Jo is a systems engineer that currently works as an instructor for Code in the Schools, a non-profit organization serving the Baltimore City Public Schools System. They are queer, Black, and Christian.

“Being able to tell stories and the art of storytelling and the art of building relationships…and actually starting that healing process [is something] that a lot of kids in Baltimore desperately need.”

Content warning for discussion of trauma concerning the intersection of queer identity and Christianity (29:32-43:18). The specific timestamps are indicated in the full transcript.

Interview highlight:

“Any time I go to [teach computer science at] a new school, the beginning is a struggle, because you have to develop trust. The students feel like you’re going to leave because a lot of mentors, a lot of adults in their life, have left.

…I live in Baltimore, and the way Baltimore is sectioned is that there are different parts of Baltimore. So I tell my students, “Oh, I’m from the east side from Baltimore,” and they’re like, “Okay, I don’t believe you, because well, you have an accent, and your parents are Nigerian.” I have to be like, “Wait a minute, I understand what you’re going through.” I understand what it means to live in Baltimore […].

I know what it means to not have food in the fridge when you were young. I know what it means to shop at Goodwill when you were young. I know what it means to not have electricity in the house. So, the struggles—I know what it means for your dad to be pulled over by the police.  I know what it means for the police stopping you, because, you know, why is this person who is black riding this really nice car?  I know what it means for your father to be robbed at gunpoint. 

So, being able to tell stories and the art of storytelling and the art of building relationships…and actually starting that healing process [is something] that a lot of kids in Baltimore desperately need.”

Full transcript:

Interviewer: So, hi. What do you do for a living?

Jo: I am a systems engineer. So, we are the people who basically help your websites keep running, and nothing on the Internet from crashing. And we work with servers all day. 

But I left working in the industry for a while. And I started teaching in Baltimore City Public Schools. I work with a nonprofit organization called Code in the Schools. And the goal for the organization is to offer access to computer science education, to marginalized communities. And it’s really important because a lot of black kids don’t know how to code. And also, working in the industry, not a lot of people that look like me in the IT (information technology) or computer science industry. So, I felt like I want to give back. And so, that’s what I’m doing right now: teaching kindergarten to high schoolers, to 12th graders, how to code.

Interviewer: I definitely resonate with that: that idea of bringing more marginalized identities, or underrepresented identities, into the field. And, I guess to just sort of expand on that more, could you talk more about why you feel it’s so important for people of underrepresented identities to be in the STEM fields? Whether that’s important to you.

 Jo: It’s important to me because I just feel, the more diverse any field is in general, the better. And a lot of things that are done and created, having diverse opinions in things is always better. Companies will not make mistakes to hurt communities of color in their communities if they’re people of color on the board. So it’s more of, you know, not only providing opportunities, but also justice-focused, because if there are more people of color in IT fields, then people of color could make, you know, different resources that can also help their communities. 

And so, that’s really why it’s also important to me. And also to break a lot of stereotypes that are, you know, against black kids, black children, and blackness in general. What people think of when they see a black person or a black child—you know, just to break some of those stereotypes down. And also, to encourage black kids to dream. Because a lot of black children have not been given the opportunity to dream—to become something, to see that there are options, you know, other than, “Okay, imma play basketball.”

And there’s only a specific amount of spots in the NBA. So all the black kids in the U.S. cannot be playing basketball. [laughs] So, to see there are other options for them. And when I’m teaching—I call them my kids. When I’m teaching my kids, and their eyes open like, “Wait a minute, coding is not that hard. Wait a minute, I can do this. Wait a minute, I can be the next founder of something similar to Facebook or Instagram.” 

I’m like, “Yes, you can.” And their whole world changes and the possibilities for their future changes. So, that’s why this is important to me.

Interviewer: That’s beautiful. So, how is like—just generally that experience of teaching and being able to open people’s eyes to that—? What are the different—Just what has your experience been like, being able to be in contact with people, being able to uplift them? I guess, like, is it always easy, that sort of…?

Jo: No. Definitely, it’s—[laughs] It’s definitely not easy. Any time I go into the schools to teach, it’s almost like a—like, I don’t want to say “a war.” But it seems like a war because my goal is to go into the school to teach computer science to students who do not know what computer science is, who are not aware of computer science—and not only that, but to mentor them, even though that’s not part of my necessary job description. But I’m more involved in their lives, you know, than just teaching computer science. 

