This hyperpolarized political climate is taking its toll on our country and our movement. Too often, at the epicenter of anti-LGBTQ attacks are our youngest community members, whether it is increased bullying in schools or the rising number of anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation that are popping up across the country like the new South Dakota bill that would ban transgender health care for youth. These moments in our journey for justice call upon us to lean in that much more to support our LGBTQ youth and to help them build the world they envision.
Over the years we have helped LGBTQ youth build out some of our organization’s most robust programs. We listen to the needs, hopes, and interests of our youth and then assist them in acquiring the tools and skills to create meaningful opportunities for themselves. Through this model, we have daily, weekly, and monthly youth programs. Some of my favorites have to do with the way our youth use the visual and performing arts to find community and advocate for themselves.
Recently, in partnership with the San Diego Women’s Chorus and artistic director Lindsey Deaton, San Diego Pride helped start the San Diego Queer Youth Chorus, who will be joining Jason Mraz in February for his Shine concert at Spreckles Theater. Our Pride Youth Marching band is now in its 6th year. At our monthly Youth Collective, art is used as a tool to educate about gender and healthy relations. In March, our 4th annual Pride Youth Art show asks young LGBTQ artists to interpret our 2020 theme “Together We Rise.” The art will then be exhibited across our region for a full year and will be used as a tool for public education.
What started with a handful of youth asking for support has grown into robust year-round youth programs. Last year we were able to host over 3,300 youth visits. I couldn’t be more proud of our young leaders and the intergenerational efforts that support them. Their collective, year-round efforts create intentional spaces for our youth to revel in found family, build capacity, and unapologetically indulge in being radically and absolutely 100% their true, authentic selves. That is beautiful. That is Art. That is Pride. That is how Together We Rise.
P.S. If you know a talented young LGBTQ artist invite them to participate in this year’s youth art show, Together We Rise and then join us for our March 14 reception.
Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made him a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.