A youth pride conference was held at the Naples United Church of Christ on Saturday morning and is sparking a wave of controversy.
The organization GLSEN Collier County hosted the event for LGBTQ+ kids in 6th through 12th grade.
The conference is meant to create a safe space for youth pride and because some people are not happy the event is happening at a church, organizers are working with the Naples Police Department to ensure participants’ safety.
This is the first youth pride conference hosted by GLSEN Collier County at Naples United Church.
GLSEN, which stands for gay, lesbian, and straight education network, works to improve the school climate for LGBTQ youth.
The conference will discuss issues like mental health, religious identity, and sexual education for 12 to 18-year-olds. It will also feature a drag show with local entertainers.
It’s not a church-sponsored event. They are just renting out the space, but the interim pastor wants the church to be a place where everyone can experience God’s grace.
“We don’t always disagree as well as we ought to. We have to find ways to share our deep and passionate concerns with a level of kindness and interaction and sometimes that is not the case and that is unfortunate but we continue to want to be a part of the community and be around and allow people to have differences of perspective and opinion,” said David Greenhaw, interim senior minister of Naples United Church of Christ.
Some people didn’t agree with the event being held at the church, so organizers are working with the police department to keep everyone safe.
The Naples Police Department will be monitoring the area and making sure protesters stay off the property. They will also be double-checking their registration list to verify everyone’s identity.
Protesters were seen outside the event holding signs saying ‘”stop grooming kids.” One protestor brought a large wooden cross that had “no greater love” written across it.
The conference will have keynote speakers, songs, and a family-friendly drag show.
“The whole goal is just to provide students with an opportunity to see youth engage with their peers and GLSEN professionals that can help them navigate and explore different aspects of their LGBTQ identities ranging from mental health to sex education that they don’t provide in schools,” said Daniel Shaw, a youth pride conference director.
“It is definitely a really safe space for you, both who are in the community and ones who are trying to learn more about it,” said Hornet Bosa, student director of the Shine Team.
Organizers say they expect 40 to 50 kids to show up at the event. The event began at 9 a.m. at the Naples United Church of Christ.