Goodbye to our 2017 Fellowship Class

Goodbye to our 2017 Fellowship Class <3

For the past ten-weeks, all 15 Fellows poured their energy into leading some of the most important campaigns in our area: De-Escalate Washington I-940, Decline to Sign I-1552, Washington Voting Justice, and banning conversion therapy in Renton.

Combined, the Fellows obtained over 3,000 signatures and registered dozens of new voters. This translated into over 3,000 individual conversations around LGBTQIA+ advocacy, voting access, and police accountability.

For those who have ever lead campaigns, you know first hand the difficulties of creating field plans, pulling turf, lobbying elected officials, and canvassing. These tasks were no exceptions for this Fellowship class. Through extreme canvassing temperatures, difficult conversations around oppression, and yes even rejection out on the field, the Fellows continued to be intentional and committed to their campaigns. Nothing wavered them. They went out into the field every week engaging young people and pushing forth progressive policies.

This last Sunday was the final day for the 8th Washington Bus Fellowship Class. It was a bittersweet moment. What started with 15 Fellows sitting around our conference table in the office, nervously making small talk ended with a deep commitment to each other, an understanding of collective healing, and passion for building people-led power. I know they will go back to their schools, workplaces, and communities to continue to put into practice what they learned this summer.

I have said this before, and I will say it again, with these Fellows out in our communities we are going to be ok. The social equity change we want to see will happen. Follow the work they will be doing in their communities.

Read statements from the Fellows below to get a glimpse at their experience this summer.

-Cinthia Illan-Vazquez, Fellowship Organizer

And a word from the incredible staff who led our summer Fellowship program…

Youth Homelessness Training @ New Horizons

Youth Homelessness Training @ New Horizons

On the night of July 1st, I attended Ropes, a homeless youth training program run by New Horizons’ staff, Joseph Seia and Tristan Herman.

The training was both intensive and interactive. At first, we were asked to name the various causes and characteristics (both stereotypes and realities) associated with youth homelessness. Then, we were taught to analyze ways in which volunteers can appropriately support these populations to minimize power differentials and transactional relationships. We participated in a role playing exercise, in which we were given identification cards of respective homeless youths, and asked to achieve a set of goals (i.e. SSI, transitional housing, a bed for the night, medical care, etc.) from service organizations played by other training attendees.

I played the character of 25 year-old Sage, an African-American transgendered female, who had recently escaped the confines of an abusive relationship, and had no financial backing. In our role play, Sage was denied SSI from DHHS because her illiteracy prevented her from filling out the right forms, denied transitional housing because of her anxiety during her housing interview, and was sent to jail for not being able to pay two tickets for jaywalking (is that even a real crime?).

Throughout the exercise, the police did little to help Sage and the other youth—rather, they were stifling.  Right before the exercise was over, Sage received a change card, detailing a hate crime incident that left her in the hospital. She could not afford to pay the $1200 medical bill, and she was sent to jail. Again.

The exercise was difficult for everyone involved—service organizers were torn between wanting to do what was humane (denying no one) versus what they were told to do (stick to bureaucratic routines, rules, etc.). The exercise helped me to realize how readily the homeless are dehumanized or victimized by not only the public, but by government and law enforcement officials as well. Playing the role of Sage was especially difficult given her gender identity—in almost every scenario, she had a significantly harder time achieving her goals than did cisgender youths participating in the same exercise.

Joseph stated, “How you receive [trans youths] at the door [of any organization] will determine whether or not they continue to come back,” highlighting the importance of LGBTQ education in his work. As hate crimes increase on the streets, the world becomes infinitely more cruel towards LGBTQ homeless youth. Violence aside, Joseph and Tristan explained how internalized oppression is one of the most lasting and dangerous effects of youth homelessness. Tristan argued that one of the biggest obstacles New Horizons faces is “young folks’ really low self-worth… this unshakable sense of inferiority.” Internalized oppression drastically increases drug and alcohol abuse on the streets, as well, making it even harder to reach out for support.

This training was super helpful (thanks Joseph and Tristan!) and informative. I’d strongly recommend attending—you won’t be the same person when you leave.

This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Pride 2015

Pride 2015

This weekend, Allen and I attended our first Seattle Pride. On Friday, we attended the TransPride festival in Capitol Hill, and on Sunday, we attended the larger parade in the city’s center.

The Bus has been attending TransPride for two years, and the festival itself has existed for three. It is organized by the Gender Justice League and depends on donations from a number of  organizations, such as the Social Justice Fund Northwest (SJFN) and the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA).

Karter Booher, The Bus’ Fellowship Coordinator, stated that TransPride 2015 seemed to be about twice as large as it was the previous year, highlighting the festival’s substantial growth.

The Bus had four fellows involved in TransPride this year, whose primary responsibility was to register voters and engage people in The Bus’ youth agenda (police accountability, youth employment, housing accessibility, specifically) in regards to issues within and around Seattle’s trans community. Namely, there has been a recent increase in trans related hate crimes and violence, the necessity for protection against discrimination in the workplace, and the need for safe and affordable housing. This past year, Seattle had the third-highest rate of LGBTQ-related hate crimes in the United States.

