LANCASTER – The duo behind the advice website “Everyone is Gay” dropped by the Antelope Valley College campus Saturday and delivered an engaging performance that combined humor and serious discussion to raise awareness on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) issues.
Bursting out from behind a projection screen, Kristin Russo and Dannielle Owens-Reid launched into a dance routine to the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” immediately breaking the ice with the crowd of nearly 100.
The duo kept the laughter going for most of the hour-long presentation with witty one-liners, back and forth banter, and slides of podcasts featuring their humorous lip syncing performances.
The presentation tackled some very serious issues as well, like statistics taken from a 2009 National School Climate Survey that revealed 84% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 72% heard homophobic remarks, such as “fa–ot” or “d*ke,” and 29% of LGBT students missed at least one day of school because of safety concerns.
The presentation also featured the pictures and stories of several students, some as young as 11, who had committed suicide because of relentless bullying due to their sexual orientation.
“We don’t want to tell people they have to get out of middle school or get out of high school for things to get better,” Russo said. “We want things to get better now.”
They said making a difference was as simple as smiling and being nice to one another, supporting those who are being bullied, and resisting the urge to label people based on your assumptions about their sexuality.
“Don’t put yourself in a box and stop obsessing over labels,” said Owens-Reid. “It would be so much easier if we could just love who we love and that’s it.”
The presentation concluded with questions from the audience, some of which were written anonymously.
An anonymous audience member wanted to know how the two women “came out” to their parents.
Russo said she came out to her parents when she was 17. She said her mom found it hard to reconcile being gay with her Catholic faith.
“For her it was very, very upsetting,” Russo said. “We had a lot of fighting then a lot of crying.” She said her dad’s reaction was different. “He said ‘if you’re happy, I’m happy,’” she said.
The audience chuckled as Owens-Reid gave a humorous take on her parents’ reaction to the news that she liked women.
“My dad said ‘your mom sorta made you hate men, huh?’” said Owens-Reid, adding that her mom said: “That’s okay, Ellen is gay and I love Ellen!”
The event, which was hosted by the OUTreach Center, received raved reviews from audience members.
“They definitely were funny, enlightening and educational… this was a good event for the community to come out and have some lighthearted education about LGBT issues,” said Lancaster resident Johnathon Ervin. “I think we need more events like this to spread love, education, acceptance and equality throughout the community.”
Lancaster Human Relations Tapestry Commission Chairwoman, Sue Dell, said the event did wonders for the LGBT community in the Antelope Valley.
“I am always excited when there is a voice for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their allies to educate us about the impact of discrimination and bullying and to make it clear that it’s a separate culture with a separate set of issues on top of the issues everyone else has,” Dell said. “And I’m thrilled when it’s a social opportunity for people to look around and see other people who are like them.”
OUTreach Center Board President Sanie Andres said the crowd of nearly 100 proves that there is growing community awareness and acceptance of the LGBT population in the Antelope Valley.
“We had people that we haven’t seen at any of our events before show up,” said Andres. “That means we’re reaching out to more people and drawing in more members of our community, so for me it was a successful event.”
“I think we have made so many leaps and bounds in the last few years in the Antelope Valley in terms of having people more accepting of seeing LGBT people in the newspaper or out in public, but I think there is still a lot more that we can do,” Andres continued.
Russo and Owens-Reid will continue their nationwide tour of college and highschool campuses with an appearance at Urban Highschool in San Francisco on Monday. Learn more about “Everyone is Gay” here.