The long awaited interview with Mia Martinez the founder of Whittier Youth GSA, an organization which has been growing alongside her since middle school. With the mission of ensuring a safe community of Whittier and beyond- for LBGTQ youth and allies.
AW: Tell us all about you and your organization!
MM: My name is Mia Martinez and I am the president / founder of Whittier Youth GSA. I graduated from Pioneer High School in 2021 and I am currently a rising junior at San Diego State University pursuing a degree in International Business and minors in Interdisciplinary Studies and Spanish I began mentoring a GSA at Katherine Edwards Middle School in 2019, but the group began to rapidly grow so in 2021 I decided to turn the club into a community organization called Whittier Youth GSA which is open to all middle school and high school students. Whittier Youth GSA (based in East Los Angeles) is a Gay-Straight Alliance so it is open to LGBTQ+ youth and straight allies. We currently have about 75 members and are opening up our first high school chapter at Pioneer High School. Whittier Youth GSA brings together LGBTQ+ youth and straight peers. Through free flowing conversations, our straight peers can understand how to be helpful and knowledgeable allies, and our LGBTQ+ members can be seen and understood. We discuss daily struggles and work together to build an environment of awareness and empathy. It is through these conversations, students can normalize and promote attitudes of kindness, tolerance and inclusion. Our fellow LGBTQ+ students are able to connect and discuss similar struggles with each other, allowing them to feel validated, understood and not alone. Students are given a safe place where they can be vulnerable and support one another.
AW: Why do you think it’s important for your generation to let their voices be heard?
MM: In terms of my organization, it’s important for our voices to be heard because there is little information about how it is like to be a queer youth. There are many middle and high school students who are not exposed to LGBTQ+ resources or who even know that it is acceptable to identify as queer or trans. Our organization aims to educates them and others on simple to complex topics ranging from defining terms like agender and neopronouns to complex issues like having homophobic parents / relatives and being non-binary with a menstrual cycle. It is important that we discuss these issues / topics so LGBTQ+ people can feel validated and heard, and so that hetero / cis people can see and understanding the complexities that come with being queer.
I believe that because of the external hardships that past generations have had to endure, they weren't able to focus on free individual expression. But because of the external freedoms past generations have provided us, this generation has been given the opportunity to focus on deconstructing barriers that have long stood in the way of the freedom to be oneself.
AW: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
MM: Based on what I have seen in my organization, I am very optimistic about our future. There are countless young people who are relentlessly fighting for LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance.
AW: What are the most important issues facing our world right now? And in the future?
MM: The Roe v. Wade ruling, that overturned 50 years of precedent protecting women’s right to abortion access, could pose a significant threat to the LGBTQ+ community. In her solo concurring opinion to overturn abortion rights, Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that SCOTUS “should reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents, including [but not limited to]…Obergefell,” the case that legalized gay marriage in all 50 States. Personally, I think it is clear that our fight right now should be centered on ensuring that people keep their access to abortion and reproductive services. We can not forget or back down from defending the progress that has been made in the LGBTQ+ community. With these possible and prospective threats on LGBTQ+ rights, we need to keep the fight for full LGBTQ+ equality going.
AW: What does your organization offer that helps the world be a better place?
MM: We provide a space to allow members to feel a sense of belonging. We empower students to embrace their sexuality, gender and other intersecting identities. We aim to equip all of our members with the powerful tool of community. This organization is not exclusive to people who identify as queer / trans, instead we focus on the sense of community and belonging that can be achieved. Here, we encourage members to invite their friends/family members, regardless of their identity. We give members the opportunity to make new connections with other LGBTQ+ youth, and also help members nurture their current relationships with their LGBTQ+ friends, through this the LGBTQ+ community is being strengthened. And by including our straight allies, we not only inform them about LGBTQ+ topics, but we work to bridge the gaps between different sexualities/identities.
AW: Will you be voting in the next election?
MM: I, personally, will be voting in the next election and will be encouraging WYGSA’s older members to vote as well. Although our organization is mainly youth oriented, we all believe that policies have a big impact on the atmosphere that queer youth grow up in. Because of this, a big part of our organization serves towards educating the public about LGBTQ+ issues and how we can work to combat them. By taking a small amount of time to research and vote for politicians that plan to implement LBGTQ+ progressive policies, we can set policies that protect queer youth & adults for many years to come.
AW: Please tell us all about your current campaigns, projects and endeavors. Tell everyone where to find you online and on social platforms.
MM: We were super busy for pride month, we attended multiple pride events and even helped organize one of our own here in our community. We collaborated with another organization called Whittier For Social Justice (@Whittierfor on instagram), our pride event was called the “Radical Queer Picnic”. Here, we had a clothing swap, food, a collaborative art wall, open mic, and a facilitated conversation on queer liberation and political history based off the essay “Queens Against Society” by Ehn Nothing. We are currently working on opening up our first high school chapter at Pioneer High School. We are working closely with the school's social worker to create presentations, worksheets, and other materials regarding LGBTQ+ youth. We hope to expand to other high schools and middle schools in our area. You can find us on our main instagram page @Whittieryouthgsa or our website http://whittieryouthgsa.org/index.html. We also have an instagram page for our high school chapter @Pioneerwygsa. You can also donate to our organization on Venmo (@Whittieryouthgsa)
Audrey Willett is a southern California senior in high school. She is an activist and aspiring politician, and the Social Media Outreach coordinator for The Gen Z Collective.