Come join allgo this Sunday October 29, 2017 for the 30th annual AIDS Walk Austin. The AIDS Walk, which this year returns to the newly reopened Republic Square Park, is an annual 2.5 mile walk, roll, or stroll through downtown Austin which uses the Texas Capitol as a halfway round-about. Every year the Walk raises money for allgo and nine other organizations in and around Austin, who are providing services for people living with and affected by HIV. The money raised by allgo helps to support the Health & Wellness work that we do with our queer people of color communities.

allgo has an AIDS Walk team and we invite anyone who is interested in participating to sign up and join us for this walk, roll, or stroll. This is a great opportunity to come out and join community for a day out in the park. There will be food trucks, live music and other activities. The festival begins at 11:30am and the walk, roll, or stroll will officially start at 2:00pm. And for those of us who have been telling ourselves that we are going to get out there and get in our steps or distance for the the day, this is the perfect way to do that. Every year for the last 30 years allgo has participated in the walk, and it is because of our community members and supporters that we are able to continue doing the work that we do. We invite our QPOC community members and allgo supporters to join us for a day together.

YOUR participation will make a huge difference!

Please consider joining or donating to the allgo team.

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Fast approaching are the gathering holidays. The times when many people come together to reconnect, eat and look to enjoy each other’s company. Around this time of year, and all year for many of us, there are many conversations about the importance of family. But what is family? And what does it mean to be part of a family? These are often difficult questions to consider for many people, but especially for QPOC.

To me, a family is what we create it to be, and the families we are raised in or born into may not always be our forever families. For some of us, our families are made up of one or two people, for others a family may be made up of a large group of people. And whether these people are genetically related is inconsequential. What matters is how they support one another and come together for each other. A family is a shared story, a shared community, a person or people you can turn to when things get rough, and who cheer for you when times are good. A family can be made of people who are related, or it can be made of friends who have come together, and anything in between.

These holiday gatherings can be difficult for those in our communities that must or choose to spend time with “family” members who may not respect them. From deadnaming and misgendering, to homophobic and racist comments, many people experience violence against them during these gathering times. We often feel that the families we are raised in or born into inherently carry more weight and meaning, and that our relationships to that family should matter more to us. Often times these family members can leave lasting impacts as we grow and develop, whether those impacts are positive or negative, but that does not mean that these relationships should be inherently more important to us than others. These family members may claim to have a bond to you, but does not inherently make them more worthy of being family than others. This claim to family and the pressure and expectation to connect with the family you are raised in or born into can lead to people staying in unhealthy and often times abusive familial relationships long after they would have normally left. A family is more than just how long a person has been in your life or to whom they may be related to. It’s about the bonds that we form with others and the importance and strength of those bonds. Only you can decide in the end what these bonds mean to you, what type of family you want to create, and who gets to be part of that family. At the same time we must recognize that, for some of us, the decision to leave certain relationships is not always possible. Whether for monetary, medical, or safety reasons, the choice to leave behind problematic family is not one that is available to everyone. In these instances the connections with community and others become all the more important and can be a place where a person finds the attachment and support they need.  

Navigating the world between the family you are raised in or born into and the family you choose to be a part of can often be a difficult and hard process. The decision on whether or not to leave behind the family we are raised in or born into can be a difficult one, and it is a choice that many QPOC encounter at some point in our lives. Some of us choose to leave behind certain members and to accept other members into our family of choice. Others may choose to leave behind the whole group and surround themselves fully with a family of choice. And still others will decide not to leave behind the family they are raised in or born into. There is no law or rule that says that you must choose one or the other. You can be part of many families, and each family can provide you with something that the others cannot — that is ok. The gathering holidays offer a chance for us to come together with the people we care about, and to reaffirm our connections with each other. The sharing of food and space is a tradition that spans many diverse people, and has been a means of forming powerful and lasting connections. Let’s use these times to form and strengthen the bonds between us, to have open and honest conversations about our lives and experience, and to reaffirm to each other the light and power within us.

To read more content like this, and to hear about what we are doing follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

And join us at allgo Wednesday October 25th at 6pm for our community discussion Healing at Home: Recipes, Remedies, and Practices for Healing as we come together to share and discuss the ways we heal, and prioritize healing.

