Kaleidoscope is a LGBTQIA+ youth group that meets weekly at the Pride Collective. Teens age 13-18 can meet for activities, play games, and just be teenagers! There’s planned movie nights, activities that involve working together and activities that promote personal growth. They volunteer for Pride events and even took a field trip to Minneapolis for Minneapolis Pride. All made possible through donations.
“It is a time for young people to have a community of people that are experiencing similar issues to spend time together. We provide a warm, welcoming space for everyone to be their authentic self!” said organizer Mara Wessel. Started in 2011, Amanda Logan and Heather Krause saw that there was a need for services for LGBTQIA+ youth and wanted to provide a safe and welcoming atmosphere for them.
We had a chance to speak with Kaleidoscope organizer Mara Wessel about tough stuff, what she thinks the future holds, and even for a little advice.
High Plains Reader: Do the youth provide any insight as far as how their lives in school are? Do you hear much about bullying or individuals concerned for their safety or their friends safety? How do you or the group approach these concerns?
Mara Wessel: We have had so many conversations about these issues. The biggest issue for our kids now is gender neutral bathrooms and teachers, administration, and staff using the correct pronouns for each kid. Many schools still go by what is written on the students' official record. For young people that are transgender or gender non-binary, this is hard on them. For many of them, hearing their dead name or being misgendered are huge triggers. As for gender neutral bathrooms, some schools are catching up, but many are still so far behind. All our young people want is to feel accepted and to not stand out in the crowd. Making them use a staff bathroom, or bathroom that is on the opposite end of the school is not fixing the problem, it is only making it worse.
HPR: Now that gay marriage is in our grasp, what kind of future issues do you or they see for the LQBTQ community? What kinds of issues do they see on the horizon?
MW: We need to work to get our transgender individuals the rights they deserve. We have come so far on gay and lesbian issues, but now we must work even harder to gain rights for the other members of our community. I see transgender issues now how gay and lesbian issues were 20 years ago.
HPR: Do you think coming out will be any easier in the future?
MW: We have come a long way, which is amazing! Coming out is not just a one time deal. People in the LGBTQIA+ community have to come out at work, school, family, friends, etc. I think as long as the LGBTQIA+ community is seen as "different", coming out will always be hard.
HPR: A number of months ago the Hot Mess Harlots were attacked by a conservative blog in regard to their youth drag show. Has your organization received any kind of backlash from conservative groups?
MW: Usually people stay away from bullying kids. We have the occasional uneducated person, but as a group, we have talked about this many times. Our message as facilitators is to respond with love and kindness. We have advised our young people to not engage in any negative feedback and to direct that all back to the facilitators. We promote education, love, positivity, and strength. Then we process together how it made us feel. The last thing this world needs is more hatred and arguments.
HPR: What kind of advice would you have for LGBTQ youths reading this?
MW: Never be afraid to be authentic. If you feel alone, reach out to Kaleidoscope. The older I get, the more I realize that everyone has a place in this world, and if someone doesn't feel that or doesn't remember where they belong, Kaleidoscope will help them find their way.
HPR: Is there anything else you would like to add?
MW: We want to thank all of the people that have come before us that have helped pave the way for us. So many elders of our community have fought their whole lives to feel like they belong. It is because of them that we are free to be who we are. If anyone is interested in donating to help us continue to provide this group, please feel free to contact me.
You should know:
Tuesdays from 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Pride Collective,1105 1st Ave S, Fargo
Telephone: (701) 566-0063 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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