Terry Kuseske LGBT Youth Scholarship Recipient Shares Advice

'No Matter What Anyone Says'

By Megan Anderson

KALAMAZOO -

As a 2011 Terry Kuseske LGBT Youth Scholarship recipient, 19-year-old Grace Ferguson started attending KGLRC youth group meetings after staff member David Topping spoke to students from the Portage Northern High School GSA.

KGLRC gave Ferguson a place where she could go to be unconditionally accepted for her identity. "When I was questioning my identity, I could go and talk to the youth leaders, and they would let me talk to them without fear of judgment," she shares. "It really helped me figure things out. It also helped me to connect with other queer youth at a time in my life when I felt really alone. I really liked going to the youth group when I was in high school. That was my favorite."

She shares some advice for other kids who want to talk to their parents about their sexual orientation. "Take care of yourself first. It's okay to wait to come out until it feels safe and right to you," Ferguson advises.

"I know sometimes it feels like you absolutely need to come out right away, but if you know that your parents will struggle with it, it's okay to wait. Take things slow. Bring up LGBT issues in a less personal context to see how your parents respond," she says.

Ferguson found out about the Terry Kuseske LGBT Youth Scholarship when Toppings spoke at her high school's GSA.

"I wasn't going to apply, but then after a youth group meeting one week, Tracy Hall (former KGLRC Program Director) pulled me aside and told me that I had done a lot in the LGBT community, and that I should be sure to apply," she says. "So I did, and I was surprised and proud to win."

Currently, Ferguson attends Western Michigan University where she is majoring in social work with minors in nonprofit leadership and gender and women's studies. She really hopes to work in the nonprofit sector someday, either for an LGBT focused organization or for a women's health organization.

"I may someday want to continue my education and go to law school to become a legal advocate, but right now I'm just focused on getting my BSW and nonprofit certification," says Ferguson.

These days, she likes going to movie nights and activism events because she feels like there is still a lot for her to learn. She spends her free time sewing, knitting, crafting, cooking, baking and reading.

And sharing words of wisdom... "Identity politics can be complicated and confusing. It's okay if you can't find the right labels to fit you, if you change labels many times, or if you don't feel like any labels fit right. It doesn't change who you are," she asserts. "No matter what anyone says, you are the only person who needs to validate your identity."

Editor's note: This is an ongoing series of articles featuring KGLRC staff, volunteers and community members.

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