Thursday, June 22, 2006

the gist (as loquaciously summarized by Lisa)

Thanks to the efforts and encouragement of many people, including the Pride Board and the staff, we have come to a solution that we are all very excited about!

Last night the Board voted unanimously to remove the youth policy as originally written and adopt the following proposal presented by Emily, Margot, Lisa and others last Saturday:

Any Youth may enter the Pride Festival, the cost is $10.00 and they may purchase it at the front of the Youth Tent. (Under 14 is free with a Parent/Guardian...as it has been for years).

However Youth can get A FREE TICKET! at the Festival entrance, by cruising through the Youth Welcome Tent.

Inside the tent Youth will receive a goodie bag of cool stuff, learn where to find first aid, where there will be a safe person located/ safe zones in case any one feels uncomfortable, gets in an inappropriate situation, or simply has a question. They will be given a copy of the Youth "Creed to Stay Safe"...stick together and respect the zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol, know your personal boundaries, etc.. (Emily and Lisa have drafted the Creed and presented it at Weds. meeting). They can also enter to win an IPOD by filling out a quick survey, if they chose.

Bob from the Pride Board explained that Family Matters (insert by Margot - I think he said that it was PFLAG) has stepped up to volunteer to be the "safe people" inside the festival and will wear an identifiable t-shirt. So thank you Marci!

Youth will NOT be required sign anything or bring a parent/guardian. In the tent will also be water, some snacks, maybe a coffee sponsor and an information table of youth services and arts/culture info./ Stuff for GLBT youth to do in S.D./Youth Pride Volunteer Sign-up, etc.

At the other end of the tent, they will be handed their free ticket with a pocket size copy of the creed so they can go on in and enjoy the festivities... If they come on Saturday, their ticket will be a 2 day admission so they don't feel like they have to go through the tent twice. (Insert by Margot - if they DO NOT want to go through the tent, youth are able to go through JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE through the main gates, although they will have to pay the normal price of admission).

Emily, Margot and I will be working very closely with Pride on the development of the Youth tent and we are encouraging all who are interested to attend the upcoming planning meetings.

This is fabulous! We have more community collaboration, its all inclusive and safe!

Thanks everyone for their contributions!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

a beginning

All -

I just got back from the Board meeting and I am on my way to my drag show, but I wanted to update the blog so you all know that the Board voted unanimously to revoke the discriminatory policy they had in place, and enact a NEW admissions policy where ALL are welcome, where no one will be denied entrance into our Pride Festival based upon their age. We will have a welcome tent for youth where they can get goodie bags, sign up to enter a contest to win a free iPod, AND they can GET IN FREE (thank you to Brit and Jane for sponsoring this).

And by the way, I want to thank everyone who helped make this happen. From the very start, I would like to thank Kelly, who was there, is ALWAYS there, when I was crying and feeling so helpless. I would like to thank Tami - who huffed it all over the neighborhood with me to get signatures for the petition.

I would like to thank, thank, and THANK Emily, my "partner in crime", on this - who's eloquence, and ability to make her point with ANYONE, proved to be so very vital to this process.

I would like to also thank my father. He helped me so much with the initial legal analysis of the policy, and was there for me to debate the argument and approach for our initial presentation. THANKS! (And of COURSE thanks to my Mom, for her editing skills and her love).

Thanks to Alex - who was there to make sure we had a strong youth perspective, and to Wendy Sue, who came in with her loving heart and steadfast love for our community. I would like to thank the Sisters for their staunch support, and Eric, who was there to lend his support and his precious words.

I would like to thank Ben, from XY Magazine - who gave us the much needed boost in pressure from the media - and who also re-affirmed that yes, we are doing the right thing!

Lastly, I would like to thank the Board of Directors of San Diego LGBT Pride (Bob and Jeri especially!), and to Ron DeHarte - who kept us in dialogue - thank you for making this decision. You made our community truly Proud!

Thank you to all, who signed the petition, wrote a letter to the Editor, spread the word about this. This truly is the power we have in our hands (and in our keyboards) - the grassroots, the netroots, we can make it happen.

There are so many people I have not named, but I wanted every single one of you to know that you made a difference. We made a difference.

