Category Archives: Youth Empowerment

Am I really an Author?

I am still afraid to call myself an author…why?

Since self-publishing my book last October I have slowly allowed my excitement and passion to fizzle. Because PROUD did not immediately and without massive effort take off, I silently called myself a failure. Because people questioned my target audience saying “you can’t be a best selling author ONLY targeting queer youth,” I believed them and stopped really trying. Why?

Watch this video – it struck a cord with me and had me in tears.  I’d love your thoughts, ideas and any solutions you’ve found that work. I know this my next area of personal growth.




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Filed under Lessons Learned, Youth Empowerment

Tying it Together

photo-on-12-2-12-at-11-57-am-2 Thank you South Florida Gay News (SFGN) for the wonderful 2 page article: chronicling my childhood up until my current work at SunServe, Drag it OUT and the release of my newest book PROUD emPOWERment for LGBTQA Youth. If you have not read the SFGN article yet check it out here.

This is the first time I have openly talked to press about my upbringing, feelings of suicide, bullying and the internal conflict I went through in my teenage years. The entire process has really been so personally powerful, in a two fold way. In some ways it was healing to talk openly, get it out there and share it with the world in a big way. On the other hand it was really scary and has  brought it all back up again for me to look at.

The last few days I have been going through a lot of deep emotional feelings, waves of sadness, frustration, anger and depression. I find I’ve been rough on myself; judging myself for not being strong enough. I feel my purpose here is to inspire others to overcome these feelings and here I am stuck inside them again myself. As I’ve been going through this, I have not written anything for the blog, worked on promoting my book or anything else. I have been taking each day as it comes and really asking the universe to show me what i need to learn here. Then it hit me….

I subscribe to The Daily Love and a few other personal growth blogs… today the email from The Daily Love really hit hard and woke something up inside me.

Todays blog is called If you want to be seen – SHOW yourself! :o) in the article Mastin talks about experiencing great sadness recently, and not understanding the reasons behind it. Through quiet introspection he realized his sadness was feelings coming up from the past, feelings of being invisible, unseen and unheard. Some of the memories where he was most sad had to do with a time in his life when things were really rough, drug use etc. He was hoping inside that his parents would know he was in trouble and come to help him, but he never told them about what was going on, never shared his pain. So all while he was suffering in silence, internally screaming for help. Right now, something in his life triggered these feelings to resurface and he had to deal with them again.

How often do we do this? Suffer silently, wishing someone would come to our rescue.

I realized after reading his blog, and reflecting on the childhood stories I shared with SFGN – all through high school and even into college I suffered. I had deep pain, internal confusion, self-hate and feelings of abandonment…but I talked to nobody about it. I shared with nobody what I was going through, and I was so hurt when nobody came to my rescue. For awhile I blamed others, I was angry – because as many of you know, being angry is easier than being sad. When you’re sad, you’re vulnerable…when your angry, you put the walls up and keep people out, which is what we sometimes perceive as a safer option.

Looking back I wish I had reached out, I wish I had looked for an LGBTQ Community Center, a Inclusive Church, a Therapist who was Affirming. I wish I had the courage to be really open and honest with some of my friends and family to ask for help. As Mastin said, nobody can SEE YOU if you don’t SHOW YOURSELF.

Today I challenge you to SHOW YOURSELF, be honest, be open and TALK TO SOMEONE.

To find an LGBTQA Center or Affirming Counselor near you search at GLBT Near Me.

To talk to someone RIGHT NOW Call Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386

If you want a friend, I’m here for you as well – YOU’RE NEVER ALONE!


Mandi Hawke


Filed under Published Articles, Youth Empowerment

Giving back can SAVE your life!

Giving back to our commUNITY feels great but sometimes we don’t know what we could do that might make a difference!

I shared about some seriously amazing allies is last week’s article We all need commUNITY. They GAVE BACK in a big way – the value they gave to Drag it OUT and SunServe as youth serving organizations was PRICELESS and to them, it probably was not a huge weight. They donated what they were good at, with equipment they already had and gave us their time and passion. YOU can do that too. If you haven’t read that article yet – check it out!

Through much struggle I learned this valuable gem… My life is FAR RICHER by consistently giving selflessly to others. Volunteering helped me create my life as it is today and saved me from a deep and dark depression.

I regularly give back through volunteer time, donating unneeded items a few times a year and giving monetary donations to organizations who are really making a difference. Usually, a few dollars is more possible then we allow ourselves to believe – Did you enjoy that Starbucks coffee? Go out to eat with friends? New video game? YOU too could donate, at least a little bit.

I’m not the only person who believes in the power of giving back. Check out some of these famous quotes:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” ~ Muhammad Ali

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” ~ Zig Ziglar

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” ~ Albert Einstein

Speaking of Giving Back…some of you already gave up your Starbucks Coffee to make sure PROUD emPOWERment for LGBTQA Youth got published and I want to THANK YOU!!!!!!  With the money raised from the Indiegogo campaign a few months ago I was able to complete the graphic design, business cards, website, book editing, proofing and purchase the first batch of books to be donated.

Many copies of PROUD emPOWERment have been donated to both organizations and individual youth involved with:

  • SunServe Youth Group
  • Drag it OUT Inc.
  • University School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club
  • South Broward High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club
  • Plantation High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club
  • Pompano Beach High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club
  • Florida Atlantic University (FAU) LGBTQA Resource Center Library

As I have more speaking engagements scheduled during the year I always bring copies of the book. If a school, library or resource center is unable to purchase because of lack of funds, I provide them with a copy of the book. I am able to do this because of YOUR HELP! Thank you!

