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LGBTQIA: We Will Never Go Away

Ash Stickann, Features Editor

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Much of the teenage experience is spent learning about yourself and finding people who care about you. In many aspects, being a part of the LGBT+ community makes that journey a long and twisting road. At the Missouri River Regional Library, they’re making a safe place for people to go and talk about these issues in their lives. Courtney Waters, the Teen Development and Services Coordinator at the MRRL, is the supervisor for a new group named SAGA, or the Sexuality and Gender Association.

Courtney has a strong bond with many of the teens who frequent the library’s Teen Zone had been planning to start a club similar to SAGA for a long time, “I knew other libraries were doing something similar and I’ve been wanting to do something like it in this town for a long time; specifically because this town has next to no resources for LGBT+ folks in general, let alone teens,” Waters said.

Community and group discussions are used to help find a strong and reliable mission statement that will tell people that this is a good place to go to talk about yourself and your experiences. The mission statement of MRRL’s SAGA is to create a welcoming and supportive environment for members of the LGBTQIA+ middle school and high school community and their allies.

Though many people enjoy and like to express who they are as a person, many members prefer to stay closeted, whether due to bullies at school, an unsafe home space, or just personal preference. In the list of guidelines for SAGA, members partake in strict confidentiality rules to enforce a sense of safety for any closeted members, though even members who are publicly open about their sexuality and gender still feel comfortable and accepted.

A senior at Jefferson City High School, Mayson Beneke, who identifies as non-binary, is a member of this group, “SAGA is a great place to feel safe and accepted especially since there aren’t a lot of places to hang out around town, and especially not ones where you automatically feel safe,” Beneke stated.

Though the LGBT+ community is very vast and expands through many age groups. Teens are the ones who don’t have many chances to find a place they can unload with their problems, thoughts and insecurities.

So many groups of age are included in SAGA, “roughly 12 to 18 or 6th through 12th grade, so middle and high school. I feel like those are the most transitional years and those are the years that can be honestly the most difficult in one’s life,” leader Courtney Waters expressed.

Jefferson City has been fairly scarce when it comes to resources for LGBT+ youth. Many members saw this as a chance of salvation from a particularly heterocentric society, “In Mid-Missouri there isn’t a lot of recognition that we exist and we are kind of brush aside” Gus* said.

Courtney Waters agreed, thus another large part of her inspiration to start SAGA, “I just wanna make people’s lives a little less difficult, if at all possible. So I think a group like this will go a long way to make a support network in the community, and an actual sense of community,” Waters emphasized.

The future of SAGA seems bright and filled with hope for a better sense of community in its members. SAGA is a democracy based group that takes word from all its members, with the help of Courtney Waters to make their aspirations a reality, “Ultimately, I want it to be led by members of the group and for you all in the group to decide the direction that we go. I could maybe envision us perhaps planning events,” Waters stated.

Many ideas have been passed around: LGBT+ sex education, talks from the less-known parts of the communities (such as trans women and men), and an LGBT+ prom. In previous years, teens have set up and conducted yearly marches where the community will learn empowering and inspiring chants, like “LGBTQIA, we will never go away.” Spreading the word about the community, with SAGA, more of the population will be able to see its impact on the Jefferson City area.

In the end, many members of SAGA look to the other members and supervisors for advice and support. The MRRL’s SAGA will always be an open place for LGBT+ teens, “Jeff City is not the end all be all, and there are communities that are more supportive and more embracing of diversity in general. Jeff City is not always that place. But, yeah, it’s sounds cliche that ‘it gets better’ in most cases it genuinely does. Even though it may not feel like it when you’re a teen, stuff feels eternal when you’re young,” Waters said.

 

*Some participants wished to stay anonymous.

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LGBTQIA: We Will Never Go Away