Taking Pride in My Intersectional Identity and the Power It Gives Me

Yamali Rodas
Yamali Rodas

Throughout my life, I resided in many multi-cultural, under-resourced, and impoverished communities that exposed me to a multitude of systemic inequities that impacted my family and friends’ well-being and mental health. I too faced those inequities as a queer Latiné, and as I learned more about the systems in place that upheld those barriers, I committed to doing my best to change the cycle. 

The unique lived experiences I’ve had have helped me to better understand where organizing efforts were needed, how community support could best be achieved, and how to ensure that change was long-lasting. Along the way, I learned the importance of community and mentorship. Now, as someone who has benefited from the work my mentors have done to support me, I hope to help mentor others and continue the work needed to uplift the communities I’m a part of.

My motivation to enact social change began from observing how the COVID-19 pandemic devastated my own community. I spent most of my early childhood in a community in Chicago called Little Village, so when I heard stories about members of that community disproportionately dying from COVID-related deaths and the economic hardships that families were left with, I knew I had to take action. As a result, I organized a supply drive that reached over 70 students. In partnership with community organizations and businesses, we were able to distribute free school supplies, beverages and food, and haircuts. Being a part of a project that helped to uplift my local community inspired me, and I began to look for how I could continue to enact change for other groups that were important to me. 

From there, I knew I wanted to continue advocating for important social issues and began to look at the ways my own identity influenced my life and my choices. As I was navigating through my queer identity, I quickly came to realize that the LGBTQIA+ organizing world was very intersectional, and the skills I had learned from supporting my community in Chicago could continue to help me. I was able to find many community organizing opportunities available for LGBTQIA+ youth, including my first official role in an established LGBTQIA+ organization, volunteering for Illinois Safe Schools Alliance on their youth committee. Here, I’m helping to ensure that LGBTQIA+ students have a safe and healthy school environment, including one that prioritizes their mental health and well-being.

Slowly, I began to take on more responsibility within the organizing world by including communities beyond my own in my efforts and gaining various mentors along the way. Mentorship became a very significant and integral part in the development of my activism and advocacy. I acquire resources, connections, and opportunities from these mentors that continue to expand my abilities. During my junior year as an advanced placement seminar student, I researched thoroughly about the likely outcomes of individuals who share some of my marginalized identities. Despite the statistics of the likely outcomes being discouraging, it actually solidified the need for me to enact sustainable change that combats the systematic issues individuals who hold these identities are challenged with. 

The challenges my intersectional identity has given me as a queer Latiné has continued to outline my path toward becoming a stronger advocate for my community. Now, I want to be the mentor that so many others were for me. I created a podcast series for aspiring youth organizers who are not sure how to begin and want to contribute to the advancement of their own communities. Also following in the footsteps of my mentors, I now distribute resources for youth to take action, regardless of their immigration status, on my social media platforms including Instagram and LinkedIn. Finally, I publicly share free resources I’ve cultivated that can help inspire others to take action. This Pride Month, I’m proud of my intersectional identity, and the work that I and so many other young organizers are doing in our communities nationwide. We have a unique perspective, and the world needs all of us to show up as we are, sharing our lived experiences and pushing forward for a more inclusive and just world.