Pauper's Poets: Empowering LGBTQ+ Youth and Allies Through Expressive Writing and Art
Updated: Aug 30, 2022
Writing fantasy stories and poems throughout my teenage and young adult life helped ease the anxiety I felt growing up. While most of my high school friends and classmates were busy dating boys
and going to wild parties, I was busy writing every free chance I had as a teen. I loved how writing got me in the zone. It still does. Writing is much like meditation, especially when writing fiction, because you're not thinking of how you're feeling at that moment or worrying about past hurts or the present pressures of life. Writing fiction creates another world through your characters' points of view, thoughts, and feelings, which can be a cathartic experience. It's like those characters are absorbing your pain, hopes, fears, and desires, and nothing matters except those words spilling onto the page. The more you write, the more you feel like the words are not your own, but it's as if they are sent from the heavens. The same happens when writing poetry.
When Ellen DeGeneres came out to the public in 1997, I was inspired by her bravery and courage to reveal her authentic self. During that time, I had only come out to my parents and was fearful of speaking my truth to my extended Italian/Mexican-American family members but I thought if Ellen could do it, then so could I. I was so worried about what my cousins, aunts, and uncles would say that I played out every scenario I could think of in my mind about how they might have reacted. Thankfully, it was nothing like I had imagined. My family was so kind and accepting, and I was ashamed of myself for even thinking they would be anything but loving. I wish more of my friends had the same experience with their own families that I did. It hurts my heart whenever any LGBTQ+ friends or members of the community I don't know are rejected or made to feel less than because of who they are, especially LGBTQ+ youth.
After Ellen came out and network television shunned her for a few years, I felt her pain. Even though she felt the repercussions of coming out publicly, I still thought it was so brave of her to do what she had done, and I greatly admired her. I still do. Ellen gave the younger LGBTQ generation the kind of hope and visibility we were starving for in the 90s. I was incredibly grateful for her! That said, I was utterly heartbroken when I heard the news of the tragic death of Anne Heche, the actress who had been in a relationship with Ellen during the time she came out publicly. I greatly admired both Ellen and Anne for being so open and honest. My heart ache's for Ms. Heche's family, and I will never forget her and Ellen for inspiring such a pivotal moment in my own life when I came out to my family.
As I grew older, I realized I wanted to do what Ellen had done and hoped I could one day have a platform to inspire LGBTQ+ youth and empower them to be their authentic selves so that they too may conquer any adversity they may face. According to the Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that aims to end suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning young people, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 – 24. (Hedegaard, Curtin, & Warner, 2018) Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning LGBTQ youth are at significantly increased risk. The Trevor Project's 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ youth mental health found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half are transgender and non-binary youth. The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth ages 13 – 24 seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S., and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds. These statistics are horrific and unacceptable.
I knew my goal was to become a writer and help LGBTQ + youth somehow, but I never quite knew how to use my writing skills to reach the community I wanted to help in a meaningful way. One day after attending a screenwriting course, I came up with a story idea I completely loved. It was a story about a fairy with a disability. Growing up, I suffered from Meniere's Disease, an inner ear disorder that causes severe dizziness, nausea, and hearing loss, which is why my heart not only goes out to LGBTQ+ youth but also children with disabilities.
The screenplay I wrote about the disabled fairy was titled Ember. I finished the script for the class; however, my screenwriting teacher wasn't very impressed. He thought there were too many fairy animation movies out there. Really? None with disabilities that I could recall. So, I did what I had to and finished the overpriced screenwriting course even though I was so disappointed in the feedback I received.
A few weeks after I had finished that screenwriting course, I thought maybe my story would also work well as a novel, and that's when Amberly and the Secret of the Fairy Warriors was born! Then I realized that after spending so much time writing the screenplay and novel, I had forgotten my original focus: to help and inspire LGBTQ+ tweens, teens, and those with disabilities. I had created a character with a disability but hadn't included a fairy character that would be relatable to LGBTQ+ youth. My heart raced, and my head felt like it was going to explode as I tried to come up with the perfect new character to add to my novel. Then, late one evening, he came to me. My character, Pauper, from Amberly and the Secret of the Fairy Warriors, suddenly danced in my mind. They were an adorable fairy with luminescent pink wings and blonde hair who now has hair the color of a rainbow. Pauper has a small cameo role in Amberly and the Secret of the Fairy Warriors, and they are an artist and an actor with a kind heart. You will see more of them in my next middle-grade novel. Pauper is non-binary and now goes by the pronouns they/them. They are one of Whimsical Land's best performers.
Recently, an acquaintance of mine told me that before she met me, someone had "warned" her that I was gay and married to a woman. I immediately thought about that word, "warned." I was reminded once again that some people are very misinformed about the LGBTQ+ community. I had been so spoiled in my rainbow pride bubble with all my "safe" and loving people surrounding my wife and me that I hadn't experienced any negative comments about who I was or the fact I was married to a woman in years. If this person had gotten to know me instead of gossiping about me, they would have learned that I have a happy marriage and my wife and I have a beautiful life together. We love glamping in our RV with our two little pups named Emma and Raffaele, and we love nature and the outdoors, decorating our home, film, theatre, and art, and we both have amazing families that support us.