But any time I go to a new—if I go to a new school, it’s always a—the beginning is a struggle. Because you have to develop trust. And the students feel like you’re going to leave, because a lot of mentors, and a lot of adults they had in their life have left. So, it’s really hard to develop trust, but then once you develop trust with students, it becomes much more easier. And then, you can have conversations with them about what’s going on in the community, what going on in their lives. And I actually start being a mentor to them.

The issue is that in Baltimore, because of, you know, I live in Baltimore, and the way Baltimore is sectioned is that there are different parts of Baltimore. So I tell my students, “Oh, I’m from the east side, from Baltimore.” 

Then they’re like, “Oh, okay, I don’t believe you because, well, you have an accent and your parents are Nigerian.”.

But I have to be like, “Wait a minute, I understand what what you’re going through.” I understand what it means to live in Baltimore, even though I’m not from the west side, or I’m not from the south side or north side. I understand what you’re going through, because even though I wasn’t born in Baltimore, I know what it means to live in the city. 

I know what it means to, you know, not have food in the fridge when you were young. I know what it means to shop at Goodwill when you were young. [laughs] I know what it means to not have electricity in the house. So the struggles—like, I know what it means for your dad to be profiled by the police. I know what it means for, you know, the police stopping you because they’re like, okay why is this person who is black riding this really nice car? You know, and things like that—like, just unnecessary stuff. I know what that means. 

I know what it means for your father to have—to be robbed at gunpoint. So it’s underst—being able to share stories, and the heart of storytelling, and the art of building relationships is, you know—kind of has been my experience and I’ve been grateful for that. Not only teaching computer science, but building those relationships and actually starting that healing process that a lot of kids in Baltimore desperately need.

Interviewer: Yeah, it sounds like definitely—I’ve thought about how, for me, the teachers that I found myself leaning more against, that it was not just the education aspect, but also this very important personal aspect—for them serving as sort of like mentors to me as well. So, yeah. But could you say more about the healing aspect?

Jo: So, I have a student who is very, very intelligent. And because of her intelligence, like, she’s required so she doesn’t bother the people, but the issue is that a lot of intelligent black kids are basically bullied because they’re intelligent. They’re intelligent black kids. Or they’re bullied because they don’t like other things black kids supposed to like, you know. They’re interested in anime, and like, other kids in the school are not interested in anime.

So, there’s issues. So, like being able to talk about—even though I don’t know a lot about anime—being able to talk to about anime with black kids, and like, [impersonating a shocked student] “What? You know this?” You know, their eyes open. 

And also, just from building trust, students coming to me—Like, a student came to me, and was crying and didn’t want to reveal too much, but have a conversation with me about what’s going on at home. And so, just that having that conversation starts—begins the healing process. And having somebody in their life that doesn’t shout at them all the time—that the method of correction is not to say no, and not to shout. Because that’s…I’ve seen that a lot within the black school system. Not all, but some people have—Because that’s how—even I, that’s how black kids grew up, you know? [laughs] Being yelled at, being told no.

So, giving them another way of correction begins also the healing process: that they see there’s an adult who believes in me, there’s an adult who has done something in their life, and I can also do that. I think that begins the healing process. And also, being in the class, where they can be nerdy and they can just be on the computer, and go and do, gives them a really safe space from, you know, the school environment that may be toxic. From the house environment that may be toxic. From the community environment, that may be toxic.

So, yeah—that my classroom is a safe space for students where they can be who they are. And also, you know, learn. Yeah. So I guess that’s how I’m being part of that healing process, because it’s a lot—it’s a lot for one person to tackle all the issues that’s going on in Baltimore, all the generational, institutional oppression. It’s a lot for just one person to be like, “Okay, I’m gonna break that all down.” Because for each students, there comes layers of trauma. And those who may not be traumatized—layers of influences. And just being that one influence that, you know, breaks—makes a dent, at least a dent, in the wall is an honor.

 Interviewer: So then, having such a role as a influential person in people’s lives, as both an instructor and a mentor—Do you feel like your work with Code in the Schools and just generally, your kids, has been influenced by this pandemic?

 Jo: [sighs] Well, I do. [laughs] 

I can’t teach in the classroom anymore, so that has been different. And, um…So I have to now be teaching online and my work with Code in the School has gone towards not just teaching my class, but having a platform, an online platform for anybody to join, and to have computer science education. So, the computer science education has been open to the general public.

