Patrick Moloughney knows first-hand how difficult it is to be open about your sexuality in today’s society, despite the progress that’s been made.
While he was grappling with discovering his sexual identity, as many people do in college, Moloughney lost his school funding once his colleagues in the Navy ROTC program found out.
“I had a full college scholarship because I was in the Navy ROTC and I lost it because of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT) policy,” he says. “So I hope to educate the youth, so they do not have to go through the same things I went through.”
Moloughney is the planning committee chair for the Greater Cincinnati GLBTQ Youth Summit. The event, now in its eighth year, will be held Sept. 18 at Northern Kentucky University’s student union.
The annual summit offers a comforting and educational place for area gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) youth and their allies to discuss their issues and concerns.
The daylong event offers free workshops to area GLBTQ youth and allies, with a focus on serving people between the ages of 14 and 24. The workshops discuss everything from the coming out process to safer sex practices.
Registration for the free event starts at 10 a.m. and the workshops begin at 11 a.m.
“We will have over 20 workshops that will cover topics relevant to high school and college students,” says Michael Sauer, the summit’s assistant executive director. “These attendees will receive information that they may not get in their own communities.”
With more than 200 people expected to attend, the summit features workshops on self-defense, activism in their community and healthy relationships, along with a variety of other topics.
With the DADT policy, youth can’t ask questions about the policy once they’re in ROTC, so Moloughney says his workshop gives them a safe environment to ask questions before they enter the program.
Beginning in 2002, the GLBTQ Youth Summit was the first event of its kind in Cincinnati.
“The original creators of this event thought there was something missing in the community,” Sauer says. “Bigger cities like L.A. and New York have centers for youth like this, but in Cincinnati there wasn’t anything like that.”
The only places to go to meet similar people were clubs or bars, Sauer says. So they wanted to create a safe space where youth could casually receive information while meeting others who are similar to them.
After having steady summits for threeyears, however, the event lost its momentum and didn’t occur in 2005.
“In 2006 another person and I decided we didn’t want this event to die forever,” Sauer says. “So we got in contact with the original people who started this event, and since then we have been having it every year.”
Each year the event’s popularity increases, with a growing number of attendees.
“There are not a lot of organizations like this for youth in the Cincinnati area,” Sauer says. “About half of our attendees are high school students and they are not old enough to get into clubs or bars. So this event has been successful because we are filling that need for them.”
Although the process of being comfortable in your sexuality can take years to achieve, organizers say they can see a difference in the attendees after they leave the summit.
A good number of attendees haven’t come out yet when they attend the summit, according to Moloughney. “Some show up with their moms or guidance counselors, and you can tell they are scared shitless that someone is going to recognize them,” he adds. “It is interesting watching these people go through the workshops and meet similar people who tell them it is OK to be who they are.”
By the end of the day, attendees usually feel revitalized and proud of who they are, he adds.
The summit isn’t only beneficial to GLBTQ youth, but also can help people who know them. There are a variety of workshops that cater to the questions their families and friends might have.
Private sponsors solely support the event, so donations are crucial to its existence. Some past sponsors include the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Below Zero Lounge.
Anyone can attend or donate to the event.
“In our jobs and schools, we are not always surrounded by people going through the same things as we are,” Sauer says. “This is a great way to meet similar people and get advice on topics you are interested in.”