With humility,
Margot

Monday, June 19, 2006

ITS NOT OVER YET!!!! Join us Wednesday!!!

On Wednesday 21st at 6:00 p.m. the full Pride Board will take a vote, so please plan to attend and show your support of the proposal Pride Board Members developed this weekend. (See Below).

Right now we need to let the Pride Board know much we appreciate their willingness to solve the concerns expressed by our community and we hope they will all vote to adopt the proposal put forth this weekend.

A Yes vote would cancel the Youth policy as it is currently written and instate the following:

Any Youth may enter the Pride Festival, the cost is $10.00. (Under 14 is free with a Parent/Guardian...as it has been for years).

However Youth can get a FREE TICKET at the Festival entrance, by cruising through the Youth Welcome Tent. They can also enter to win an IPOD by filling out a quick survey.
Inside the tent, Youth will receive a goodie bag of cool stuff, learn where to find first aid, where there will be a safe person located/ safe zones in case any one feels uncomfortable, gets in an inappropriate situation, or simply has a question. They will be given a copy of the Youth "Creed to Stay Safe"...stick together and respect the zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol.

Youth will NOT be required sign anything or bring a parent/guardian, just be willing to be informed. In the tent will also be water, some snacks, maybe a coffee sponsor and an information table of youth services and arts/culture info/stuff for GLBT youth to do in S.D./Youth Pride Volunteer Sign-up, etc.
At the other end of the tent, they will be handed their free ticket and can go on in and enjoy the festivities...


This creates a fabulous balance, there is no age restriction on Pride attendees and Youth are given some quick tips to stay safe. And who doesn't want a free ticket!

Keep your fingers crossed, see you at the meeting on Wednesday!

We will be meeting at Urban Grind at 5:30pm for a quick de-briefing, and then walk over to the Pride Office. Join us!!!

Stand up for youth

STAND UP FOR YOUTH
Urban Grind @ 5:30pm
Wednesday, June 21st

More details to come

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Monday Madness

Yesterday generated a slew of emailing, phone calls, and we made some great headway. Peter from XY magazine has gotten involved and put his resources to use!

From Peter of XY Magazine:

I spoke with the editors of 10 other major gay magazines and organizations today, as well as several sponsors of Pride. All of them had not heard of Pride's decision, but all were utterly outraged by it. The below is not just XY's position, it is everyone's position, but after several meetings this afternoon we agreed what to do. I was the one deputized to call Ron because XY is a national magazine for gay youth.


What I said to Ron, in the most pleasant terms, was:

1. I told him that XY and the rest of the national gay press requires Pride to decide by Friday so we know whether to call for action against Pride at the event. We are all going to press for July--XY is printing next week.

2. I told him that the entire world was 100% united against the Pride Committee, and that the only thing that would satisfy the assembled gay community would be a complete reversal and a public apology by Friday. No negotiations, delays or compromises would satisfy either national leaders or the gay community in San Diego.

3. I told him that if they do not reverse and apologize by Friday, a very large group of the national gay press, gay organizations, and Pride's own sponsors would call for a series of actions that would include civil disobedience, the arrest of gay leaders at the gates, coverage on national news programs, the disruption of Pride due to rallies and mass refusal to provide IDs, national damage to San Diego's reputation for tolerance, and result in the Pride Committee and officers all having to resign in shame. There are enough angry leaders right now that such an outcome is assured unless they reverse the policy immediately.

4. I told him that we do not want to take these actions, but for moral reasons we would be forced to if the policy is not reversed. My purpose in calling was to give him and the Committee a last chance out of this disaster before it blows up.

Ron said the committee would probably discuss it today, Wednesday. Nobody on either side wants this disaster, but it will happen, so I pray the Committee will do the right thing. At this point they do not have the power to do what they're doing, and the sooner we force them to see it, the better for everybody including the Committee.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sunday's meeting update

Provided by Lisa:


Dear Friends and Family,

The meeting at Urban Grind was quite positive and concluded with no one looking to hold a formal negative campaign against Pride, but we are not going to ignore the issues created by the SD Pride policy. Each of us expressed a willingness to work with Pride if they should be willing... although change seems eminent, we may not reach our goal 'till next year. But what we do this year, we hope, will help to accomplish next year's repeal of the new Youth policy. Here are the minutes from last night's meeting:

A. Emily explained the latest information from the Pride Board:

1. There will be a Youth Xone, that has free access, outside of the Pride Festival. You must be under 20 to enter. Currently it has an open mic with no performers booked. All vendors and community service groups (i.e. free HIV testing, GLBT information, Support Services, etc. are inside the Festival, which under 18 would not have access to .)

