Rockstar Winner Em Mais Is Advocating for LGBTQ Youth with Disabilities

Rockstar Awards 2018 Highlight: Em Mais

Em Mais wants service providers to ask them the "questionable questions" they shouldn't ask the youth they're serving. Learn more about why they're the Tricialouise Gurley-Millard Youth Advocate of the Year 2018. #rockstar18

Posted by Youth MOVE National on Tuesday, July 31, 2018

If you ever meet our Rockstar Awards 2018 Youth Advocate of the Year, they’ll be the first person to tell you they’re very upfront with describing themselves as a queer, non-binary, disabled person with mental health challenges. This intersectional lived experience drives and supports their advocacy work of educating service providers on LGBTQ terms and LGBTQ competency. Even when they open the floor for additional questions and get what they describe as “questionable questions.”

“I’ll answer that,” they say. “But please don’t ever ask another youth these questions. Or anyone.” Once, after a session where they were educating on asexuality, a woman came up to them and said: “Thank you for finally giving me a term to describe myself.” They have done so much to improve health conditions for youth living at the intersections of minority identities by supporting providers in working with those youth in competent ways.

So naturally, we had to catch up with them to see what they were up to a year later, especially since the Rockstar Awards 2019 is now open for nominations. Here’s what they said.

What work have you been up to since you won the Rockstar Award for Youth Advocate of the Year in 2018?

The last year has come with a lot of growth and change for me. I have continued to work toward completing my bachelor’s degree in psychology at Indiana University, working at the Kinsey Institute, and I’m preparing to apply to graduate school to hopefully get my PhD in clinical psychology. I have shifted my advocacy and activism to focus on disability, inclusivity, and diversity in the work being done within that community. The bulk of my work over the last year has been with the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities (GCPD). Through my work with the council, I have had the opportunity to be a part of the Indiana disability awareness month campaign as well as participate in a variety of trainings and other events to grow awareness and understanding around the intersections of queerness, mental health challenges, and disability.

The Rockstar Awards are decided by a committee of young adults involved in systems change work nationwide. What did winning the Rockstar Award mean to you?

The Rockstar Award was the first time that my work has been acknowledged in any major way. I have always had a couple of people thank me after I give presentations or speak on panels, but to be recognized in such a major way for the work I had done was such a confidence boost for me and has motivated me to apply for or attempt things I would have felt unqualified for in the past.

How has your work impacted the lives of young adults in your field? What makes you passionate about doing the work you do?

My hope is the work that I have done, particularly in educating service providers on working with queer people, will result in more queer youth having positive interactions with service providers and feel safe in accessing the care they need.

What can we expect next from you?

To be entirely honest, I am not sure what is coming next for me. I hope to continue my work with the Governor’s Council over the next year, and continue to be visible as a disabled and queer person with mental health challenges succeeding in academia and making systematic changes in the institutions I have to engage with in order to stay alive.

Where can we find out more about you? Shamelessly plug yourself!

Right now I don’t have a “professional” website or social media, but you can follow some of the work I am doing on my personal Instagram @boi_and_pup and/or follow my journey navigating life as a disabled person @quinn_the_service_pup

Know a young adult who should be recognized as a Rockstar Youth Advocate of the Year? Nominate them today for the Rockstar Awards 2019!

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