Walking into Queer Youth Fest, held Oct. 22 at the Healium Center in Candler Park, was an experience in and of itself. Outside of the entrance were groups of beautiful queer people socializing.
Presented by Georgia Equality, the Atlanta Coalition for LGBTQ Youth (ACFLY), and Queer Youth for Equality, the all-ages event showcased “some of the coolest LGBTQ Artists and Musicians from right here Atlanta,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
Entering the small and beautifully decorated hallway, visitors could see the walls covered with paintings and drawings by queer artists. Down the hallway, bathroom signs read “trans only” — a powerful statement and piece of interactive art, addressing the discrimination against trans people in public restrooms. Then there was a meditation room.
You could go to a large room and watch a series of films made by LGTBQ artists and get a $1 massage. Outside, a series of booths featured organizations such as your very own VOX Teen Communications, Lost-n-Found Youth, Recovery Consultants (offering free HIV testing), and so much more. There was free food — and condoms — galore, and most importantly, so many beautiful queer people who showed up to the event.
This was a super fun and exciting event, and it also marked a step forward for the Q in Atlanta’s LGTBQ community. Often, this is abbreviated as LGBT, and the Q category seems to be forgotten. The fact that this event was for Queer People, not just people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, shows a real step forward for the acceptance and representation of the broadness of the spectrum of gender and sexual identity.
Queer Youth Fest provided a safe space for queer art to be featured, and most importantly, for queer people to be queer. It is often forgotten how difficult it can be a queer person, to live the majority of your life in heteronormative and cis gender spaces. Being able to step into a space that does not assume one’s gender pronouns, or where you have a partner of the opposite gender, or that you identify with a gender at all, is a liberating and validating experience for queer people who don’t get the chance to experience this on a normal basis.
Maddy is a 16-year-old high school student who is a queer artist and activist, who hopes to continue this path after graduation.