Post submitted by HRC Foundation Children Youth and Families Program Coordinator Sula Malina
The 2017 HRC Youth Ambassador cohort is a group of 16 inspiring young people, ages 15-22, from across the country. Young people are invited to participate in the Youth Ambassador program because of their courage in sharing their own stories, and their demonstrated commitment to speaking out about issues facing all LGBTQ youth. As Youth Ambassadors, they represent HRC Foundation and add their voice to help raise awareness about HRC’s youth-focused programs.
HRC recently sat down with Paolo Veloso, a Youth Ambassador from Los Angeles, California. Paolo grew up in the Philippines in a conservative religious environment. After moving to Southern California, he was finally allowed to be himself, but found a new kind of pressure to conform — to either be gay or straight. He eventually learned about and identified with the concept of sexual fluidity and now advocates for greater visibility for those who identify as bisexual, queer, pansexual, fluid and other similar identities. Paolo served as a student manager at the LGBT Student Services Office of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he majored in psychology and was president of its Gender-Sexuality Alliance.
What inspired you to become an HRC Youth Ambassador?
I was inspired by HRC Foundation’s Vinnie Pompei! He showed me how important it was for the stories of LGBTQ youth like me to be seen and heard. And every chance I am allowed to be that, I am once again honored and inspired.
What’s been one highlight of your experience as an HRC Youth Ambassador?
My first Time to THRIVE in 2016! I delivered a keynote speech, presented in four workshops, and was featured in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Act Against AIDS conference. All in one conference!
What part of HRC’s work do you connect with the most?
Anything from the HRC’s Children, Youth and Families program. In a post-marriage equality age, people are looking for the next big step in our fight for equality. I believe that next step is supporting our youth, struggling to even get to marrying age.
What’s your message to LGBTQ youth?
There is nothing wrong with being queer, and there is no wrong way to be queer.