Since FIERCE’s founding in 2000, we have received numerous requests from LGBTQ organizations and LGBTQ youth who want to learn about our organizing model, approach to social change, and local campaign and leadership development successes.
With our movement allies, we identified issues impacting LGBTQ youth and conducted an assessment of how youth organizing and leadership development strategies were being utilized to create change. In response to gaps that we identified, FIERCE launched a national program in 2009 to support building the capacity of LGBTQ youth organizing, as well as to increase the visibility of LGBTQ youth issues on a national scale.
In January 2010, FIERCE released a report, Coming Out, Stepping Up: Organizing to Build the Power of LGBTQ Youth, to document major challenges facing LGBTQ youth and strategies being used to address them. The following themes emerged:
- The problems LGBTQ youth faced were intensifying, and transphobia, homelessness, and cuts to social services were the most urgent issues.
- LGBTQ youth issues were not being prioritized by mainstream LGBTQ organizations. While same-sex marriage garnered increasing wins and political support, these benefits do not protect LGBTQ youth of color from gender-based violence, homelessness, a lack of social services, and other forms of discrimination and abuse.
- Most LGBTQ youth organizations were using social service-based responses and not community organizing strategies to build collective power for deeper social change. While services are much needed and deeply valued, long-term change requires building power to address and change the conditions that cause the problem.
In February 2010, FIERCE hosted a day-long organizing summit at the Creating Change Conference in Dallas, Texas. The summit supported the building of grassroots skills of over 30 LGBTQ youth of color who increasingly face homelessness, lack of safe public space, and violence. This interactive training space covered organizing skills and strategies for how to build the political power of LGBTQ youth of color.
Over the past several years, we have seen an increased emergence of LGBTQ youth organizing efforts across the country. Along with this increase, we see that the need to sustain LGBTQ youth leaders in a national conversation has also grown.
Through our initial work, FIERCE learned important lessons that have impacted the goals and direction of our national program. We learned that social change strategies work best when they are culturally relevant and grounded in local conditions while also based in shared values that center youth leadership and power.
Our work to support and grow LGBTQ youth movement infrastructure requires building LGBTQ youth capacity, including developing organizing skills and political landscape analysis, to create long-lasting change. Our work is built upon collective action through leadership development and base-building efforts that center LGBTQ youth who are most marginalized and directly affected by the problems we aim to address. We center our core value of developing LGBTQ youth of color as leaders to produce the change that they want to see in their lives.