Oakland Pride breakfast highlights queer youth

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday September 13, 2023
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High school teacher Carrie King, left, and her child, Charley, joined in accepting an award for Project Eden's Lambda Youth Project at the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club's Pride Breakfast September 10 in Oakland. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
High school teacher Carrie King, left, and her child, Charley, joined in accepting an award for Project Eden's Lambda Youth Project at the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club's Pride Breakfast September 10 in Oakland. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

Charley, a 15-year-old high school student in Hayward, doesn't think highly of the attacks on trans and nonbinary students that have been sweeping the country, even in liberal states like California.

"I think it's stupid," Charley, who identifies as nonbinary and asked that their last name not be used, told the Bay Area Reporter during an interview at the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club's 10th annual Pride Breakfast in downtown Oakland September 10.

"There's something going on with their brain in passing bills to stop me from existing," Charley, who's in 10th grade, added. "Why would I change my gender just to please yourself?"

Charley attended the breakfast with their mom, high school art teacher Carrie King; and Rochelle Collins and Robert Lopez from Project Eden's Lambda Youth Project. All were there to see the project receive the club's Frontline Changemaker Award for its service to LGBTQ youth. Project Eden started in the 1960s, Collins said, and the program remains as relevant today.

It has provided LGBTQ services for over 26 years. One of those is the Pride Prom. Formerly known as the Gay Prom, it first took place in Hayward back in the 1990s. Lopez explained the name was changed so that it's more inclusive of today's LGBTQ youth.

In the interview, Charley said that their experiences at school this year have been "OK."

"Not much horrible happened," they said.

Last year, however, was more problematic, particularly with antisemitism that broke out on campus, which they asked not be identified. "My dad is Jewish," they explained.

But Charley has heard other students mocking queer students and feels that the internet, particularly TikTok, has a lot to do with the hurtful comments.

"So much hatred is engraved on our minds," Charley said. "It affects us all extremely negatively. I feel a lot of people don't understand the internet and online is different from the real world."

King also had thoughts on the increase in anti-LGBTQ legislation. In many states, governors have signed laws banning gender-affirming care for trans youth, and limiting sports teams that trans girls can participate in to the sex listed on their official school records.

In California, several conservative school boards have passed forced outing policies that require district staff to notify parents without the student's consent when a student requests names or pronouns be used other than those listed on their official records. Attorney General Rob Bonta has already sued one district, Chino Valley, and last week won an initial victory when a San Bernardino Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the district from enforcing the policy.

Even in the East Bay city of Hayward, where King teaches, the school board has one member who is anti-LGBTQ. As the B.A.R. noted in an editorial in June, Trustee Joe Ramos protested the board's decision to adopt a resolution declaring support for LGBTQIA+ youth, staff, and families. Ramos, who's clerk of the board, complained at a May meeting about how the district was trying to "indoctrinate" students and staff because of its pro-LGBTQ curriculum and policies, a video of the meeting showed.

"If you're homosexual, that's your business," he said. "Don't bring it to the school house."

King, who identifies as pansexual, disagrees.

"As a high school teacher, I've seen firsthand the effects of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, regardless of whether these proposals pass," King wrote in a follow-up email. "LGBTQIA+ youth are quite aware that state/local legislators nationwide are openly debating what they can/cannot do and challenging their very existence. This has severe consequences for our most vulnerable population.

"When my students saw the viral video of Hayward Unified School board clerk Ramos accusing HUSD of 'indoctrinating' students with the 'homosexual agenda' last spring, they had many questions," King added. "They wondered how this man, who hates them for simply being who they are, could be in charge of making decisions for them. They're scared, confused and no longer feel like school is the 'safe space' it once was."

Ramos is now facing a resolution from the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee for his actions.

Tiffany Woods received the Trailblazer Award at the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club's Pride Breakfast. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland  

Protecting trans kids
Lambda Youth Project's award was in keeping with the "Protect Trans Kids" theme of the Pride breakfast. Many speakers and award recipients committed to supporting candidates for public office who committed to protecting trans, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary youth.

Tiffany Woods, a trans woman and mom of three who is a past co-chair of the California Democratic Party's LGBTQ Caucus and now is trans state health manager for the California Department of Public Health, received the Trailblazer Award. Woods is a former Bay Area resident who now lives outside of Sacramento.

