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Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath joined Seacoast Outright. [Photo by Cheryl Senter]

Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath joined Seacoast Outright. [Photo by Cheryl Senter]

‘Our kids need to see you’

Q&A with Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath, executive director of Seacoast Outright.

Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath joined Seacoast Outright as executive director last fall. The 30-year-old service and advocacy nonprofit also organizes Portsmouth Pride. The Foundation supports Seacoast outright and is a sponsor of Portsmouth Pride. Rev. Heath spoke with the Foundation’s Lois Shea.


LS: Why is Seacoast Outright the next important chapter in your life’s work?

I have been involved in the movement for LGBTQ+ equality for more than 20 years. This is really the work of my heart: To help create a New Hampshire where all of our LGBTQ+ youth can not just survive, but can thrive.

LS: What are some of the things you are working on?

Seacoast Outright has been functioning increasingly as a resource hub for the entire state. We are in conversation with people who are interested in opening Outright chapters. We are working to transform mental health care and access for LGBTQ+ youth, so that every kid who needs it has access to a provider who is competent in the needs of our population. We are training businesses, hospitals and community organizations. We think of our work in a series of circles, and the kids are at the heartbeat of it all.

LS: After years of progress, the past couple years have brought many challenges. Tell us about practicing the “discipline of hope.”

The moment we are in is hard and it is also particularly urgent. We have had legislation filed that is profoundly damaging in particular to transgender youth. But this moment is not the whole story, and we are not in this moment alone. There is a whole community of people working incredibly hard for good. Joan Baez said ‘action is the antidote to despair.’ When we feel our hope is waning, one way to live into that moment is to act. Write to your legislators, volunteer, donate money to the causes you care about. We need each other in this work. As activist Mariame Kaba has said, ‘hope is a discipline.’ It is a thing you have to practice. The moment is hard, but the arc is long. There is so much reason to hope.

LS: What effect have you seen on young people of the proposed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and challenges to books around the country?

Violent and dehumanizing rhetoric has a very real cost. It isn’t always about ‘does the bill pass or does the bill not pass.’ Listening to your personhood being debated comes at a cost, and sometimes that cost is a young person’s life. We have lost young people to suicide, and the climate this has created is a contributing factor.

LS: What are some ways that people, businesses and organizations can show support for LGBTQ+ young people?

Speak up and speak out. Our kids need to see you and hear you and know you’re on their team. If you are an ally, be loud about it. Now is not the time to be timid. And using the correct pronouns is suicide prevention. It is such an easy and important way to show you see and understand.

LS: What message do you want every LGBTQ+ young person to hear and internalize?

You are so profoundly loved exactly as you are. There is not a thing wrong with you, and there are so many people ready to embrace and care for and support you. And we will not stop working for a world were you can live and thrive and be exactly who you are.