Karter believes that education around these issues is crucial to lessening tensions. Theo Savini, a 2015 fellow, stated that The Bus’ involvement at TransPride is crucial because it urges people to vote and organize in spite of being made to feel invisible or silenced.

In attending Seattle’s Pride Parade on Sunday, the Bus teamed up with Equal Rights Washington in marching. The march was nearly two miles long, and endless lines of supporters filed along sidewalks. At the end of the parade, we saw the rainbow flag hanging atop the Space Needle, evidencing Seattle’s (and America’s) recent legislative and judicial success and fight for social justice. We’ve undoubtedly come a long way, and  the fact that #LoveWon this weekend is no small feat. However, there is still so much progress to be made, and as young folks, we’re lucky to have both a hand and a say in where we go from here.

This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Marriage Equality for the Win!

Marriage Equality for the Win!

Today marks the first day that same-sex couples can legally marry in Washington State.

Not wanting to wait any longer, couples lined up outside the King County Courtroom in downtown Seattle to be married at 12:00 am last night. King County Executive Dow Constantine was there signing Marriage Certificates, as well as Senator Ed Murray, the creator of the Marriage Equality bill in the Senate.

On Sunday, December 9th Seattle City Hall was brimming with couples excited to tie the knot. Judges, city officials, and members of the community came out in droves to volunteer their time in order to make everything come together.

And it was beautiful.

An amazing 138 couples were married in City Hall. Many had been together for decades and are just now able to legally wed. Couples were married at one of five temporary wedding altars, and afterward were led into a reception area where they could give video testimonials about their relationships.

One other congratulation in order: Washington State hit 81% voter turnout, the highest in the nation. These historic events wouldn’t have been possible without such huge turnout.

Yesterday was the culmination of years of work, from the dream Senator Ed Murray had for 17 years, to the Marriage Bill passed in January, to the Referendum that voters approved in November, and the weddings all over the state. Being present yesterday was awe inspiring – Washington State affirmed these couples as being completely equal in the eyes of the law. Congratulations to all the happy couples!

 

This blog post was written by Devin Glaser, longtime friend and volunteer of the Bus.

 

Marriage Equality: We Meet Again

Marriage Equality: We Meet Again

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past several months (which I wouldn’t judge), you probably know that on November 6th Washingtonians will have the opportunity to be one of the first states in the U.S. to uphold gay marriage at the ballot box.

My relationship with Marriage Equality, like a lot of queer folks, is complicated. I’ve had, heard, and landed on both sides of the debates surrounding how Marriage Equality campaigns have drawn much-needed resources out of social justice issues such as the school to prison pipeline, access to health care, and youth homelessness to name a few.

I have to admit, I have landed on the side of the debate that Marriage Equality is, in fact, important. I agree, it is not the only issue queers should be fighting for. However, I can also see that Marriage Equality has the potential to affect many people’s lives on a very fundamental and positive level.

For example, I was going to school in Maine during election season in 2009 when Mainers had the chance to uphold Marriage Equality (they didn’t—they voted to repeal it by about a 6% margin).  Leading up to the election, I attended a few community meetings for academia and out of personal interest.

The most notable was a discussion on Marriage Equality and religion led by Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop.*  During the discussion, multiple gay men stepped up to ask the bishop how they should reconcile their feelings of anger towards people that had physically and/or verbally assaulted them based on their sexuality.  In other words, in that room for the folks present, there was a strong connection between basic physical and emotional safety and Marriage Equality.

It began to sink in for me that for some people Marriage Equality is not just about a certificate, or even all the legal rights that go with marriage; it’s also about basic respect and dignity. It is about the sense that the right to marry might lead to greater public acceptance, and, therefore greater safety physically, emotionally, legally and psychically.

My hope for the fight for Marriage Equality in Washington, Maine and Maryland (the three states that have it on the ballot this election season,) is that it will be approved at the ballot box to promote safety for LGBTIQ folks on all levels.

However, I genuinely hope it doesn’t end there.  I hope folks can start using the conversation about Marriage Equality in broader terms—that connections will be made between the legal, physical and emotional vulnerability that queer folks have with the legal, physical and emotional vulnerability that, for example, communities of color have in relation to the war on drugs and racial profiling.  (Not to say they are comparable, the same experience or don’t intersect either, just to say they are all pieces of the same puzzle…and it’d be worthwhile to think about Initiative 502 as part of that puzzle.)

In essence, I hope that we can all start to see and talk about the campaign for Marriage Equality more broadly—that we all should really be thinking about, debating and campaigning for ways we can create spaces and environments where everyone feels safe and is capable of thriving.

*Gene Robinson will be leaving his post in 2013 due to continual threats to his life and personal safety since he became bishop in 2004.

This blog post is by Shann Molly, friend of the Bus.

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