The world’s largest free conference for LGBTQ youth and allies will go on, as scheduled, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
But instead of taking place on a college campus as in previous years, the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s 28th annual Models of Pride will be streamed globally Nov. 14-15. This year’s theme is Fierce, Fabulous, Free.
“This allows people from all over the country, all over the world to take part. In light of our current political climate, we want to remind youth that our community is one of resilience,” explains Kevin McCloskey, the Center’s Director of Community-Based Programs. “We are a community that has overcome. We have a history of standing up, speaking out, and pushing back. That’s how we’ve made progress.”
Every year hundreds of youth who register for the conference don’t show up in the end even though they very much want to.
“Maybe they couldn’t find a ride or maybe they’re not out to their family who is not supportive,” McCloskey points out.
This year that roadblock will not exist. The livestream can be watched on YouTube, Vimeo, and the Models of Pride homepage.
“They can just go into their room, or they can go outside wherever there is Wi-Fi, and join the conference,” McCloskey says. “This provides an opportunity for them to be in a queer world, affirmed for who they are, accepted wholly and completely, and reminded that they are valuable.”
Workshops to Build Confidence, Develop Life Skills
The conference, organized by the Center’s Youth Development program, is for LGBTQ youth and allies ages 12-24. It offers 25 life-enriching workshops and presentations designed to help young people build confidence and self-esteem and develop valuable life skills. Some workshops will be offered entirely in Spanish.
The workshops include topics such as student activism, asexuality, religion, relationships, bullying, financial advice, bisexuality, and pansexuality. A session for transgender and gender expansive youth will be offered.
“I think teenagers of today are magical and smarter than all of us—they are my superheroes,” says Ash Nichols, one of the workshop presenters. “They just are incredibly empathetic, thoughtful, and sensitive, and the world is putting a lot on them. We are giving them a forum, giving them space to talk about what is important to them and who they want to be.”
Nichols looks forward to having a wider audience for their Redefining Masculinities session co-presented with poet Jaden Fields.
“Most kids don’t have the opportunity to have a conversation about their relationship with masculinity and what they want from it,” Nichols says. “Last year I was in a classroom with almost 40 kids, and I was able to play theater games and start a conversation. Being online will present a different kind of engagement”
Another portion of the conference, known as the Parent & Professional Institute, offers workshops for parents, caregivers, educators, social service providers, and other youth-serving professionals. Some of their sessions include How to Support My Child Who Just Came Out; LGBTQ+ Youth and Substance Abuse; Living and Thinking Beyond the Binary; and a session with advice for parents of transitioning teens.
Remembering the Resistance
The tone for the 2020 conference will be set with the opening session, The History of Resistance, in which guest speakers will present from four significant locations nationwide, including The Black Cat nightclub in Silver Lake and The Stonewall Inn in New York City, two early sites of protests against anti-LGBTQ mistreatment and brutality.
Andrea Jenkins, an openly trans member of the Minneapolis City Council, will appear from her city in front of the George Floyd Memorial to talk about the intersection of Black Lives Matter and the LGBT community. Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando who has become a national advocate for LGBTQ civil rights and gun safety reform, will appear from the site where 49 people were killed and 53 others wounded.
“Up until the current presidential administration, young people had only really experienced progress and movement forward,” McCloskey points out. “There are still folks who want to take away our rights and keep us from being whole, equal parts of the world and society. During Models of Pride, we get a chance to remind them of our history, remind them of what we’ve been through, and give them examples of folks who have fought that good fight. We will remind them that we have to keep fighting—they’re the next generation of leaders.”
Award-winning YouTube personality MacDoesIt hosts the opening session which will also include a performance by America’s Got Talent Season 15 semifinalist Celina Graves.
The conference’s always popular Entertainment Hour features trans actress, host, and singer Roxy Wood as emcee with performances by surreal world performer Matthew “Poki” McCorkle; comedian and drag performer Greasy Bouffanti; American Idol Season 14 finalist Rayvon Owen; instrumentalist and hip-hop artist Mike Xavier; music artist and songwriter Tish Hyman; and book author, astrologer and psychic medium, and podcast host Jessica Lanyadoo.
To register for Models of Pride, visit modelsofpride.org