Photo: LGBT Health Forum
by We’Ced Youth
Editor’s Note: On August 8th, We’Ced Youth Media attended Merced’s first LGBT Health Forum held at the Italo-American Lodge on Main Street. After participating in this powerful community event, We’Ced Youth put their thoughts and feelings on paper to share with the rest of our community how this much-needed vent went and what can be done from here.
Lisa Vasquez, 17
BHC’s first LGBT Youth Health Forum took place August 8, in southeastern Merced to promote health and well being by educating and informing professionals, policy makers, LGBT youth and families. The agenda started with keynote speaker Dr. Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Program (FAP), sharing that the organizations goal is to bring positivity through media, public perception and support. Using a research-based, culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, socially, and religiously diverse families decrease rejection and increase support for their LGBTQ children. After Ryan’s presentation was a panel that consisted of four people who all tied into the LGBT community. First, Diego Sandoval, shared his personal experience of hiding his sexuality, numbing his pain, then embracing himself as an LGBT youth. Angel Garcia, gay latino youth, told how he started a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) at his ambivalent high school. Don Marie Luna, a GSA advocate, network resources and support training. Lastly, Kathleen Grassi, director of Merced Department of Public Health is looking to create a healthy environment physically and mentally for LGBT youth. Wrap up consisted of audience interaction and reflection, then surfing through the community resource booths.
As a fellow LGBT youth I was excited to see the outcome and hear what people had to say about the LGBT community. I learned a lot, from that night especially about parents understanding their homosexual child because my mom still copes with my sexuality even though I came out years ago. I saw not only my view of being a gay teen but everyone else’s perspective also because everyone is affected. I see how everyone is intertwined through the LGBT community and it makes me feel better to be who I am knowing that people want to be supportive and help you. I hold my head held higher and my girlfriend’s hand a little tighter.
[pullquote_right]I liked being part of the panel because that same night a girl on facebook messaged me and told me she went to the forum and that she didn’t want to be weird but thanked me because I made her feel comfortable with herself.[/pullquote_right]
Diego Sandoval, 18
I was part of the panel during the second part of the forum. I shared a little bit about my life and how I came out to my family and the struggles I have been through as part of the LGBT community. It got to me actually because I felt very supported by everyone that was listening to me. At first I was really nervous but then people started laughing and their laugh gave me a boost so everything after that just came out naturally. I liked being part of the panel because that same night a girl on facebook messaged me and told me she went to the forum and that she didn’t want to be weird but thanked me because I made her feel comfortable with herself. That to me meant that I was helping change peoples lives for the better.
What I liked about the forum was that there were doctors and experts that gave us information, some that I didn’t even know about. One thing that I do know is that Merced’s LGBT youth is starting to be more supported by the community theres more that we can do so that we can feel more comfortable. Things like this LGBT forum or the PFLAG meetings that happen once a month. I felt very comfortable when I was up there speaking in front of all those people, I was being me and they liked it, I wasn’t being judged or anything it was an experience that I will never forget.
Benny Escobedo, 17
Having been a complete stranger to the LGBT community and wishing to inform myself, I decided to attend the LGBT forum. It was an interesting forum which presented many statistics from very recent research conducted all over the country. Although the statistics mentioned weren’t major revelations to many of us, they reinforced concerns with youth and their sexuality. Attending helped clear all the stereotypes associated with the LGBT community which arose in my head due to my normal custom and beliefs. I really enjoyed hearing personal stories from people who had a life much harder than I. It made me realize that there are people out in the world with bigger obstacles than many of us. The LGBT community certainly has great cause and great plans for equality for the future. The LGBT Health Forum was just a small step in informing the community and I believe that with more insistence, the community will pave forward for a new movement in this century.