Travis Guerrero ‘Makes Bigger Change’ as EQMI Field Organizer
Travis Guerrero from Kalamazoo recently started working at Equality Michigan as a field organizer. Having just completed his undergrad studies in social work at Western Michigan University, Guerrero was inspired to action when a friend of a friend committed suicide at the age of 15.
“It just shook me, because the kid was so young. It was at that point I was like, ‘I need to do something about bullying,'” he said. “There were so many suicides happening with LGBT youth and I was inspired to help. I didn’t really know how to help or what career would be helpful, so I talked to someone who was a social worker and I now have these dreams and goals of being a therapist and helping these kids.”
Guerrero got the job at EQMI through Erin Knott, the organization’s political director, who teaches social welfare policy at WMU, a class Guerrero took in the fall of 2017.
“We knew each other from there and when the position came up she came to me and said she thought I would be a good fit for it,” he said.
“Travis was bright, engaged and very passionate in the classroom. I was impressed by his knowledge of the current political landscape and the threats facing our community under a hostile Trump Administration,” said Knott. “I wanted to give him an opportunity to put his social work training to use and to help advance our work to protect LGBT Michiganders. I also liked expanding the EQMI team to include more staff who reside in west Michigan.”
Together, they will be working on EQMI’s 2018 civic engagement program, to ensure that they educate and mobilize pro-equality voters to the polls on election days.
“Travis will spend his days talking to and organizing our community members around inclusive policies and other efforts that bring about fairness and equality for all,” said Knott. “His number one priority will be to build momentum leading up to the November election so that all pro-equality voters turn out and vote. This will be critical to our future work and to ensure that pro-equality legislation – like amending the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity – will be afforded an up or down vote in both chambers with the goal of passage.”
So far, Guerrero said Knott was on the money and he is liking the job.
“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “This is like my first job where it feels really important, like what I’m doing is really important. So, I have this eternal fear of I don’t want to mess anything up, but I do get reassurance from Erin and other people. So, it’s been good. I enjoy the freedom of it.”
Since being on the job, Guerrero said he’s starting to see a bigger vision of activism.
“My goal has always been to help my community and in social work, clinical work — you tend to help individual people,” he said. “But with Equality Michigan we change policy that is directly affecting people I would work with in the clinical field. It’s making bigger change. It just takes longer.”
When he’s not busy at work, Guerrero said he likes to spend time at home with his fiancée.
“We are pretty chill,” he said. “We just sit at home. We have TV shows that we watch. I have three cats and I tend to obsess about them when I’m not working.”
Marriage, Guerrero said, is not in the immediate plans.
“He’s a social worker, too, so right now we don’t have that much money,” said Guerrero. “So it’s a matter of getting our master’s degrees and being financially stable first and then we can think about that.”
Guerrero plans to return to WMU in the fall to start work toward his master’s degree. One day, he plans to have his own practice.
“My dream practice would encompass a couple things,” he said. “If I could do whatever I wanted I would have a small resource center for homeless LGBT youth that would provide short-term housing, as well as a network of pro-LGBT families who have room for them while things are worked out with families. Or, if it can’t be worked out, maybe have a place for the youth to stay long-term while they finish school or until they can get on their feet. I would also offer therapy as well to address the trauma, and maybe also, like, family therapy. I think just really using the resources that the area has to offer and bringing them all together. I’m not sure how feasible everything is, but you have to start with a goal I guess.”
Travis’ Tools of Engagement
Western Michigan University School of Social Work
This article originally appeared in Pride Source Magazine. Between The Lines interviewed seven young LGBTQ people and allies who have grabbed ahold of their “Tools of Engagement,” and with their confidence have become role models and leaders building positive networks and influencing others.