What I do miss, what I do miss is, you know…And I believe the students miss, is being in the school, being able to communicate with, you know…Being able to communicate with their friends and their colleagues, with their friends and also with staff members and the school. And…I sincerely do miss the students because their stories and seeing them grow also…multiple times has made my day, multiple times has continued—has encouraged me to continue teaching code, even though it may seem hard, you know, wrestling with different things that students are going through. But seeing as they improve, that has been an encouragement to me. That has brought a smile onto my face many days.

Um, but. [sighs] What my concern is, are my kids, because many of them are not in safe environment. Many of them are not where—in a environment that’s conducive to learning.

And many of them are living with extended relatives and…My concern is not only that they’ll fall behind, because there’s no accountability for them to go on the computer to continue your education, but also that there is no technology for them to continue education. Because the technology divide, the Internet divide in Baltimore is…so large, that so many students don’t have access to the Internet. 

So many students don’t have access to technology. And so, if all the wealthier districts or cities in Maryland are continuing their learning. And okay, Baltimore City is also continuing their learning, but so many students are going to fall behind because just the simple privilege of having the laptop and they don’t have it. A simple privilege of having access to the Internet, and they don’t have it.

So, it’s really hard for me to continue teaching in that aspect because, okay, even though I’m teaching online and that’s open to the public, I’m wondering, where are my students? Where are my kids? How can they join? You know, because they don’t have access. 

And what I’m grateful for is because that Code in the School has been providing; have been collecting donations. Old computers and basically refurbishing it, and giving it out to people who need them so that their kids can continue their education. So, that has been majorly, you know, how this pandemic has affected teaching, has affected mentoring. Because we have to rethink how to teach. We have to rethink what the classroom looks like, how to keep students engaged on the Internet. Teaching via a computer is completely different than teaching in the classroom. And also the truth is that—even though I wouldn’t like to say, the truth is that students are going to fall behind. And the truth is that students are going to fall through the cracks because of this pandemic. And my concern is that it will not be a lot, but at the same time, every student, every life matters. Every life deserves to get their education. You know? A good education. And with Baltimore City, I don’t think that will be—I don’t think—Baltimore City was not ready for this pandemic. And they’re still not ready for this pandemic. So, yeah, that is how the pandemic has really affected students in Baltimore City, and has really affected me as a mentor and as a teacher. I hope that answers your question.

Interviewer: Yeah, definitely. And I actually wanted to know more about, like, how have you, if at all, been able to maintain connections with students as a mentor?

Jo: So, the thing about maintaining connections with students is really tricky, because of Maryland laws and also…If it’s in the classroom, and even though students may have access to my information, it is their own free will to reach out to me. I can’t necessary be reaching out to students if I don’t have parental consent. And it’s the school’s job, the companies job, to reach out to parents concerning their students.

But if a student reaches out to me and asks a question, I can go ahead and answer it. You know? So, things like that are really tricky. So, I haven’t really been able to make a connection with my previous students except upcoming days, we’re looking forward to students to actually—not only like, teaching become open to public, but students actually joining their specific classrooms for their school. So, my hope is that students will be able to join the specific classroom for the school that I’m teaching. And so, I will be able to connect with students who join the classroom that way. But then, if students decide not to join the classroom, then there is not much that I can do. Because the contact information I have is not of students, but of parents. So I cannot reach out necessarily to students except they reach out first. I can, you know, reach out to parents.

So, that is a challenge because I do know that some students, even though, yes, they are minors, they need somebody who can be kind of like a break from their home situation. Who can be a break from their house—what’s going on at home. And for a lot of students, school was that break. They love going to school. Not only because they could learn, but they could break away from what’s going on at home.

So, yeah, this pandemic has affected that communication process, because students who can just walk into my classroom and say hi and talk to me at any time, or just walk into my classroom to get a hug, cannot do that anymore. And if they don’t have a phone, they can’t reach out either.

Interviewer: That definitely sounds tricky, especially with the restriction of communication through law. So, sort of speaking to that, to all these different things that you’re bringing up, like maintaining connections, and how the pandemic seems to sort of be highlighting different cracks and difference—And just the need for support, and all these different traumas that people might be dealing with, and just thinking more generally: how has your idea of community been affected by this pandemic?

Jo: [sighs] Community has…hmm. I guess it makes you realize more about why community is important. And it makes me also realize who your true community is, and what community actually means. If community for somebody means they go and see a specific group of friends, but now with a pandemic and a lockdown, those friends can’t meet.

