Advocating for Human Rights In Your Own Backyard

Listen2Youth is pleased to support the 15th Annual Queer Youth Leadership Awards in Santa Cruz, California on May 12, 2012.

The Queer Youth Leadership Awards recognizes queer youth and allies across Santa Cruz County for being leaders within their community. Being a leader encompasses many attributes and spans across all disciplines and activities. I have the privilege of knowing one of this year’s nominees, Heidi Koronkowski.

Sometimes leadership chooses you.

Heidi is the mother of a 13-year-old transgender child. In the last few years, I have watched her morph from a private housewife with a rambunctious, sometimes challenging daughter, to an outspoken advocate for human rights as she supported her child’s transition to living as a male. Her unwavering support of her son has taken her down a path she never expected.

Heidi has suffered the loss of several of her friends from church as they concluded they understood God’s plan for her son better than God did. It tested her faith and her trust in what makes a good friendship. And while she and her husband (and amazingly supportive family) did what they needed to do to follow her son’s lead, she redefined her faith and ended up becoming an unassuming role model providing guidance and information for other parents of transgender kids.

Gender doesn’t define us, who we are defines us.

I was a friend of Heidi’s when she had a daughter. I am Heidi’s friend now that she has a son (whom I care about very much). I am thrilled that she, and the Trans Family Support Group, have both been nominated for this year’s Queer Youth Leadership Award. I wish more people could be as open, understanding and adaptive as Heidi has been over the last five years. She’s incredibly down-to-earth and her openness makes her accessible. The fact she’s “regular folk” only adds to her appeal.

At Listen2Youth we have worked with teens of all kinds for years. In fact we named our company Listen2Youth because we were so impressed by their insights and perception. Today, our business has shifted to social media where we talk with our clients’ customers and listen to their insights. We believe everyone has a voice that needs to be heard. Sometimes it means speaking up and taking a stand in your own backyard.

UPDATE: Our dear friend Heid’s group, Trans Family Support Group, has won the 2012 Award. Congratulations to all the winners, nominees and thank you to everyone supporting these amazing folks.