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“Express Yourself” LGBTQ Conference

by Rev. Allysa De Wolf

express-yourself-logoXOn Saturday, November 7, First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara hosted an inspiring conference for the LGBTQ community. Over 50 people, from young kids to college students to parents to community organizations, gathered to strengthen and educate themselves about LGBTQ issues. Workshops were led by Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, mental health professionals, ministers, and students. Kids left with handfuls of clothes to expand their gender-nonconforming wardrobes. The biggest and most exciting thing was to see how many people were shocked and moved that a church would host an event like this.

For a few families, this was the first time they had ever met other parents who had gay or trans kids. For many kids, this was the first time they were surrounded by peers who looked like them. Two families in particular came in visibly nervous and hesitant to drop their middle schoolers off. A parent from the SB Trans group welcomed them and filled them in on all the opportunities. By the end of the day, these moms were exchanging numbers with other parents and organizers, and their kids were laughing and making friends with new people. This event didn’t just educate people, it brought people together as new friends and family.

What touched me the most was our amazing keynote speaker and performer, Deja Re. I was super excited to host our first drag queen, but little did I know that our invitation meant so much more. I didn’t understand why she kept thanking me and the church for inviting her until I heard her speak. As Deja told her story, she talked about being kicked out of her home by her father, who is a pastor. She came to Santa Barbara with nothing but a few bags of clothes. Now she was being invited by another pastor and church to be the guest of honor – where one church told her she was an abomination, our church said, “we want to celebrate you.”

Encounters like these happened all throughout the day. It wasn’t just the participants who were moved that day, but also many of the volunteers. Over 12 UCSB students helped out, along with some Westmont College students and church members. Many of the students had never heard of a church like ours.

Rev. Allysa De Wolf sums it up, “To say it was a successful day is an understatement. God truly has a plan for this church. I hope we are willing to continue doing God’s work.”

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