“Whether it was twirling with my bestie during a photoshoot, sharing pizza with the It Gets Better staff, or creating the weirdest figures at the Funko Pop Factory, these moments were reminders that beyond our advocacy work, we are still individuals who deserve to laugh and have fun just as much as everyone else.” – Phi (they/them), 17, California

This October 11th – 15th, 2023, It Gets Better hosted its second inaugural Youth Summit, a groundbreaking event that brought our current cohort of Youth Voices together in person, some for the first time. Youth Voices is a group of 10 exceptional young LGBTQ+ people ages 13-18 — they are students, artists, and activists who are working to change their communities for the better and who have a passion for empowering their community of LGBTQ+ peers with their insights and observations. Each year, we work with the Youth Voices, offering training and support on how to effectively share their unique stories and words of advice with other LGBTQ+ youth.

2023-2024 class of Youth Voices ambassadors with Senior Coordinator, Education Rae Sweet-Sandoval at center. Photo by Maxwell Poth.

For many of our Youth Voices, the Youth Summit is the first time they’ve traveled to Los Angeles — and the first time they’ve been surrounded by other LGBTQ+ teens. Over the course of three days of workshops, programming, and a local LGBTQ+ youth festival, the Youth Voices had the opportunity to: 

  • Learn about & bask in LGBTQ+ joy, because our joy is resistance & resilience. 
  • Nurture new skills that will enable them to effectively tell their own stories in a variety of settings – online, at public events, through video and written word, and so much more. 
  • Work collaboratively on projects by and for LGBTQ+ youth in an in-person setting. 
  • Capture content with photographer, Maxwell Poth, to accompany their work online throughout the year.
  • Build stronger personal and professional relationships with other Youth Voices that can aid in taking their at-home work and activism to new heights; and
  • Attend Models of Pride, a one of a kind festival event for Queer Youth, and meet local LGBTQ+ youth from Rainbow Labs.

What happened when we brought queer youth together from around the world was nothing short of MAGICAL! ✨🏳️‍⚧️🏳️‍🌈 These are some of our amazing Youth Voices, LGBTQ+ people aged 13-18 from across the US who are already amazing activists, advocates, artists, writers, speakers, musicians, and more (and yes, we open applications for a new class every year, so this could be you next round)! 👀 We learned, discussed queer identities and issues, and got to take some time for queer joy. Check out the program at itgetsbetter.org/youthvoices #itgetsbetter #queeryouth #transkids #lgbtqyouth #queerjoy

♬ original sound – It Gets Better

One of the particularly unique moments from this year’s Youth Summit was a workshop hosted by It Gets Better’s very own Youth Voices Alumni, Zach and Uma. The workshop consisted of a presentation, storytelling, journal prompts, and a Q&A on social impact, as well as Zach and Uma’s experiences with It Gets Better as members of the first-ever Youth Voices cohort.

Zach and Uma are now co-chairs of It Gets Better’ inaugural Youth Advisory Committee, dedicated to continuing the lifeline of our alumni and their involvement in the organization. 

A lot of the magic that happened at the Youth Summit was thanks to our partners at Funko, Redken, UGG, Converse, and Nature’s Path. 

(clockwise from top center): Jeremy, Akiko, Aidan, Eli, Phi, Eris, Aaron, Ellie, Fabi and Mia. Photo by Maxwell Poth.

Read what Ellie (she/her) a 16-year-old first-year Youth Voice from New Jersey had to say about her participation in this exciting, youth-centered experience:

“Attending the Youth Summit was hands-down one of the most amazing experiences. First of all, getting to meet all of the other Youth Voices and the staff was so inspiring. My heart was filled with joy as I talked with other queer people!! I felt as though even though we are all from such different places, and have had such different paths here, we all had so much in common – and learning to celebrate those differences was even more uplifting. Hearing about each person’s journey to It Gets Better inspired me to continue speaking up at home and not give up. All of the activities we did — going to the office, the Funko Pop place, the photo shoot, and Models for Pride — showed me how being queer is something we should celebrate.

A few weeks prior to the Youth Summit, the prompt for Queerbook (to write about Queer Joy) had come out. To be honest, I felt unsure of what to write – I don’t think I understood the depth of what Queer Joy was, for I had never truly experienced it. Yes, I had been a passionate advocate for LGBTQ+ rights at home, but I had never felt a sense of community like I did at the Youth Summit.

That all changed the moment I arrived in LA. Pride in it of itself is a protest, but protesting isn’t ALL there is to pride. And this, I believe, is the main message I took away from the Youth Summit. Pride is also spending time with other queer people; it’s also listening to queer creators like Dylan Mulvaney. I left the summit, truly, with a changed perspective and friends that I am so excited to work with.”