The Friday before the tragedy at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Team Born This Way Foundation met for our monthly “Freewrite Fridays,” a chance for us to both hone our writing skills and get to know more about each other. Each month, Aysha gives us a prompt to respond to and for this session, it was “nostalgia.” Here’s what came up for me:
My childhood home has a very specific smell. I remember noticing it when I was a little boy after family vacations. We’d be away for a week or so, smelling new smells like the ocean at St. Augustine Beach or a wooded cabin in Pigeon Forge, and when we’d return I’d get hit with a familiar cloud of comfort, mixed with an air of sadness and longing for the newness of adventure.
It’s not a smell I can describe. The notes and undertones even seemed to morph throughout the years. Mothballs. Freshly cooked (burnt) bacon. Dust? As our house had been built by my family in the early 1900s and first occupied by my great-grandmother through the end of her life, there are so many memories baked into the walls. My mom and my brother swear they can even still catch a whiff of Granny’s pungent floral perfume going up and down the stairs to the bedrooms, even though she’s been long gone for decades.
Getting closer to the holidays and the prospect of visiting home, I yearn for that familiar, safe aroma – even alongside the anxiety that comes with returning home and facing other sense memories that evoke some more difficult moments from my youth when I didn’t feel so safe.
So now, every time I prepare to go home for the holidays, I give my inner child a big hug and remind him it’s okay to feel it all – to be nostalgic for the comfort and heartbroken for the times it wasn’t so comfy. As I let the home smell wash over me time and time again, I repeat the mantra, “I know that I am safe, I know that I am loved.” for I’ve created a safe space around my heart that I can take with me wherever I go.
A couple days later, I learned about the tragic attack on my fellow LGBTQ+ siblings at Club Q. These spaces are our safe havens, places where we can laugh and twirl with our chosen families and express ourselves as we truly are. Once again, we’d been robbed of our safety, and my heart was broken. When Maya reached out and asked how I thought the Foundation should respond, my freewriting piece was still fresh in my mind. The one thing I wished for my community in that moment and this holiday season is that they feel safe and loved no matter where they go – specifically Trans youth, as this attack took place directly before Trans Day of Remembrance. While I know I can’t wish away these acts of violence, I knew there were organizations working tirelessly to make sure LBGTQ+ youth feel safe, loved, validated, and celebrated in the Colorado Springs community and beyond.
So my partner Jeremy and I got to work identifying them, and we invited Team Born This Way Foundation to join in. Below is a list of a few organizations we like to amplify and support, and we welcome your additions. I’m so grateful for the work each of these organizations are doing to build back our safety and foster kind communities, and I encourage you to check them out and consider supporting them in any way you can.
Always remember that even when you don’t feel safe, you are so very loved, and resources for support are available.
Drag Story Hour (https://www.dragstoryhour.org) empowers storytellers utilizing the art of drag to read books to kids in libraries, schools, and bookstores. Drag Story Hour captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly Queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where everyone can be their authentic selves!
Prismatic Project (https://prismaticprojectco.wixsite.com/prismaticproject) is a Transgender, Non-binary, Two-Spirit, and Gender Expansive focused nonprofit serving the community of Colorado Springs. They seek to empower those disenfranchised by the heteronormative, binary, exclusionary and frequently violent systems we exist in. Prismatic Project aims to be a haven that is created by our community, that responds to our community’s needs and allows the community to flourish through support and education.
Trans Justice Funding Project (https://www.transjusticefundingproject.org/map) is a community-led funding initiative founded in 2012 to support grassroots, trans justice groups run by and for trans people. They make grants annually by bringing together a panel of six trans justice activists from around the country to carefully review every application received. They center the leadership of trans people organizing around their experiences with racism, economic injustice, transmisogyny, ableism, immigration, incarceration, and other intersecting oppressions. Every penny they raise goes to their grantees with no restrictions and no strings attached because they truly believe in trans leadership.
Trans Santa (https://www.transanta.com) delivers gifts and letters of encouragement to trans youth in need across the country safely and anonymously. During the holiday season, Trans Santa opens applications to trans folks under age 24. Applicants submit their first names, ages, and information (like an email address and what state or country they are from), as well as a handwritten “letter to Santa” and a link to their wishlist. After the application window closes, the organization posts submissions on its social media pages so followers and “Santas” can find each individual’s Amazon registry and anonymously buy the things they’ve asked for.
The Trans Women of Color Collective (https://www.twocc.us/) uses art, healing, and thorough support to protect and lift up trans women of color who have been disenfranchised or victimized by violence.
Everytown for Gun Safety (https://www.everytown.org/) is the largest gun violence prevention organization in the United States. The Everytown Survivor Network is a nationwide community of survivors working together to end gun violence. The Survivor Network connects survivors to each other, amplifies the power of survivor voices, offers trauma-informed programs, provides information on direct services, and supports survivors who choose to become advocates.