If you’re involved in a high school, university, non-profit youth organization or LGBT group and would like a copy of PROUD emPOWERment and the group workbook, but are unable to purchase please contact me here to request a free book. In your message please provide me with the best contact information and address to ship the book.

This is PROUD’s way of GIVING BACK!

What can YOU do with the talents you already have to GIVE BACK? I’m happy to help you brainstorm ideas, just comment below!

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Filed under Book Release, PROUD Workbook, Youth Empowerment

We all need commUNITY!

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.”
Marianne Williamson

As a follow-up to yesterday’s article Shame and the Dangers of SHOULD, I want to give some gratitude to the allies in our community. The power of a united commUNITY with a loving mission can truly transform the world.

The generally accepted statistic is that 10% of the population is LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). That is a very small percentage when it comes to shouting for equal rights. We need our straight allies who love, support and stand up WITH US! This recent election was a HUGE illustration of that. Marriage equality was won in 3 states, Maine, Maryland and Washington and Minnesota rejected a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. These were BOLD moves and it took more than 10% of people to vote this way; we couldn’t have done it without the support from our entire commUNITY!

There is a great shift in consciousness that is happening and it is SO EXCITING to be part of it! Last weekend I was privileged to work on a film project with youth from SunServe and Drag it OUT. The film crew that came out and donated their time, awesome equipment and passion to assist the creation of this project was a team of 5 amazing straight guys – WOW! The youth were so floored, they rarely get to witness such acceptance and celebration!

The film is a short PSA (Public Service Announcement) that speaks to LGBT youth who are struggling with their identity and have not yet connected to a commUNITY. The film begins with one youth all alone, walking down the street, she’s struggling a great deal and feels all alone, she begins to run, faster and faster – trying to get away from all her problems. Through creative editing we illustrate the internal chaos we all have sometimes. Inserting audio clips of disapproving politicians, religious leaders, even our own voice that says “you’re not good enough” or “you SHOULDN’T be this way.”  At the height of panic in this short clip the background begins to fill up in other young people, all sending love to the youth in crisis. The film ends with a friend that reaches out and touches the youth’s shoulder, letting her know – she’s not alone. Information is then shared about how to reach out and connect to resources in the community…. because we ALL need commUNITY in our lives.

Creating this PSA was way beyond exciting, it was downright exhilarating! Doing something that makes a difference for others feels great! I am excited to share the video below of the back scenes footage of the film – stay tuned for the FULL COMPLETED PSA!

How are YOU involved in your commUNITY?

To get connected check out and search for a youth group near you. You can also also join an online LGBT youth community at TrevorSpace.

Click the link to check out the “Behind the Scenes” of the Drag it OUT and SunServe PSA Filming

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Filed under Gratitude, Youth Empowerment

Shame and the Dangers of SHOULD!

For the last 6 months I’ve been struggling with a  internal “I should” conversation, we’ve all had those moments. “I really should start exercising,” “I really should eat better,” “I really should keep in better contact with my family.” These are things that we KNOW are the best thing for our body, mind, spirit etc. Our internal intuition is telling us “this is the best thing for you.”

How often do we actually do the  things that we say we “SHOULD” do? Be honest… rarely right? We just end up beating ourselves up, feeling bad for not doing it then giving ourselves a guilt trip.

This carries over into our sexuality as well as our gender identify.

As far as sexuality, we grow up in a very hetero-normative society (meaning being straight is taught as the “normal” thing to be). Often times when we realize when we’re attracted to the same sex instead of the opposite we begin the internal dialog of “we should be acting this way” “we should like this person.” We may be repeating what we’ve heard other people say we “should” do.

The same thing happens with gender identity and this can begin even younger than sexuality. We realize our gender identity (which is the internal sense of what gender we are inside) as early as 2-3 years old. We sometimes may gravitate towards what society deems as “male toys” or “female toys” depending on how we feel inside, which may not match our assigned sex at birth.  Often this worries parents and they will try to steer us one way or another. They are only repeating what they have been taught, “boys” play with “boy toys” and “girls” play with “girl toys.” Who decided this?

When we begin to feel that push of we “should” be doing something one way or another, whether it’s sexuality, gender identity, watching what we eat, exercising or doing our homework, let’s stop that voice in it’s tracks! When we say “we should” this causes us to feel bad and shameful. Listen to what your intuition says is best for you, if  it’s eating fruits and vegetables and cutting out junk food, and you’re ready to make that switch, frame your words in a positive way and feel the difference.

“I am excited to eat healthy! I am ready to take care of my body!”

This switches the conversation to a positive one which motivates you and makes you feel GREAT instead of shameful.

Make these decisions for yourself, if someone tells you that you “should” be something, or do something. Evaluate for yourself if you agree before taking on that shame. Only YOU know what’s best for YOU!

Now to share with you…The internal conversation that I’ve been having with myself about what I “should” do is “I should write a blog article every day.” I’ve been saying this to myself for over 6 months, and guess how many I’ve written? Just a few, this shameful conversation is the opposite of motivating. I JUST caught myself saying this the other day. What would be better to say is… I WANT TO write a blog article every day.

I acknowledge that it might be difficult, that I might fumble but my commitment is to get back up and push forward. I’m sharing with YOU to help hold me accountable!

My new affirmation is: “I am excited to write an article every day with the intention to touch, move and inspire young people and adults.”

Looking forward to sharing with you daily!





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Filed under Youth Empowerment