Meet the student activists organizing the High School Democrats of America 'Virtual Pride'

the voice and vision of a new generation

Meet the student activists organizing the High School Democrats of America 'Virtual Pride'

June 13, 2020

This Sunday, June 14, High School Democrats of America (HSDA) is organizing a digital Pride celebration in honor of the LGBTQ community! Virtual Pride 2020 is taking place on Facebook Live from 2:00-4:00pm EST. The event will feature live video appearances from prominent LGBTQ advocates, artists, and politicians including Chasten Buttigieg, Joshua Rush, Charlotte Clymer, GLAAD Campus Ambassadors Bri Hill and Nasir Anthony Montalvo, and more.

HSDA’s Virtual Pride will serve as a valuable platform for LGBTQ people, including youth, to talk about the issues they care about most and how to take action as we move closer to election day. LGBTQ youth stand to make an impact in elections, locally and nationally, this November. Nearly 9 million LGBTQ Americans are registered to vote, and, on average, the community skews younger as a population than non-LGBTQ voters. GLAAD joined as a partner of Virtual Pride as part of our ongoing advocacy that aims to inform and engage LGBTQ voters for Election 2020. LGBTQ youth and allies can register to vote and find other helpful tools for taking action this election season at

HSDA is a national political organization that serves as an entry point to Democratic politics for youth activists from across the country. HSDA’s network of resources and chapters provide a platform for politically-active youth. As an entirely student run organization, HSDA’s Virtual Pride 2020 also intends to uplift their own LGBTQ student leaders. As part of GLAAD’s gratitude for their hard work, we wanted to shine a spotlight on these youth advocates and get our audience excited for this incredible event. 

Check out below to hear from HSDA LGBTQ+ Caucus Leadership members Cyn Gomez (National Relations Coordinator of LGBTQ+ Caucus), Julien Hector (Chair of LGBTQ+ Caucus), and Shana Richards (Vice Chair of LGBTQ+ Caucus, Chair of Northwest Virtual Chapter). Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.

HSDA LGBTQ+ Caucus student leaders: Cyn, Julien, and Shana (L-R)

Why did you get involved in High School Democrats of America?

Cyn (they/them): I saw HSDA as a community I should be a part of in order to further my experience, and not only this but to learn the ropes of government and politics. Then, I had come across the LGBTQ+ Caucus within the organization through a friend and begun engaging in this great community since then. The LGBTQ+ Caucus strengthened my sense of community and allowed me to take a position of leadership! I saw HSDA as a great opportunity to further my preparedness for a career in government and politics so I took this amazing organization in stride!

Julien (he/him): I got involved in HSDA because I wanted as a high school student to get involved in politics and play a role to promote civic engagement and youth getting involved in politics. I joined the LGBTQ Caucus specifically because I wanted a place to meet LGBTQ+ students from all over the country, learn about their experiences, and meet people who had been through similar struggles as me. Where I could feel comfortable being myself and expressing myself in a community built around support and encouragement. I wanted to provide an outlet for LGBTQ Youth to get involved in politics and advocate for the changes whether it be culturally or on a systemic level that they wanted to see change. This Caucus has been my home, and I've loved serving as the Chair and planning events for the Caucus to participate in.

Shana (she/her): I became involved in HSDA last summer as I began to get more involved in electoral politics. Over this past year, I volunteered with a presidential campaign for the first time, and also became involved in down-ballot and grassroots initiatives. HSDA seemed like a great space for me to get to know other people of my age who are also passionate about political activism. I enjoy having a space where I can interact with a diverse group of people from all over the country who share similar goals as me, and collectively advocate and work for issues, legislation, and elections that we care about.

What do you love most about being an LGBTQ advocate?

Cyn: Being an LGBTQ advocate [in the LGBTQ community], there is so much diversity and that is personally my favorite part about being an advocate. We are not defined by one sole characteristic as a community, we are diverse and unique, so being an LGBTQ advocate encapsulates so much and entails for constant learning and adjustment, creating a very empathetic and understanding band of individuals. Not only do you represent/advocate for the gay community that has grown in support and recognition, but you also represent/advocate for those fighting for their rights like the Black and Latinx trans women and non-binary individuals. This community transcends age groups, gender identities, races, and ethnicities and to be an advocate for all of the LGBTQ community you get to fight equally as hard for each minority in our community. It's truly a beautiful and humanizing experience. 

Julien: I think what I love most about being an LGBTQ advocate and activist is that I can fight for people without a voice and be an advocate for the acceptance and understanding that is needed for LGBT Youth. We go through so many struggles that are not as easy to spot whether it be mental health, the process of coming out, and the anxiety of living in a world where you are not seen as "normal.” I love that through being an LGBTQ advocate, I can break and deconstruct that stereotype and remind LGBTQ youth that being unique and different is beautiful and that we should embrace our identity rather than suppress them. I love the ability to help people who are struggling and provide someone empathy as I can truly understand their experience

Shana: What I love most about being an LGBTQ+ advocate is helping other people. I am grateful that I have access to resources that allow me to help people in finding their place and voice in this world. As somebody who has struggled with mental health, I know how isolating it can be to come to terms with your identity, especially in unaccepting environments. I want every LGBTQ+ person to know that they are not alone in that fight.

Additionally, growing up I often felt as though faith in God and being LGBTQ+ could not coexist. I had always seen people using God as a justification for injustice toward LGBTQ+ individuals. I want any LGBTQ+ folks out there who are struggling to reconcile their spirituality conflicting with their identity to understand that God and queerness are compatible and that there are many affirming religious institutions. Every being is worthy of love and fellowship.

Who are you most excited to hear speak at Virtual Pride 2020?

Cyn: For most of our Caucus, myself included, we are astounded and honored to have Chasten Buttigieg attending. Not only is his husband to the former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, but he is an amazing advocate and voice of the community. Through his work on the campaign trail, his educational influence as a teacher, and the release of his upcoming book his impact on the LGBTQ community extends to representing the grandiose that comes within our community! Chasten is an amazing role model for me and to have him speak at our event is exciting to say the least!

Julien: I am most excited to hear from Joshua Rush at Virtual Pride. I remember watching him on Andi Mack on Disney Channel with my little sister and brother and how beautiful it was seeing him go through the struggles that I went through as a child. Seeing him come to terms with his sexuality, and coming out on national television, was so monumental to me. I actually used him on the show as a way to introduce the concept of being "gay" to my little siblings and eventually gain the courage to come out to them myself. It was through this show, and after seeing him come out as bisexual and being inspired by his activism that really encourages me to this day to fight for what I believe in. I hope he can continue to inspire LGBTQ Youth at Virtual Pride, just as he did for me.

Shana: I am most looking forward to hearing from Charlotte Clymer. Charlotte is an outspoken activist on topics such as LGBTQ+ rights, feminism, and veterans’ affairs. I look up to her for all that she has done for our country, both as a part of the military and also as part of civil rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign. In many ways, she inspires me to use my platform to advocate for and educate people, always leading with compassion, integrity, and understanding.

Clare Kenny is the Director of Youth Engagement at GLAAD. She leads GLAAD's Campus Ambassador Program, Rising Stars Program, and Amp digital platform. Clare is a graduate of Skidmore College.

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