Coming out can be challenging for many youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. For Delano High School graduate Mary Schumacher, it was unusually difficult.
In school, she heard friends say they opposed same-sex marriage, while a church next to her house displayed a sign expressing the same views. Schumacher said she wasn’t comfortable coming out as queer while living in Delano.
“I remembering being a kid and just thinking, I don’t know what I am, but I’m going to hell,” she said. “It was all just because I had nobody telling me … there are people like you and you’re not weird, you’re not an outlier.”
Local organizers of an upcoming benefit concert hope to broaden support for LGBT youth in outstate Minnesota, following a year in which Delano grappled with a racist incident and anti-LGBT talk.
The second annual Serious Moonlight Benefit concert to support OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest LGTBQ education and advocacy organization, will be held Saturday at Monticello’s River City Extreme.
The concert comes one year after the home of a black family in Delano was broken into and vandalized, and parents raised concerns over rainbow signs — emblematic of the LGBT community — displayed by Delano teachers in classrooms.
It’s important for youth who identify as LGBT in outstate communities to find supportive resources like the benefit concert, Schumacher said. “It sucks that there was nothing like this when I was around town,” she said.
Amy Johnson, a founder of the benefit concert, said it was a response to the anger and confusion she saw surrounding the LGBT community after the legalization of same-sex marriage three years ago in the United States.
“It was just something when we opened up our eyes, we saw a cause that we wanted to align with … it was a way we got through a lot of the ugliness that we were seeing,” Johnson said.
Funds from the concert will support OutFront’s youth and schools programming, which frequently helps LGBT youth displaced from their homes.
According to a 2012 report from the Williams Institute at the law school at the University of California, Los Angeles, 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT.
“A lot of times there’s a lot less acceptance out here, and their parents don’t understand … they get kicked out and they have nowhere to go,” Johnson said.
Esmé Rodríguez, OutFront’s school equity director, said information about the organization’s work will be shared at the concert, “to educate each other in all the ways that kids show up in the world.”
The Band that Fell to Earth, a David Bowie tribute band, is headlining the concert because it was a “natural fit,” Johnson said. Bowie, who said he was bisexual and died in 2016, inspired many to “not be afraid to be who they are,” she said.
Feedback from the first concert last year was “amazing,” Johnson said, because some were motivated to speak up about their gender identity. “As soon as you start saying ‘We’re here and we care,’ then all of a sudden other people start coming out of the woodwork.
“It’s really a labor of love, and something I can sit back at the end of the day and just be happy, [if] I touched one life or saved one kid … then it’s all been worth it.”
Kelly Busche is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.