Local LGBTQ youth fearful, but will continue to fight after Orlando attack
They were born decades after the first Pride parade stepped off in the streets of Columbus.
Unlike every generation before them, they will be adults free to marry the person they love. But that doesn't mean life as an LGBTQ teen is easy.
"When I first came out as trans there was definitely a lot of confusion among my peers,” 15-year-old Dexter said. “There was bullying in school."
"Whenever I got out in public and hold my boyfriend's hand, I always have this underlying feeling that we may be insulted for just being who we are, and we might even be attacked," 19-year-old Alex said.
Those were the realities of life even before Orlando.
"It can really scare you,” Dexter said. “You can get killed for being who you are. And when I came out, that was like one of the big factors that made people scared for me, like being out there."
But when dozens of people who look like you and live like you are massacred, reality cuts so much deeper.
"It felt like a piece of me died with those people, just knowing that could be me,” Dexter said. “That could be anybody I love. That just hurt me."
And when you come from a life in the shadows, it matters not just that your love is recognized, but also your loss.
"I think the thing that really angered me about it was that people were paying more attention to the religion of the shooter rather than the fact that the people he targeted were gay,” Dexter said. “He went into a gay nightclub for the specific purpose to shoot people who were gay, for their sexuality."
"I definitely think people need to recognize this as an LGBTQ hate crime,” Alex said. “Because you can't solve a problem if you don't identify it first."
They say when discrimination against some is deemed okay, and words ending in –phobia are fine, hate takes root.
"Orlando I think was just the top of the stairs,” Dexter said. “And each of those stairs are different acts of homophobia or transphobia that happen in society. Whether it's a slur being used, or refusing to bake a cake for a couple, those are just stepping stones. And the higher you go up those steps, the closer you get to another shooting."
In the face of such violence, fear is natural.
"We're all angry. We're all scared. A lot of us going to Columbus pride this week are very scared," Dexter said.
But given the choice between fight or flight, they say there is no debate.
"We're going to push through and fight for what needs to be fought for," Dexter said.
"In some way it kind of empowered me to like fight even more," Alex said.
So for those who marched before them, and those in Florida who will never march again, this Saturday, they will take to the streets of Columbus. And they'll do it with pride.
The Kaleidoscope Youth Center offers a range of services and support for LGBTQ youth.