Later, my acquaintance said that this other person had told her I had a yellow canary at home, meaning my wife. What? I had never heard of lesbians being called yellow canaries. I thought I was hip to all the new references out there. Anyway, I did what I do best. I googled it. Surprisingly, the cutest image of a yellow canary riding a skateboard popped up. The skateboard was the color of the lesbian pride flag! I laughed because this person judging me before they even got to know me taught me something about the lesbian culture that I had never heard of before! I immediately saved the picture to my phone with a smile. I couldn't wait to tell my little canary, I mean...my wife, the whole ridiculous story.
As I drove home that night, I suddenly felt chills flowing up and down my back. They were the chills I usually get when I have a new creative idea; only this moment wasn't about a clever story idea. It was more like a revelation! I knew at that moment that the universe was telling me something. I realized that little canary riding confidently on that skateboard full of pride was me! And at that moment, I felt free. I decided to stop stalling and reveal my whole self to the world and, in turn, do what I was supposed to: inspire and help LGBTQ+ youth.
Now, back to that yellow canary. The next day I bought the skateboarding yellow canary poster. It now hangs proudly on our home office wall. As my wife hung up that poster, I thought of Pauper, my sweet character from Amberly and the Secret of the Fairy Warriors, and how I could use him to fulfill my goal of empowering LGBTQ+ youth. I thought about all the creative writing courses I had taken and a workshop I attended at the Los Angeles Therapeutic Art Therapy Seminar called, "Writing With At-Risk Youth, The Pongo Teen Writing Method" taught by Richard Gold. I thought of all the personal development courses and podcasts I've listened to and the positive affirmations I have repeated and still repeat to myself every day. I thought about how everything I've learned throughout the years has helped me through so many difficult moments in my life, and that's when the idea for Pauper's Poets: Expressive Writing and Affirmation Art Activities for LGBTQ+ Youth and Allies came into existence.
As an advocate for expressive writing and art therapy, I aim to share the benefits of expressive writing and affirmation art with LGBTQ+ youth and allies. Pauper inspired my new social venture that will provide free online and in-person expressive writing and affirmation art activities for LGBTQ+ middle-grade and high school students and their allies, as well as those who are involved in Genders and Sexualities Alliance clubs, also known as GSAs. These student-organized GSA school clubs aim to create a safe, welcoming, and accepting environment for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), GSAs are about valuing everyone regardless of whether they are gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, or questioning. Like any other club, GSAs offer students with a common interest a chance to connect and give students a break from the day-to-day stress of the classroom. They are about creating a supportive space where students can be themselves without fear while making a safer place for all students by promoting respect for everyone.
Although we must teach our LGBTQ+ youth about our history and how to become involved in political activism, we also need to teach LGBTQ+ youth self-care and personal development skills to build their confidence, strength, and ability to love themselves fully. What better therapy for young people who deal with stress, anxiety, and for some, the fear of coming out than expressive writing and positive affirmation art?
Pauper's Poets: Expressive Writing and Affirmation Art Activities for LGBTQ+ Youth and Allies are free downloadable activities for LGBTQ+ youth and allies ages 10 to 18. These activities can be used in GSA meetings, LGBTQ+ youth shelters, and youth organizations, or they can be used privately by youth and their allies in their own homes.
Each week I will share a positive affirmation poetry prompt activity that will coincide with a beautiful mandala design that students can color while listening to meditative music from my Youtube channel called Eternal Lightworker Meditations here.
Repeating positive affirmations to oneself helps build self-esteem, confidence, and self-acceptance. Affirmations reprogram our thoughts and repel the negative thoughts that enter our minds. To counteract our negative thoughts and beliefs, we must replace them with positive ones because our thoughts create our emotions, our emotions create our actions, and our actions create the lives we were born to live!
Coloring mandalas are also very therapeutic because they allow us to be mindful and focused, which enables us to release anxiety. This activity also reduces stress, which is something. I know LGBTQ+ youth can benefit.
If you are a school administrator in charge of a student-led GSA, or you are a parent of a child who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, or you are part of the LGBTQ+ community or an Ally, and you would like to share Pauper's Expressive Writing and Affirmation Art Activities with the children in your lives, feel free to download a copy of Pauper's Poets: Expressive Writing and Affirmation Art activity here. You're free to make copies for everyone in your GSA club, youth organization, or your own family. The only supplies you need are computer paper or white cardstock paper for printing out the activities, colored pencils, pens and markers, and watercolors.
You can even host a Pauper's Poet's special event for your GSA club or LGBTQ+ youth organizations using Pauper's Poets: Expressive Writing and Affirmation Art Activities. I sincerely hope that all youth with whom you share Pauper's Poets: Expressive Writing and Affirmation Art Activities will enjoy and benefit from the empowering experience that therapeutic writing and art activities provide! I would love to see some of your students' or your children's writing and artwork, and I will share them in my photo gallery on my author's website. You can email writing and artwork to email@example.com.
When you buy a copy of Amberly and the Secret of the Fairy Warriors, shop on my Zazzle store, watch my YouTube videos, or purchase your art supplies through my affiliate links, you are supporting Pauper's Poet's effort to empower LGBTQ+ youth!
Thank you for your support, and I look forward to what the future holds for Pauper's Poets: Expressive Writing and Affirmation Art for LGBTQ+ Youth and allies.
Don't forget to grab your free copy of "I Am Strong" Expressive Writing and Affirmation Art Activity today!