Approximately 100 youth from throughout California gathered in Sacramento last week to meet with staff and members of the state Legislature, and administrators from the Department of Education to talk about LGBT issues, including access to mental health services, hate crimes protections, and educational opportunities.
“We are here today push three important bills to ensure school safety for all students in California,” said Askari Gonzalez, a high school student from San Jose, who participated in the annual event known as Queer Youth Advocacy Day. “Personally, I face a lot of harassment being a queer member of the LGBT community. I know there are a lot of people that are afraid to speak for themselves, and I want to help get them security and safety in their schools.”
The event, sponsored by Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Equality California Institute, BIENESTAR, and the Transgender Law Center, is intended to help raise awareness of the issues affecting LGBT youth while promoting community engagement.
“Students in Santa Clarita have a very different voice than the adults in Santa Clarita,” said another student, Emily Coffin who is involved in her school’s theatre and the gay straight alliance organizations. “While the adults are the ones voting for our state Senators and Assembly members, I think it’s super important for the youth to show their voice in whatever they can.”
Youth leaders arrived in Sacramento to participate in an intensive three-day training called the GSA Advocacy & Youth Leadership Academy. The training covered the legislative process, policy and administrative advocacy, media activism and other important leadership skills for students working to fight homophobia and transphobia in school.
QYAD participants encouraged other students to “have an opinion” and not to “be afraid to share it!”