Moving the Needles
Published in

Moving the Needles

Fostering Understanding: How Prism is Redefining LGBTQ+ Youth Support

Uncovering my brother’s search for his identity

I can easily say that my younger brother, Fresh, is one of my closest friends. Despite the strong relationship we have, for him, the process of discovering his identity was complicated and lonely. I was completely unaware of this before I talked to him about why he and his friend, Tae, co-founded Prism Chat, a free platform for members of the LGBTQ+ community to find support while remaining anonymous.

“When you start questioning your identity, you might go online to seek support and reassurance. I used to go to Quora and Yahoo answers to find out more but you often feel alone when you don’t have anyone in your immediate circle to relate to. Places like Amino and Reddit don’t provide truly supportive environments and it can be difficult to foster any one-on-one connection. For LGBTQ+ youth, Grindr and Tinder are not options either.” — Fresh

Upon first glance, Prism looks simple. The modern and minimal website leads you to the bottom section which asks whether you want “someone to talk to” or “give [your] support” The concept is straightforward — Prism chat is a platform that allows you to sign up as a listener or a talker. After signing up, you can engage in conversations with others in the community while remaining anonymous.

Prism’s Homepage — A Warm Welcome to the Community

As I browse through the listeners’ directory, I couldn’t help but notice a refreshing energy that shines through from each person’s short biography. The community is young, and I can feel a sense of openness that blooms when your given name isn’t required as your identification. One bio says, “I am a listener for anyone who needs someone in their life who understands their struggles and validates their feelings. I am 16.” Isn’t that what we all need?

There is a liberty and freedom when you engage in a conversation with someone who has no information about your background, your family, or your history. You start from scratch, and so do they. You can choose how you want to paint yourself and how you want to engage in the conversation. Your self-expression, the agency and ability to paint yourself, matters and not many communities afford you this power. Prism fosters love and understanding that no matter who your physical body says you are, you ultimately have control of how you show up for others and who you want to be in this world. You don’t have to shy away from being you. You don’t have to conceal parts of yourself. You don’t have to stop when someone says you’re “too much”. There is no right or wrong way to exist in this community.

Prism has a large population of non-binary and trans people. The more marginalized the identity, the bigger their presence on Prism. This just shows how comfortable it is for people to express their identities. Dmitri, one of over 25,000 users on Prism, expresses his thoughts:

“What Prism brings to the table to this community is a gateway, a call to action for LGBTQ+ people. It’s a support system made by this community for this community. Prism has made me more confident in my identity than ever before because you meet so many people who you can just talk to and you come to realize ‘I know what you are feeling and I can feel that too’ and it feels validating to have someone say it and you know for certain they mean it too.”

Chris, a Prism user from Georgia, also echoes Dmitri’s sentiment. For him, Prism is a platform that “encourages others to engage in conversation all while listening to others.” The community, full of listeners who are empathetic and understanding, is what Chris and LGBTQ+ youth are looking for, especially in today’s situation where some are still under quarantine.

“I never knew that a platform like Prism would help me find actual close friends that are there to support me whenever I need it. That’s what surprised me the most about this platform.” — Chris

Looking back, I wish I was able to support my 13-year-old brother, to reassure him that he is loved and accepted regardless of his identity, that what he feels and how he feels is completely normal and okay. No one should ever feel unsafe or ashamed for who they are or who they are attracted to or who they love. Although we may never be able to fully understand someone’s identity, we shouldn’t stop accepting and supporting them. If we listen with an open mind and heart, like how the Prism community does, we can see that at the end of the day we are all simply humans. Beautiful in our own ways.

If this resonated with you in any way, please also consider donating to Prism. Your kind donation will help create a safe space for unsupported LGBTQ+ youth, which is even more necessary during COVID-19.

Fair (Prima) is currently working as a healthcare consultant, and she is committed to improving the health of communities through food, technology, and compassion. She loves trying out new recipes (especially Bon Appetit’s) and can be easily bribed with buttery popcorn.

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The Moving the Needles publication aims to illuminate undercovered changemakers in the world.

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