Sussex Pride and I Am Me Inc. LGBTQ+ youth panel reveals triumphs and struggles

By Benjamin Rothstein
Posted 4/1/24

MIDDLETOWN – As more and more of the country makes strides towards LGBTQ+ acceptance, a section of the community is often forgotten about, yet always seems to find itself in the center of the …

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Sussex Pride and I Am Me Inc. LGBTQ+ youth panel reveals triumphs and struggles


MIDDLETOWN — As more of the country makes strides toward LGBTQ+ acceptance, the young people of that community often find themselves in the center of the political crossfire.

That’s the reason Sussex Pride teamed up with I Am Me Inc. to host a panel discussion with LGBTQ+ youth March 23 at the MOT Center.

Moderator and United Way COO Dan Cruce asked the five panelists several questions about their upbringing, their support systems, their experiences and, most importantly, their story.

They spoke about how seeing representation in places such as movies and television is important to them.

“Mine was Darryl Stephens from (the TV series) “Noah’s Arc.” I used to sneak and watch (it) growing up and he showed me a Black man that had a boyfriend who was monogamous, and he sometimes stressed. But his boyfriend loved him anyway,” said panelist Lamar Angel Kellam, a genderfluid person.

Other panelists spoke about the support they received from siblings or YouTube when they were not ready to come out to their parents or guardians.

“Social media has also been a positive influence because making friends while I was at school. ... It was kind of like hard being in a new place and all that,” said panelist Jayden Taylor, a gay teen who moved from Cecil County, Maryland to Sussex County. “So, I would kind of resort to social media, apps like Instagram and other apps. I definitely made friends and it’s really helped me kind of express myself”

“I’m an artist, and so I found it very helpful in like being able to spread and share my art,” said panelist Spencer Camlin, a trans male teen. “I’m friends with people online that I’ve never met in person before. But I’ve been friends with them for a few months or a few years now. And it’s just cool to have that connection to people.”

But panelists’ experiences with their sexuality or gender identity have not been completely positive.

“I find it hard to date, because I’m genderfluid. They don’t want Angel because they’re straight, or they want Lamar and not Angel so if I can make them extend accept both, I think that would be great for everyone,” said Mx. Kellam.

“My mother and I had to leave our home of 14, 15 years because of hate, of legislation in the General Assembly (in Texas). They couldn’t understand, and didn’t want to understand, and just hated us for being who we are. A government that decided that just because my mother uses the right name and uses the right pronoun, that is child abuse,” said panelist Vienna Cavazos, who is nonbinary and now lives in Delaware.

The panelists advocated for allowing access to health care, gender affirming treatments, and LGBTQ+ education. Ultimately, panelists said they want to be able to live their lives as people, not as labels, and often find that acceptance most often within their own community.

“To me, (queer love) means being able to express yourself to just be you and feel the joy of expressing who you are. Imagine not having to worry about who else is around just you, the people you love and your community,” said panelist Bailey Weaver-Ronk, a lesbian teen who herself was raised by two mothers.

“I have certain friends who are also queer, who I hang out with and there’s a point where there’s fluidity to it and you don’t feel defined by a certain box, even though we all usually put labels on yourself. When you have certain people that you don’t feel the need to use any labels around, it’s nice to have that,” said Mr. Camlin.

For those who wish to see change, panelists said there is a solution.

“Call your legislators, interact with them,” said Mx. Cavazos. “Let them understand what you want them to do. They are public servants for a reason. They chose this profession, and they should be held accountable to the people ... When you go to the ballot box this November, remember that your vote has an impact.”

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