LYNWOOD, Calif. — Swiping through the latest TikTok’s on his for your page, it looks like high school senior Francisco Flores is living his best life.
“I didn’t like to pretend to be someone I wasn’t,” Flores said. “After creating the [Gay-Straight Alliance] club, I felt like it was great to have this. I was able to be myself. I felt free. I felt confident in how I expressed myself.”
Flores serves confidence as the president of Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School’s LGBTQ Club — a space for the high schools LGBTQ population to congregate.
“I’m not really an outgoing person,” Flores said. “Being able to speak for someone made me feel empowered.”
Flores, who identifies as queer, said before the club was established at his Firebaugh, he would find comfort and sanctuary from bullying in after-school clubs.
“This club was like an escape for me,” Flores said. “Others might be going thru stuff that I don’t know about and it might just help them.”
The Lynwood Unified School District is acting for their middle school and high school LGBTQ students with their first ever Pride summit. LUSD students will have the chance to participate in workshops and network with other LGBTQ students. It’s a chance to let their LGBTQ students know that they matter.
“It just felt very uncomfortable,” Flores said. “No one talked about it [coming out]. I felt really outcasted. I didn’t feel like myself. It was very stressful.”
Lynwood High School teacher April Hannon serves as the adviser for Lynwood High’s queer student union — the lack of an LGBTQ space for her students was personal.
“I identify as bi,” Hannon said. “Knowing that there was no space that the students knew about, I knew how the students would feel not having a space to go and talk with allies there with them.”
The Trevor Project — a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ suicide prevention — reports that 44% of California’s LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide. Thirty-two percent experienced a threat or harm because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“This is the first year that is specifically for PRIDE,” Hannon said. “It’s the chance to let the community know that we are doing something to create this inclusive environment that we want for our students.”
As Lynwood schools and teachers take a monumental step forward in creating an affirming space by hosting their first PRIDE Summit, students like Flores are reminded to love and be their authentic self.
“Pride is being comfortable in your skin,” Flores said. “Being able to feel confident around others and be proud of who you are.”