2. To enter the Festival you must be 18 and above.

3. A Welcome Committee will be at the gates to let Youth know about the free space and tell them that may enter with a parent/guardian. The parent or guardian must sign a form stating they are legally responsible for the Youth.

4. The Pride Board maintains that they are not excluding youth. They also maintain that it has nothing to do with last year's bad press about 3 volunteers who were discovered by the Christian Reich to be on the Sex Offender's index....

B. It was decided that Lisa Lipsey should speak at the next Pride Meeting on Weds. the 21st at 6 p.m. at the Pride Office. We will make one last attempt to present a workable solution to the Pride Board. Also Ben ____ from UCSD will speak as well.

It would be nice to have a crowded room, especially inclusive of Youth, to share how they feel about the policy. If you can come, respectfully, please plan to attend.

C. If the Pride Board does not see their actions as exclusive to Youth, community members will move forward with hosting an all ages BBQ outside of the Festival entrance. This will be a free event, open to all, on Saturday after the parade is over. A "Spontaneous Public Picnic" There is no official sponsor of this and we are all pitching in.

(On Sunday, all ages are welcome to attend Dyke Marches' picnic as well.)

D. Letter writing is of course encouraged. There is still time to create and inspire change. If there is no change, the free all ages BBQ is a wonderful, positive public showing against the Pride Festival. We are excluding no one and making a choice to save our money and spend it elsewhere.

The bottom line:

Pride is discriminating against Youth and perpetuating the stereotype that it is unsafe for youth to be around GLBT adults. They are setting a precedence that other Pride festivals may have to follow in the future.

The Pride Board should have spent their energy re-vamping their volunteer application, screening their volunteers and training key volunteers on safety issues/ mandated reporting so that all ages are safe! Rather than banning the age group that is most vulnerable to being victimized. We should not punish our Youth; they need to feel welcomed in our community. We hope you will attend the Parade and join us for the all ages BBQ in lieu of attending the Pride Festival. While we do not want to protest (yelling/marching...there are enough nasty people in the world who protest Pride), we will not give our money to the Festival this year.

Please let me know if you have questions, or are interested in helping in some additional way. Alex, Bev, Emily or Lisa T., please reply to all if you have any corrections or additions to the "minutes".

As you may have heard/seen there is an excellent editorial in the GLT if you care to read more of the reasoning behind the opposition to the SD Pride Youth policy.
The Editorial is cleverly entitled "Prides' Minor Problem"

http://www.gaylesbiantimes.com/?id=7525

Much Love,
Lisa

Weekend Updates

This weekend - Jeri Dilno of the Pride Board met with Wendy Sue, Emily and I to further discuss a possible compromise regarding the Youth Policy. Jeri will be going to the Pride Board with the following suggestions:

That Pride create a paid internship position for a youth
That Pride hold a "semi-open" forum with queer youth (although she was saying Youth under 21) - that would be for only the youth themselves to discuss what they want from Pride.

Unfortunately - it seems that the possible "alternative" solution will be proposed without altering their current policy. The problem with this is that the "solution", which would include having youth be buddied up with volunteers in order to get into the general festival, will not adhere to Pride's written policy. I don't know how they are planning on reconciling that. From what I understand, it would increase their liability 10-fold if an organization creates a program that breaks their own rules.

She also said that the committee for Youth Pride is still working somewhat on a Xone Space (this would be OUTSIDE the festival grounds - segregated from the rest of the Festival) - although I don't know how up-to-date that information is (we need to check with Ren Petty who heads up that committee).

There was also another meeting happening at the same time (a Q&A with Toni Atkins) - which I caught the tail end of - I did hear Toni say that the policy, to her, seems to be an "over reaction" to what happened last year.

