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Fort Worth group hosts 'bigger, better and gayer' picnic for LGBTQ youth in its second year

Youth Pride celebration
Courtesy
/
LGBTQ Saves
A group of volunteers work at the Youth Pride Picnic event last year in Fort Worth. This year organizers expect about 400 people to attend the Pride celebration on Saturday.

Bertinand “Bertie” Gardner said he was shocked when 200 people showed up to the first ever Youth Pride Picnic in Fort Worth last year. While he was planning the event for the local nonprofit LGBTQ Saves, people told him to expect less than half that number.

Young people and their families flocked to Trinity Park for the picnic. Gardner remembered nine- and 10-year-olds who wore pride flags draped over their shoulders like capes.

"When I was their age, I didn't have that,” Gardner said. “I didn't have a Pride picnic, I didn't have any Pride groups. When you get to come to the picnic, you get to see all of these kids. They are just like you.”

This is Texas, Gardner said, so he decided to "go big or go home” the following year.

"When we ended the picnic, I addressed the crowd and let them know that the 2022 picnic was going to be bigger, better and gayer," Gardner said.

Registration for the second Youth Pride Picnic, on Saturday, is already maxed out at 400 people, Gardner said. There’s classic fare like burgers and hot dogs, plus activities. The Amon Carter Museum will facilitate a collaborative art project. The crew at Acute Salon, a gender-neutral hair salon in Fort Worth, will do face paint and hair tinsel.

LGBTQ Saves exists to build community among young LGBTQ+ people, and the Youth Pride Picnic is an extension of that, making Pride month more accessible. So many Pride events are at bars, and most youth-specific events are in Dallas, Gardner said.

The Youth Pride Picnic is free, and it takes place in Fort Worth’s Trinity Park, giving the event the queer summer camp vibe Gardner wants to cultivate.

"For some of the kids this year, this is their first Pride event that they have ever been able to go to,” he said.

Recent events in Tarrant County and statewide have made LGBTQ Saves cautious. Only registered attendees will be allowed at the picnic on Saturday, and there will be security on the premises, Gardner said.

The Youth Pride Picnic is happening in a year where LGBTQ+ Texans, especially youth, have been thrown into controversy. Governor Greg Abbott’s order to investigate parents who allow their trans kids to seek gender affirming care is still winding its way through the courts.

In Tarrant County, Arlington’s stance on Pride Month became a battle at City Council public comment in May.

On Saturday, several Tarrant County residents, who are members of the white supremacist hate group Patriot Front, were arrested on their way to disrupt a Pride event in Idaho.

And on Monday night, people stood up at Watauga City Council to protest the presence of Stedfast Baptist Church, a Southern Poverty Law Center-identified hate group, which moved from Hurst to Watauga after being evicted for making threats against the LGBTQ community. A pastor at the church recently said in a sermon that gay people should be executed.

Members of the church defended their views before the Watauga City Council, repeating that they believe that being gay should be a crime punishable by death. Others who have been protesting Stedfast stood and spoke against them.

"We will not stand for hate in Watauga. We will not stand for hate in Texas,” one of the speakers said.

Events like the Youth Pride Picnic, and organizations like LGBTQ Saves, are fundamental for young queer people, Gardner said, but not just because it allows kids to meet others like them. They also get to meet the adults who run the programs, and see that queer people can thrive at all ages.

"This is a spot where they are looking past 14, they're looking past age 18, they're looking forward to milestones and career building and just super excited about life,” he said.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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