A group of local youth gathered at the LOFT LGBT Community Center in White Plains Friday night for a masquerade party in support of National Coming Out Day.
The event, which was sponsored by Prideworks Inc. and the LOFT, provided an outlet lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered teens and their allies to meet in a safe environment.
Prideworks, which recently incorporated, puts on an annual conference in Westchester County for LGBT youth, their allies and school administrators that draws in almost 500 people a year. The next conference is tentatively scheduled for mid-March.
“Prideworks holds a number of seminars at the conference that help empower LGBT youth to be the best that they can,” said David Juhren, executive director of the LOFT. “The masquerade is the first event that Prideworks has put on since it opened.”
Juhren’s son, Mark Juhren, attended the event to show his support as an ally. Mark, who is an officer at his high school Gay Straight Alliance, said a lot of strides have been in terms creating a more welcoming atmosphere for LGBT youth in his school, but he said more work needs to be done.
“This is important to me because I know many LGBT kids and they don’t have many allies,” Mark said. “To me, being here is a way to support my friends.”
Mark also said there is a need for more allies in the LGBT community.
“A lot of people aren’t familiar with the issues,” he said. “We need to educate more people on these issues because it’s not just about the lesbian and gay community, but there are also issues face people who are bisexual and transgendered. Many kids that are bullied because they are transgendered and they are just expressing themselves.”
Anthony Nicodemo, boy’s basketball coach at Saunders High School in Yonkers, attended the event. Nicodemo made headlines when he came out earlier this year. He said the current climate made it easier for him to come out.“Our culture has changed, it’s much more accepted,” Nicodemo said. "I was at conference the other day and the question came up, how do jocks mesh with gay kids. In the old days, 10 years ago, it was very different. But now, things are drastically changing.”