I’m feeling really heartbroken about this weeks’ news that NYAC (National Youth Advocacy Coalition) closing their doors for good almost ten years to the day after I attended my first queer conference – NYAC national in DC. I was a homeless queer kid and I remember being absolutely in awe.
Until that point I had primarily been a youth doing political and social justice organizing within adult LGBT organizations. I was * everyone’s * token youth. My story- where I came from, what I’d experienced were traumatic and extreme and compelling. Despite that, I was graduating high school two weeks after NYAC conference – I made grants look good. I was a “success story.”
That conference put a lot into motion for me – I met the first butch I ever dated which started a tumultuous adventure living and doing queer organizing in the South, but the conference meant more than that to. NYAC was so significant for me because it was the first time that I met other youth organizers. It was the first time that I saw youth as leadership not simply as tokenized afterthoughts. In that space youth had power, and were empowering each other to take on this work ourselves without the sanctioning, approval, or censoring from adult organizers.
Now as an adult queer organizer, I can trace so much of my ethics back to the experience of being at NYAC and the connections that I made with others that weekend in May. They are values that I work to maintain in all my work, and I think of those lessons every time that I interact with youth organizers. It’s sad to me to realize that the organization that created those sorts of spaces, that empowered me, and so many other queer youth organizers is closing it’s doors is hard to accept. The loss of NYAC’s will leave a gaping hole in our community that I worry will be felt by generations of queer organizers to come.