Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Open Letter to the HRC from Rocki Simoes

NOTE: I got this emailed letter today from my friend Rocki Simoes in Minneapolis. Rocki is one of the most brilliant, sweet, and caring people I know. She is founder of the Host Home program, and she has committed her professional career to making sure that queer homeless youth have safe places to live and are able to celebrate who they are while healing from where they have been. Thank you Rocki for your loving work and your dedication to moving us all forward together. I love you. I miss you.


As many of you know, the GLBT Host Home Program received the Brian Coyle Leadership Award from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). That award will be given at HRC's annual gala dinner on Sept. 13th. I am proud that HHP is being honored, and firmly believe that it and the community that stands behind it deserve recognition. There will be several HHP supporters there to receive the award.

I want to share with you an open letter (see below) I wrote to HRC that expresses my feelings and thoughts about this award and also explains why I will not be at the dinner on Sept. 13th. Feel free to share it with others and feel free to let me know what you think.

Sorry if you get this more than once!

Thank you so much,

Raquel (Rocki) Simões, MSW, LISW
GLBT Host Home Program Manager
Avenues for Homeless Youth
1708 Oak Park Avenue N.
Minneapolis, MN 55411
(612) 522-1690

An Open Letter to HRC

Dear Joe Solmonese and HRC Twin Cities Board of Governors,

I want to thank you for honoring the GLBT Host Home Program of Avenues for Homeless Youth with the Brian Coyle Leadership Award. I am proud of the GLBT Host Home Program and the large community that stands behind it - a community truly deserving of recognition and accolades. Thank you for wanting to put the spotlight on us. I especially want to thank Brian Gilligan for nominating our program and for being so engaged in conversations about where we go from here.

I want to share some of my thoughts and feelings regarding the Human Rights Campaign and movement building. I send this with the hope it invites an opportunity for further dialogue and for community building. Though there is excitement about receiving this award, I have also been having many conversations about how complicated this moment is. This award is personally and professionally difficult for me, and for many in the GLBT community. I cannot speak for the GLBT Host Home Program and all of its youth, hosts, volunteers and supporters on this, but I do want to let you know a bit about what I am thinking and struggling with.

In the past, I have felt that HRC has not represented me or most of my friends, colleagues and community. It has seemed that HRC has used a narrow lens from which to identify queer 'issues', a lens which rarely took in racial and economic justice. When I say “community,” I am including the youth that the GLBT Host Home Program serves, most of whom are of color and many of whom are trans-identified. I was very angry, though not surprised, that HRC decided to support an ENDA bill that was not inclusive of gender identity and expression. No matter how HRC politically and strategically justifies its decision, choosing to exclude a huge part of our community just seems so, well, wrong. I am not the most strategically savvy person around (far from it), but it has been very clear how much pain and divisiveness this decision has created in our community. I am not at all sure that a legal gain is worth a deliberately painful and problematic process. In my opinion, how we go about fighting for justice is as important, if not more, than what we get at the end.

I write this public letter as an effort to do some constructive organizing and to respectfully recognize the pain and disappointment many feel about HRC. My sincere hope is that HRC’s choice to honor this program is a sign that points to a shift in how it does organizing, a shift that is aligned with what the GLBT Host Home Program believes in and strives for - social justice and social change, for all.

Supporters of the GLBT Host Home Program, such as hosts and youth, will attend the event on September 13 to accept the award with great appreciation for the opportunity it gives us to promote the program and highlight the problem of queer youth homelessness. I am not able to attend, as I will be joining other community members at the Left Out Party, an event sponsored by the Minnesota Gender Advocates, supporting a fully inclusive ENDA.

Thank you for considering my comments and for recognizing the GLBT Host Home Program with the Brian Coyle Award. I look forward to further discussion with you.


Raquel (Rocki) Simões
GLBT Host Home Program Manager, Avenues for Homeless Youth

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