Thoughts by Joanne

I want to share with you some of my history, thoughts and reasons for wanting to found this non-profit.

As a young girl, I had a lot of fear and struggle in my home around violence.

It took a long time to feel comfortable with myself. I also battled an eating disorder and had a difficult time fitting in.

I didn't realize then that I wasn't the only one, that there were many of us struggling with the same issues, including gender issues, homophobia and sexism.

I tried to get people to hear me but I don't know that it worked. I couldn't come right out and say what I was going through or how I felt because I didn't know that I could speak. What a revelation when I realized that it was okay to talk, that it was the best thing for me to do so that I could change my reality..

As a young woman, I was also in a political theater group that exposed how we felt about racism, sexuality, child abuse, war, politics and social justice issues. It was during the first ever International Year of the Child in 1978 when the seeds of activism and justice were planted. I was ten years old, walking down the street holding a sign with four hundred other kids and it was an amazing feeling.

I have worked in the arts my whole life as an actor, writer and storyteller, and have also been a social justice activist since I was a teenager. I always wanted the two to come together this way and use my skills in the best way I could. Youth Out Loud is the company that formed from my experiences and passion.

I think young people deserve respect. I admire the strength it takes to grow up in an adult focused world and function within the structures that have been created. I think there is hope in youth and that dreams need to be realized and supported.

I want young girls to know that you don't have to buy the lies about being female, or fit into a size zero, or make yourself sick trying to look like the women in magazines and on television. Those images of women are unrealistic and by spending so much time thinking about the body, you are distracted from thinking about your dreams and goals, from using your mind to develop all those brilliant ideas stored up inside of you. You are better than the world has given you credit for! You are strong and beautiful and smart. You don't need to look like some unrealistic image of "woman" to be whole or worthy. Those images are not reflective of what real girls and women are. We are all sizes, shapes, races and cultures. Many of us are LGBT and most of us, if not all of us, do not look like girls and women in the mainstream media.

I had body image issues my whole life and made myself sick trying to be someone I couldn't be. Some girls and women who pose, perform and perpetuate the unrealistic images in the media are also suffering from eating problems and body distortion. Make-up, airbrushing and thousands of dollars worth of clothes contribute to unrealistic images of girls and women.

Billions of dollars are made by big corporations while girls and women become sick and obsessed with dieting, clothes and more. Focusing on eating can also be a way of saying something is terribly wrong.

Some youth focus on food as a way to survive. Did you know that many people with eating problems were abused or dealing with other difficult situations?

I also want LGBT youth to know that this is a space and place for you too. Youth Out Loud is definitely in your corner.

We need to speak out about what is really going on in our world, and do all we can collectively and individually to end violence and bullying. We need break down the negative things we have been taught about people born into various races, classes, sexualities and abilities. We might also learn how to celebrate who we are and our differences: fat, skinny, African Canadian, Black, South Asian, Indian, Aboriginal, Japanese, Chinese, immigrant, differently-abled, funky, freaky, wacky...all of it, all of us! We need to embrace ourselves as fully functional, thinking, feeling, amazing, smart and capable beings. Young people are all this and more.

Anything is possible.

I want Youth Out Loud to be a stepping stone for change, individual and societal. Ideas, art, outreach, passion, politics and activism are all important to Youth Out Loud, and in particular, our desire to raise awareness about violence and sexual abuse.

I want young people to feel safe to explore and challenge each other and the world around race issues, homophobia, gender and many social issues.

Youth Out Loud will also be very open to trying new things that you may want to bring to us. There are no limits to what can be created or accomplished.

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I am happy to put your work on the site. It can be anonymous or not anonymous, whatever you feel comfortable with. So...send me a note, write to the address, get involved! Be loud, proud and active!