By Brent Paxton

Melanie Pruit is a facilitator for Youth First Texas’s gender identity small discussion groups. She also hosts Youth First Texas’ open-mic night two Saturdays a month. 

1 What do you do for Youth First Texas?
I’m one of the facilitators of the Gender Identity small discussion group, which meets twice a month. Although the focus is primarily on matters that deal with gender, participation in the group is not limited to youth who necessarily identify as "trans." I also host an open-mic two Saturdays a month, which is not limited to open-mic poetry, but also includes anyone who wants to sing, play music, or perform part of a play.

2 Are there any students that you’ve grown attached to?
Absolutely! They’re like my own children and many of them call me Aunt Melanie. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was award one of the youth the appreciation book. That’s a weekly ritual that was just started this year. One person (youth or volunteer) writes a page appreciating someone else in the group, and reads it aloud. The recipient then must do the same for someone else in the group the next week.

3 How has YFT changed you?
YFT has brought back to life a part of me I thought I’d buried a long time ago. It has made me more socially conscious. This summer I worked on a grant with Judith Dumont, the director of administration. The amount of information I was exposed to boggled my mind. Today’s LGBT youth are so under-served, to put it mildly. In fact, it’s because of my involvement with YFT that I decided to minor in human rights education at SMU. I keep reminding the youth that gay rights are human rights.

4 What are your hopes for the future?
Short term? To never have to refer to Sarah Palin as Madame President.

5 Are you optimistic?
Actually, I’m quite optimistic. My life has been an amazing journey. I have been quite fortunate to find so much love and support along the way. I wish everyone could see the miracle of life as it has unfolded for me. When things get tough, I believe in a brief time-out for a pity party; then I move on. I really am one of those, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade" kinds of people. Yeah, the Nike slogan, "Just Do it," is like heaven to me. Being proactive really does make a difference. I wish more people understood. I am optimistic that I can help spread that message through my work at YFT.

Soundout is a weekly column featuring people whose jobs and interests have an impact on the daily lives of members of the LGBT community. It features those who often go unnoticed by the press and community. If you’d like to recommend someone to cover in this column,

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 31, 2008.
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