So now, community has definitely for me been online. The groups I’ve been part of — connected online. You know, meeting up online. So, the online presence of community has definitely increased. And community has grown beyond just the family—my personal family—to chosen family, and making sure that the mental health of my chosen family is where it’s supposed to be. So, this pandemic hasn’t, for me personally, taken a toll on the sense of community, because I’m able to—I have the privilege of having Internet access, and I have the privilege of being able to connect with other people through Chrome, and through platforms like, you know, Zoom.

And also, my sense of community has grown because of this pandemic. So it’s just not a select group of friends, now. It’s become like, oh, this is the international family. Two people from Australia, you know? [laughs].

Like, it [my community] has gotten bigger because of this pandemic. By not being able to meet with other people physically has allowed me to form connections with people who live in different places than I do. And that has broadened my sense of what community is, and what family is, and broadened my perspective of what love for mankind is in general. Love for human kindness in general. But I definitely know that those who do not have access to the Internet, and those do not have access to a computer or good enough technology device, would suffer a greater loss of community than I did.

I do miss, you know, being able to attend church, and physical contact. And now it’s kind of awkward watching service over—It’s really awkward watching service over the computer. And having that physical connection with people, and having that physical touch—because my love language is physical touch—so having that physical touch, having that physical interaction, that sense of physical—I don’t know—mutual love.

 And you can see it in people’s faces, and you can see it in people’s body language, and sense it in people’s body language. I do miss that. And…also, just being really busy with a pandemic, not being able to get in contact with as much people as I would. Whereby, without the pandemic, I could have reached out to all those people, I could have meet different people.

So, that’s how my sense of community has been affected. I feel like it hasn’t been affected too much as with other people who do not have access to technology or Internet, or may be in more toxic environments than mine.

Interviewer: Speaking of church, how does church look like for you right now, in terms of accessing it? Is it more of a videocall sort of thing, or is it more of you watching services?

Jo: It’s both. For Bible studies and prayer meetings, it’s on Zoom. So, we are basically seeing each other’s faces, the pastor’s talking and anyone wants to talk can chime in.

And, it’s really amusing because you get to see people eating in church. [laughs] Doing different things. And also see people dressed in everyday clothes and in their home. So, that’s really interesting. On Sunday services, it has been only a few select people, because it has to be less than ten people gathered. So, there’ll like eight people in church that runs the entire service, and then we just watchin’ church from Facebook. The church still goes on, on Sunday, as usual, the praise and worship, the sermon. You know, all different aspects of service. But it’s just eight people running it, and the chairs are empty and we are watching online.

Interviewer (29:32): So, then, I was thinking that as a queer Black Christian, how do you feel that community looks for you even now?

Jo: Well, because I attended—before the pandemic—a non-affirming church, being able to see friends in that church has been…was something healthy in that environment. But being in that environment in general was not necessarily the best or healthiest option for me mentally. So being kind of a little bit distant from that environment has really helped my mental health. And has allowed me to think about, okay, what’s next? What is the next step for me now after this pandemic?

And…Because I miss that connection with, you know, everyday people, just the everyday connection, I was actually able to form more relationships and more connections with queer Christians around the world. And, at least queer Christians in the United States. So, I’ve been having biweekly meetings with queer Christians and I’m part of the queer Christian fellowship, and they host worship, like live worship, on Fridays. And that’s an option for me to attend.

So there is no fracture, or no prejudice, or, you know…backlash, if I decide I’m going to attend a queer service now today, because it’s in the own privacy of my home, and it’s in my room that is safe for me. So, my sense of—so, community as a—This pandemic has allowed me to have—in that area of being able to be true to my identity, and true to myself, and true to my identity as being a queer person, and also being a Christian. That side of it, this pandemic has really helped a lot. And so, I’m able to form more community with all the queer Christians, where aside from this—If there was not this pandemic, I would not have been able to.

Interviewer: Then, speaking to that sort of…possibility of fragmentation of identity, because of the sometimes conflict— Well, actually, I guess I should ask first: Are there, like… In which ways do you feel as though there’re sometimes conflict between identities and things?

Jo: There’s definitely conflict with identities when, you know…historically, it has been said or structured in a way that you cannot be this and this. And so, when you are both, it’s like, hey, wait a minute, you know, what am I supposed to be? Am I an anomally, basically?

And especially, like, for me being—The identities that have me fragmented, for me is—First of all, when I was younger: we can’t be black and smart, you know? And then, it grew. You can’t be a female child and be dominant. And then it was, you know, you can’t be black and be dominant. And then, it was, well, in the Black community, there are a lot of people who are not…supportive of the LGBT community. So it’s like, “Okay, you can’t be black and be queer, because being queer is a white person thing.”

