Youth Pride Alliance presents
Youth Pride Day
Saturday, May 14
Infatuation Dance follows from 6-9 p.m. at Policy (1904 24th St., N.W.)
For ages 24 and younger
Capital Pride may be the biggest D.C.-area Pride event of the year, but for younger members of the LGBT community Youth Pride is the highlight of the season.
Youth Pride takes place on Saturday, May 14 from noon to 5 p.m. in Dupont Circle with performances, games, speakers and resources. This year’s event will culminate 20 years of service to LGBT youth. It will be followed by the Infatuation Dance at Policy (1904 14th St., N.W.). The events are for LGBT youth and allies ages 24 and younger.
Chris Dyer, one of the founders of the non-profit organization, says the first Youth Pride came together across a living room table in 1996. He says organizing Youth Pride was a shot in the dark.
“We didn’t know what the heck we were doing. We couldn’t get past the mission statement,” Dyer says.
Eventually, Youth Pride moved beyond an abstract idea and organizers held a fundraiser and secured volunteers. The city was cooperative and park police were on Youth Pride’s side from the start. Dyer says having everyone work together was helpful to achieve the goal of helping LGBT youth.
“At the time there wasn’t much going on for LGBT youth and we thought it would be important to create a special space for young people to come together,” Dyer says.
Since then, attendance numbers have fluctuated, but a steady stream of youth have been attending. The outcome isn’t bad for what Dyer says is the only Youth Pride day in the country. In the past, activists and community members attended Youth Pride Day out of respect for the event with fewer youth feeling inclined to go. Now, more young people are choosing to attend than before making the event more about young people.
Critics of youth-focused LGBT groups, such as head of MassResistance conservative group Brian Camenker, have accused these groups of targeting vulnerable children, especially from Christian backgrounds, to “turn them gay.” Dyer says Youth Pride has been lucky to not have to worry about accusations that Youth Pride has malicious intent.
“Fortunately it’s been off the radar from really crazy organizations,” Dyer says.
One young person particularly influenced by Youth Pride Day is 17-year-old transgender teen Evie Priestman from Arlington, Va. Priestman remembers attending Youth Pride for the first time in seventh grade while discovering his sexual orientation and gender identity.
“It was great being able to go for the first time to Youth Pride and meet all these people around the fountain and being able to go to each table and learn new things and how they’re trying to reach out to youth about how they can help and support us,” Priestman says.
Priestsman says Youth Pride can be beneficial to other LGBT youth in the same way it was for him.
“Youth Pride is so important because it’s a place where multiple youth can meet each other. They might have something in common, they might learn new things. It’s just a fun way to meet people, new people who are the same age as you and being able to just hang out without any holdbacks because of your sexuality, gender identity or anything,” Priestman says.
SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir credits Youth Pride with being a sound support system for local LGBT youth.
“With there being so many pressures on today’s LGBTQ youth, from challenges at home or at school, to struggling with higher rates of homelessness all across the country, it’s great to have a space like Youth Pride where young people can openly embrace how fabulous they really are,” Shakir says. “There’s often a lot of attention on the negative, but we also need spaces to come together and celebrate the positive, even if it comes with its share of challenges.”
As the current youth get older and a new generation of young LGBT people come to discover what Youth Pride is all about, Shakir hopes young people can become more involved and celebrated.
“I hope to see more young people engaged in planning Youth Pride, from the initial outreach to the community down to the coordinating of the events and speakers. Our youth are incredibly capable of shaping their spaces if we support and empower them,” he says.