"We're the canary in the coal mine," Woods said of the attacks on trans people and referring to right-wing political leaders. "They went after us after marriage-equality was settled."

She said people need to call out conservative talking points about "protecting children."

"They're not protecting anyone. It's a trans scare and modern McCarthyism," she said. "As a mom of three high school teens I'm outraged — their parental rights? What about our parental rights? I want an inclusive curriculum.

"If they really wanted to protect kids they'd stop mass shootings," she added to applause from the packed crowd at Fluid 510, the new LGBTQ nightclub where the breakfast was held.

Woods encouraged attendees to pay attention as the new Protect Kids California group moves ahead with trying to place three measures targeting trans youth rights on the November 2024 ballot, as the B.A.R. recently reported. And she reminded people that marriage equality will be on the Golden State's ballot next November as people decide to repeal the "zombie" language of Proposition 8 that remains in the state constitution. The same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional in 2013 when same-sex marriage became legal in the state.

Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) said she was proud to represent the city. Now in the midst of a competitive campaign to replace retiring U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Lee criticized the MAGA legislators who are introducing anti-LGBTQ bills.

In a recent interview with the B.A.R. Lee also called out the trio of anti-trans youth propositions and pledged to be a vocal opponent of any that make it to the fall ballot next year. The conservative groups behind them plan to begin collecting signatures for them in November.

"It is such a disgrace that California has to deal with it. I know going around the state we have these pockets of hate," said Lee, adding that "believe you me, I will do everything I can to help defeat these measures."

Lee served as a grand marshal during the Oakland Pride parade that followed the breakfast.

She walked the route wearing a bright pink sequined baseball cap and was trailed by two security vehicles. A poll out last week had Lee trailing her two main Democratic rivals, Congressmembers Adam Schiff of Burbank and Katie Porter of Irvine.

The congressmember introduced state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who received the club's Ally Award. Thurmond has been traveling the state and attending meetings in the wake of school boards adopting anti-LGBTQ policies on curriculum as well as forced outing. He was removed from a school board meeting in Chino Valley after he spoke against its forced outing policy.

"If I have to get kicked out for standing up for students, kick me out every time," he said, referring to the Chino Hills incident.

But Thurmond delivered a simple message during his remarks: "We have to elect more progressive school board members." And he emphasized that "this is a political attack, it's not about parental rights."

Pacific Center honored
The Pacific Center for Human Growth, the third oldest LGBTQ community center in the U.S., received the Community Champion Award. Executive Director Lasara Firefox Allen accepted the award and noted that the center recently moved into its new location on Center Street in Berkeley. The B.A.R. reported last year that the center was forced to move after the building it's been located in for decades was sold.

Allen, who identifies as pansexual and nonbinary, said that an open house is scheduled for next month. The center offers a number of support groups and other programs that Allen said help queer clients.

"Each time that a youth has a dedicated community their self-value goes up," they said. "To today's theme, nearly half [of people seeking services] identify as trans or gender-nonconforming."

Other speakers
A bevy of elected officials attended this year's breakfast. They included Bonta, who said, "we are facing an unprecedented national attack on the LGBTQ community" and said he was working with Thurmond and Governor Gavin Newsom to "push back against these school districts."

Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose), whose sprawling district includes part of Southern Alameda County, warned, "a lot of people can't accept our progress and are on a mission to push us back in the shadows."

Fluid 510 co-owner Sean Sullivan, a gay man, introduced Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, who took the stage with District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife. Both straight allies, they said there is no place in Oakland for hate, even though recent anti-LGBTQ attacks have been made against Brandon Harami, a gay man who's Thao's director of community resilience and her de facto LGBTQ liaison. Though his name wasn't mentioned, Thao was referring to Seneca Scott, a former Oakland mayoral candidate who threatened the Jewish community during his mayoral campaign last year and a photo appeared showing him wearing an anti-trans sandwich board. Scott, who is a member of the Oakland NAACP, was denounced for his anti-LGBTQ comments by the Alameda County Democratic Party, as The Oaklandside recently reported.

Scott did not respond to a request for comment.

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