2015 Youth Empowerment Summit focuses on LGBT youth issues

By : Kimberly Slichter
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Orlando – More than 50 people gathered in City Hall on Feb. 7 for the Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit (O-YES), an event organized to help teach the local community about LGBT youth issues.

The summit, which was sponsored by City of Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan, celebrated its second year. Although intended for younger generations, there were many older attendees hoping to learn more about the community.

There were a total of nine workshops – three at a time – on topics ranging from online bullying, transitioning and domestic abuse in the LGBT community.

Attendees chose which presentations to attend and were encouraged to participate in the question and answer sessions at the end of each workshop.

“With visibility comes awareness, with awareness comes education and with education comes normalcy,” said Equality Florida’s Transgender Inclusion Director Gina Duncan, one of the O-YES speakers. “The more that we can empower our youth and we can educate on transgender issues, the further the community will advance.”

Duncan’s workshop, “Transitioning into the Workplace,” was one of two workshops specifically about transgender issues.

While some speakers were, like Duncan, a part of the LGBT community, some were allies, such as the clergymen and women in the “Understanding, Acceptance and Cooperation” session. This workshop was the only one to focus on religion, specifically discrimination, and how over time various churches have become more accepting.

“I’ve learned that there are many people that are fighting for our cause that I never had a feeling were even out there,” said Glen Carlson, an attendee who recently came out to his church and was on the verge of tears during the aforementioned discussion.“I would like to see this more widely publicized and more people than just the LGBT community brought into here.”

Some students represented their school’s GSA chapter, such as Erin Barbery from Oviedo High School.

“I thought it’d be a great learning opportunity on how to implement a club in our local middle school,” Barbery said. “We learned a lot about bullying and how to prevent that. Now we’re looking forward to trying to educate more teachers and making our school a safer place.”

Orlando was awarded the highest Municipal Equality Index (MEI) score in 2014, making it one of only a handful of cities across the nation to score a perfect 100. In her welcoming address, City of Orlando Chief Service Officer Marcia Hope Goodwin, pointed this out and discussed how it helps make the City of Orlando more inclusive for the LGBT community.


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