And then, it was, “Okay. Yes, you can be Black and Christian.” We already know that, you know, for a while. But now, “You cannot be Christian and queer.” And so all my life, it was wrestling with societal norms, and societal boundaries made by society, and breaking those stereotypes, breaking those “you cannot.”

So, wrestling with those and saying, “Wait a minute, you were telling me I’m not, but this is what I am.” And being able to merge those differences, and do research, and hear both voices. I’m like both: this is the truth. Not only, like, this is my truth, but this is the truth in general. And so, the recent wrestling fragmentation of, you know, identities that I had to deal with was—’cause I’ve dealt with the other one. Like, I am strong. I’m a strong Black. I have my opinions. [laughs]

—A black person being able to wrestle with the fragmentation of ‘you cannot be Christian and queer, and Christian, and in the trans community.’ Because it’s an abomination to say you were born female but you now identifying as something else. That you were born female—I’m like, wait a minute, I’m nonbinary. What does that even mean? [laughs]

And according to the Bible, that is an abomination because you are supposedly changing what God has created you to be. And it’s an abomination to be a Christian and also be gay, because, you know, if either that person is demonically possessed or that person is confused, or that person is in sin.

And, listening to what the church is saying, and listening to what the queer community is saying, and I realized, wait a minute, there’s actually a middle ground in this. That no, this is how I was created. No, I am not committing an abomination. I’m not going against God, because this is what God has beautifully created.

And, you know, I’ve been able to have communications with myself, communication with God, you know, as a person of faith, and doing research with what those Bible verses said. This pandemic has allowed me to actually sit down, and read my Bible [laughs], and sit down and read what those Bible verses actually said, and what theologians in historical times up to now, through history, have said about those verses, and being able to find out the truth. The truth that so many people were already saying, but I wasn’t sure because well, I thought this is what the Bible said and it was what it meant.

So, those people had been blessed with time to research. And now, I think a benefit from this pandemic was being blessed with time to also find my own healing. And, I realized a few days ago that if God could make all the color of the rainbow, plus, all the different shades and tones of colors. And there are so many different shades of green and blue, like, it’s like…so many different colors with hues and tones to it—If God can do that with color, do you think God would make boring humans? I was like, “Wait a minute, no.” [laughs] If God can do that with color, then He definitely—God would definitely not make just two types of humans. That would be boring. [laughs].

So, um…while there has been fragmentation, you know—Fragmentation of identities don’t just  occur normally. Human beings are not born with fragmented identities. Identities are fragmented because society created it as so, and made it as so. By making the “other,” and making differences, and making categories.

But when, as humans, and also like just for me in general—when I’m able to sit down and realize, “Why is my identity fragmented?” Where is this coming from? Then I’m able to realize it’s not coming from me. It’s coming from other people’s opinions that is not fact. And that starts to lead towards an healing process.

Interviewer: Speaking to that idea of healing, and—I was just sort of thinking about how…I think that… Yeah, I recently heard someone saying that, like, during times of crisis, people tend to lean on their strongest relationships, and—yeah, just basically their strongest relationships that they’ve had—during times of crisis. So I was just wondering your thoughts on that.

Jo: Um. [sighs] That is, that’s certainly true, um…because just specifically for my situation. The relationships I’ve formed, apart from the really recent relationships I’ve started forming with queer Christians, have been with basically non-affirming Christians.

And so, when I did, you know…Before this pandemic, when I was able to have physical connections with people, it was with people who were not affirming of my identity, who also contributed to me feeling that my identities were fragmented. So…because of this pandemic, I am able to seek community apart from the one I thought I desperately needed, because that was the only one that was readily available to me. Those were the only people that were readily—those are the people I grew up with. Those are the people I spent years with, years of my life with. So now that that community has been taken away, my perspective of community is completely different. It’s like, “Wait, wait a minute.” If that community can be completely taken away, why was I staying in that community for so long? [slaps hands to emphasize words]

Jo: You know, why was I allowing myself to know…why was I allowing this toxic—Why was I allowing this toxic environment in? So, I do agree with you because now, the relationships I have been forming is, you know, and…The person I have been spending time with and having communications with has been majorly my, my—I guess I can say that—my partner. And that relationship has been a blessing to me, because now I’m not just relying on family and those who do not allow me to be my most authentic, healthy self. And I’m fully relying on my partner, who supports not only identity, but my faith, and allows me to be in a space where my identity is not fragmented. I hope that answers the question?

Interviewer (43:18): Yeah! Yeah. And I mean, I guess…Well, first, I want to ask for your partner: what pronouns does your partner use?