Coming Out

Yesterday was National Coming Out Day and there is a lot of debate about coming out and whether we should even have to or not. Some feel that we should not have to label or define ourselves. Some people find these labels helpful in expressing who they are to others and to themselves. And still, other people find the process of labeling themselves to be unnecessary and unneeded.

However you feel, it is hard to deny that at some point many QPOC will “come out,”  and that it is something that many people in our community will spend time thinking about, planning, and experiencing. During these phases, many of us think or continue thinking about the significance of coming out. So to help those in our community who are thinking of coming out here is a list of 10 things to consider before coming out.

1) It’s okay to not come out.

There is so much time, energy, and money put into letting people know that it is okay to come out that sometimes feels as though you HAVE to come out. You don’t have to label yourself or define who you are for other people.  And for some people, their current situations may not be safe to come out. Only you know your situation, and in some instances, it may be best to wait until you are safe and in a place where you can manage the coming out process. You get to determine for you when the time is right. They don’t know your situation and they may not know how you process. Some people decide to never “come out” and that’s ok.

2) Coming out is not just a one-time thing. It’s a process.

Coming out is often a process where we have to tell certain people over time. Or we have to tell new people we meet. We may choose to never come out to certain people, or we may choose to come out to many people at once.

3) As queer people of color (QPOC), coming out is different for us than what TV and celebrities tell us.

Often times the coming out stories on TV and in media do not center on the unique lives and experiences of people of color. Even when they do, the format of TV means that most storylines are wrapped up in a nice hour-long package. Our lives cannot be summed up in after-school specials and telenovelas. Even after coming out, we must still live in a world full of violence and oppression, which leads to the next point.

4) Life doesn’t magically get better.

Life changes, and oftentimes life takes a great deal of work. Life can get better, but it won’t magically get better. Know that you are not alone and that there are other people that have similar feelings to you.  By surrounding ourselves with community and building strong support networks we can come together to build a strong, healthy community.

5) As QPOC, dating apps and bars can be both very empowering and very violent against us.

These places can help us develop and learn about ourselves and our communities. They can be empowering by letting us explore and discover our sexuality and our unique relationship with connections and sex, but they can also be a place of micro and macro aggressions against us. It is important to remember that there are other options available besides bars and apps where you can meet people and explore your community. Social groups, community events, and volunteering with organizations are great ways to meet people and build community.

6) It’s ok to leave toxic family, friends, and partners behind.

I spent so long trying to convince problematic family members to change and grow into better people. My time with family became a chore, where I spent most of my time arguing, and fighting with people that were supposed to support me.

Sometimes, as hard as it can be, we have to let people go for our safety, health, and lives. By leaving these toxic people behind we are able to better live our lives and to grow and shine as QPOC.

7) The labels you use can change

When I came out, I told people I was gay. But as I grew up, I began to realize how limiting that label felt to me and how other people expected to be able to define for me who I was allowed to love based on that label. My sexuality evolved and grew as I did, and so did the way I looked at myself.  Labels are useful when they help us to better understand ourselves, but we should not let those labels box us in and keep us from growing and changing.

8) You don’t have to sacrifice yourself for other people’s comfort.

Often times when we first tell someone about who we are, we allow them an adjustment period: a time when we excuse a slip or two when it comes to shifting their paradigm of who we are. But let’s make sure that we are not sacrificing ourselves, our comfort, and our safety during this time. It is OK for you to require and expect your friends and family to use your pronouns. It is OK for you to be angry and correct people when they deadname1 you. And it is OK for you to expect those close to you correct and address other people’s mistakes as well. People who care about you will want to respect you and will want you to correct them when they slip up.

9) Other people’s reaction, is not your responsibility.

Sometimes a person will not react the way that we would like them to. It can be hard when a family member or friend reacts in a way you didn’t anticipate. Remember that other people’s reactions are not your fault or your responsibility. How a person reacts is a reflection of their character and not a reflection on you.

10)You get to decide what is best for you

Whether you decided to “come out” or not, who you tell or don’t tell, and the way you define yourself or not… only you know what is best for you. Many people will have opinions about how you should move through life, but only you have lived your life and only you truly know what is best for you.

This is not an exhaustive list. Are there any things you would include on this list? Let us know. And to read more content like this, and to hear about what we are doing follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

1Deadnameing- using the past name of a person who has since changed their name (especially  a transgender or nonbinary person)