30 Years Of OYM: Activism Through The Years
After 30 years of advocating alongside LGBTQ+ youth and their families, you would probably imagine that the documentation of Odyssey's history in local and state activism would be substantial; and you'd be right!
Pictured above: Odyssey Youth lobbying during Day Of Action in 2003.
If you've been following along with Odyssey's recent blog posts, you know that Odyssey's Communications staff have been sorting and organizing over thirty years worth of photographs, documents, awards, and all things Odyssey. As we approach June and prepare to celebrate all things Pride, check out this snapshot of youth activism from Odyssey's archives!
Sex Education; Local Bills And Protest Participation
As part of Odyssey's commitment to providing resources to LGBTQ+ youth, the drop-in center is always stocked with safer sex supplies such as condoms, dental dams, and lube; but Odyssey's advocacy around safer sex and inclusive sex education has historically been much broader than just safer sex supplies. Over the last thirty years, Odyssey staff, mentors, and youth have paid heavy attention to local legislature regarding sex education for LGBTQ+ youth. Most recently in 2020, Odyssey advocated for community members to support Referendum 90, requiring public schools to teach comprehensive, LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education multiple times during a student's education, and encouraged followers on social media to vote (see Instagram post below).
Odyssey's model is based around youth-led, adult-supported service; so it's no surprise that, in the majority of Odyssey's advocacy work, youth have taken the lead. From protesting abstinence-only events such as the Abstinence Rally at the Spokane Opera House in 2003, to activist internships and engagement opportunities created by and for local LGBTQ+ youth, Odyssey youth have been passionate about advocating for themselves and their peers for many years.
Youth In The Community; Lobby Days And The OYC Speakers Bureau
Odyssey youth advocacy doesn't just start and end with topics like comprehensive sex education; for many years, youth activism on a number of intersecting topics has been at the forefront of Odyssey's work in Spokane and the greater Eastern Washington area. In the 2000s, Odyssey began holding Lobby Days; an opportunity for local LGBTQ+ youth to travel to the capitol in Olympia and get a glance into the legislative process. Pictured below is a group of Odyssey youth visiting Olympia to lobby for LGBTQ+ marriage equality in 2013.
Spokane LGBTQ+ youth advocacy has happened closer to home, as well, and not always in the legislative arena. In 2003, Odyssey began the OYC Speakers Bureau; a chance for local LGBTQ+ youth to facilitate panels on LGBTQ+ identity, allyship, and other important topics to local schools, faith communities, city branches, and other organizations. This was an important early step in establishing Odyssey's future LGBTQ+ youth leadership programs such as Youth Voice and the Youth Queer Prom steering committee.
In a December 2004 newsletter, Odyssey staff member and community organizer Shannon Bedard wrote that "Spokane will greatly benefit from self-empowered GLBTQ youth voice and leadership based in the social values of democracy, equity, and justice"; we couldn't agree more. Odyssey is proud today and every day to uplift LGBTQ+ youth and support them in their advocacy and activism.
Youth Queer Prom is coming up on May 27th! Do you have your tickets yet? Head over to odysseyyouth.org/youth-queer-prom for more info.
Interested in Odyssey's programs? Visit odysseyyouth.org/programs to get involved!