Anna Patricios, a junior at Coral Reef High School, wants the community to know that there is a huge population of LGBTQ teenagers that are homeless — because of who they are.
LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Questioning, and is used to designate a community of people whose sexual or gender identities can create shared political and social concerns. The LGBTQ acronym does not encompass everybody and different organizations or people may use fewer or more letters.
Patricios will be hosting The Rainbow Connection, a showcase fundraiser to collect moneys and bring awareness to the public about this important issue, on Thursday, April 21. The event will take place at 7 p.m. at the Dave and Mary Alper JCC, 11155 SW 112 Ave.
There will be a silent auction beginning at 7 p.m. with artwork from Coral Reef High School’s Art Magnet students, followed by a showcase of theater, song and dance. The performances feature the National Dance Champion Coral Reef Varsity Cudettes, a barber shop quartet called Perfect Fourth, musical numbers from Miami Children’s Theater productions of The Producers and Hairspray, and a scene from the comedy Parallel Lives, which was awarded Critics Choice at the 2016 Florida State Thespian Festival.
As a performer at the Miami Children’s Theater at the JCC, Patricios is very involved with musical theater. As a drama student she has made friends with people who have to overcome their differences to be able to put on good shows, no matter their background, religion, financial situation, race, or sexual preference. These lessons allowed her to apply this experience to everyday life when collaborating with LGBTQ teenagers at school and at the theater.
Patricios has met several of her best friends through the theater; and they happen to be gay.
“I never understood why some of them were scared to come out to their parents, because my parents have always told me no matter who I love they would always love me,” she said.
One of her friends confessed he was ready to tell his father that he was gay and was worried that his father would kick him out of the house. He asked if she would let him stay at her place. The realization that he could end up homeless was devastating to her. This made her come to grips with the fact that kids would become ostracized from their families and become homeless just for loving someone else; she knew she wanted to do something about it.
This past summer, while participating with the MCCJ diversity leadership camp, Metrotown, she became more educated about social and racial issues, as well as the challenges faced by the LGBT community.
“I have never had a more enlightening and humbling experience,” Patricios said. “There I came to the realization this was a cause I was very passionate about and they guided me with ideas on how to be a true ally to the community.”
According to research by The Williams Institute, a national homeless organization, Patricios discovered 40 percent of homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBTQ.
“This is a real problem in our society, but I realized that several of my friends identify as LGBT and this could happen to any one of them,” Patricios explained.
Although the community has made a lot of progress including achieving marriage equality, this has actually caused a surge in homeless LGBTQ youth who became inspired to reveal their true selves and unfortunately ended up on the streets. This group has a higher risk of being victims of crime, human trafficking, or exploitation. She wants to make sure that society is more accepting and understanding that sexual preference or gender identity does not make one evil, bad, or unlovable.
“No child should be homeless because of who they are or who they love,” Patricios said.
The Rainbow Connection proceeds will be shared between Project SAFE (a collaboration between Pridelines and The Alliance for GLBTQ youth) and Camillus House LGBTQ Youth Homeless Services. Tickets can be purchase online at www.rainbowconnection.eventbrite.com or at the door. Adult tickets are $20 and students are $10.
For more information on how you can get involved, send email to Anna Patricios at email@example.com.