Sometimes, I feel like I’m 21 but there are other times that I feel like I’m 14. Perhaps it’s all the sugar I’ve had that day or simply feeling great. Whichever, the reason may be… We all go back to our ‘wonder years’, or better yet “teen years”, with or without the sugar! I still remember being 13/14, a time in which I was still thinking who I found more attractive, was it girls or boys, dresses or pants, oh the hormones! LOL – Definitely, that time was NOT fun and it was more confusing than ever, it was like watching The Matrix for the first time (seriously, it took me 3 times to watch it to get it. Blah).
Twenty years ago, whenever any teen found themselves being ‘confused’, ‘sad’ or caused some kind of tantrum… we were sent to “Impact”. A program designed to have a group of teens in a classroom to express themselves freely without any judgment; with the supervision of a teacher of course. What I always found funny about those groups were that somehow, what was shared in those groups – assuming they were family secrets and personal issues – always made it to the school yard in the mouths of other 13/14 year olds who were as equally scared and confused as the ones in the room. But, I take it that several of the teens went to those groups to skip class (free pass) or maybe ‘cause some did have issues and had no one else to connect with. Come to think about it, it truly was hard connecting with anyone at that age… looking around my peers, as confused and out of place I found myself in, like an episode of The Twilight Zone meets The Wizard of Oz, I couldn’t go to a group where the teens felt exactly like me. It would’ve been cool to arrive school and know that there was a group called “Gay & Straight Alliance” or maybe not as fancy, but at least something that said “Hey Queer Kids, a Place to show your True Colors”, imagine how many kids would’ve felt comfortable walking in there knowing that there was a place for US, a place where our peers wouldn’t make fun of us ‘cause we stared at a girl ‘funny’ or looked at a boy take his shirt off in P.E. Maybe, it was too premature, it wasn’t time yet… but time is everything.
Luckily, the Gay Straight Alliance Network (GSA) was established in 1998 to help the teens set up clubs in Schools to fight homophobia and educate. (Darn it! I graduated that year) If it only would’ve happened in my freshman year, I would’ve probably become President of the club! Anyway, I recall coming out in 1999 and the first TV Show I came out with was Queer as Folk. I learned through this show about the GSA’s and how many kids who weren’t queer were big supporters of kids who were; a.k.a Allies. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard or seen because I never saw anything like this in school. Watching this show opened my eyes and I only hoped that the generations behind me, would only become more educated and support one another regardless of sexual orientation. I could only hope that what happened to thousands of kids before me and even Matthew Shepard that year, wouldn’t happen again.
Fast-Forward 15 years later and it’s 2013, it has been a very promising year with so many opportunities for the LGBT community: Same-Sex Marriage, Benefits, Out of the closet celebrities that become role-models and hope for the Teens. Now, as I do want to go over each topic I just mentioned…um, I won’t. I’ll leave that for other blogs I’ll write. For now, I will focus on our teens. Eleven years ago, Angel Macias Founder of a Non-Profit Organization called California Families in Focus had an idea, a vision to not only help families in need of clothing, education, gang prevention and shelter but also providing a SAFE space for LGBTQ Teens & Allies to celebrate their individuality. Five years ago, Ms. Macias took her idea and shared it with Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride, Inc. in which resulted a small space for Teens to celebrate the Friday night before the Long Beach Pride event started that weekend. That year, around 70 teens showed up and every year after that, it has doubled. Last year, around 500 teens showed up… yeah, you got that right! If that doesn’t say something, I don’t know what does. But it’s clear that the teens keep coming to this annual event because it’s a place they feel connected even if it’s only for 4 hours. However, this year Teen Pride raised the bar just a bit and has expanded for the whole weekend. Yes, Teen Pride will be celebrated at the same time that Long Beach Pride is happening. If anyone, would’ve asked me when I was 19 years old if I could ever see myself working with GSA’s and guide them through this ‘movement’, I would’ve told them “You’re out of your mind, a Teen Pride? Yah right!” and laughed it off. But things happen for a reason, and my journey through the confusion of my teens, the dark side of my twenties, molded me for this position that Ms. Macias and her board believe that I could not only take on the responsibility of, but bring the creative fusion to take Teen Pride to the next level and also represent in a respectable manner as Teen Pride Chair.
