We are excited to honor Rowan Powell, an LGBTQ youth advocate and activist. Rowan’s work for YOUTH MOVE, a national organization dedicated to uniting youth to advocate for change in government systems, has included starting two LGBTQ youth groups on the Eastern Shore. Find out more about Rowan, in their own words below:
The need for education about LGBTQ issues and culture became apparent when after identifying myself as Pansexual, I was asked, “Are you attracted to kitchenware?”
The question alone startled me and also brought to light the lack of knowledge about something that I consider basic. I also realized that I hadn’t always had a full understanding of these issues until I began self-education, specifically during my time at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I have identified as pansexual since I was 16 years old, although I didn’t voluntarily disclose that. Instead, when I was 17 and a senior in high school, a friend decided she no longer wanted me to be in the closet and took the liberty of telling a few others that I was a “dyke.” The school was small and word traveled quickly. Thankfully, graduation was just a few weeks away, thus I was largely spared the fall-out and flack.
However, that experience lead me to pursue education about everything LGBTQ. Subsequently, I returned from North Carolina to the Eastern Shore, landed a job as a Youth Engagement Specialist for Youth M.O.V.E., and, as I approach my 21st birthday, I am equipped both with knowledge about myself and others, and I’ve been fortunate to engage Dr. Diane Illig of Salisbury College, who provided a Safe Spaces training to 25 behavioral health providers in the Mid-Shore region. Additionally, I’m working with Dr. Batya Hymen in a collaborative effort to give presentations at conferences, trainings and agencies, including Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems, Inc. I’ve also started LGBTQ groups here on the shore; two members and I were interviewed on a radio show, which enabled us to discuss all issues LGBTQ.
We continue to work with the LGBTQ population and the general public in hope that one day, ours will no longer be a population dealing with stigma, that the questions no longer will be “Can I marry the person I love?” or “Do I have to stay in the closet to ensure employment, housing and societal acceptance?” Rather, we’ll be able to lose the labels and embrace one another as equals.