Through COLAGE—a program of Family Equality that seeks to create a network of people who have LGBTQIA+ parents or caregivers—changemaker and current Youth Action Board Member Samantha found more than community. She found her voice, and she’s sharing her COLAGE journey in the testimony below.
COLAGE has been inspiring change for many years. Change within youth, within the community, and, in part, the world. All of the amazing volunteers, board members, and youth that are involved strive to advocate for our families and encourage equality. For me, COLAGE has been the guiding light on my journey of change. My own life and ideology have been drastically impacted by COLAGE and in turn, I have been pushing for transformations in my community.
When I was first introduced to COLAGE, I was eight years old. My mom had separated from my dad several years prior and it had just been us for a while. Then, my mom began dating a woman. It was a whole new concept that I had no way of grasping with my young and unenlightened mind. I was a lost child trying to navigate through deceiving social norms. At that point, my mom introduced me to COLAGE programs. Never did I think that going to some workshops and attending a couple of hours of programming would change my life, but it did. I started to learn about my family and understand it in a way I never had before. I realized quickly that other people had a mommy who was dating a girl too. Just because my school friends or the kid in the “Caillou” show I watched had a mom and a dad in the same house didn’t mean I had to. Through COLAGE I was able to understand that. I learned to love my family just the way it was.
Once I got past the stage of understanding, I decided that I wanted to continue in COLAGE. As I got older, it helped me gain a sense of confidence and that is where change begins. My newfound courage led me to educate others. No longer would I allow other kids on the school bus to call each other “gay” as an insult or to give me unwelcoming looks when wearing my pride shirt. I would politely challenge them with a “What does that mean?” or “Why are you looking at me like that?”. Once they would give me whatever uncomfortable excuse they could come up with, I would explain that there is nothing wrong with loving someone and that everyone is human. I know that by creating that moment of discomfort, they would think twice about their word choice the next time, and hopefully many times after that. For me, being able to make that change of dialogue even just for one person, is still one person closer to where I hope society ends up. Without the safe space I gained within COLAGE, I never would have had the tools to do that. Even though it may not directly impact the whole world, I was able, through this organization, to change one person’s world.
As I got older, my love grew and grew for this community and I ended up on COLAGE’s youth action board. We help to make decisions and our goal is to help other youth through social media, blog posts, and more. This has become a huge part of my life and has led to many opportunities for me and my peers to help make a difference. This is just another way that I have been able to create change alongside others who are around the same age as me.
I would not trade my experience with COLAGE for the world. I have gained so much from it, and I believe that everyone with an LGBTQIA+ family can find a wonderful community in it.
If you’ve been considering getting involved in COLAGE programming—or if you’re curious about getting your child involved—, the Creating Change conference in Dallas, Texas from January 17–18, 2020 is a great place to start!