In a humble poise, I met the GSA’s from Jordan High that I would grow to love: Jordan High GSA President Lucy, Vice-President Courtney, Treasurer Vincent and several other GSA members and teens that stopped by to volunteer. In my first meeting, as nervous as I could be, I realized a couple of things: 1. The teens totally rocked my mind with all their ideas and energy 2. I was seriously taking on a responsibility of a mentor and 3. This was more than just an event, it’s a movement. Every meeting has been a humbling learning experience, thank god for my teammate Giovanna Martinez, Board Secretary of California Families in Focus, who was there to help remind me that I could take on this task and lead our youth through this planning.
This year Teen Pride promises to give the youth a 3 day event filled with resource booths, candy lounge, games, prizes, teen drag competition, mock photo wedding booth, Dj’s, teen factor singing competition, live performances, celebrity impersonators and more! In an era where social media can be the devil at times, for us it has been a blessing. Several artists, community leaders and TV personalities have reached out to us and said, “What you guys are doing for the Youth is awesome, I want to be a part of this cause”. Our Special Guests include Sonique from Rupaul’s Drag Race who will be Judging the Teen Drag Show (https://www.facebook.com/sonique.love) and Crash from Mun2 who will be hosting the Live Performances (www.twitter.com/crashrocks). Our Live Performers are Irene Diaz, classically trained on piano an upcoming artist from L.A that has been compared to Norah Jones and Fionna Apple that will have you humming her song “Crazy Love” for days. (www.irenediazmusic.com), Mélange Lavonne, an openly lesbian hip-hop artist, who’s song “Gay Bash” made it to MTV LOGO in 2007, where it received frequent rotation, making it a staple on their Top Ten list called “The Click List” throughout the summer of 2007-08. Tah Mac, a big hit in London who has produced and recorded with artists like: Ciara, Cee Lo, Jojo and opened up for Justin Bieber (www.tahmac.com), Brooke “BK” Archilla, unites the dark grittiness of hip-hop with the sultry side of neo-soul to create a harmonious blend to call her own, (www.bksway.com), Jamie Beeman, multi-talented artist: singer-songwriter, dancer, actress and musician that has been under the mentorship of music publisher Marty Wereski (CEO/founder,Martune Music) and Grammy Award-winning Producer Tommy Marolda, her song “Just Give Me My Life” has been featured in several films and television. (www.jamiebeeman.com), Vinita, talented Indian-American singer-songwriter, her single “Going Under” featuring cameos by Interscope Artist Lil Playy and Actress Taryn Manning. Vinita released her single, “Take Me For One Night” ft. Mann (“Buzzin” ft. 50 Cent) which was a huge success on the UK and Bermuda radio charts. (www.iamvinita.com). The Music Masters for the weekend include: Dj Lancia, Dj Joyful, Dj Siesta Soul and Dj Blu. Celebrity Impersonators: Sah’Shey, Millena Hidaway Delite, Ms. Luna and Big Dee will be closing the weekend with amazing top celebrity impersonations!
So as you can see my friends, perhaps years ago this wouldn’t have happened, but it is a new time, a new era, in which the youth, the beautiful GSA’s I’ve worked with have the bold confidence that they are tomorrow’s leaders. We are no longer running away, but instead extending our arms to continue this change; as you read above, the artists being a part of this are a small token of believers we have attracted in the evolution process that has begun. As I come down to the last thoughts of my blog, I wonder, what I really would’ve said if I would’ve been asked about “Teen Pride” years ago. Anyway, here’s to our Youth, who hold the key to the success of our future, which in reality we are the mirror they look for to build a confident poise to continue fighting for us when we are no longer there. I mean, after writing this… I come down to the conclusion that any idea, can be as small as a pebble, but it takes a brave person to plant that idea in the right soil, and it takes not one believer but several believers to make that idea bloom, and thus begin a movement.
- – Cyn
Please add the page for more info: www.facebook.com/teenpridelongbeach
Teen Pride, Friday, May 17th-Sunday, May 19th, 2013