June marks Pride Month and in celebration, we’re highlighting a few of our LGBTQ+ volunteers and their commitment to young people and Peer Health Exchange’s mission.
Name: Brennan O’Rourke
Pronouns in use: They/Them
College/ University: New York University
Major: Dramatizing Justice
What have you gained or learned from volunteering at Peer Health Exchange?
One of the skills that I strengthened and learned more about was listening – how to become an active listener and come at everything with a “What can I learn from this?” attitude.
What does health equity mean to you?
It means meeting people where they are at and providing them the ability to access the specific resources they need in relation to their identity.
Give an example of a proud moment at Peer Health Exchange where you encouraged greater acceptance or support for all young people.
I remember a moment when a kid thought it was funny to call another kid a “tr**ny*” because the kid likes to do feminine things. I immediately addressed the usage of the word, and we had a conversation as a class, why we shouldn’t use that word – how it might make people feel – and then we all agreed to not use that word. I hope that they took that with them into their lives.
What is one thing that we could do to support LGBTQ+ youth?
I think we need to become better active listeners – affected communities know best what they need. So I say the most important thing we can do is to listen to LGBTQIAGNC+ youth. Definitely, they also need to see representation. It helps self-confidence and self-esteem to see people like you, and also access to quality health education that represents who you are.
What are you doing to practice self-care this month?
I am reading about people like me and other queer stories. I am also currently forming a queer performance collective to be able to create work with people like me, or who have similar experiences, and getting up out of bed every day even if it’s just for a few minutes – just got to stay in motion.
*Editor’s Note: Agency and communication are important to us at Peer Health Exchange (they’re two of our core values!). Which is why as editors of our blog, we had a lengthy discussion of how we would handle one part of this post: Brennan’s use of a word that is often used as a transphobic slur by members outside of the trans community, to describe what was said by a high school student in a very powerful moment in the classroom. The whole point of our Volunteer Voices series is to spotlight volunteers in their own words—and beyond editing for clarity or brevity—we don’t censor them. However, as an organization rooted in equity (another core value), we also have an obligation to spotlight opportunities for growth, learning, and inclusion while not amplifying or recreating painful or traumatic moments. That said, these discussions helped us reach a decision to redact any offensive word in any piece, with an explanation of why we did so. Language is constantly evolving, and it is not our place to declare what is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ use of this word, but with everything, context matters. If a word is used in a way that connotes hate speech, we will not publish it in its entirety.