Our People: Q&A with Amy Glaser

Youth Activist, Entertainer

As executive director and co-founder of Insideout180, a Durham, N.C.-area LGBTQ youth outreach network encompassing the programs iNSIDEoUT, UPSIDEDOWN and The Cypher, Amy Glaser has dedicated herself to enriching the lives of young people — or rather, helping them access the resources they need to enrich their own.

Amy Glaser / Dr. Fruit

When she describes herself as having “worked with LGBTIQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, asexual and allied)” youth since 2004, her choice to expand the more common “LGBT” acronym and define the expanded version speak to her fundamental belief in young people’s right to self-determination, the incontestable validity of their identities. It’s that respect for the humanity of youth that’s inspired her to guide, rather than to manage, iNSIDEoUT as a hub of collaboration among school Gay-/Queer-Straight Alliance groups in the North Carolina Triangle. In 2009 she was instrumental in establishing Outside In, a 501(c)(3) organization run by adults to provide legal, logistical and material support to the teen-led project. 2011 saw the birth of  UPSIDEDOWN, a new group serving younger members of the community. The first meeting of The Cypher, a creative music-focused support group for queer and trans youth of color, was held on March 10.

Meanwhile, West Virginia native and University of Wisconsin – Madison philosophy graduate Glaser is weeks away from graduating with a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Youth and Childhood Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her dissertation delves into philosophical issues of “youth liberation,” which she believes “holds awesome potential for social transformation.”

(Speaking of transformation: Glaser can sometimes be found answering to the name of Dr. Fruit, an offbeat entertainer who “write[s] and sing[s] fun, socially conscious kids’ music that respects young people’s intelligence” and authored the book “Snoredecai,” about Glaser/Fruit’s real-life canine BFF Mordecai. Dr. Fruit’s first album, a whimsical take on topics ranging from ableism and speciesism to ecological justice and peak oil, was released in the summer of 2012.)

Which of your achievements are you most proud of?

I dug an 80-foot trench and filled it with gravel to direct rainwater away from the foundation of my house. That was pretty awesome.

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What inspired you to work in the field you do?

My experiences as a queer teenager, which often left me feeling powerless and struggling a great deal with my gender and sexual identities. I was involved with activism in high school, but the adult world felt oppressive and was distrustful of youth power.

What helps you relax when you’re feeling stressed?

Running, hiking, playing music, practicing mindfulness. Sleep and hot baths. Breathing.

What cheers you up when you’re feeling down?

Raw juice, exercise, my dog.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

There’s no time like the present.

How do you spend your free time?

I spend a lot of time hanging out with friends around a fire in my back yard. Also, I’m learning to play the accordion.

If you won a multi-million-dollar jackpot, what would you do with the money?

Start a new project, like maybe building a free school. I’d also really like to have a kind of drum called a hang. They’re very expensive!

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Early bird. But I also like to sleep in, so it’s a struggle.

What household chore do you avoid at all costs?

Providing childcare and music lessons out of my house requires me to keep up even with the chores I hate the most, such as cleaning the tub.

What possessions do you cherish most?

I love my Omega 8005 juicer. I have a lot of musical instruments that I cherish, but they are all replaceable. I’m not really that attached to possessions.

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When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An actress! After making my debut as Tilly the Tooth in my third grade class’ production about dental hygiene.

If you could live in any time period, past or future, anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

Right here, right now. This is the most amazing time to be alive. We have so much potential. And yet could stand to lose it all. The United States causes a lot of the world’s problems (we consume a quarter of the world’s oil!), so we have great potential to resolve those problems.

What do you like most about yourself?

I dream big and try to make it happen.

What aspect of yourself would you like to change?

Negative self-talk.

Imagine traveling somewhere incredibly remote, with no way of contacting the outside world. Are you more thrilled or petrified?

I like nature and being cut off from the “outside world;” I’m not that into travel. So a mix of thrilled, plus I’d rather stay close to home.

If you met yourself, do you think you’d be your friend?

I would hope so!

What have you always wanted to do, be, or learn, but never gotten around to?

I want to learn Spanish.

And finally, how would you like to be remembered?

As a force for bringing people together.

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