PrideCon celebrates 5 years of teaching kids and parents about LGBTQ support

PrideCon, which took place this past weekend, had its biggest event yet with around 80 kids, teens, and parents joining in support.


Grace Colton

7th graders Lulu Roarick, Connor Jakob, Erin Partridge, and Vivian Sheilds pose at Pride Con on Saturday February 23 2019 at Elizabeth Tate High School. Pride Con is a yearly event held for LGBTQ youth in Iowa City.(Grace Colton/The Daily Iowan)

Kate Pixley, News Reporter

In the cafeteria of the Tate Alternative High School, kids played, learned, and held themselves with pride as they spoke about their experiences with LGBTQ acceptance in the fifth-annual PrideCon.

United Action for Youth, an eastern Iowa nonprofit, put on the event.

The event was the group’s largest yet, United Action for Youth said. It featured support groups, a drag show, and mental-health discussions.

“We provided nearly 80 young people who identify as LGBTQ+ with an opportunity to laugh, to learn, to dance and to support each other,” United Action for Youth said in a press release. “Most importantly, we provided this amazing group of young people with a safe space for them to find themselves.”

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Tim Grady, an event organizer and therapist for United Action, said the gathering drew youth and parents.

“It was super-successful. We had a lot more young people than last year, and we hit our numbers,” Grady said. “We had about 10 parents. We were hoping for more, but the ones who showed up were the ones who needed to be there.”

Parents at the convention participated in an “Ask the Doctor” session in which they worked with a doctor from the University of Iowa who specializes in adolescent health, as well as support groups in which they learned how to be effective allies for their children.

“The idea was really it was supporting the parents to better support their kids,” Grady said.

PrideCon drew students from across the state, some of whom don’t have Pride events in their towns.

“I grew up in Iowa City, so after the event yesterday, I kept thinking it would be so cool to have an event like this when I was younger,” Grady said. “Going to an event like this shows you that are not alone.”

Grady, who joined United Action last fall, said that while this is his first PrideCon, he has heard a lot about its history and has a lot of hopes for both the future of the convention and the agency’s work with LGBTQ youth.

“We offer several LGBTQ peer groups at our youth center each week,” he said. “We offer LGBTQ specific programming, so Girls Rock and Pride Rock in the summer are targeted toward LGBTQ youth in central Iowa. We find ourselves in every community, but sometimes we feel like we’re the only ones.”

Volunteer Annie Gudenkauf, who has worked with the agency for four years and attended four Pride Cons, said she believes that PrideCon is important for LGBTQ youth, because they don’t always feel secure at school.

“From discussions yesterday, it’s clear that so many kids aren’t accepted at home or in their communities, so it’s so important to create our own communities,” Gudenkauf said. “I think it was really heartwarming to see communities bused in, so that was cool to see people from all over Iowa come together and make friends with one another.”

Ryan Johnson, a volunteer at PrideCon, said that through the event, he noticed a change in the way that LGBTQ youth are exposed to LGBTQ culture.

“I think the thing that maybe stood out to me the most, and it’s something that stands out anytime there’s an LGBTQ+ space, is everyone just seems to be fine with being themselves, and much more than they do around other people,” Johnson said.