A local group hosted their inaugural Youth Pride Conference at Naples United Church of Christ Saturday. Between 40 to 50 students from Southwest Florida got to participate.
The event aimed to empower and educate LGBTQ+ kids ages 12 to 18 on issues like mental health and religion, but not everyone was happy about it.
“We are protesting something because we believe people are in danger,” is what Fred said while he was protesting. Protesters started showing up before the event began.
“It can look like we’re against them. But the reality is, we are for them, and we are terrified. We are concerned for them. We’re scared for them, we are trying to pull as many of them out as we can, because we love them,” Fred says.
Naples police were on-site to keep any protestors away from the church. Daniel Shaw, who was the director of the event told WINK News the atmosphere inside was amazing.
“I’ve seen more smiles from these students than I’ve seen in a really long time,” Shaw says. “They feel safe, they feel welcomed, they feel included. And they are talking about so many different things that they don’t get to talk about with other people, and just really exploring some of the issues that they’re facing with people who are safe and welcoming.”
Shaw said it’s important to provide a space where kids get a chance to just be themselves.
“I can’t tell you the number of times this morning, I’ve almost broken down in tears of joy just to see, to see these students and the way that they’re finally able to be their real selves. And that’s why we do this,” says Shaw.
One protester said her main concern was parental consent in regards to attending the event, however, organizers told WINK News they required written parental consent and medical waivers from all attendees. The event ended at 3 p.m. and was hosted by Collier County’s GLSEN which stands for Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.