Organizers of a conference for LGBTQ teens in southwest Florida are asking police for extra protection, amid a barrage of online posts calling for protests against the event.
“We know we’re going to be able to keep these kids safe,” Daniel Shaw, one of the organizers, told the Naples Daily News. “We worked with the Naples Police Department to make sure,” he said.
The inaugural Youth Pride Conference is hosted by GLSEN Collier County students and will feature local youth, ages 12-18, for an “Exploration of LGBTQ Issues Facing Youth Today” , according to an online invitation.
GLSEN is an educational organization that works to create LGBTQ-inclusive schools in the United States.
The free event will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the United Church of Christ in Naples and will include panel discussions and breakout sessions on topics including mental health; political action and advocacy; queer literature banned; gender dysphoria; to go out; navigate a religious identity; and more.
“This one-day conference, created by and for LGBTQ youth, will provide students with the opportunity to engage with the LGBTQ issues they face today while empowering them to have confidence in all their identities,” the invite reads.
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All attendees will also be able to socialize with others, over breakfast and lunch, and have fun watching “drag shows from some of our local drag queens.”
As festive and informative as the event may seem, however, it did not go over well with some conservative locals, who shared their outrage on social media while calling for protests against the church.
“@UnitedChurch You are evil and no God,” wrote a Twitter user named @RestoreByGod in all caps. “Satan is at work in our schools, y’all,” @calabriaboi added.
“Beware Naples and Central Florida! It’s time to peacefully protest this event,” @BasedGodsGirl wrote. “Say no! They plan to indoctrinate (sic) children into #LGBT at a church in Naples. The drag queen’s story time is one of the highlights. NO! This church works for satan.
Organizers say much of the vitriol stems from online misinformation about the event.
Reverend David Greenshaw told local broadcaster WBBH-TV that the decision to hold the event at the church was made by a former pastor who had recently left due to a planned career change, but added that he and his congregation supported the event.
“It is appropriate for Christian believers in God to understand that God includes and loves everyone,” he said.