Jeri expressed anger towards the GLT's editorial and called it misinformation -- although I think that perhaps it was more a "different perspective" issue... I'm surprised that the Board did not anticipate this reaction from the larger community. They seem upset that the majority of our community is responding critically to their decision. Unfortunately, it seems that they are unwilling to step back and take another look at their mistake and would rather charge ahead and hope for our outrage to fizzle and the publicity to dissipate.

On Sunday, there was a meeting at Urban Grind with reps from a few local organizations. I am waiting for an update on that meeting (I was unable to attend) and I will post updates as soon as I get them.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The GLT weighs in...

Okay I just read the editorial and I got chills! Finally! I had emailed Russell (the editor) my commentary piece and, now that he got more info, he really went for the jugular! Hooray! Hooray!

Ready????

Pride's Minor Problem (editorial from the GLT)

Pride announced recently that youth 17 and under will no longer be allowed to enter the annual Pride festival without being accompanied by a parent or guardian. Following last year’s Pride scandal – in which three volunteers, one staff member and the clown from Pride’s children’s garden were discovered to be registered sex offenders – the community anticipated a few changes, but Pride’s move to exclude unaccompanied youth from the festival caught many, including us here at the Gay & Lesbian Times, by surprise.
We spoke to Ron deHarte, Pride’s new executive director, about its new interim policy – interim because deHarte admits it may be a temporary fix for this year’s festival until a better solution is found. deHarte said that Pride is responsible for providing a safe and secure environment for everyone who attends the festival. The moment unaccompanied youth enter the festival grounds they become Pride’s responsibility – and a total liability, he said. Pride can neither effectively monitor this group of roughly 100 youth (by Pride’s estimate) nor ensure their safety.
But what does Pride want to protect our youth from? deHarte assured us that this policy is in no way a response to last year’s events. He said a risk assessment was recently conducted that revealed potential risks for youth. When asked specifically what youth are at risk for, deHarte gave a general statement about the issues (left undefined) that come into play any time 40,000 adults mix with 100 or so unaccompanied youth. The word pedophile was never mentioned, but isn’t that what Pride’s afraid of? Youth can get into all kinds of trouble, sure, but this new policy has everything to do with last year’s controversy, and to expect the community to believe otherwise is insulting.
Pride is working out the details, but it plans to make every parent or guardian sign a wavier before entering the festival grounds stating they are responsible for the well-being of their child. Make no mistake, this policy sends the message that the gay community cannot be trusted around youth. By adopting this policy, Pride has essentially sided with the religious right that says we can’t be Boy Scout leaders, teachers, coaches or even parents.
Community outrage over Pride’s new policy motivated signature-gathering efforts that collected more than 600 signatures in protest, and since its announcement, letters to the Gay & Lesbian Times critical of the policy have remained steady.
We contacted L.A. Pride board president Rodney Scott to see how other Pride organizations address this “liability.” Scott said he wouldn’t comment on San Diego Pride’s policy, but said they support its mission and objectives. He did say, however, that L.A. Pride does not have such a policy and is not in a position “to even think to create a similar policy.” L.A. Pride’s approach is to include youth, he said.
“Our Pride structure is about empowering as many people as possible,” Scott said. “We believe we must show our rich, diverse community in all of its grandeur. We’ve been working to strengthen the organization. To strengthen our presence in communities that don’t always feel included.”
To do this, L.A. Pride has devoted space within their festival specifically for youth, including a substance-free zone and a youth-empowerment zone called the Peer Party, providing youth-specific lectures, activities and entertainment. Their approach actually seeks to increase youth’s presence by reaching out to high schools with Gay-Straight Alliances and GLBT-related groups.
L.A. Pride is a ticketed, private event much like San Diego’s and has an adult-only area for content that may be inappropriate for attendees under the age of 18.
The hit Pride took last year shook the organization and the entire community. And everyone – the Gay & Lesbian Times included – wishes only to support and encourage the organization. However, this policy is not the answer. Many GLBT youth struggle with who they are, and therefore can’t or are not ready to go to a parent or guardian. Those who do may not have willing, supportive family members, and in some cases may be even further ostracized.
Scott said something during our conversation that resonated with us: Now, after 25 years of AIDS, with the pandemic still ravaging our community, Pride is an opportunity to connect with youth, provide much-needed education and access to services, and to show those who are struggling that they are not alone.
Pride is more than a parade or a festival. It’s an idea – a movement. It’s about hope and community building, and affirming our right to exist equally and openly in a world not so accepting. For many, Pride is the first time in our lives we truly feel accepted; that moment of realization where we say to ourselves, “I am going to be OK.” Exclusion has never been part of our Pride celebration.
Pride’s heart is in the right place, and we commend the organization for putting the safety of our youth ahead of all other priorities. For that, we should recognize that this is an organization hard at work for the community’s best interests. If this truly is an interim policy, let’s work together to structure the festival in a manner that is inclusive of all but is also safe and secure for all.

