Life–Saving, Torture–Ending, Rock–Star Faith

By Annie Gonzalez Milliken

UU Young Adult Tells United Nations: Stop Torture of Queer Youth

Samantha Ames is a total rock star.

Not a literal rock star. I’ve never seen her play an instrument and performance is not her jam. But Sam is the kind of person who you meet and are instantly impressed by, the kind of person you want to be around, the kind of person you’re just plain proud to know.

I met Sam a year ago, at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland. She’s one of those fun loving, friendly and laid back people who also happens to be a civil rights lawyer with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a participant in the AIDS Life Cycle, a Board member at the church, and oh, you know, she just turned 28. Like I said – a rock star.

Right now this rock star is in Geneva, Switzerland to bring the issue of conversion therapy to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. You can read about it in this op-ed Sam wrote, published in the Advocate. You can also read about their delegation here in theWashington Times. I encourage you to read it and to support their work because it is vital and life saving. Sam has been working on the #BornPerfect campaign for months now and already they have made huge gains and gotten lots of important press coverage that is going a long way to stop the cruel and inhumane treatment of queer youth that is still legal in 48 states.

To know that Sam is out there doing this life-saving work on an international level makes me proud, because I consider her a friend. But it makes me even prouder to know that our faith helped shape her into the rock star she is today; to know that Unitarian Universalist communities continue to hold her up and take care of her when the going gets rough.

Sam grew up attending youth camps at Camp de Benneville Pines and learned the value of loving UU community at an early age. When I interviewed her, along with several other UU young adults to write a Spotlight Series piece on the UU young adults of Oakland she credited the UU young adult group with keeping her grounded, saying “This young adult community has been the one stable thing in my life this past year, it has been my family, it has been responsible for me maintaining a moral center while being a lawyer and keeping my feet on the ground.”

UU youth ministry matters. UU young adult ministry matters. It mattered deeply to Samantha Ames, and though she is exceptional she is not an anomaly. Not everyone is going to fly across the globe to lobby the UN about torture. But we UU young adults are fighting good fights all over this world. We are taking the values we learned in our UU youth communities, we are receiving support and love from our UU people, and sometimes that love is life saving to us and sometimes it empowers us to save the lives of others. So let’s keep it up and keep doing it even better. Let’s keep creating the kind of communities that nurture and support young people who are transforming the world in big and small ways. Let’s keep on being a rock star, life saving kind of faith. Our world so desperately needs us.

Note on 11/12/14: Sam's trip to Geneva was a success! The United Nations questioned the U.S. State Department on the practice of "ex-gay" conversion therapy asking why it is allowed to continue within the United States. This is the first time the UN has pressed the U.S. on this issue. Read more in this article on The Bilerico Project or in this coverage on MSNBC. Go Sam!
Note on 11/18/14: Sam also wrote this op-ed, also in the Advocatethat summarizes the trip to Geneva and the gains made there
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Samantha Ames.
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UU young adults of Oakland in May 2014.