The Leadership-In-Action Summit at George Washington University gave me an opportunity to pursue my passion for human rights and social justice. I was tasked with creating an action plan for community leadership and service that I could bring back to my community in order to hopefully effect change.
It didn’t take me long to come up with an idea. I knew that my desire to help young LGBTQ individuals become comfortable with themselves was something that I had dreamed of doing ever since I ‘invited the world in’ over three years ago.
My goal became lofty: I wanted to spearhead a speaking engagement with nationally renowned speakers who would inspire young people struggling with their identity while at the same time encouraging acceptance of diversity in all its forms in schools and, more specifically, athletics.
Eighteen months after my action plan was written, and with the tremendous support from my school and many sponsors, my goal was fulfilled when the big event – appropriately called “Identifying the Intersection of Athletics, LGBTQ Diversity and Anti-bullying Rhetoric” — was held at the Hyannis Resort and Conference Center on Cape Cod.
Even even those with high standards hailed the conference as a success. Both keynote speakers – Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.com and a Cape Cod native, and Braeden Lange, an openly gay 13-year-old lacrosse player featured on “The Courage Game” on ESPN – empowered the many student athletes, coaches and educators in attendance.
It is my hope that the stories of inspiration shared that day will forever live in the minds and, hopefully, actions of the attendees.
Being a gay man I realize there's still a tremendous struggle for many of our youth. When I “invited the world in,” I drowned deeply in self-hate because of the words my fellow students chose to use in school, words that may have seemed innocent to everyone else but were offensive to me.
But I learned that I needed to be open and authentic to others and myself because, at the end of the day, it is my life, my truth and my reality.
I’ve always said, “One’s voice can be the greatest asset one has to inspire others.” I know for certain, Cyd and Braeden did just that when they spoke from their heart and people listened!
October 6 was a day I will never forget. I know the event changed many lives, gay and straight. With college around the corner, I am looking forward to continue creating new opportunities to make sure the voices of our LGBTQ youth are heard. I implore everyone to be an activist for your passions, to be the person to shine the light behind them and to help inspire someone to voice their truth to the world.
You can find Jonathan Peters on Facebook, and on Twitter @Jon_Peters3. You can also email him at JPeters@youthoutreachprogram.com and check out his Web site, youthoutreachprogram.com.