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Identity

BBYO Chapters: A Safe Space for All

December 10, 2018
Yakirah Mitchel

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

As many of us have seen at summer programs, conventions, and other BBYO settings, the rainbow symbol with the words “this is a safe space” or “BBYO Safe Space” has become quite popular in our community. While many people are still learning about the LGBTQIA+ community, small gestures like these are beneficial and inclusive of our LGBTQIA+ BBGs and Alephs.

Living in a city with a Jewish population much smaller than its surrounding communities within my region, I recognized that when founding my chapter, the only option I had was to create a BBYO chapter, one with Alephs and BBGs. Within weeks of chartering, the rest of my region had already begun to pressure us with questions. Many people often ask me when my chapter is planning to split, about the logistics of having co-ed sleepovers, and about the difficulties of having events while hosting both members of multiple genders. Questions like these aren’t out of the ordinary and may seem like reasonable questions. However, working and acting as a co-ed chapter has provided us with so many more benefits than it has harmed us. The idea that we can only bond with those of the same sex is outdated.

Through engaging events like movie nights and dinners, and competing together at Michigan's Regional Convention, our chapter is much akin to a family.
My chapter, Hatmadah BBYO #126, has developed immensely since we first chartered. Becoming a much more tightly-knit group, Hatmadah has also grown considerably in terms of membership. Starting out as a small board two years ago, we now have a 10-person board with members from all different grades and genders. This combination of perspectives and ideas has certainly helped our chapter program better and work more cohesively, too. Being a BBYO chapter has played a huge role in our success and is something I never want to let go of, no matter how big we continue to get as time passes on. Handing this chapter down to our siblings is something the founders, and members of our chapters as a whole, are passionate about. We want the legacy of our chapter to live on.

Founding a BBYO chapter and acting as N’siah has shown me how well Alephs and BBGs can work together, and become close, despite any stereotypes put on us from the outside. I am so grateful for the opportunity to build this kind of chapter, and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Yakirah Mitchel is a BBG from Michigan Region. She is a founding member of her chapter and currently serves as its N'siah.

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