Eric Juszyk, chief administrator of the Gay Nebraska Youth Network, guest blogs a rundown of the great work his group is doing in Omaha. Follow Eric on Twitter @ericjuszyk.
Growing up as LGBTQ in the Midwest can be difficult, especially in conservative states like Nebraska. The youth in rural and agricultural communities are often isolated and have few legitimate resources for forming new friendships and interacting with the larger LGBTQ community.
In May of 2010 I learned about the Gay Nebraska Youth Network when the founder, Drew Heckman, returned to Omaha after his freshman year at Brown University. Drew was astounded at the vibrant community in Providence and sought to create an environment back in his home state where youth can interact with each other in a safe and positive manner.
The Gay Nebraska Youth Network was formed as a youth-focused, peer-led organization that seeks to connect high school and college LGBTQ students statewide with social activities, opportunities to form new relationships, and connections to resources. A secret Facebook page is used to promote social interaction and the sharing of relevant issues while protecting the identity of its members and ideas while a public page is used to publicize our organization to the larger straight and ally communities. Additionally we match the virtual interactions with real life social events held at a variety of locations across the state.
Some members from the Queer Nebraska Youth Networks
at Nebraska AIDS Project’s Condom Fashion Show,
with the dress and accessories we designed!
I don’t know what I could do to make me seem gayer. Even last night I was talking to a girl I’ve known for a while. I said something about some girl, and she was like “Oh, are you bisexual?” She jumped to thinking I was straight to thinking I was bisexual. I’m like, “No, I’m pretty fucking gay.”
I could cut off my hair, but that wouldn’t be me. I’m not one of those people who can change my appearance at the drop of the hat. I don’t have piercings, I don’t have tattoos. I guess hair grows back, but I have weird things with my hair. It’s like a security blanket. To me at least, cutting my hair so people know I’m queer would feel like putting on a costume.
I wrote a paper about hair, and when I started writing it, the point was going to be that you can’t judge people’s sexuality based on their hair. But then all the research I found showed you can make assumptions on people based on their hair, and it’s been a really helpful way for the queer community to identify each other. My paper ended up with me realizing that I am the exception. (more…)
We Are the Youth Book Club: An Interview with Nick Burd, author of The Vast Fields of Ordinary.
For We Are the Youth’s first book club, Brooklyn-based author Nick Burd, 31, talks to us about his award-winning debut novel The Vast Fields of Ordinary, a coming of age young adult book about Dade Hamilton, a gay teenager in Iowa exploring friendship, relationships, and family drama during his “last real summer” before going to college.
The Vast Fields of Ordinary is in the early stages of being turned into a movie to be directed by Bruce Cohen, the producer of American Beauty and Milk. Nick talks to us about sexuality, gay literature, and the to-be-named quasi-sequel.
Did you have any books about young gay people to read when you were growing up?
I really didn’t. I grew up in a religious environment. The things in the library weren’t gay or lesbian oriented. My sexuality was forming in my mind in sixth, seventh, eighth grade, and I couldn’t find any young adults geared towards gay kids. When I found adult themed gay books that was kind of a big deal.