A group of activists marched down Sunset Blvd in Hollywood Sunday heading toward the first Hollywood Youth Pride, an event dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered young people — a demographic increasingly vulnerable to homelessness, prostitution and illicit drug use, according to the activists.
“We wanted to increase visibility among the queer youth community,” said Heather Hufstedler, an organizer of the event. Hufstedler also helped spearhead last Thursday's protest against the stay on same-sex marriage.
Dozens of teens and twenty-somethings braved near triple-digit temperatures waving rainbow flags. Though most onlookers responded positively with cars honking in support, there were a few that yelled homophobic epithets at the young marchers.
The activists held their ground as march leaders told them to “ignore the haters.”
Marchers arrived at Hollywood Youth Pride at a parking lot off of Sunset and Kenmore Avenue.
A DJ spun pop hits while the crowd checked out the booths of a slew of LGBT-friendly organizations such as the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team, Los Angeles Youth Network, Children of the Night and others.
“There aren't enough money and resources going into the gay youth community,” said Maurice Lopez, who originally conceived Hollywood Youth Pride.
He met up with Hufstedler earlier in the year and began making plans to create the youth-focused pride event with the help of Bienestar, a nonprofit health care group serving the Latino community.
A major topic: The large number of homeless LGBT youth living on Los Angeles streets.
According to a 2007 study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 20 to 40 percent of the estimated 1.6 million American homeless young people identify as LGBT.
“A majority of the young people coming into the shelter are queer and transgendered youth,” said Ehecatl Rojas of the Los Angeles Youth Network. The group provides outreach and refuge to homeless adolescents in the L.A. area.
Rojas also said that prostitution and drug use were a growing problem among young people living on the streets.
As the Black Eyed Peas “Rock Your Body” played in the background, many of the attendees seemed happy to be part of the inaugural pride event.
“I'm really glad that the youth are represented and get to stand up for themselves,” said 16-year-old David Rodriguez, of North Hollywood.
While there have been youth pride events held throughout California, Hollywood Youth Pride is the first for Los Angeles, according to Lopez.
“I feel like this a Harvey Milk moment,” Lopez said, referring to California's first openly gay elected politician, who was fatally shot in 1978. “We're making history.”
He hopes Hollywood Youth Pride will become an annual tradition that attracts young people from all over the nation.