Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager

Winter Page is a dancer, a published novelist, and an outspoken ally for the LGBT community – and she’s not yet sixteen years old.

When she was 14, Winter met a dance instructor who was transitioning from female to male. The instructor made a video diary about his transition and when someone asked his advice on coming out, Winter remembers him saying, “Be safe about it. Don’t do it in a way that’s going to get you hurt or killed or your friends are going to beat you up, or you’re going to be evicted.”

“That stopped me cold,” Winter recalls, “I got sick to my stomach. I couldn’t imagine being so terrified of loving someone that I had to worry about my parents or someone else ending my life. I said ‘okay, no more.’ I can’t consciously let this go on around me.”

The daughter of a writer and an aspiring novelist in her own right, Winter channeled her feelings into her first published novel, Breaking Free, which tells the story of two LGBT high schoolers facing homophobia and transphobia.

Since then, Winter has become known in her school and Texas community as an ally to LGBTQ youth.

“People assume that every group who is being discriminated against is going to be their own advocates,” she said. “But here I am, I’m the straight cheerleader, who went to church twice a week and made the honor roll. When I spoke up for LGBT youth, people listened to me in a way they weren’t listening to my LGBT peers.”

In her role as an HRC Youth Ambassador, Winter hopes to bring attention to issues like LGBTQ youth homelessness, and the need for GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) in schools.

“Homelessness is a huge threat and no one really talks about it,” she said, recalling her dance instructor’s advice about waiting to come out until you’re safe. “Sometimes we’re so focused on the idea that ‘it gets better’ that we don’t talk about the practicality of it.”

Winter is looking forward to meeting educators and other youth-serving professionals at HRC’s upcoming Time to THRIVE conference, and encouraging them to become allies to LGBTQ youth. “We can’t stand by and let people be treated this way.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Youth Well-Being Project will be featuring this year’s Youth Ambassadors in a series of blog posts. These amazing young people were invited to participate in the 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 will represent the HRC Foundation and help to raise awareness about its youth-focused programs to a wider audience, and add their voices and experiences to many of the Foundation's programs, including All Children, All Families, Welcoming Schools, Youth and Campus Engagement, and the annual Time to THRIVE conference.

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