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Coming in Clutch: Amidst anti-trans laws, Nampa club shows up for LGBTQ+ youth

Clutch Nampa
Julie Luchetta
Boise State Public Radio
Clutch Nampa

The word Clutch has a lot of different definitions: it can mean a fancy purse, the number of eggs in a nest or to hold something - or someone - tightly. It’s also the name of a club for queer kids looking for a safe place to hang out in the Treasure Valley.

Once a week, Clutch opens its doors to teens and young adults looking for a queer friendly space to hang out. As Idaho continues to advance anti-LGBTQ legislation, participants and volunteers at the LGBTQ+ youth club celebrated the group’s two year anniversary.

Clutch recently celebrated its two year anniversary with music, rainbow swag and a colorful cake.
Julie Luchetta
Boise State Public Radio
Clutch recently celebrated its two year anniversary with music, rainbow swag and a colorful cake.

Clutch sets up inside a small church each week in downtown Nampa and welcomes young people after school, ranging anywhere from 14 to 20 years old. One Thursday evening this spring, about a dozen teens chatted around tables, played cards, helped each other put make-up on while eating slices of a rainbow colored cake.

One participant, 18-year-old Rachel Lynn had just drawn a thick pointy cat eye on her lids and was wearing black lipstick.

“I'm going for something like, I don't know, emo, gothic type,” she said. “I just kind of want to be, like, dark and edgy.”

Some people in her life have been struggling with her transition. Rachel discovered Clutch a few weeks ago after being kicked out by her family. She said she walked outside for a while and chanced upon the group.

The staff welcomed her and helped her reach out to housing services. She’s been trying to get back on her feet ever since and coming back to the group regularly for support. Clutch is one of the few places she said she can kick back and have some fun.

“It takes a huge weight off your shoulders to not always have to be thinking about what people might think of you, because everyone in the room accepts you and understands,” Rachel said.

Each week, Clutch organizes activities and outings, like a workshop to learn how to 3D print or scavenger hunts around the neighborhood. One time, a lizard guy came and showed them a bunch of lizards. Karaoke night seems to be everyone’s favorite.

Mindy OldenKamp and her wife started Clutch two years ago because when they were growing up in Nampa, they didn’t know where to find community.

“Thirty years ago, it just wasn't as safe,” she said. There wasn't a group that we could go to where there were other people that we knew we shared things with, like our sexuality, our gender, our fluidity, our very selves.”

A 2019 study from the Trevor Project shows that young LGBTQ+ people with accepting adults in their lives are less likely to attempt suicide. Research from theSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services also shows gay, lesbian and bisexual people face higher instances of mental health and substance use struggle, because of the stress related to stigma, discrimination and harassment.

So having a place where people are being accepted as they are can make a bug impact, Oldenkamp said.

“We really just wanted to show the kids in Nampa that there are people who love them just as they are, and there's a place for them just as they are,” she added.

For the last several years, Republican lawmakers in the state have pushed several pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation. Last year, Gov. Brad Little signed into law a bill prohibiting students from using the bathrooms of their preferred gender, currently under injunction. Idaho also banned doctors from providing gender affirming care to minors.

Clutch attendee 18-year-old Marshall is a senior at Nampa High School. His family has been supportive of him figuring out his gender identity, but not everyone understands what it’s like to be transgender.

“It's difficult to try and explain gender dysphoria to someone who has never felt it before. Being in a body, you do not see yourself as,” he said.

This spring, the governor signed a law protecting teachers who do not want to use students’ preferred pronouns. The state is also currentlysuing the federal government for its revamping of Title IX which now prohibits discrimination in Education against LGBTQ+ students and employees.

It's sad that we're going backwards at this point with these sorts of laws going into place” Marshall said. “It’s infuriating. I feel like I can't do anything because I'm just one person against politicians who have all the power.”

Last June, the Nampa School Board also prohibited gender or sexual identity from being taught or discussed in schools in the district. That week, Pride Director Scott Mocaby and the other Clutch volunteers stood ready to show support.

“It was kind of like a somber night for our kids,” he said describing the mood at Clutch. “We made sure to bring extra light and positivity that day.”

Mocaby said that week highlighted how important the Clutch space is for queer kids.

Julie Luchetta
Boise State Public Radio

He said at Clutch, they can always expect something to eat, a smile, a game or anything to keep their minds off what is happening in the world.

“It can be scary,” he added and Clutch offers a place free of fear or judgment.

He hopes Clutch can also help others understand what it’s like to be LGBTQ.

“We’re just like everybody else. We're not trying to force an agenda on anybody. We're just trying to exist just like them,” Mocaby added.

Marshall agreed, saying while he can’t always be himself at school or in the outside world, but here, he gets to experience and see a lot of queer joy.

“It's really nice just not having to hide anything. It’s very freeing,” he said. “Seeing things like clutch pop up makes me really happy. And it does make me feel hopeful that we can change things if we all stick together.”

Clutch has steadily grown since it first launched a couple of years ago. As kids continue to show up each week, the team hopes more community members will volunteer to make them feel welcomed and loved.

I joined Boise State Public Radio in 2022 as the Canyon County reporter through Report for America, to report on the growing Latino community in Idaho. I am very invested in listening to people’s different perspectives and I am very grateful to those who are willing to share their stories with me. It’s a privilege and I do not take it for granted.

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