For INFO on LGBTQ Connection's year-round support for families, click here.
By Maria Sestito, Napa Valley Register
How youths, parents and resource providers can try to deepen the level of trust between one another was the focus of LGBTQ Connection’s 2nd annual “In This Together” conference at the Embassy Suites in Napa on Saturday.
Trust is an important part to creating an environment where LGBTQ youth feel safe and supported, said Eliseo Rivas, event coordinator and program coordinator for LGBTQ Connection.
“I think sometimes it’s either the parents don’t open the gateway or the youth doesn’t feel confident enough in what the outcome will be,” Rivas said. “If we can engage the concept of trust and push it a little bit deeper then I think we can have more authentic and real conversations about how to support and love our LGBTQ youth.”
“Even something like silence is rejecting, and even something like ‘Not in this house’ is rejecting, or ‘I love you but don’t talk about it’ is rejecting,” Rivas said. Instead families should be talking about it and working together with their children to build trust, Rivas said.
As an LGBTQ youth, Rivas said that although it seemed like people cared, Rivas wasn’t sure that their love was unconditional.
“I didn’t know if they would still love me when I came out,” Rivas said. “I trust them to help me with school, get to college, I trust my mom to give me hugs and kisses, but is that something I have to sacrifice when I come out or will they love me less when I come out?”
To help kickoff the event, the LGBTQ Connection Youth Leadership Team, an LGBTQ youth support and advocacy group, shared how trust or lack thereof has affected their relationships and their lives. Their stories, which touched on topics of sexuality, gender and depression, resonated with the crowd.
“We, at least, wanted one person from the audience to be able to relate to us,” said Daisy Zamora, 14.
Both youths and adults came up to the team afterward thanking them for sharing their stories and telling some of their own.
One of the things Meg Villanueva, 14, shared was how her stepfather struggled with alcohol. Someone told her afterward that they also had problems with alcohol in their family.
“He related to me a lot because of my story,” Villanueva said.
“This is the first LGBTQ event I’ve ever been to,” said team member Judianne Orozco, 18. “It’s nice to know that there are so many people in the community to relate to.”
“It (the event) helped me to know that I’m not alone in this,” Zamora added.
Each of them said trusting people is difficult for them. They used to give their trust easily, but every time their trust was broken, it got a little harder to trust the next person. Over time, though, they have learned to trust one another.
During most of their LGBTQ Connection Youth Leadership Team meetings, they work on getting to know each other better, said Alyssa Rangel, 14.
“We bond,” Rangel said.
Out of the five speakers, Rangel was the only one to have a family member attend the conference.
“I really didn’t have any idea how extraordinary this was going to be,” said her aunt Lorena Ramirez. “I’m really happy that I came.”
Ramirez, who grew up in Napa, said she didn’t realize how little support there was for individuals who identified as LGBTQ in the past or how many resources the community has now.
“It’s been a really big eye opener,” Ramirez said. The conference was split into different parts – something for providers, something for families and an art space for youth. Ramirez said that the family session was emotional. Hearing what other people have gone through was both “heartbreaking” and “empowering,” she said.
“It shouldn’t matter who you love and why you love them,” she said. “Amazing things can happen with love.”
For more information about LGBTQ Connection or to find out how you can better support LGBTQ youth, visit LGBTQconnection.org.