The Camp 10 – Rachel Gadd-Nelson

I hope everyone is enjoying the weather that we dreamed about back in February! This month I was able to interview Rachel Gadd-Nelson, whom I respect deeply for her work in the community, her activism, and her incredible attitude! She works to end sexual violence with GaDuGi SafeCenter in Lawrence and also works with Lawrence Queer Youth Voice. She is a role model not only for our youth, but also for all people.
For 24/7 support, call 785-843-8985 to speak with a trained sexual violence advocate. The GaDuGi website is GaDuGi.
1. You work with GaDuGi SafeCenter, which works to help end sexual violence. Can you tell me about your role at GaDuGi SafeCenter?
Rachel Gadd-Nelson: I’m the director of community engagement at GaDuGi SafeCenter in Lawrence, Kan. I get to go around the community and do awareness presentations on sexual violence and rape culture, and I train people and organizations on how to be supportive of victim-survivor Sexual violence isn’t easy to talk about sometimes, and so it’s my job to hopefully make that a little bit easier. It is seriously the coolest job!
2. In the past you have worked with LGBT Youth at EQUAL in KC, and now you are working with Lawrence Queer Youth Voice, an organization for trans* and queer youth in Lawrence. What are some of the projects and activities you are working on with this group?
R.G.N..: Lawrence Queer Youth Voice has had a really big year! The drop-in center is about to celebrate its first year at Penn House, where we have a library and a collection of clothes and makeup for those needing a safe space to express themselves. Also, we’ve started the Kansas Queer Youth Network, the state’s first GSA network, which is part of the national association of GSA Networks.
3. How do you motivate the youth of LQYV?
R.G.N.: I don’t! The youth that I get to work with are so motivated to stand up for one another and to make change in their community. The role of an adult supporter should be one of solidarity. I help when they ask, listen, and stay out of the way!
4. What do you see as the biggest issue facing LGBT youth right now?
R.G.N..: This is a complex question, because there are multiple issues LGBT youth face and everyone’s experience is different. The biggest misconception I think people have of LGBT youth is that either they are living “post-gay” lives where trans and queer identities don’t mean anything or that they are immobilized and hopeless in their struggle. Their lives are much more complex than that and the assumption that they are living single-issue lives creates major barriers.
5. What has inspired you to become involved in a career of service?
R.G.N..: LGBT youth and sexual violence issues are close to my heart. The work that I do is something that would have been so meaningful to me when I was younger, so I strive to provide that for someone else. I’ve also been fortunate to be surrounded by such passionate and political family and friends.
6. How does one join Heart of America What is the current need for either of these organizations?
R.G.N..: Donations of money, volunteers, spreading the word about our events — whatever you can to show support and solidarity! As someone who works behind the scenes on public events, [I know that”> something as simple as sharing a link on Facebook goes a long way and makes a big difference to the organizations.
7. Your work must be rewarding, but also frustrating at times when dealing with administrators, funding and unforeseen roadblocks. How do you manage to keep a positive attitude?
R.G.N..: I try to have a realistic attitude toward things by being honest with myself and others about the ups and downs. Letting the victories and successes feel amazing and the roadblocks and failures feel disappointing. However, the victories and successes are so powerful that they make everything worth it! Also, self-care is a priority! Saying no when I need to, getting enough sleep, and setting aside time in my schedule to relax make everything more sustainable.
8. You are vegan. What helped you to make the decision to become vegan, or have you always lived as a vegan?
R.G.N..: I was raised vegetarian and I remember being very passionate about animals as a kid. Like many other vegetarian kids, though, I wasn’t as connected to my vegetarianism as I grew up since I didn’t know anything different. When I was in college, I switched back to being vegetarian, but then learned more about the dairy and egg industries and how harmful they are to animals (and human workers), and I needed to do more. Going vegan was the best decision I’ve ever made!
9. I always see pictures of incredible foods that you cook. What is your favorite food to make?
R.G.N..: I Pizza! I love making pizza with friends because we can be creative. One time my friends and I made a vegan deep dish pizza with double stuffed crust that was to die for.
10. If you could be any food, what would you be?
R.G.N..: I think I would be an artichoke, because I’m short, stubby, prickly, and I go great with a creamy spinach dip! :)”

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