A gay-straight alliance of political proportions happened at this week's meeting of the school district's Gay-Straight Alliance youth group.
The teens at the weekly get-together had two special visitors, both of them local icons in their field. Foxy De-Rossi, the city's most famous resident Drag Queen, and Dan Rogers, the mayor of the city, came together to hang out with the youth. Everyone involved considered it a rare and proactive opportunity to communicate.
"Dan and I were just talking one day and I said 'you've got to meet these kids' and because he's cool, he went for it," said Foxy, better known to the kids as Travis Shaw. Shaw has been an outspoken advocate of gay rights and social equality since he was a teen struggling through Prince George high school culture. There was no support group for he and his fellow gay youth at the time, but a couple of years ago a collective of gay and straight teens from across the city launched the GSA group that now meets weekly for socialization and mutual support.
Shaw, now in his 20s, has frequently attended their meetings to be a mentor figure. But he always did so in street clothes. On Tuesday night, they got a look at his fully attired female alter-ego.
"I told Dan that if he showed up, I would come too, dressed up, even though Foxy is now retired," said Shaw. "They've never seen me dressed like this before unless they have been to the Pride Parade or one of my appearances."
Rogers said he didn't need the theatrical incentive, but he enjoyed Shaw's sense of flamboyance and leadership. He also saw leadership in the members of the group.
"I am here because I wanted to get their input," he said. "They are going to inherit the city, and also right now we are talking about setting a plan for the city's future and establishing real goals for tomorrow, so it fits well to meet youth here in their own setting and learning about what their priorities are and what they would like to see in Prince George's future."
One of the youth leaders of the GSA, William Wagar, was pleased, but not surprised, that Rogers agreed to attend a meeting with an emphasis on gay-straight equality. Wagar was there at the gala dinner and dance when the Pride Prince George trophies were handed out, naming Rogers this year's winner of the 2009 Straight For Equality Award.
"I know Dan is quite supportive," he said. "It is nice to have the support of people who can maybe do something."
He said the youth were not intimidated by an outside adult presence, especially that of the mayor, at their meeting. Wagar likened it to being "not much different than having someone's dad visit," but he agreed that there was a political edge to the meeting, even if it wasn't overt.
"It gives the kids a nice opportunity to learn a bit about municipal government, and ask questions. It's quite cool," he said.
"It is cool to engage the people who are going to run our city when we don't, and nurture them while their personalities are still pliable," agreed Shaw.
Rogers said he has teenaged children, so the tones and topics of the discussions in the GSA circle were familiar to him. He considered it part of his civic duty to present himself as the city's senior elected civil servant to youth who have been marginalized in many ways by mainstream society.
"There are rare moments where local government plays a role in human rights issues, but this is one where we definitely do," he said. "They need to know that I am here, and the foundation laws of our country are here for them as much as for anyone else."