“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,” said Mr. Rogers.
Especially when we’re scared or overwhelmed, we can look to the people doing something to help. Here are some organizations in Philly doing the work to promote sex positivity and support LGBTQ people.
YES! (Your Empowered Sexuality!)
What do they do? Intersectional, consent-based, pleasure-focused sexuality education for people of all ages. There are interactive workshops, a podcast, an anonymous story-sharing project, coloring books, social media, and more. YES! runs a sexuality education program for first through 12th graders through Puentes de Salud and does virtual events with parents, teachers, nurses, and patients about autonomy and consent.
According to co-founder and Director of Education Isy Abraham-Raveson, the organization was founded by friends who wondered how their lives might have been better if they had received consent education in school.
“We live in a world that devalues our bodily autonomy from birth,” Abraham-Raveson says, giving examples like requiring kids to show physical affection even when they’re uncomfortable, and through body-shaming dress codes and abstinence-only education. They explain, “YES! challenges this socialization by teaching consent culture, boundaries, and bodily autonomy.”
We are not even two months into 2021 and seven Black transgender women have already been murdered this year.
What do they do? Professional development and personal growth training for cisgender participants who want to learn from transgender and non-binary educators. They have team members across the country and are based in West Philly.
Dr. Eli Green founded the TTI in 2015, “when I started to get requests for trainings that I could not do myself, and I wanted to be intentional about helping to smooth the path for other trans and non-binary educators to access more paying work.” Dr. Green says building the organization from scratch meant getting to “operate using an economic justice and sustainability model that centers on redistributing money to transgender and non-binary people and being transparent about how we do so,” all while keeping their webinars and classes available on a sliding scale.
“We are not even two months into 2021 and seven Black transgender women have already been murdered this year,” Dr Green says, adding that trans people have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“We believe education is vital to increasing understanding of and support for transgender and non-binary people.”
What do they do? An all-volunteer adult cheerleading team and nonprofit that “raises funds and spirits in the local LGBTQ+ community and beyond.”
Board President Meagan Gordon says their group comes from a long line of charitable cheerleading teams, like Cheer San Francisco, which was founded in 1980 to support people living with HIV and AIDS.
“Especially now, we all could use a little more cheer in our lives,” she says.
“Whether you’ve always wanted to be a cheerleader, but didn’t feel comfortable, or have been looking for a way to give back but didn’t know where to start, or just want to try something crazy and new: Cheer Philadelphia is for you.”
Being a Philadelphia-based organization means a deep commitment to anti-racism training.
What do they do? Programs for girls and non-binary kids ages 7-14 to learn magical arts, celebrate rites of passage, and receive body-positive, LGBTQ inclusive puberty education. The programs are online and in person, based in University City and Mt. Airy.
“Puberty education is still totally awful nine times out of 10,” says Director Tara Rubinstein, who served as a program coordinator for the Attic Youth Center for many years, before starting Red Seeds.
Rubinstein says the Artemis programs are designed to “create sanctuary for holistic self-development.” Kids learn about “magic and body hair, feelings about school and anatomy, body fluids and mythology” and are given space and time to “work through embarrassment and ask questions.”
Red Seeds prioritizes inclusivity, according to Rubinstein.
“Being a Philadelphia-based organization means a deep commitment to anti-racism training,” she says, adding that their ceremonies mark rites of passage like first periods, but also make space for kids who come out as trans.
“They have become fun, meaningful and a true celebration in the peer community.”
What do they do? Tell LGBTQ+ stories, highlighting voices who have historically been marginalized, especially people of color, immigrants, queer and trans folks. These stories aim to help individuals who are experiencing discrimination or suicidal ideation to feel less alone.
While VideoOut has staff and volunteers all over the nation, their Director of Development, Katy Chatel, is in Philadelphia. In addition to their online presence, Chatel says VideoOut works with organizations “to produce in-person programs that reach hundreds of people in small towns and rural communities in the places that need LGBTQ+ advocacy the most.”
Chatel says that research shows “stories reduce prejudice, build empathy, and help create a world where everybody can live as their most authentic selves,” adding that VideoOut shares her belief that every human “deserves to live their life to the fullest with access to community, resources, and support without fear of death, punishment, discrimination or oppression.”
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