South Texas isn’t necessarily known for its inclusive spaces, but a local youth group is looking to change that.
Youth Network Out Together, also known as YNOT, is a local LGBTQ youth group that was formed to help remove the disparities between LGBTQ and straight youth. The group is more than two years old and is funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Angie Baker, the LGBTQ youth coordinator for the Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation which hosts YNOT, said that she hopes the group is planting the seeds for change and growth in the area.
“My goal is to make sure that young LGBTQ people have access to resources, like health resources, housing, therapy and more,” Angie said. “YNOT currently offers a space for local youth to come and get these resources while having other people to talk to.”
The group, which is available to anyone ages 13 to 24, lets its members have a safe space to come and meet, with educational days, games and activities, and community events. The group is gearing up for Corpus Christi’s second annual pride parade and their second LGBTQ youth prom, which was created by the group.
Sam Legendre-Davis, 21, who has been a YNOT member since the group’s existence, said that he enjoys being able to have a safe place to come and be himself.
“There aren’t a lot of places in Corpus that have safe LGBTQ places for people under the age of 21,” Sam said. “YNOT has been a great place to meet people and be in an accepting environment.”
While some of the members prefer the social aspects of the group, some like Zephyr Reames-Zepeda, 23, joined to be more active in the community.
“I joined when I came back to Corpus Christi after college and learned about the group during a trans-alliance meeting,” Zephyr said.“I was never really an activist until my boyfriend committed suicide. He was an activist and opened my eyes to the crisis that LGBTQ people face.”
Zephyr continued to say that the group allows him to be a role model for younger kids in his community.
“This group helps young kids see successful older adults who have gone through the struggles of growing up and going to school,” he said. “And shows them that life can be good and lets me be a role model.”
With over 300,000 people, Corpus Christi is one of the largest cities in Texas, yet it offers few resources or outlets for the LGBTQ community.
Andy Fergal, 20, joined the group to help show the community that LGBTQ people have a place.
“I didn’t feel like I saw myself in the community, so I joined this group after hearing about it in a trans support group,” he said.“This group allows kids to be kids and express themselves how they want to, which they aren’t always able to at home or at school.”
The group is getting into high gear for various pride activities that will be taking place in Corpus Christi this month. Not only is YNOT hosting a LGBTQ youth prom this Saturday, June 9, but the group will also be taking part in the local pride parade on Friday, June 8, and a block party as well.
YNOT is currently accepting donations for the group and pride events. For more information about YNOT, please visit their Facebook, or you can contact Angie Baker at email@example.com or by calling 361-814-2001