On April 19, 1997, youth from across the country gathered on the Circle in Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. to partake in the first Youth Pride Day in D.C. and the second every Youth Pride Day in the history of the United States.
I had a special experience with Youth Pride Day in that I was a speaker and was able to experience some of the behind the scenes events that took place. Chris Dyer is the man to whom much of the credit should be given for the success of the day. Chris plans on making YPD a national event next year, and I will be sitting on the advisory board.
The day was beautiful, and it was a bit windy. Between 400 and 500 people attended the event. The speakers ranged from the very young and queer to the old and straight. Three of the speakers were from outside the D.C. area. One speaker was from Salina, KS, another, Allie Sultan, hailed from Mufreesboro, TN, and I made the trek, with Allie, from Asheville, NC. The energy was magnificent which made the speaking that much easier.
There were three themes for the day: Pride, Visibility, and Awareness. I spoke on all three to some measure, and here is what I said:
Good afternoon Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C., and Youth Pride Day. My name is Brandon Lacy, and I am a 19 year-old Sophomore at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC. It is an honor to be here today. It is honor to be here because I know that twenty, fifteen, or even ten years ago I could not have been here. I could not have been here because the world was struggling to open its eyes to see the rainbow tinted assets of its GLBT youth. But we've changed that, haven't we? This event is proof enough of that. Queer youth are leading the gay rights movement today. We are the ones who are carrying the grass roots movement to secure equal rights regardless of sexual orientation. The movement is one hell of a heavy load to bear, but we are carrying it.
One of the most important basic elements of the grass roots movement that we are doing is coming out. We are coming out younger and younger, our thirteen year-old speaker today is proof of that. Some of us have been lucky in our coming out experience. I am from Minneapolis, a liberal city, in Minnesota, a liberal state. I have a liberal mother who taught her children to hate hate. And I go to a progressive college where homophobia is a bed-time story told to frighten children into behaving. And because I've been so fortunate I've had a hope, no, a vision instilled in me. The vision is one that promises that one day every little queer boy and queer girl in the most back woods, red-neck town will be able to come out with as much fortune as I had.
And it is the youth that are taking steps to form organizations to make that vision into reality. The Liberty Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide money for youth initiatives. The Liberty Foundation was formed by David Donaldson (University of Alabama), Michael Grantham (Middle Tennessee State University), myself, and Allie Sultan (Middle Tennessee State University). District 2020 is another organization, a model youth drop-in center serving thousands of gays and lesbians from the ages of 13-21. But it is youth being OUT that are giving these organizations the power to create change. Being open and out have created a torch of awareness. Each time a person hikes up their proverbial skirt and kicks down a closet door the torch flame burns brighter raising awareness.
The torch of awareness has been passed to our generation. And each time we come out we are taken one step closer to the realization of my vision. Each time I come out I take hold of the torch and I cease to exist separate from awareness. In all that I do I become a flame of awareness, and I spread awareness of the inalienability of our rights as U.S. citizens and humans. I am awareness.