On March 11th, 2023 TLC Child and Family Services provided a FREE LGBTQ+ Youth Workshop as part of Project Flare. TLC’s Project Flare intends to undo aloneness and create a legacy of visibility for LGBTQ+ youth. This recent event is a continuation of the groundbreaking inaugural Project Flare event that took place in 2019. This most recent workshop served both former foster youth and other Sonoma County teens seeking support and connection within the LGBTQ+ Community.
Project Flare’s overriding mission is to save lives by helping undo the aloneness often experienced by teens exploring their Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (a.k.a. their SOGIE). Turns out…everyone has a SOGIE; meaning each of us has a sexual orientation (e.g., a romantic or sexual attraction to others); each of us identifies our own experience of gender (male, female, both, neither); and we express that gender identity through the clothes we wear, our behavior, interests, mannerisms and presentations of socially ascribed versions of masculinity and/or femininity.
However, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the pressures of non-accepting peers, unsupportive, if not rejecting, families, and sometimes outdated religious beliefs, which leaves them at far greater risk of dropping out of school, having contact with juvenile justice, self-harm and/or suicidal ideation.
Our recent Project Flare event brought together a range of youth in age (14 to 23 years), experience, interests, level of coming out, and how they identify (an ally, trans, bisexual, gay, gender non-conforming and/or neurodivergent, etc.).
This extraordinary group of young people and several mentors joined Project Flare facilitators, Anna Richmond and Jill Rees, who led the group through a day intended to increase a sense of belonging and connection as well as provide an avenue for confidence building and voice.
The latter was accomplished by providing opportunities for participants to film amateur and professional videos where they could share aspects of their SOGIE experiences that have the potential to inspire others, who might otherwise not have a similar level of support and advocacy.
TLC wants to thank the following collaborators: Jill Rees for their continued expertise and commitment to the mission of Project Flare; Orlando O’Shea, V (aka Vanessa) Vasquez, and Vanessa Albert-Moret for being Project Flare mentors last week; Brandon Parkhurst and the Gravenstein Grill for feeding us a delicious lunch; Emily Albert and Mike Lagoyda for sharing the beautiful space at Corcoran Icon Properties with us; and Joe Summerill and Positive Images for collaborating on Swag Bags for the participants! We also owe a special debt of gratitude to Pride United/United Way of the Wine Country who generously fund grants to serve LGBTQ+ communities in Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt, and Del Norte Counties. Project Flare couldn’t do this without you!