Letter from the Sister's of Perpetual Indulgence!

Letter published in this week's GLT:

Dear Editor:
Dear San Diego Pride Board,

'Thank you for all the hard work and devotion you have invested in our community. Pride is a wonderful time of year for us to reflect on our past, acknowledge our present, and aspire to an even better future. We look forward each year to using this time to amplify our mission of promulgating universal joy.

Every year, people gather across the continents at events just like ours to celebrate the diversity of the GLBT family. Everyone is invited and everyone is welcomed, no questions asked. Sadly, opponents often try to derail our celebration, but we continue to rise above and show the world that we are a beautiful part of the human race and we are not going anywhere. Sometimes, though, we respond to our detractors in self-destructive ways by internalizing their prejudices, and this often occurs without our even realizing it.

We, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, call this negative effect “stigmatic guilt.” It is roughly defined as the feeling one gets when one measures his/her worth against a behavioral, moral, and value standard not of one’s own making. When these external standards are internally validated, the resulting feelings of low self-esteem and self-doubt can be horribly destructive mentally, physically, and socially. It can occur on both personal and community-wide levels. Many religions, social organizations, and peer groups inflict stigmatic guilt on a regular basis, whether they be gay or straight.

We find that Pride 2006 itself is reinforcing stigmatic guilt by barring unescorted youth from partaking in the majority of the pride festival. This policy implies that there is something inherent about our gay community that is dangerously harmful to minors. The very name “Pride” is meant to give us a positive sense of who we are. However, this new policy of the San Diego Pride Board says that there is something about who we are that should engender shame, something from which youth must be shielded.

Other Prides around the country do not adopt this policy, nor do other festivals within San Diego. Why should our celebration be treated differently? Surely, more palatable solutions could be found to include our youth in this focal celebration of GLBT life. Perhaps allow admission to the festival at no charge and solicit donations instead? Or hire professional security services instead of relying on volunteers? As representatives of the GLBT community, you owe it to Pride supporters and attendees to outline your reasons for adopting this draconian policy and to pursue suggestions for keeping our youth included as much as possible.

We extend to you an invitation to meet with us and other community representatives so we can come to understand why these decisions have been made and how they may be improved. Please feel free to contact us so that we may help you to expiate this stigmatic guilt before it does further harm to our community.

The San Diego Sisters

Tim Reynal's Letter to the Editor

Published in this week's issue of the GLT:

Dear Editor:

Like many, I am disturbed at San Diego LGBT Pride Board’s decision to restrict minors not accompanied by a parent or guardian from the Pride Festival at Balboa Park. They cite “liability concerns” for their decision. Since alcohol and fetish exhibits are confined to adult-only areas, I do not understand the Committee’s rationale…or “irrationale.”

This sends the wrong message to youth who are wrestling with gender preference without family support. GLBT individuals know of this struggle and impact to their self-esteem. The Pride Festival is a vital link…if they were allowed to attend.

The Festival is a demonstration of our pride and solidarity, of who we are despite the oppression bestowed on us by others driven by religious and short-sighted convictions. It enables us to shrug off the deception that was once a mode of survival. Nothing about the Festival warrants the exclusion of minors who lack the support of a parent or guardian.

Restricting unaccompanied minors infers that Pride Festival will expose youth to a risky or potentially harmful situation and denies them a validating experience. Going to school, attending a dance, socializing with peers is far riskier than paying for admission and crossing the Festival’s threshold to a world of like-minded, empathetic individuals.

