About 80 people turned out on Saturday, May 11, for D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s First Annual LGBT Youth Summit, which was held at the Eastern Market’s meeting hall on Capitol Hill.
Those attending the event appeared to be equally divided between high school age youth and adults, including city officials, teachers and school administrators.
Gray served as moderator of the event, presenting opening remarks outlining the city’s policies and laws that support LGBT equality and fielding questions from the youth.
“We had modest goals – that is to give the youth a chance to be able to express who they are and to talk about some of the challenges of what it means to be gay, bisexual, transgender, and lesbian in our city,” Gray told the Blade after the summit ended.
“And the second goal was to be able to communicate that the mayor’s office, the highest office in this government, is not going to tolerate any kind of discrimination and bias in the city,” he said.
Among the city officials that spoke at the event were Sterling Washington, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs; Elliot Imse, an official with the Office of Human Rights; and Sgt. Matthew Mahl, acting supervisor of the D.C. police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.
Imse said the Office of Human Rights has launched an anti-bullying program that allows youth, including students, to file complaints against people who bully them.
Also speaking at the event was Andrew Barnett, executive director of the D.C. LGBT youth advocacy and services group SMYAL.
DeQuan Barclift, a 10th grade student at Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts, said he experienced bullying beginning in the third grade.
“I’ve been called the famous ‘F’ word for faggot,” he said. “I’m used to the word. It doesn’t affect me.”
Barclift added, “If anyone here has been bullied my advice to you would be hold your head up.”
He said he’s had a more positive experience in high school, noting that he recently wrote a letter to his school newsletter telling about his coming out.
“I got more positive feedback than negative feedback,” he said.