presence: a zine for queer Frederick youth
A Peacemaking Project by James v.
What is the injustice we are solving?
Queer youth face a whole host of issues - we are more likely to be homeless, mentally ill, chronically absent from school, and simultaneously, less likely to have access to resources. In Frederick, Maryland this is extremely evident. Data by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey reports that half of queer youth in Frederick, Maryland have an active plan to commit suicide. These are urgent problems in our community, and they have impacted the way we go to school, access healthcare, and thrive. We are a duo of queer trans artists who have been personally affected by these issues. Our project, presence: a zine for queer Frederick youth, is a creative response to the realities of our community. A zine is a independently produced magazine (zine for short), showcasing art and information. Our voices and experiences should be at the forefront of these conversations, rather than adults or “specialists” speaking on behalf of us. Our zine will be a submission based zine, calling from all parts of our conservative rural community. Frederick, Maryland has mountain towns, farming communities, and a small city center. We are a red county in a blue state, and for our friends and family, this means we can’t access the resources we need. Hormone replacement therapy, inclusive therapy and medical providers, and safe places of worship and education are all hours away from our town. We must bring awareness and urgency to this - and what better way than through art? The zine will encompass all the problems facing queer youth especially in Frederick, and how we have learned to survive and thrive amongst the issues in our community. Submissions will range from pieces of poetry, short stories, drawing, painting, and other mixed media. We will distribute the printed zines through the safe places we have found and in the hallways of our schools. We believe the art created by the most marginalized of our town should be spread widely and accessible to everyone. Because of this, the zines will be free, but donations will be accepted to cover the printing costs. We will also create an electronic PDF version to be shared with people everywhere. This zine is about the Frederick queer experience, but it is an important example of localized community organizing. Once the zine is finished, and organized by the two of us, we will hold an art show at the local library. We want to share the art in the zine, but also invite local artists to share bigger or different pieces in person with us. We will have physical art as well as performance pieces at our show. It’s important to us that we have a follow up show so we can continue to share our art, but also so we can distribute resources to those who need it. We are still in the planning process for the show; but some possibilities we have considered include a free clothing exchange for trans and gender non conforming youth, FAQs and information guides for queer people, and many more. We’d also like to provide a dinner/set of refreshments. It’s time for queer youth to tell our stories and for adults to listen. Will you join and support our voices?
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of local young queer pain in our town
we will address the silencing and ignoring of young queer voices
by sharing the art and work of young queer Frederick people to the general public
Our Project Plan:
- Spread awareness of issues facing queer youth and develop a new sense of understanding.
- Give queer youth in our town a new artistic platform to express themselves.
- Give concrete resources to our queer youth community (food, clothing, financial support).
- Bring queer youth together to bond and create new relationships.
- Affirm and encourage young queer people in our town.
- Disrupt the systems in our town that hold queer young people back.
We will increase my / our compassion by...
Consistently checking in with the artists we are working with, asking for strong feedback, and constantly checking our own privilege. We will show compassion by considering the perspectives and experiences of every person involved, and make sure our efforts are inclusive and accessible.
How will you show courage?
We will show our courage by challenging the expectations and comfort levels of our community. We will plan our art show and create art based on our needs rather than what our community wants or is comfortable seeing. We will not compromise on our identities and experiences.
How will you collaborate with others?
We will include the work of artists outside our own social networks, and reach out to every corner of our community. We will speak to the adults in our community, speak to the government and other artist networks in the area.
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
We will know we are moving in the right direction when we ourselves feel empowered, and our friends feel happy with our progress. When we get to finally display and share the art of a diverse group of queer youth, then we will feel accomplished. We need many, many art pieces, and varying experiences to be truly effective.
- Finish Peace First Grant.
- Create timeline for zine.
- Create timeline for art show.
- Develop zine advertising.
- Develop art show advertising.
- Collect zine submissions.
- Plan for art show.
- Compile artist submission for show.
- Compile zine.
- Hold art show.
- Sell zines.
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
Doing this project led to so many valuable, deep conversations between queer youth about trauma, suffering, and healing. A common theme throughout the work that was submitted to our zine and art show was growth, and we ended up learning a lot about how our peers dealt with institutionalized pain. Learning this helped us understand the thoughts of our community much better.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
We were brought together in a really beautiful, meaningful way that we had never been before. There is now a powerful infrastructure put in place that promotes art, sharing of young queer narratives, and honesty about institutionalized discrimination. There is also a platform for queer youth, and an expectation for similar events to happen in the future, run by the same as well as different people.
How many people were impacted by your project?
Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?
We estimate this number based on the number of messages we received about the project, the number of shares on our social media posts, and finally, the word of mouth. We posted our flyers and information all across town and interacted with dozens of people on a personal basis.
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
We learned by talking, sharing, listening, creating art together, and spending time together. There were a lot of conversations that took place during the submission process, as well as the advertising process.
What did your team learn?
We learned a lot of very, very, very important lessons about scheduling and planning. We spread ourselves WAY too thin throughout the process. We learned the importance of delegating tasks, being honest about problems we were having, and the importance of communication during the entire process.
What challenges did your team overcome?
We overcame personal issues - including mental health, bullying/harassment, and family conflicts. We had trouble balancing these personal issues, school work, work, and the zine/art show. There were a lot of missteps along the way with scheduling in particular. That being said, we overcame all of these things and still accomplished our mission!
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
We almost solely denied on others to submit their art. We did the work of organizing but really had to call on our community to create and share on our behalf. We also depended on others to advertise and spread the event with word of mouth.
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
Know what you're getting into! Don't overextend yourself. It's better to start small than doing something way too big. Don't over-estimate yourself, and do what you're capable of. Also, learn to depend on others to help you! You can't carry all the responsibility.