Youth culture is more connected now than ever, but a new series on YouTube is aiming to be the platform of choice for LGBTQ youth of color.
Kikis With Louie, a new YouTube Series, explores social and cultural issues affecting the queer community.
Advocates for Youth based in Washington D.C. is the organization behind the channel. The organization partners with youth leaders, adult allies, and youth-serving organizations to advocate for policies and lead programs that recognize young people’s rights to honest sexual health information. Their goal is to make sexual health services accessible, confidential, and affordable while providing resources and opportunities necessary to create sexual health equity for all youth. The advocates’ Youth Activist Network, is currently 75,000 strong on 1,200 campuses and in hundreds of communities in the U.S. and more than 120 countries around the world.
The videos came as a response to alarming rates of LGBTQ bullying and suicide. Advocates noted that47.7% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students report that they seriously considered attempting suicide. The urgency of creating entertaining and useful content couldn’t be more urgent to Advocates at a time when the Trump Administration threatened the erasure of LGBTQ individuals.
A Kiki is a term for a “get together” or safe space where the community joins to speak on topics or issues related to the LGBT lifestyle. The videos are positioned as a fresh, casual, approach with host Louie Ortiz-Fonseca who also doubles as the director of LGBTQ health and rights at Advocates for Youth. He said his life as a gay man prepared him for this role, but most importantly it’s how much he desired as a young man to have the support he can now provide through his work and the channel.
“When I started to do this work it provided me an opportunity to find my voice. I’ve been in this work for over 20 years, and throughout my career, my commitment has always been to center those experiences because I know what it did for me- it saved my life,” Fonseca said. “A lot of my friends are no longer alive because they didn’t have the same opportunity I had in organizing or doing youth work. As a young person, I remember it being hard and driving me insane, but it did provide me access to communities and organizations that I would have never had access to living in North Philly. Doing this work is part of my commitment to the universe. “
His personal storytelling project “The Gran Varones” is a digital storytelling platform that elevates the voice of “Latinx and Afro-Latinx gay, queer, trans, bisexual men and bois” much like with Varones, Fonseca has been working just as hard in the digital space as he does with Advocates.
“Some of us don’t have a physical space to convene. Some of us don’t have the luxury of going to a weekly group to find folx who are like-minded and who look and sound like us where we can talk about our experiences as queer people outside of just coming out,” Fonseca said.
“A lot of the popular narrative around LGBTQ youth is around bullying or coming out. While those experiences are important, we understand to be black and brown or even undocumented as a queer person there are other things we are still managing. Coming out isn’t just letting people know we’re gay or queer. It’s about coming out as HIV positive or as a person with a parent who is struggling with addiction. It’s about coming out as undocumented; it’s about coming out for several reasons.”
As part of the digital work, Advocates produces, they also have projects like ECHO-Engaging Communities around HIV Organizing. The campaign calls on youth activists living with HIV who are actively mobilizing online and in their communities to combat HIV stigma. By using the #MyStoryOutLoud they encourage the narratives of LGBTQ and youth of color and young people living with HIV across the nation to post and share their stories and experiences. The use of accurate HIV education is a pillar to eradicating stigma, and the project encourages people and allies to post information about their local testing centers within their communities.
They also challenge racism, homophobia and other forms of oppression with organizers pledging to educate their community about the harms of HIV criminalization among other actions. The digital space has become one of the main ways for the LGBT community to stay connected and for Fonseca, it’s about reaching the people who may slip through the cracks.
“We know in a digital space people connect so much,” says Fonseca. “I’ve sent people money for rent that I’ve never met in person, but I’ve connected with them on social media. I don’t say ‘well we’ve never met in person,’ I say ‘of course because I love the work that you produce and I love connecting with you on social media'”, Fonseca says.
“We know that magic exists so we want to create something in the digital space that centers those voices in a very unapologetic way, in a way that isn’t censored and in this role model storytelling way. Some people don’t have happy endings, and this adds to the complete narrative of who we are. This isn’t inspiration porn; it’s about sharing stories that are real.”
The impact of Kikis With Louie excites Fonseca and his Advocates team.
The video series developed via a partnership with the MAC AIDS Fund with the project releasing new videos every Thursday for the rest of the year. Kikis took Fonseca to six different cities and has had guests like Reggie Bullock of the Detroit Pistons opening up about the murder of his trans sister, and musician Shamir discussing his bipolar diagnosis. The series will include how-to videos on putting on a condom, legal name changes, and what to do in a police encounter, among other topics.
“As someone who grew up Black and Queer in rural Texas, I know first-hand that when you’re feeling isolated, witnessing a person who shares your lived experiences thriving can feel like necessary oxygen,” says Lincoln Mondy, series director and Senior Manager of Strategic Projects at Advocates for Youth.
“That’s why we created Kikis with Louie so that LGBTQ youth across the country can see people who look like them doing the necessary work to unpack stigma, identity, mental health, and other topics that we’re often told to bury.”
For more information on Advocates for Youth visit https://advocatesforyouth.org/campaigns/kikis-with-louie/
To watch the videos on YouTube head to https://www.youtube.com/advocatesforyouth
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