Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Intern Minister
What do you remember about your teen years, your adolescence?
I remember the thrill of independence, being able to ride my bike to the store completely alone-an autonomous shopper. Though it was just to the local Farm and Fleet, I had to cross the highway and I was completely unsupervised! Do you recall the delight of newly gained freedoms? That unique time of becoming, where many begin to emerge from childhood and transform into adults.
Let me remind you of the physical awkwardness that accompanies this time in your life, truly a kind of discombobulation. There are times when I know I felt stuck between childhood and young adulthood wondering how it would all work out. Worried about what unexpected thing would happen next, worried if this was all normal, and worried about who I was becoming.
I begin doing youth ministry because I remember the uncertainty of adolescence. I stayed ten years in youth ministry because I am in awe of our remarkable young people who recognize the inherent hypocrisies in our world and are brave and bold enough to speak truth to power. Transforming themselves and the world we all inhabit.
Many of these youth identified themselves as lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer, gay, transgender or gender fluid. These youth navigate the complex transformation that is adolescence within a world laden with heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is the belief that people fall into only two binary distinct and complementary genders with natural roles in life. Gender identity is where you see yourself on the continuum of gender. If you identify with the sex you were born with at birth, you are considered cisgender; other gender identities include transgender, genderqueer or non-binary. Meanwhile, sexual orientation is who you are attracted to, and can range from being straight/heterosexual to being gay or anywhere on the spectrum. If you are not heteronormative, you are forced to explain yourself, meanwhile cisgender and heterosexual people are not asked to do this.
These young people stand out amongst their peers, yet many of their teachers are unaware or uninformed about the identities they claim, and their parent’s reaction can vary from supportive to confused or scared for them or of who they might be. Most schools have little to no support systems in place and it can be almost impossible to find unbiased support and fellow youth who also identify as LGBTQI. They are stuck. Worried about what unexpected thing will happen next, worried if they are normal, and worried about who they are becoming. Asking themselves, will they ever be accepted and loved?
And they are right to worry, we all should be worried. Compared with other students, negative attitudes toward LGBTQI youth put these youth at increased risk for experiences with violence such as bullying, teasing, harassment, and physical assault. According to the Center for Disease prevention LGB students and 34% were bullied on school property, 28% were bullied electronically and LGBTQI youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide.
How can we expect these youth to thrive through the transformation process of adolescence when they encounter oppression in their daily lives?
There are very few resources for LGBTQ youth in the cities of Waukesha, Wauwatosa, Brookfield, and Elmbrook. Unitarian Universalist Church West is uniquely poised to help by offering a sanctuary to these unserved or underserved youth in our community. This year I am networking with the Milwaukee LGBTQ Center, FORGE, Pathways Counseling, our own Interweave group on creating monthly social events at UUCW for LBGTQI youth and their families to connect, share resources, build relationships, have fun and find sanctuary.
I know many of you have experienced and witnessed this kind of oppression and want to do something to help. Unitarian Universalists we believe in and long for a world where everyone is celebrated, accepted, and able to thrive and grow into their full potential. Here is an opportunity to help some of the most vulnerable in our community with the simple act of hospitality. Can you help us make this happen?
Let me know if you are interested in volunteering your time and energy.
Blessed be. Kimberlee
Q Youth Group is a social group for LGBTQI+ youth ages 13-18 in the Western Milwaukee suburbs. Q youth group provides facilitated support and social opportunities for youth and their families. The goal of Q Youth group is to create a safe space where you can hang out with other LGBTQI teens and meet some new people in a safe and respectful environment! This is a place where you can be who you are.
Q Youth group is free, you are welcome to check us out at your own comfort level. If you are looking to meet new friends, this might be the opportunity you’re looking for! This group will do things like group check-in, play games, eat food, make cool crafts, watch movies, bring in guest speakers and more!
We will be choosing future activities based on the group’s interests.
Q Youth Group will be on these Friday evenings from 6-9 pm at Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield, WI: Dec. 14-2018, Feb. 8, March 22, April 12, May 10-2019
December 14 we will be decorating cookies, holiday crafting and getting to know one another. Parents are welcome to attend, Lynn Dusold, Co-director of Pathways Counseling Center will facilitate a parents group while the youth socialize.