written by Kwan Moonlite, Jai’ Shavers, and Lhundyn Fernandez
BreakOUT! is taking our 2011 We Deserve Better campaign to the next level in 2016 through a new partnership with WHAT’S YOUR ISSUE? WHAT’S YOUR ISSUE? (WYI) is the first national survey created by and for LGBTQ youth (ages 14-24). The survey focuses on our experiences and centers the experiences of people who are usually left out in our community- such as LGBTQ youth who are poor, people of color, living with disabilities, undocumented or immigrant youth, and those that fit into more than one of these categories, while also making sure to focus on our needs and desires to change our conditions in this world. Twenty-five Queer and Trans organizers from different cities in the U.S., including New Orleans, gathered in New York earlier this year to help develop an accurate and inclusive survey and gather more data across the board. BreakOUT! was elated to join this conversation as part of the Community Portrait Project!
Our 2014 report, We Deserve Better: A report about policing in New Orleans by and for queer and trans youth of color, mostly focused on police interactions and the criminalization of Queer and Trans youth of color in New Orleans. That report found that jobs, housing, and education were ranked as the top 3 things that Queer and Trans youth in New Orleans needed to feel safe so THAT’S OUR ISSUE!
We’ve decided to expand our We Deserve Better campaign by focusing on homelessness, the environment around it here in New Orleans, and the intersections that affect Queer and Trans youth in New Orleans. WYI? reached out to us here at BreakOUT! to be their New Orleans branch. This should be our main focus, especially with queer youth being the most vulnerable to homelessness with little access to housing opportunities, especially since there is only one youth shelter in the city of New Orleans.
BreakOUT! understands that homelessness is a key contributing factor to criminalization and sees housing opportunities as a core strategy to ending the criminalization of Queer and Trans youth of color. We live in a city that has one of the highest rates of homelessness per capita, so it is important that we focus on the things that put us in those vulnerable positions that lead to criminalization, too, like not being able to get employment, being pushed out of our homes, having to do survival work that could end up incarcerating us ,or the fact there is an 8pm curfew for minors in certain parts of the city. These are all ways that Queer and Trans youth, especially homeless Queer and Trans youth, are easily targeted.
We will get most of our data by going out into the city and getting the real Queer and Trans youth community involved, as well as encouraging youth in New Orleans to take the WYI? survey. We will be tabling at local events in the city such as the Red Umbrella March to push out our surveys and get data from across the city. We will also be hosting story circles and healing nights with the New Orleans Queer and Trans youth community.
Be on the lookout for updates via the BreakOUT! website, on social media (check out Facebook | Twitter | Instagram), and check out the WYI? survey. For questions about how you can support BreakOUT! and this work, give us a call at 504-252-9025 or email Kwan and Lhundyn!