The mission of Oklahoma City Youth United is to provide a safe, inclusive and affirming environment to youth, ages fourteen to twenty, of all genders and sexual orientations from the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. OKCYU also seeks to provide education, outreach, fun and support; and to advocate for the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) people.

GLBTQ young people need to be able to connect with their peers. As they can’t always do this at home or school, most cities and towns offer a community-based GLBTQ youth meeting, group or program. These range from a weekly group to a full time drop-in center providing a ‘safe’ space where GLBTQ youth may seek peer connection, support, information and links to community services. OKCYU is a coalition of individuals and organizations, both youth and adults, working to meet the needs of GLBTQ youth in the Oklahoma City region. Our primary goal is to create a vibrant, sustained and engaging weekly social and support program coordinated in partnership between youth and adult ally leaders. We are committed that the program will be youth-driven and youth-led. It will initially be hosted at the First Unitarian Church of OKC.

Committing to being a youth-led organization is no small undertaking. It comes with the understanding that this will be an ongoing challenge for our adult participants to step back and let young people lead, while at the same time stepping up and supporting them to do so. We know this work building partnerships and developing leadership will not be easy, but we also know that with respect, courage and trust it is achievable. And that it will be a more rewarding and empowering experience for all involved, for we understand that the process can be as important as the product. We trust that in a year, in five years or in a decade, future OKCYU leaders will be proud to look back and be able to say that we have always been youth-led!

HISTORY

Our First Meeting

Following are the notes from brainstorming and visioning discussions at OKCYU’s very first coalition meeting of over 60 youth and adults on 11/20/08. They are not meant to be an exhaustive list, just the very exciting – and overdue – beginning…

Needs of GLBTQ Youth in Oklahoma City

Arts/theater/drama group/education
Case management
Choir
Community
Coping/life skills
Crisis management
Education/tutoring
Empowerment
Help coming out
HIV/STD education
Housing for homeless youth
Hope
Intercommunity/intergenerational mentorship
Internships
Job seeking/resume development skills
Love
Mental health services/counseling
Parental support/involvement
Peer connection/friends
Political involvement
Primary health care
Rights in/info on the military
Role models
Safe space to socialize
Scholarships
Shared stories/histories
Stability
Substance use education
Suicide prevention
Support
Supportive religious information
Understanding
Voter registration

Ideas and Suggestions for a Weekly Youth Group

Activism/social justice training/opportunities
Churches and other organizations sponsorship/formal coalition?
Communication with other youth/LGBT groups
Community service/volunteering opportunities
Department of Mental Health funding, specifically for smoking cessation and substance abuse
Ensure strong leadership with designated roles and responsibilities
Excellent publicity/outreach
Food/chocolate
Gay Prom/dance/jazzercize/yoga
Information on colleges/campus groups/LGBT friendliness
Library resources including PFLAG publications
Meeting time shouldn’t interfere with social and school activities (i.e., Friday night)
Mentoring and other opportunities and ways to plug in for youth aging out of program (early 20s)
Mix up meeting activities
Phone number
Provide consistency in time, place and leadership
Rallies/camps/trips or other bonding opportunities outside of group (linked with community service?)
Regularly seek input from all involved
Social activities and fun (e.g., movies, games, ping-pong table, pool table, foosball table, etc.)
Specific age groups (possibly and under 18 and an over 18 group)
Street/club outreach on Friday nights and weekends at youth gathering spots (e.g., Wreck Room)
Strong links to campus-based groups
Strong links to High School Gay-Straight Alliances
Strong Web presence/outreach via MySpace, Facebook, other sites
System of youth taking active roles and leadership in program built-in
Use of inclusive language consistently, especially in group name, on bisexual and transgender identities
Well-funded program
Workshops/seminars
Youth leadership development/training

Other Outreach Ideas

Coming out party
Gazette
GLBTQ press/websites
Outreach materials (lit, website) inclusive of youth of color, transgender youth
Social events
Teachers and school counselors
Word of mouth

Organizations in Attendance

Cathedral of Hope
Church of the Open Arms
Cimarron Alliance Foundation
Diverse Partnerships/USO OKC
Diversity Business Association
Epworth Methodist Church/Crossfire Youth Group
First Unitarian Church of OKC/YA/YRUU/Interweave
GATE/UCO
GLBTF/OU
PFLAG
RAIN
Young Democrats of Oklahoma
YOTSO

Share your ideas

If you have ideas to add to this list, or would like to get involved – especially if you’re a youth – email OKCYU at: [email protected]