The Queer & Trans Youth Leadership Summit (QT Summit) is a 3-day youth leadership development opportunity for LGBTQIA+ youth ages fifteen to nineteen. The three days in early March are very busy with many activities to help youth meet new people, learn more about the Social Justice Movement Stories of LGBTQIA+ people, and have young voices lead gender and LGBTQIA+ issues in local and statewide campaigns. During the summit participants have centered the lives of queer and trans youth of color, created an intentional healing space, elevated the leadership, safety and visibility of queer and trans youth throughout California and sharpened leadership skills through shared learning about LGBTQ Social Justice Movement Stories, Power & Systems Oppression, and Gender Justice, amongst other topics. Read below the experience of Chase Bertotto, a We’Ced Youth Media member who attended the 2019 Summit.
I arrive on site to a welcoming environment, both nervous and excited. Upon checking in I saw a quail in person for the first time in my life. I find my dorm empty until the end of the day. I meet a few kind people and mingle for a bit while eating lunch, then I went back to my dorm to relax. The travel here, while nice, was very draining and I happily enjoy the break. After my break I went to a workshop full of ice breakers and information on the history of the trans rights movement, in it Marsha P Johnson, a trans woman who stood up for Stonewall in 1969, was highlighted along with info on the start of the hip hop movement in the 1970s.
After this workshop, I participated in a group activity that used graffiti as a way to express yourself and heal. I drew a small sun symbolizing the queer community rising up and added the area code 916 to represent my home town in Sacramento. After this, I ate dinner and went to another workshop where we were educated on dealing with our emotions and breathing exercises.
I had also signed up for two more workshops for the following day. I chose spoken word, because it’s a medium I’ve always wanted to learn about, and creative writing, because I feel it will inspire me to do more writing. I attended a bonfire after this, along with a moon walk where I got to learn about how the rose quartz gem brings love and balance to the soul. We performed a ritual where I made an affirmation on what I wanted to achieve in life. My affirmation was to be the hero I needed as a child not only for myself but for those around me. After that I came back to my dorm and got ready for bed.
I woke up at 7 a.m. and got ready for breakfast at 8. After breakfast, we had another workshop where we talked about gender justice. We had many discussions on gender roles and expression. After that, we decorated candles based on our gender journeys. I chose a lot of pinks, blues, and purples to symbolize my struggle with coming to grips with being trans masculine.
When we finished with that, we got some free time where I came back to my dorm room to charge my phone and relax for a bit. I also walked around and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Wonder Valley Ranch. I went to lunch after this and after that went to another workshop where I became acquainted with how to plan a political campaign and what a power structure is. I participated in a group photo after this.
My spoken word workshop was both emotional and healing. I rekindled my love for writing through that workshop. I also attended a creative writing workshop, as well, and that was a really fun experience. The coordinators were full of energy and it was contagious. I had dinner after that and then prepped for my performance in the talent show. I had a lot of fun performing and it went over easier than expected. There was a dance after that that I stuck around for a bit for and then I went for a short walk with one of the friends I made during the weekend. After that I went back to my room, showered and got ready for bed while reflecting on the time spent this weekend.
I woke up this morning feeling bittersweet. While excited to return home to my loved ones, I also felt a tinge of sadness leaving all the amazing people I had met. I packed up and got some breakfast. I went to the lounge to fill out notes I wanted to give to the people I had met and prepared for the activity of the day. They gave us the option to lead discussions and I had chosen to lead a discussion on transitioning because it’s something I hold close as a trans person. I had partnered up with Luis, who was leading a discussion on queer and trans experiences.
The talks we had in our group were very deep and tears were shed by many. We talked about healthy and unhealthy ways we’ve coped in the past and our experiences with being LGBTQ+. I heard many amazing stories that day and couldn’t help but feel pride in the youth that were brave enough to share these things. I’ve always wanted to help the younger LGBTQ+ generation and I really felt like I did that today.
After we wrapped up with our group we headed to lunch. After eating everyone met up in the lounge again to go outside and participate in the closing ceremony. During this we had the chance to make some more affirmations mine was to take the peace and happiness I felt at the camp home with me and to spread the love I felt there everywhere I can. As the closing ceremony was happening I couldn’t help but feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to be there and experience the camp. I’d like to someday go back as a mentor to further help the LGBTQ+ youth. It’s a weekend I’ll ever forget.