We had the good fortune of connecting with tara jae and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi tara, can you tell us about an impactful book you’ve read and why you liked it or what impact it had on you?
The latest book that I’ve read is George Johnsons, All Boys Aren’t Blue. This is a fairly new book that focuses on their journey of being Black and queer. As a Black, queer non-binary person, it is not often that books come out and represent a journey that is close to my own or any other Black queer individual. The ability to experience through reading someone else’s journey, that roller coaster of emotions comes out as this book hit so close to home. Growing up, the only book I had and I kept it close was Stone Butch Blue’s by Leslie Feinberg. The nuances of identity are complex, the struggle to thrive in a society that others you is not one that is kind or gentle. Both of these books were scenes into the unknown for most, but for me was a mirror that would reflect who I was and could be.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
From the outside, mental health is not a profession that produces creativity. As my first love was in the arts as an artist and curator, I have made it a part of my practice to infuse creativity within my mental health work. In order for me to continue to have passion in how I work in the community, I need to look at mental health as more then a state of well-being. For me as a Black, queer, non-binary practitioner, it is sometimes difficult to prioritize my well-being as my focus is usually with those that I’m working with. To run an organization that concentrates on QTBIPoC mental health, it is important to think outside of the box, to decolonize what therapy has become and meet folx where they are. Not everyone in our community has access to talk therapy and because of this we need to show up in the ways that community members can receive. The challenges around this are how often we are told how to heal. That those who are outside of our community know better than the individuals who are experiencing the injustices. It is from those challenging moments, that we keep pushing forward as the need is still there to provide spaces that are by us and for us.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
As the Executive Director of Youth Seen, I have the privilege of working with some amazing people. The ones that stand in the forefront are Alex Vaughn. This person came into my life at a moment that we both needed each other to shine a light in some of the darkest places. We have taken a journey together to understand what it means to fully live as ourselves. Kim Salvaggio who is Alex’s partner has been a voice of reason when nothing makes sense. As a mostly grounded person, there are times when I need someone to just tell me to stop. With a smile on her face and joke to follow she has been someone to hear me when my voice doesn’t speak as loudly. My staff at YouthSeen. As they have all come in at different points to evolve the organization even more, they have all played a part in my growth and exploration as a leader in the community.