official, but I have many abilities that are essential to the movement. Whether it's being tech-savvy, speaking in front of groups of people, event planning, fundraising, lobbying, art, blogging, or simply joining in the discussion, there is a place for you in the movement, and Peers for Pride is a great place to start.

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