Exploring our own personal identities and histories is a complex and vulnerable experience. Denver Public Library and StoryCenter created a safe space for six older adults and six teenagers, all part of the LGBTQ+ community, to come together and do just that in Fall 2021.
During an intergenerational program, participants dove into writing prompts, wellness exercises, and art activities while forming bonds and friendships with one another. They explored their own personal stories while listening to those of other participants. At the end, they each completed a 2-4 minute digital film about their personal identities. Many participants are still in touch.
Denver Public Library and StoryCenter produced a Zine to share some participant stories. “D’s Story” is below and you can view the whole Zine here in PDF format. Keep scrolling to read a powerful testimony from one of the participants.
LinkAGES is proud to have funded and supported Unboxed.
Unboxed Participant Testimony
I just wanted to write to thank you for the program Unboxed: An Intergenerational Digital Storytelling Project for LGBTQ+ Teens and Older Adults. It was an extraordinary experience that I will never forget, especially now that I have a digital story I can share with my family and friends.
This program was special because we met six times and I was able to develop friendships that have lasted beyond the program. In addition to sharing our stories, we shared how we were doing and did wellness activities such as breathing, meditating, and journaling or drawing. One of the older adults, for example, fell down her stairs and seriously injured her back, yet she kept coming to the sessions. She said she really appreciated our support during a tough time. Another older adult had some difficulty with the technology, so we met together several times in person to work on our stories together. Now that the workshop is over, we check in with each other every week or so by phone or email and meet every now and then to catch up.
The extended program also helped me get to know the teen participants. I learned a lot from the young people. I realized that while they have access to the Internet and many more resources than I had as a queer teen, they still face prejudice and discrimination. They are coming out at a younger age and thus have to face homophobia and transphobia as early as grade school. I came to admire their courage and integrity. I wish there were more opportunities for LGBTQ+ older adults and teens to interact like we did in Unboxed. At one point, one of the teens said they appreciated seeing older adults who survived and thrived–it gave them hope for their own futures. I replied that it meant everything to us older adults to see resilient, thoughtful, compassionate young people who will lead us into the future.
I can’t say enough about the Denver Public Library staff and Story Center facilitators who guided us through the workshop. Jonny, Ngozi, Casey, and Holly made me feel safe to talk about past trauma and take the risk of being vulnerable in my creative work. We developed a creative community, discussing how to represent our struggles and joys as queer people. Jonny and Ngozi taught us how to use the technology and sharpen our storytelling techniques. Holly took us through several art projects that opened up my thinking and improved my project. Casey was an ever-present source of compassion and encouragement. When we shared our digital stories at the end of the program, I felt as much pride for others as I did for myself. I was moved to tears several times, remembering how intimidating it was for some of us to first share our stories. My triumph wasn’t so much about “I did it!” as it was about “we did it!”
I have been struggling with anxiety/depression during the pandemic and having this weekly meeting, along with the creative project to work on, gave me a sense of community and purpose. One of the older adults said it well–“this is helping my self-esteem!” I’m sure this Unboxed program took a great deal of planning and resources. I am grateful. Very grateful.
Thank you for all you are doing for older adults at Denver Public Library and for bringing us this amazing program.