A local group is hosting the first-ever Youth Pride Conference at a Naples church on Saturday.
About 40 or 50 students from Southwest Florida will get to participate in the event which is meant to empower and educate LGBTQ kids ages 12 to 18 on issues like mental health, religious identity and more.
Parents were concerned due to possible protests at the event, but organizers said they are working to keep everyone safe.
Naples police officers will be on-site to keep any protesters away from the event.
The event offers a safe space for children whose identities have been undermined by recent headlines. The event is hosted by Collier’s GLSEN which stands for Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
High school students like Hornet Bosa say it’s an event that is so important and so necessary for LGBTQ youth.
“There’s not a lot of safe spaces for LGBTQ kids and it just helps create more of a safe space for them and more of a community that they don’t really get,” said Hornet Bosa, student director of the SHINE Team, which works to create safer spaces for LGBTQ students.
But not everyone is happy that this event, which will include a drag show, is happening at the Naples United Church of Christ.
“People have used our registration form to share their thoughts and comments on what we’re doing or what we should or shouldn’t be doing and had some choice words,” said Daniel Shaw, GLSEN Collier board member and pride conference director.
Shaw, who is in charge of the event, said in the wake of criticism his top priority is to keep kids safe.
“We had already contracted with the Naples Police Department just to make sure the kids stayed safe and they were aware of the circumstances,” Shaw said. “We know what kind of community we’re in and the hateful people around here so we just wanted to make sure the kids were safe.”
Safe and empowered to be themselves.
“I know they’re going to walk away with some inspiration, some hope, and hopefully some confidence,” Shaw said.
Shaw said his team is also checking its registration list diligently to make sure everyone on the list is who they say they are.
“When we’re talking about protecting and trying to keep the kids safe I can’t ignore it,” Shaw said. “I think we know from the threats and the harassment that we have gotten that they certainly would be met with some unsafe circumstances.”
All because some people are not happy the conference will happen there at Naples United Church of Christ. It’s not a church-sponsored event, but the interim pastor rented the space to the group.
People are also upset by the drag show portion of the event.
“It is entertaining. It is fun and there is nothing inappropriate about it,” Shaw said.
David Greenhaw, interim senior minister at Naples United Church of Christ, said it’s OK for people to disagree.
“Let’s hope they do it kindly and gently to each other.”