In 1993, organizers at the Long Island Crisis Center created Pride for Youth, a safe space for LGBTQ youth in Suburban Long Island and Queens to discover and express themselves, and find judgment-free sources of sexual and mental health care.
Today, the Bellmore-based organization is thriving, offering free HIV and STI testing, social and support groups with free transportation, and more vital services (see box). In 2018, the organization expanded further, with a center in Deer Park offering most of the same services to Suffolk youth.
On May 17, local and New York City-based drag queens of all ages will take the stage at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars, with the help of the Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus, to deliver a generations-spanning revue to benefit the youth center.
Tony Mazza, LIGMC’s vice president, said last week that the chorus has been putting together an annual revue featuring Long Island drag performers for three years, generally to benefit the chorus. This year, however, the directors zeroed in on Pride for Youth.
“They do a lot of good things for LGBTQ youth,” Mazza said. “All kinds of outreach, HIV testing, helping people to get HIV medication, counseling, all kinds of stuff like that . . . they’ve been making the future brighter for LGBTQ youth on Long Island for more than two decades.”
Mazza will also co-host the revue — as his alter ego, Toni Homeperm — alongside venerated New York City queen Alexis Flame.
Homeperm, Flame and their fellow New York City Imperial Court royalty will perform alongside young, new, local talent looking to express themselves onstage for a wider audience, Mazza said.
Wantagh’s Damon Evans will be one of the younger generation hitting the stage. Evans has made a name for himself locally as Frida Cox — “She’s very love yourself, love your body,” he said, “and I’m going to be sexual, and I don’t care if you’re bothered by it.”
Even though he grew up in a Catholic household, Evans still found support from his parents when he came out at 17, he said. “I always fought myself on being open because I was raised Catholic,” he said. “I was always like, ‘I don’t wanna burn in hell for this.’ Then I spoke to my parents, and they said, ‘You’re not going to burn in hell for being a good person.’”
Evans is aware, he said, that many other young people don’t necessarily find the same support for their sexualities or identities, and need reliable, accurate sexual health information, as well as peer support. That’s where Pride for Youth comes in.
“It’s so important, especially because a lot of the youth don’t understand where to go for certain things and how to go about things,” Evans said. “They might be Googling things or hearing things from their friends, but when they know there’s a reliable place like Pride for Youth, it’s great.”
Mazza said he was looking forward to working with the young performers — some of whom got their foot in the drag door through Pride for Youth events.
“They’re just starting out, and PFY gives them a place to perform, and it’s a little competition, but it’s more about the support,” Mazza said. “The whole idea was to have this and bring both groups together — bringing everybody together over a fabulous show.”
The revue will “definitely be something for anyone to come and enjoy,” Evans said.
“There are all kinds of different songs and numbers and looks,” he added. “If you love just seeing people walking around in gowns, you’ll enjoy it.”