How one woman is helping queer religious youth embrace their identity

Each day, people like you have ideas on how to make the world a better place, but don’t know how to put their ideas into action. To help you take the first step, we’re profiling budding social entrepreneurs who are tackling issues that are important to them, one step at a time.

The idea

“When I came out as a queer Christian in my twenties, I went through a lot of bumpy times. It was like going through a second puberty,” says Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Crystal Cheatham. “On top of it all my church wasn’t there for me — the community I had grown up with as support. I wished someone in my youth had given me information on my identity.”

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Crystal stands outside Oklahoma Baptist University in a nonviolent demonstration with Soulforce’s Equality Ride. (Photo via Makenzie Marineau.)

Wanting to fill this gap, Crystal channeled her writing skills into creating Your IDentity Kit: For Queer Christian Youth (Your IDKit) to help youth ages 12-17 feel supported and better understand their identity coming out as a gay Christian or Fundamentalist. The educational kit contains a range of materials including a booklet that guides self-exploration, discovery cards for LGBTQ resources, and an interactive game that challenges stereotypes.

Originally “the kit was to let teens know that God did love them, even though their church, school, and government signals said otherwise.” The idea has since expanded and the kit is a book, teaching tool, and resource on the subject of queer religious identities for anyone engaging with questioning teens.

Obstacles

Crystal’s first step was to write a draft of the Your IDKit and test it out at a workshop for Philly’s William Way Community Center, an LGBTQ nonprofit. After receiving a positive response, Crystal began to focus her time on getting more feedback on the kit, and ultimately, finding some homes for it.

While making her idea a reality, Crystal encountered a few challenges along the way:

Obstacle: Addressing negative stereotypes
Solution: In the kit, Crystal emphasizes that homosexuality is not a choice, freely uses the word queer in a positive way, and shares Bible passages that demonstrate God’s acceptance of all people. In doing so, she hopes that the young people will feel empowered and the religious community will rethink their views on queer youth.

Obstacle: Funding the idea
Solution: After she had the material written, Crystal sold her Volkswagon Bug to fund the first 22 Your IDKit prototypes. She then spent a lot of time pitching the kit to prove her idea was something that could be beneficial. People began to take notice, and individual donors and organizations helped her raise money. Crystal released an eBook through Barnes & Noble this week, with proceeds going to producing more kits and offsetting expenses for workshops.

Inside Your IDKit

Obstacle: Finding additional help
Solution:
Once Crystal captured people’s interest, she found they were willing to help out where needed: logo design, filming interviews, etc. Queer affirming churches and organizations who used the kit also stepped up to donate their time, space, food, and resources.

Obstacle: Getting buy-in from religious communities
Solution:
Crystal began pitching the kit to other sources: homeless shelters, youth organizations, charter schools, and anyone who handles teens on a daily basis. “They see that there is a disconnect and that their youth need spiritual affirmation. The need is impeccably raw,” Crystal says. Her hard work paid off: come August she will be hosting weekly Your IDKit workshops at The William Way Community Center, and Soulforce, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the political and spiritual oppression of the LGBTQ community through nonviolent resistance, will also be using the kit as the basis for an educational program.

Advice

Crystal had the most trouble with learning to be patient and understanding success doesn’t happen overnight. Her biggest piece of advice is to keep moving forward.

Here’s how she thinks you can maintain momentum on your idea:

  • Clarify exactly what your idea or product is.
  • Research similar resources, organizations, and projects.
  • Build relationships and network with other professionals.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Write a business plan to shape the direction you head.

Finally, Crystal strongly believes in trusting your instincts. “There were times when my work led me to a black space,” she says. “All I could comprehend was that I had this burning passion; I knew I was doing the right thing.”
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If you’re interested in partnering with Crystal for a workshop and/or would like to support Your IDKit, don’t hesitate to email: crystal.cheatham@gmail.com.

Curious about the LGBTQ community? Crystal would love to share her insight as well as offer advice on how to network and perfect your writing.


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Comments (6)


  1. Grace de Leon writes:
    August 2, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Looks like I’m the first one who read it. Anyway, it was worth the read. Words fail me to express how much I learn from this.


  2. Speachless writes:
    August 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Does Crystal own a bible. I would like to send her words of encouragement in her faith Isaiah 5:20 :-)


  3. Maudlyn Obi writes:
    August 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Keep up the good work, Crystal!


  4. Carolyn writes:
    August 4, 2012 at 12:25 am

    Read the entire bible for yourself to gain clarity.


  5. SR writes:
    August 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    You’re doing amazing work, Crystal–keep it up! Speachless, two things: 1) You don’t know how to spell “speechless” and 2) Shame on you for that comment; you are the embodiment of hate.


  6. WRITING | writes:
    February 21, 2013 at 2:05 am

    [...] How one women is helping queer religious youth embrace their identity | idealist.org [...]


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