In 2015, Newsweek and ABC’s “20/20” exposed an ex-gay operation in Mobile, AL holding over 30 LGBTQ+ youth against their will in an effort to change them. Physical abuse, starvation, forced exercise, and solitary confinement were among the strategies employed by the faith-based boot camp. During that same year and not a mile down the same street, Open Table United Church of Christ set out to create a peer-support group for LGBTQ+ high-schoolers. Pulling together a team of community leaders, Open Table partnered with a Huntsville-based organization to provide bi-monthly, non-religious gatherings for LGBTQ+ teens in need of a loving community.
Over time, that support group unearthed broader issues facing LGBTQ+ youth in the area, underscoring the urgency for an adequate response. In 2018, with the continued support of Open Table, Corey Harvard and Justin Litaker created a nonprofit. By a vote, the teens who would benefit from its programs chose its name: Prism United.
Today, Prism offers its three core programs in Mobile: Prism Teens, Prism Preteens, and Prism Families, bringing support groups and referral services to LGBTQ+ youth and their families. Prism offers three annual standout events in the Port City: Prism Prom, The Jack O’ Lantern Jubilee, and The Wig Walk. In 2024, Prism will embark on its most ambitious project yet: launching a capital campaign to create an LGBTQ+ Youth Center in Mobile. The center will become a container for our programs and services and allow us to serve housing-insecure LGBTQ+ young people in the region.
In 2019, after many conversations with members of her community, Sarah Rutledge Fischer decided to create a program for LGBTQ+ youth in Fairhope, AL. To gauge interest, she announced her intention on Facebook. The response was overwhelming. She heard from parents who expressed hope for their children’s future. She heard from LGBTQ+ adults who said that finding support in their youth would have changed their lives. In a follow-up Facebook post, she wrote: “When we whisper about support for LGBTQ youth, we send conflicting messages. Our words communicate pride and acceptance, but our actions demonstrate fear and shame.”
In the following weeks, Sarah would join Prism United to launch Prism Teens in Fairhope. Shortly thereafter, COVID struck, and Prism pivoted to virtual programming, offering 16 facilitated zoom gatherings per month, made possible by the collaboration of Prism’s Mobile and Eastern Shore site.
In 2021, Sarah organized Color Fairhope With Pride (CFWP), the town’s first public Pride celebration. In its third year, the event drew over 600 participants, raising the volume of Fairhope’s support from a polite whisper to a mighty cheer.
Currently, Prism runs its Prism Teens and Prism Families programs on the Eastern Shore. CFWP takes place annually during the month of June.