Jo: My partner uses they/them and he/him pronouns.

Interviewer: So, I was wondering that for your partner, how is it, just interacting with them during this pandemic?

Jo: This pandemic has been really stressful on our relationships because we cannot meet physically. And—okay, so for a person, my love language is words of affirmation and physical touch. That’s my top two. And his is quality time and acts of service. [laughs] So, it’s really hard for both of us, ’cause I cannot physically touch them. And also, it’s really hard to do acts of service over the—[laughs]—the Internet. Like, “Okay, what can I help you with?”.

So, it has been basically finding time to talk daily, throughout the day, and have videocall. So, even though we can’t see each other physically, we can actually see each other virtually, and we can actually communicate with each other. But then, we’re realizing that that’s not enough for us. That’s not enough to be healthy—for us to be healthy in this relationship. So, we are starting to find ways to be creative in what a date would look like—[laughs]—online, so that has been really interesting.

So we’re thinking of creative things to do. Maybe we can, like, play one of those games that you can play virtually in like, you know, even though people are in different parts of the world, you can play together. We’re looking at those options because my partner likes videogames.

And so, um…We’re looking at different options on how to continue growing in our relationship. But definitely, the struggle has been finding ways for both our needs to be met. Because we currently don’t feel that our needs are being met, because obviously they cannot as they used to because…of the pandemic. It’s hard to, you know…give a person physical touch, or give a person acts of service if you can’t see them physically. So, just reinventing how to use an online platform to meet our love languages. Yeah.

Interviewer: Sounds challenging, but possibly also fulfilling, in some way, maybe?

Jo: Yes. Yeah, it is challenging, but it’s fulfilling because as you are pushing yourself more, and pushing yourself to not be lazy in the relationship, and actually work—because relationships are work. The more you putting in an effort, the more you are realizing, “Oh, I actually do love this person.” And it makes it even more worth it, because the more I’m pushing myself to work this out, the more I’m falling even deeper in love with that person.

Interviewer: That’s so beautiful. So I guess, generally—speaking, more generally now: What are your thoughts basically for the queer community, and especially for queer folks that have multiple marginalized identities? Especially now in this pandemic.

Jo: Um, wow. [sighs] I can say for queer adults that this is the time for them to do their research. This is a time for them to…find community. This is the time for them to have chosen family—even though they can’t meet them physically, they can form chosen family online. And then after this pandemic is over, go and visit all those people they formed relationship with online.

Definitely join queer groups, join Christian queer groups—join groups that meet all of your identities, whatever, whatever they are. Join those groups, because they would offer community when you can’t meet your physical friends, so that as a human being, you don’t feel alone. ‘Cause it’s really easy to feel isolated when there is a pandemic, if one doesn’t physically search for community, because this pandemic is very isolating. And for somebody to have good mental health, that person have to seek community in this time.

For [queer] youths…my prayer goes out to them, because it’s really hard in this pandemic to form that community, you know? When in school they can meet their queer friends, you know, they can’t do that. So, my advice for them would be that if you do have access to the Internet, if you do have access to a technology device, that—do join those groups on your social media platforms. There are many out there. Join the groups on your social media platforms.

There is an app called Amino. You can join an Amino group… And definitely do form those connections with other youth, with other kids who also have access to the Internet. For those who don’t have access to Internet and you’re living in toxic environments—and for those youths who left home and don’t necessarily have a place—I say, connect to organizations if you can. 

Reach out to organizations, reach out to LGBT centers. Because even though you can’t necessarily visit them, they have free resources. You can get a therapist on your phone; you can talk to them on the phone. There’s Zoom calls for LGBT centers now. There are meetings that they have with different community groups, or different identity-focused groups are now online. So do reach out to any resource, as you know, as soon as you can.

And for those in toxic environments, please go out. Take walks and do something that helps your mental health. If you like to draw, do that. And take a lot of walks and have a vision board. Even though it’s really hard, now, to imagine what the future may look like in this pandemic–have a vision board, your after-pandemic vision board. What do you want to do after this pandemic? How do you want to continue your life after this pandemic? So that way, when things are really tough in the house, you can look at that vision board and that can bring you hope.

And if you’re a Christian, or even if you’re not a Christian, you know, during this time—this is the perfect time to talk to God and read your Bible, so that can also offer you some hope, and some mental and emotional support.

Jo holding a Bible with a flower in their hair. There's a cherry blossom tree in the background, and Jo is smiling.

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