By Jane Smith
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
April 23, 2001
Hundreds of youths kicked back in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park Saturday afternoon, listening to tunes, watching flamboyant stage performers and celebrating their right to live, love and be loved.
The event, organized by Youth Pride Alliance, focused on promoting sexual freedom and high self-esteem in a world filled with hate crimes for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals under the age of 24.
“So often you feel alone,” Annet Isa, one of the three co-chairs for Youth Pride Day 2001 and arts editor of Eros magazine, told U-WIRE. “We’re giving you a chance not to feel alone, and come to a place where you are automatically loved. It’s one gigantic family.”
“A lot of people think you are born an activist,” said Frank Salamone, the president of Georgetown University Pride and event co-chair. “That’s not necessarily true. We all had to come to terms with our sexuality, realize that we are queer, and get ourselves to where we are today.”
Emcees Missbaby Michaels and Rayceen Pendara’vis guided the day’s event along, which included local bands, comical short skits and moving testimonials from gay youth across the nation.
One of Youth Pride Day’s highlights was “The Weakest Queen!” contest, a take-off from NBC’s popular game show “The Weakest Link,” that boasted a hilarious line-up of drag queens answering outrageous questions.
“Congress is asleep on most issues,” said Washington, D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. “And they are surely sleeping on the issues that confront gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. America needs to know more about who they are — they are our children.”
Norton spoke on the issue of passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999, which she said is a “debt that is way overdue.” The crowd cheered her persistent attitude of not resting until the bill is passed and retributions paid.
Several gay and bisexual organizations ran table displays showcasing their group’s efforts and events for supporting the younger generation of homosexuals. Teens were offered the chance to join mailing lists and become informed about upcoming Pride events in the D.C. Metro area.
Prominent Youth Pride Alliance supporters at the event included the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League and the Human Rights Campaign.
“Queer people are coming out at an earlier age,” said Dan Hawes, a field organizer of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Seventy percent are still targets of physical and verbal violence and only five states have laws protecting them.”
Hawes said he views youths as being effective in getting their points across because of their bravery and energy which can set an example for adults. He encouraged teens to join organizations, come out, lobby local politicians for change, demand diversity and become leaders in their local gay communities.
“Every year we get more and more people,” Isa said.
Isa and other event organizers were pleased with the day’s turnout despite the inclement weather and a last minute change of venue.
Despite the rain, spirits were high with Frisbee games, amateur drag pageants and motivational speeches.
“Gay activism was considered a big, bad example in the first place,” said Salamone. “If it weren’t for people who set a bad example we wouldn’t be here. Today we’re getting past that. We’re getting things changed.”
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