With proper leadership by the Pride Board, the liability for minors should be no greater than any other risks inherent in hosting a paid event. The decision to enact this divisive, poorly-strategized policy contradicts the all-inclusive nature of Pride. In a lawsuit-happy society, organizations must be vigilant in minimizing legal risk but cannot eliminate all lawsuit potential, no matter who they bar from admission. And the educational and psychological benefit to a GLBT youth outweighs any liability.

Further, enforcement of this policy will be difficult, if not impossible, to administer. During the onslaught of attendees at the start of the Festival, are the admittance volunteers going to check legal documents to verify that a minor is accompanied by their parent or legal guardian? If they don’t, and one of the Committee’s conjured-up “liability concerns” becomes reality, then the LGBT Board incurs a bigger liability for having a policy that wasn’t properly enforced.
The responsibility for restricting a minor’s participation at Pride or other event rests with the parent or guardian, not the Pride Board. The Board’s policy fuels adversaries who perceive us as deviant enough that we must prevent a minor without a parent from participating.
600 individuals signed a petition objecting to the Committee’s decision and many have decided to abstain from the Festival.

Let the GLBT Pride Board and their sponsors know of your disagreement. Alienating individuals who can benefit from the Festival is counterproductive to the purpose of the event. The Board should foster an all-inclusive, welcoming community for anyone who is inspired by LGBT Pride.

Tim Reynal

Michigan comes through!

Received a wonderful email from the Triangle Foundation.

Greetings,

I work for Triangle Foundation - Michigan's GLBT advocacy organization - and we are taking a keen interest in this San Diego Pride youth admissions issue. First off, thank you for all that you are doing to raise awareness of this issue and the effort you have already put into this - particularly in regards to meet with the organizers and posting updates online.

With that said, let me tell you a little bit about why we are interested in this issue - despite the fact that we're in Michigan. We produce Motor City Pride, which is Michigan's largest Pride event, and we are active with InterPride - the international organization unifying all of the Pride events. We are also vocal advocates of GLBT youth issues and are strategic partners with a number of national organizations that have a strong interest in GLBT youth issues.

We are bringing this matter to a number of people's attention on a national level and are preparing some remarks and a press release on why this policy is so outrageous. I was hoping that you would be willing to lend a quote to the press release we are preparing. Particularly speaking to the impact this event has had on your life and the importance of Pride events to GLBT youth.

I would also be interested in speaking with you more about this and sharing any developments on the avenues we are pursuing regarding this issue.

Thank you again for all that you are doing and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Queer Youth's Right to Pride - update

Queer Youth’s Right to Pride
By Margot Kelley

As many of you are most likely aware, San Diego LGBT Pride has enacted a new policy that will significantly diminish the opportunity for youth to attend the Pride Festival this year. The policy, as approved by the Board of Directors, states: “All persons 17 and under must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian in order to enter the annual San Diego LGBT Pride Festival.”

Many people in our community are outraged. First, this policy denies youth access to the most important event of the year. I came out at 14 years old, volunteered at my first San Diego Pride festival at 15, and was honored to receive Pride’s Community Service Award in 1996 - at the age of 17. My involvement with Pride provided me opportunities I did not know existed - from attending the NGLTF Youth Leadership Institute, to finding a mentor who helped me apply (and get into) the University of California, at Berkeley. My involvement with Pride opened up a future that I had not thought possible. If this policy had been in place when I was growing up - none of this would have transpired.

Second, think about how this policy reflects upon the LGBT community as a whole. This policy implies that young people are somehow less safe among our community than among general society. Are we the predators and the perverts the right wing has been calling us all along? The last thing we want to do is give the religious right a weapon to use against us - and this policy provides them with just the ammunition they are looking for. They can point to this policy and say, “See? Even the GAYS know they can’t be trusted around kids!!!”

Once the Dobsons, the Hartlines, and the Hedgecocks get a hold of this policy (and it’s only a matter of time) the damage to San Diego Pride and the GLBTQ community could be devastating. They will create a media feeding frenzy - and they could even go as far as petitioning the city to stop hosting the Festival at all.

