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Jul 1, 2019

RYE Fellows Blog About Their Trip To D.C.

Adrian Parra

Living in the South as a non-binary and latinx young person, I often feel my voice is silenced, ignored and suppressed. Even as the Executive Director of Youth OUTright, a position that offers a certain amount of access and power, the signs of bias based on sexuality, gender and race are clearly visible. 

This experience is exponentially more intense and harmful for the youth in my community. There is a deep sense of powerlessness expressed by the youth. They do not see their voices represented in the government and fear they will never be protected under the law as equal citizens.

Equality North Carolina’s Rural Youth Empowerment Fellowship raised my voice, as well as the voice of a member of Youth OUTright’s Youth Advisory Board. Favy Mendez is a 19-year-old latinx lesbian from Franklin, NC. On our trip to D.C. she spoke to her representative’s staff about the experiences of discrimination she’s faced. As a community, we must keep our legislators accountable to the humans they serve and represent. Thanks to the RYE fellowship, Favy and I were given access to our lawmakers and representatives. It was an incredible honor to work with talented organizers and activists from all over North Carolina as we spoke on the need for comprehensive non-discrimination legislation that protects LGBTQIA+ folks.

Sterling Bentley

I had the incredible opportunity to take on D.C. alongside some of Equality NC's changemakers through the Rural Youth Empowerment Fellowship. We had a full day of meetings across the Hill and across party lines to discuss the importance and necessity of federal non-discrimination policy that includes both gender identity and sexual orientation. Each of us shared our personal encounters with discrimination in order to generate empathy and understanding, which we hope will lead to action.

It became clear to us who truly wanted to be a part of the conversation while others simply wanted to be inflammatory and, frankly, condescending. Although some of the conversations took more patience and courage, those are the ones that left me feeling as though we had planted seed with our willingness to be bridges for change. I am honored to have had this opportunity to learn and grow besides an amazing group of people.

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