After learning that 40 percent of homeless youth in Miami identify as LGBTQ — an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning — Anna Patricios, 17, a theater student from Coral Reef Senior High, took matters into her own hands.
She decided to host a fundraiser to raise awareness on the community issue and to donate to charities that support the cause.
On April 21, friends, families, students and supporters of LGBTQ rights gathered at the Dave and Mary Alper Jewish Community Center — which is also home of Miami Children’s theater — to watch The Rainbow Connection, a showcase produced by Anna that included a silent auction, a sale of snacks and an array of theatrical, dance, singing and lyrical performances by some of her fellow classmates and friends from school.
“Some of my best friends are gay,” said Anna, who is in the drama magnet program at Coral Reef. “The reason that these kids are homeless [is because] part of who they are is not accepted by their family, and they get thrown out. I think it’s awareness and acceptance to the people of Miami that we need to bring about, because it’s not even that they can’t support themselves; it’s because they’re rejected.”
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Patricios, who has been doing theater since the fourth grade, began seeing changes in some of her friends during middle school, when they started coming out.
She also saw that identifying as LGBTQ was a stress factor to many because of their families’ beliefs and the fear that they would end up on the street.
“My parents raised me [telling me] that everyone is equal and everyone should love everyone, so I never had a problem with anything,” said the eleventh-grader. “Most of my best friends are gay. I’m in theater. They’re just normal people.”
More than $4,000 raised by the Rainbow Connection will benefit Project SAFE (Safe Accommodation For Everyone) — a collaboration between Pridelines and The Alliance for LGBTQ Youth — and Camillus House.
Landon “LJ” Woolston, who attended The Rainbow Connection, is a homeless service liaison for Project SAFE.
Woolston said that Anna’s community awareness initiative is by far one of the most impressive and honorable.
“It’s amazing to see another young person actually take a look at that struggle and try to understand it and try to empathize with it, and not only to do that, but to take it one step further and to actually do something,” said Woolston, a trans man from Miami who stepped on the stage to talk about the struggles of homeless LGBTQ youth and rewarded Anna with a certificate of recognition. “It’s absolutely profound and in the almost three years that I’ve been doing this work, I haven’t seen a young person take this level of initiative around the work. I’m personally and deeply moved.”
The event began at 7 p.m. and ran through 9:30 p.m. A comedic and satirical musical performance called Keep it Gay opened the showcase, addressing the use of the word ‘gay’ and its perceptions. There were other presentations throughout the showcase with titles including So Obvious, which touched on sexual identity and how it isn’t evident when someone is gay or not.
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