by Jessica Carreras
Brian Kendall is a 20Something – and he's proud of it. The 26-year-old Warren resident was one of the founding members of the Affirmations group, which is looking to help all LGBT people in their 20s to get more involved in their causes and their communities.
1) 20Somethings is having its first birthday in February. What are the plans to celebrate?
We will celebrate turning one with a hole-in-one! The festivities will begin Feb. 28 with a round of glow-in-the-dark miniature golf at Putting Edge Fun Center in Novi. Afterward, we will go to a nearby restaurant for dinner and, of course, birthday cake. During our first year, we established a solid group of members and expect to continue our growth in the following year.
2) We all know what age group 20Somethings is for – but what are you guys (and gals) really about?
We provide a safe space for LGBT individuals to socialize, contribute to the community, and discuss personal issues.
Thus far, we have engaged in a wide range of social activities like attending the Metra Picnic, participating in AIDS Walk Detroit, taking a hayride at the cider mill and playing laser tag.
As volunteering and activism are among our main objectives, we strive to give back to the community and, specifically, to Affirmations, which has been and will continue to be an invaluable asset to the community. The center has provided us with a home and the resources to make our group successful. In turn, we volunteer for their programs whenever possible. Recently, we helped with the holiday concert, but our pet project is the Pre-Pride Dance. Planning the 2009 Pre-Pride Dance was the first item on our agenda when the group was formed, and I look forward to planning this year's event.
In the spring, we will begin hosting group discussions for members to talk about coming out, homophobia, HIV/AIDS, being gay in the workplace and other age-relevant topics. Hopefully, this new element will foster even more unity within our group and provide our members with a strong support system.
3) How did you get involved with the group?
I responded to a survey Affirmations created to determine how to attract more 20-somethings to the center. Affirmations really entrusted us – the volunteers – to work out all of the programming to fulfill the needs of our age group. The center's resources and support, coupled with numerous interested individuals, enabled us to grow our membership dramatically.
My biggest point of pride is that we have developed a strong sense of community from all the work we have done together!
4) Why is it important for younger adults to be involved in their communities?
It's important for younger adults to be involved in their communities because it gives them the chance to find camaraderie with others. It's very easy to become overwhelmed and feel alone when you're a member of the LGBT community living in a heteronormative world. But when there's visibility and positive action taking place, those feelings are replaced by pride.
I also think it enriches all of us to help advance LGBT causes. One of our biggest contributions was also the most challenging. In order to make it to the National Equality March, we had to tirelessly scramble the week before to get ourselves there. Group members sacrificed rest, showers, regular eating habits, and, in the face of it all,…baked cookies to share with each other! Then, being at the march with hundreds of thousands of others who did the same was an incredible and inspiring experience.
5) Affirmations has a lot of programming for LGBT youth – how does 20Somethings help them transition into adult participation?
Affirmations began our group because they wanted to increase opportunities at the center for young adults. We currently attract a diverse group of individuals, some new to the area and some recently out of the closet. One of our goals for the upcoming year is to work more closely with Affirmations to provide a new home for those aging out of the youth program. Since 20Somethings provides programming aimed to address the new issues adulthood brings, many individuals seek us out to share their stories, hear those of others and create new ones with new friends.
Are you an LGBT or allied person age 18-33? Check out the 20Somethings at http://www.the20somethings.org.