YOUmedia, along with the Chicago Park Districts Queering the Parks, Chicago Freedom School, and Rebirth Garments hosted the second annual fair for teens to access resources and explore gender identity.
A Safe Space for Teens
With the mission of activating creativity and connection and maintaining a safe and supportive environment for all Chicagoans, Chicago Public Library celebrated Pride Month with a number of events focused on gender identity and equity. Programs included a deep dive into the Library’s LGBTQIA+ archives, reading lists for all ages, book discussions and more.
In recent years, the Library has especially become a center for teens to safely explore and express themselves with its teen program, YOUmedia. Each year, YOUmedia gives teens the opportunity to explore their creative interests, connect with peers, and build job-ready skills.
“Teens are at a moment in life when they are figuring out who they are, not just what they are interested in, and supporting that process of self-discovery in a safe and supportive environment is just as critical as developing 21st-century skills,” says Ava Carney, Teen Services Library Associate.
“YOUmedia is a place where skill-building, creativity and self-discovery come together, and for many teens that also means taking a look at how gender operates in our culture, and what gender identity and expression means for them.”AVA CARNEY
In 2020, YOUmedia took its commitment to welcoming all teens to a new level, partnering with Sky Cubacub of Rebirth Garments to launch Radical Fit, a program that empowers teens to embrace their gender identity and learn about gender equity through the lens of DIY fashion. “This has been such a highlight for me, helping kids and teens create their own collections and express themselves openly,” says Sky.
Explore, Express, Exist
This summer, the Library has several events planned for teens to express themselves creatively and safely – including two Queer Radical Fairs. The first Fair was held on June 18 at Palmer Park and was a summer celebration of queerness, fashion, self-expression, and community full of fashion shows, musical performances, vendors, and more.
After the success of last year’s program, which was created in collaboration with local thought leaders and organizations like Chicago Park District’s Queering the Parks, Chicago Freedom School, Social Works, and Rebirth Garments to support LGBTQIA+ youth, families, and allies, this year’s fairs will continue to be a welcoming space for teens to explore, express, and exist. “It’s also about creating a community for queer young people and making a space for intergenerational connection to happen. The Queering the Parks Initiative is a joyful celebration of LGBTQIA+ youth and families, so it’s also about embracing joy,” says Ava.
“Through our shared focus on youth and access, we realized that there were so many partners who embraced universal accessibility which aligned with Sky’s notion on Radical Visibility, which challenges stereotypes and centers marginalized communities. The LGBTQIA+ community has been defined by resistance, social justice, and celebration and we wanted CPL to continue being part of that legacy and have space to celebrate with our allies,” says Eric Reyes, Digital Media Coordinator of Teen Services.
The second fair will be on August 28 at the Garfield Park Conservatory. “Given the size of Chicago, the choice to have two fairs was particularly driven by a desire to serve more communities and were developed in partnership with the Queering the Parks Youth.