Youth participants at the Oregon Queer Youth Summit celebrate identity and community. Photo By Ryan Mahler, via Chatpdx

Youth participants at the Oregon Queer Youth Summit celebrate identity and community.
Photo By Ryan Mahler, via Chatpdx

By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly

Queer youth, it’s your time to shine. The 2013 Oregon Queer Youth Summit wants your presence and your voice at Portland’s Jefferson High School on May 11.

A conference by and for LGBTQA youth age 24 and younger, the OQYS focuses on identity, acceptance, youth empowerment, and social change by bringing folks from around the region together to foster fun times and community transformation.

Now in its 10th year, the OQYS is known for its fully youth-driven offerings of diverse and engaging workshops on every aspect of the young queer experience. In keeping with this year’s theme “Dream It. Speak It. Do it,” attendees will explore activism, queer identity, and youth empowerment by leading and participating in the conference’s offerings. Past years’ workshops have included such topics as GSA management, safer sex education, sexuality and faith, drag performance 101, gender identity, social media as an activist tool, and makeup for queers.

While the conference is focused upon youth under the age of 18, many of the workshops are relevant for older high school and college students as well.

This year’s keynote address will be delivered by queer storyteller, author, and teacher Sassafras Lowrey, who will deliver the speech via Skype.

“In 2003 I was part of the organizing of the very first Oregon Queer Youth Summit,” Lowery said a post from their blog. “I’d been living on my own for over a year and felt solid as a youth organizer and leader in that space. I remember that I co-led a zine-making workshop for other youth, and, remembering how alone and isolated I’d felt out in Clackamas County, was thrilled at the idea the summit could be bringing youth together from across Oregon.”

Young people from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply, especially younger students, youth of color, trans teens, and students from small towns and rural areas; to help the latter group in particular, OQYS’s organizers offer honorariums to offset the costs of transportation and lodging.

While the conference is explicitly by and for youth, adult allies are welcome to attend and lend their support by volunteering, co-leading youth-led workshops, and quietly supporting the attendees as they create the conference for themselves. Adults currently involved in supporting a specific group of youth — say, school staff acting as GSA co-facilitators — are also welcome to attend.

The Oregon Queer Youth Summit is sponsored by groups including the Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition, Cascade AIDS Project, SMYRC, the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, PFLAG and PFLAG Portland Black Chapter, and the City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement. Most importantly, though, it’s created by youth, driven by youth, and informed by youth to empower youth. So, if you’re a queer under the age of 25: the Oregon Queer Youth Summit wants — and needs — you.

The 2013 Oregon Queer Youth Summit will take place Saturday, May 11, at Jefferson High School (5210 N Kerby Ave., Portland), 8:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Meals and snacks are provided free to all participants. For more information or to register, go to chatpdx.org/OQYS/ or contact Edgar Mendez at 503-223-5907.

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