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Misty Porter poses in front of one of their favorite games available to play at the board game meetups for LGBTQIA+ youth on Sept. 28, 2022, in Athens, Ohio.

Athens couple hosts bi-weekly LGBTQIA+ youth game meet-ups

Every other Wednesday, Ash Dasuqi and their partner, Misty Porter, host board game meet-ups for LGBTQIA+ youth in the Athens area. 

Dasuqi started these meet-ups with Porter, when someone reached out to them, expressing a need for more LGBTQIA+ youth-related activities.

“The first year of the pandemic I just kept having a lot of folks emailing or texting or asking me about what kind of organizing events were available or around locally for trans youth,” Dasuqi said.

The meet-ups are held at Sojourners Resilience Center every other Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. for ages 12 to 24.

Dasuqi and Porter started the game nights in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and said board games were a way to avoid a spread of the disease since there would only be a small group per game.

“Board gaming is small-group based, we can just require masks and have people be isolated to various tables, playing a game with just a few people,” Dasuqi said. “And ultimately leave it up to the youth and their families on whether or not it was better for their mental health to have some good community and be around affirming adults and affirming youth, like peers that are also queer or trans or at least just there because they consider themselves allies.”

Dasuqi and Porter obtained the games they use through donations and see a variety of kids come through to play.

“Some of the kids are more into board games than other kids, some kids just come to hang out, and so it sort of depends on the group that comes,” Porter said. “My favorite is when the kids that are really into board games come because they'll just like come and grab a stack of games and start setting them up and being like, ‘OK, this is what we're playing today.’”

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Games are displayed on a rack for LGBTQIA and Trans youth during board game meetups at Sojourners Resilience Center in Athens, Ohio on Sept. 28, 2022.

Porter said working with LGBTQIA+ youth has been inspiring for them.

“They're all wonderful humans,” Porter said. “I feel like we created this to have a space for the youth to be fully themselves, but there's something so inspiring about that, that I feel like at the end of the day … we end up being really uplifted by it.”

Other workers at Sojourners help with the game meet-ups, like Ward Bryson, the youth activities coordinator for Sojourners. 

“I personally am a very queer person … it's really great to see these kids like really being themselves in a way that I could never when I was their age,” Bryson said.

Dasuqi and Porter also run an Instagram page and YouTube channel called "Queer Table Tops" where they share content about board games. Dasuqi said they found a love for board games at a young age, leading to a life surrounded by them.

“I remember when I was a kid just begging my parents to play a board game with me,” Dasuqi said. “My brain really likes to strategize and think really hard, but in a way that's inconsequential … I have to give it my best shot, but ultimately the pressure is not there.”

Both Dasuqi and Porter grew up as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and lack a safe space to explore their identities, leading them to create this space for kids just like them.

“I am trans and queer; and when I grew up, I didn't personally have other folks I knew or affirming parents,” Dasuqi said. “And a lot of people have it even far worse than I did … being a teenager and figuring out your gender more definitively and realizing that maybe your sexuality isn't what your family of origin wants it to be or something like that, it's just really isolating.”

Dasuqi and Porter said they hope to see more kids come to the meet-ups in the future and help facilitate a community for those who identify and LGBTQIA+ in Athens.

“I just want LGBTQ youth to know that there is a place in this world for them,” Porter said. “There are people who will love them even more for being the most themselves they can be. That embracing those things helps you find the people that are going to enjoy you in that way.”

mm294318@ohio.edu 

@mayacatemorita 



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