Who We Are
Bethany M. “bee” Coston is an activist-scholar and currently Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Most of their work is on LGBTQIA+ identities, lives, relationships, and healing from trauma and violence. bee’s work has been featured in various journals and book anthologies, and for the 2017-2018 year they were a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grantee.
Ris Rodina is a VCU undergraduate student in the department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a Certificate in Sustainability. Their work focuses on complex trauma related to trans and/or non-binary identities; specifically, the importance of healing through nature, spirituality, community care, and power as interwoven through self, relationships, and society.
Sara Barton is the Learning Garden Coordinator for the VCU Office of Sustainability. In her Master of Public Health studies, Sara explored the intersection of food justice and community health. She then went on to farm organically, growing vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers. Sara combines these experiences to nurture and support the mission of the VCU gardens: to grow fresh produce for those without reliable access to it, and to provide educational opportunities around topics of food and community. She joined VCU in April 2017.
What We’re Doing
This summer, in collaboration with Side by Side, a local LGBTQIA+ youth services organization, we are offering programming that focuses on the healing potential of gardening and peer connection. Every other Monday from June 3 to August 12, youth and emerging adults (ages 14-25) from the organization will participate in gardening activities in VCU’s Monroe Park Learning Gardens (1218 Parkwood Ave, Richmond, VA 23220), share dinner together, and engage in activities that broaden their skills and sharpen the tools in their toolkits (metaphorically speaking), such as yoga/mindfulness and foraging/medicinal properties of plants.
We will ask the youth for the feedback on all the programming to inform future effort and sustained collaboration. If you know of any LGBTQIA+ youth and emerging adults in Richmond who might be interested, have them contact firstname.lastname@example.org (bee coston, PI). If you are the interested young adult, you can also fill out these consent and waiver forms and join us every other Monday starting June 3!
Why We’re Doing It
CW: Violence, trauma, mental health, suicide
Violence and trauma are issues that disproportionately affect LGBTQIA+ youth and emerging adults. Specifically, LGBTQIA+ youth are significantly more likely to experience interpersonal violence (such as dating violence, familial rejection) and structural violence (such as hate violence, loss of job, and exclusion from housing) than cisgender heterosexual youth.
The results of this exposure to trauma are varied, but we know that one of the biggest impacts is to LGBTQIA+ youth’s mental health. For instance, LGBTQIA+ youth are more likely to report post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology, anxiety, depression, suicidality, and substance use (alcohol, smoking, other drugs). LGBTQIA+ youth are also generally less likely to seek out or have access to traditional forms of mental and medical health care, such as counseling services, due to high rates of homelessness (familial rejection), poverty, and lack of insurance. Fear of discrimination from health care providers—especially counselors, who very well could legally recommend conversion therapy to minors—is also reported among youth.
A majority of the research on trauma, mental health, and access to date has focused on increasing cultural competency within traditional health care practices, in order to increase utilization rates among LGBTQIA+ youth. However, we must think outside the box when we envision LGBTQIA+ post-traumatic healing and resilience. This programming project proposes a new type of mind/body integrative health care practice that aligns the literatures on the peer advocacy model of integrative mental health care and nature-based therapeutic modalities.
Bi-Weekly Schedule & Details
Click this link to visit our shared Google Folder with detailed information on the bi-weekly events listed below.
Location: 1218 Parkwood Ave, Richmond, VA 23220
JUNE 17: FULL MOON DRUM CIRCLE
JULY 1: MINDFULNESS AND/OR PLANTING YOUR OWN HERBS FOR HOME
JULY 15: CREATIVE WRITING
JULY 29: FORAGING & MEDICINAL PLANTS
AUGUST 12: BEAUTIFICATION OF SIDE BY SIDE