In mid-August, 17-year-old Kansas City, Mo., native Zachary Mallory will be attending the Born Brave Youth Retreat at Camp Hi-Rock in Mount Washington, Mass. The camp will be hosted by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. A total of 50 youth will attend the retreat at the camp where, as a teenager, Gaga herself (then known as Stefani Germanotta) once sailed and crafted in a rustic setting.
Interested youth, ages 14-17 at the time of the camp, were asked to apply for acceptance. Among the criteria for campers were assent to the foundation’s principles and goals to promote respect, acceptance, kindness and courage in and toward all individuals, being passionate about contributing to social change, and being interested in activism or leadership in their communities. All travel, lodging and food expenses for Mallory and all the Born Brave campers will be covered by the foundation (bornthiswayfoundation.org).
Led by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, the foundation partners with other nonprofits to focus on youth empowerment and equality, addressing issues such as self-confidence, well-being, bullying, mentoring and career development. Digital media and the Internet play key roles in communicating its message.
Zach Mallory came out as gay at age 14. He is a self-identified suicide and sexual violence survivor. When he needed help with depression and relationship violence, he turned to the Trevor Project (thetrevorproject.org). Later he became a peer advocate there and focused his mind on activism and helping others. Mallory also worked at getting a gay-straight alliance (GSA) started at his Independence, Mo., high school, Van Horn.
Kansas City’s LGBT youth performance group PerformOUTKC (performoutkc.org) picked Mallory to be a youth outreach intern. He has helped with youth events at Kansas City Anti-Violence Project (kcavp.org), UMKC Pride Alliance named him a “Rising Star,” and he is one of the Missouri GSA Network’s “20 Under 20” for 2014.
A frequent guest at LIKEME Lighthouse, Mallory spoke at the March 15 open house marking the center’s two-year anniversary. He has been asked to sit on a youth panel at Cristo Rey Kansas City High School in May. Mallory occasionally performs as his drag persona Eva Milian.
Mallory looks up to “Have a Gay Day” founder Michael Knote. He credits his mother with being his strongest supporter. When her mother (his grandmother) recently passed away, it was devastating for him. Mallory continues to work on his YouTube video campaign against bullying and suicide (firstname.lastname@example.org) and he hopes one day to become a nurse.
In early April, Mallory flew to Washington, D.C., to take part in a Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) rally at the U.S. Capitol to push for the passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act. The act would require school districts to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. To learn more, go to glsen.org/ssia.
Mallory made the trip as part of GLSEN’s Day of Silence Street Team, a new band of youth enlisted to promote the annual day of silent activism, which took place on April 11 this year.
To get involved with GLSEN at the local level, sign up for updates from the Kansas City chapter at glsen.org/chapters/kansascity or like its Facebook page at facebook.com/glsenkc. The chapter does such things as helping to organize Breaking the Silence activities and empowerment summits, screening films, providing safe space trainings and mentoring GSA start-ups.
We hope to hear back from Zach in the fall after he returns from camp.
How to Help
You don’t have to be involved in dozens of organizations in order to make a difference. Get involved as a youth or adult and work with any local group that supports and celebrates LGBT young people. In addition to GLSEN, LIKEME Lighthouse, KCAVP and PerformOUTKC, Kansas City has other organizations that support LGBT youth. KC Passages (kcpassages.org) meets every week in Midtown and youth-led EQUAL (equalcenter.org) plans and hosts events year-round.
For links to LGBT youth resources, go to the sidebar menu at campkc.com. Please help us by identifying any changes or additions that need to be made there.