Third, aside from the political implications of the policy -- what about the legal ramifications? How exactly can Pride enforce this policy? This policy would force Pride to check every single person’s identification before entering the festival. In any organization, once a policy has been written - it is the legal responsibility of the organization to enforce it. Think about the resources, planning, and training it would take to enforce this policy.

In addition, the term “guardian” has a very special and distinct meaning within the legal system - and the relationship must be approved by a court of law. Pride is opening itself up to all kinds of liability issues just by putting a policy like this into place. Each guardian would have to show documented proof of their relationship to the youth and would have to be educated on their legal responsibilities.

Many in the GLBTQ community see this policy as discriminatory and hurtful. This policy not only hurts our youth, but it taints the image of our community as a whole - leaving us vulnerable legally and politically. We’ve collected over 600 signatures so far, some on paper, and the rest at:
http://www.petitiononline.com/sd06prd/petition.html. People who have signed the petition and have lent their support include members of the Unitarian Universalist Church, PFLAG, GYA, UCSD and SDSU GLBTQ organizations, GSDBA, the Leather Community, Dyke March and VAGINA organizers, J*Pride, Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, and the Imperial Court.

We made a presentation to the Pride Board at their last open meeting and met with them again on Thursday, May 26th. They are not willing to repeal this policy - even when we presented them with an alternative: For this year, repeal this policy and institute a Youth Buddy Service. Emily Foster, another long-term youth activist, and I volunteered to coordinate this Service. We would station two volunteers between the ages of 18-24 at the Festival gate who would serve as a welcoming committee to persons who are younger than 21. Youth would be informed that Pride wants them to enjoy the festival and feel comfortable and safe at all times.

This welcoming committee would inform youth of the safe people to contact in case of any uncomfortable situation, the location of First Aid and the Youth Xone, along with other service areas. With two volunteers available at all times, one volunteer could break away to hang out with someone who came to the festival without friends and give them a tour of the festival grounds, introducing them to new friends their age. This welcoming committee would give Pride the ability to help each individual young person build a safety support network for themselves.

At the May 26th meeting, we became increasingly aware of how little thought the Pride Board put into real-life impacts of this policy. As of last Thursday, there is still no concrete plan in place to enforce the policy, nor has ANY plan been developed to create an alternative space that youth would even WANT to go to. We found out that they have been talking about this policy at their meetings since January. While some on the Board did express real concern for the safety of youth at the Festival, the fact that little to no effort has been expended to create a viable, exciting and attractive alternative for youth only points to their true motivation for this policy - they are more concerned about liability than about the youth themselves. When presented with the possible scenario of a youth convincing an adult stranger to "stand in" as a guardian in order to enter the Festival and then being hurt in some way by this adult, the response reflected only self-interest on the part of the Board. They said that, in that case, if the youth brought a lawsuit, the case against Pride would be weakened because the youth was the one who sought out the adult and undermined the policy... so much for caring about the youth.

We brought up that other Pride Festivals around the country don’t have policies such as this one in place. Their response was that most festivals don’t charge admission, and since San Diego’s festival is a private event, the liability falls on them. They responded that the board, “as an entity, in its official capacity” was not aware of this liability until this year. How do other venues charge admission but allow all ages to enter without "parents or guardians" in attendance deal with this liability? What’s the difference between the Del Mar Fair and the Pride Festival? Concert venues? Amusement Parks? Wouldn’t the liability be the same?

Pride is still promoting itself as an “all-inclusive” family event - which is misleading since a major segment of our community (in fact the FUTURE of our community) will not be able to attend - unless they are literally baby-sat by their own parents. It seems the mission of Pride is no longer about celebrating the diversity of our community - it’s about raising money - even at the expense of our community’s future.

Pride’s message to all GLBTQ youth is "Sorry, but you are too much a liability for us so we will have to turn you away." I don’t know about you, but I avoid places where I am not welcome - and that is the message Pride is sending to everyone under 18. It’s hard enough to be out and gay and under 18 - and then to watch your own community abandon you just adds to the feelings of isolation and despair. Our youth, and our community, deserve better than this.

Voice your opposition to this policy by contacting the San Diego LGBT Pride Board of Directors at
info@sdpride.org or call them at 619-297-7683. Also, sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/sd06prd/petition.html.