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Profile: Yadi Martinez of Out of the Box Youth


Yadi Martinez is a bilingual Latinx gender non-conforming artist born and raised in South Texas, and serves as a LGBTQIA Unconscious Bias Awareness Facilitator with 10 years of experience working with young people in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metropolitan area. Their work includes using the arts and networking skills to create community events, safe spaces, and leading empowering trips for young people.They are the founder of The Youth Advocates and Out of the Box Youth, which is lead by a group of friends with the overall goal to empower young people to be successful.

1. How would you describe your spiritual or philosophical perspective?

I believe a healthy spiritual perspective is one that can question tradition, accept human complexity and diversity.  My spirituality is messy and imperfect. I focus on God’s grace and unconditional love for me and others, regardless of what we have done or will do.  I have a strong emphasis on social justice, to care for the poor, the oppressed, and the misfits just like me. I believe in Jesus Christ, with a deep belief that his teachings centered around love, justice, mercy and tolerance and compassion.

2. How has your spiritual or philosophical perspective evolved over time? What kinds of opportunities and challenges have shaped your perspective?

To truly believe that there is absolutely nothing that can separate me from the love of God, and that is mind blowing. I was raised to believe God was mean, Jesus was our big brother who protected us from God, and the Holy Spirit tried all day long to keep us from getting in trouble. The idea that God gave us free will and God's unconditional love was hard for me to comprehend. I was raised in ministry as a missionary from a young age in a conservative, fundamentalist Pentecostal Congregation. I had a set of rules, and a bar so high regarding morality that I could never measure up to.

In 2004, I met a Priest who is gay and he was very patient as I questioned everything. I learned from him and others about what it meant to be a progressive Christian. I evolved spiritually when I was able to dissect Christianity and not just memorize Biblical facts and absolutes.

3. How do you see your work (vocation, calling, advocacy, role, etc) in the world? How does your spiritual or philosophical perspective relate to your work? 

I believe that I was called to serve young people and those marginalized. Young people learn very early who they can trust and who they cannot count on. Some teens have a good life, but without the skills to learn to deal with life’s challenges, they might find themselves alone, even when surrounded by people who love them. Some of those teens with a “good quiet life” might be closeted and therefore feel alone. Others learn very early in life what it means to be rejected, thrown out for being LGBTQI, abused in many ways by parents, family members, society and the government.  Some teens learn about the system of foster care, juvenile detention centers, homelessness and lack of resources at a very early age. Most young people will face bullying, oppression, and hate.  

Most adults have a hard time understanding young people. Some of these teens have had to learn to protect themselves by mistrusting and pushing everyone away. Teaching a young person who has learned nothing but mistrust, hate, abuse, and anger that God loves them is not always easy. My spiritual perspective that there is nothing one can do to deserve, or lose God’s love. I don't preach to teens; I show them what God's love looks like.  I speak to them with the truth, even if it is uncomfortable.

I sometimes share my past mistakes, and I am honest about my own struggles with depression. I feel that by truly being honest I can also show them hope. I show young people unconditional love, and then tell them that “If a person as flawless, poor, and crazy as me loves them, just to imagine how God feels about them!” It is not easy to gain a young person’s trust and respect. But I believe that all I have to do is show up and listen to them. I advocate with them and for them to maintain dignity, fight for their human right to live healthy and self sufficient lives.

4. When do you feel the most vibrant and alive? What resources or practices do you draw on to nurture your own resilience?

I am more vibrant and alive when working with young people.  I teach young people that dependency is not cute. I relate to them, understand their fears and hurt, then I lead them towards becoming survivors NOT victims.  To see a young person "get it" and move past the state of victimization is imperative. Bad things happen in our lives. It's not a matter of “if it will happen.” It's a matter of “when it happens, we're ready”. Young people need to know that life does not get any better until they learn to deal with disappointment and challenge oppression.  

To be a good youth advocate, I network and try to educate myself as much as I can in many subjects. I have a binder that I add to it when I meet someone that might be able to help a young person someday. I have a group of friends who help me with research, making calls, or finding help for a young person depending on the situation.  This is something we need to work together and not apart, there is so much to do.

5. What kinds of issues or concerns do you think need more attention in the world?

Young people who are homeless, depressed, alone and forgotten are hardly seen. They do their best to show up in schools, church and walk among us like normal healthy people. But the reality is they are listening to everything we do and say. Many places have space for children, or adults older than 21 but most people forget about the teens from ages 13-18.  Where do these teens go to get safe sex information? Where do these teens go after they are kicked out of the foster care system? Many young people from the ages 13-21 are abused and exploited, even by our own LGBTQIA community. These teens learn about a culture that values them only if they are smart, handsome, pretty and exploitable.

When we think of the concerns that adults have, such as dealing with racism, lack of resources, harassment, and abuse, we must have realized the magnitude and impact they have on a young person. We need more safe spaces and support for our young people.

Read More:

A Modern Psalm for Those Who Care

Talking with Youth about Orlando

Yadi Martinez on Ministry with Gender Nonconforming Youth

Holding On to Love and Mercy

More from their blogging at Patheos (Progressive Youth Ministry).

Relevant Websites:

Yadi is a certified facilitator in the Our Whole Lives (OWL) curriculum, which provides comprehensive sexuality education for young people.

Yadi volunteers as director of the youth ministry at New Church – Chiesa Nuova UCC (also on Facebook) in Dallas, Texas.


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