OkEq's Intergenerational Dance Party:
A space oddity.
Did you know:
LGBTQ youth who are rejected by their families are significantly more likely to report having attempted suicide, high levels of depression, dangerous substance use, and unprotected sex compared to those with no family rejection.
63.5% of LGBTQ youth have felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, while 43.9% felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
19% of trans people have been homeless at one point in their lives.
(Check out more important LGBTQ data here.)
The important role of acceptance and access to role models in the mental health and safety of LGBTQ young people cannot be overemphasized. As a mom, I worry every day about my children’s safety and feeling that they are accepted. My kiddos aren’t at an age yet where they are expressing attraction to anyone, but the thought of any of my children living in fear of coming out or feeling they would have to live a lie is absolutely terrifying. We want our kids to feel like they can tell us anything so we can do our best to support them and help keep them safe. Our family motto, “Together or Not at All,” is all about supporting and loving each other and sticking together no matter what, and the realization that some kids don’t have that breaks my heart. This is why community is so important.
Let me tell you about my friend Olivia. I met her back about a decade ago when I was working at TCC. She was a regular visitor in the Writing Center, and we hit it off immediately. She’s a Xennial, super brilliant, with that super great boho art girl kind of fashion sense that I love and a passion for social justice, so we were destined to be friends.
She’s come a long way since her days at TCC. She works tirelessly at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center (OkEq) as the office manager. She is a strong supporter of civil advocacy, and she accompanied my family down to the Capitol during the 2018 Oklahoma Teacher Walkout. She was a great resource because she was already familiar with many of our representatives from her experience taking LGBTQ groups down there. She’s finishing up her bachelor’s in sociology over at OSU. She has even been awarded for her work in the LGBTQ community.
It’s funny that I started off as Olivia’s teacher, because she has been one of my greatest teachers just by her actions. She is never judgy or condemning when others misstep, and by others, I mean me. She talks about LGBTQ issues openly, and she has taught me a great deal about how I can be a better straight ally. One of the issues central to her heart is building intergenerational support systems, connecting younger people who are in need of support with older individuals who have been through many of the same experiences. Another important issue is bisexual visibility, basically the idea that the experience of bisexual individuals is just as valid as any other experience and should be acknowledged and supported.
Last week, she brought those two ideas together as the impetus behind the OkEq Intergenerational Dance Party, and our family got to be part of this amazing event. With the help of her team at OkEq and a few friends, Olivia did an incredible job bridging the generations, offering an amazing playlist and a family-friendly environment where kids, teens, adults, and senior citizens in the LGBTQ community and their allies were able to get down and shake their groove thangs in a safe space.
Friends, it was awesome.
The dress code was outer space casual. The fam and I dressed up in our spaciest garb. The whole place was decked out in holographic stars and neon planets. There was a pie buffet, friends. We’re talking pecan pie (my fave). Apple pie. Cherry pie. Pumpkin pie. Chocolate pie. All the pie.
A. Pie. Buffet.
There were two dance floors--a bright dance floor that was a little more senior-friendly with banquet tables, and a darker disco-vibe dance floor where glowsticks and blacklights were the backdrop for everyone’s favorite party dances--the Cupid Shuffle, the Cha Cha Slide, the YWCA (the last of which Lucy apparently has an irrational fear of. It was the Captain Underpants dollar movie all over again).
There was also a quiet room sponsored by the brand new Campfire Green Country group. As a family that has a member with autism, that was just simply awesome. When the sounds and sights got to be too much, we all retired to the chill room for a bit to color some Bowie coloring pages. And there were super sweet door prizes--Lucy won a neon space-colored ball!
The dance was set to a repeated backdrop slide presentation focused on musicians across the generations who are LGBTQ+ with a special focus on visibility for bisexual and pansexual musicians. Olivia told me the dance was inspired by her love of the original space oddity himself, David Bowie.
LeAnne Williams from Williams Photography, who did an amazing photo shoot of my kids when they were still little, was there with her camera and hands-down the best photo booth I’ve ever seen from Foto Fusion Booths. All the pics in this post are from LeAnne.
It was so fun seeing all the seniors interacting with the young people and kids there--I love the joy that older folks get talking to little kids. It makes my heart do little flippy flops. Seeing all the teenagers and tweens have a safe place to hang out, laughing and dancing with the younger kids and older folks--it was amazing. It reminded me of all the positive energy at a really fun family reunion.
As parents, Justin and I love, love, love the opportunity to let our kids be part of an environment where who you love or are attracted to is just a piece of the puzzle of who you are, where community and dancing and music and positive vibes and inclusion are at the heart. I was also a chance for our family to make connections and learn how to listen to LGBTQ voices.
The event was a giant success, and we had an amazing time.
If you have an LGBTQ youth in your fam, there’s no better time than now to get involved with OkEq and give your kiddo the best possible chance in life by helping him/her/them have access to community and support and learning how to be a better ally.