SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The GLO Center in Springfield held its first event for young children Saturday and the center’s Youth Coordinator says it was a success in her eyes.
“What has happened here today that I really loved is I saw kids meeting each other and talking and making connections and exchanging information with each other and I saw the same thing happening with their parents,” said Amy Hoogstraet, who organized the event.
The GLO Center is a nonprofit in Springfield that provides resources, education, and advocacy for LGBTQIA+ people in the Springfield area.
Hoogstraet said she has held her position at the GLO Center for only about two months, but she knew Saturday’s Rainbow Kids Meet-Up for kids ages five to 11 would be one of her first priorities.
“Coming into this position I knew immediately this was something I really wanted to do and that I’m passionate about,” she said. “Because when you think about it, out of all age groups of LGBT people, this age group of elementary-age kids is not just underserved but unserved.”
Many middle and high schools have a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) clubs, Hoogstraet said, but those aren’t usually available in elementary school
“If you’re, for example, a nonbinary or a transgender elementary kid, you might be the only one in your school…you might be the only one you know about in your school, you don’t have any kind of club. So even if you have supportive parents at home, you’re going to feel pretty isolated and alone and like no one really gets you.”
That is the reason this event was meant for younger kids.
“I had all the age range from five to 11 [at the event] which goes to show that there very much are kids even as young as age five who know they are transgender or nonbinary.”
Hoogstraet said Saturday’s meet-up exceeded her expectations and she is already thinking about future events to hold.
“I had kids leave today and say ‘I can’t wait till next time’ or ‘I want to come here every weekend!’ so that was really wonderful to hear,” She said. “It proved to me that I am meeting a need and that just feels really good.”
Activities included face painting, which even the parents enjoyed. There were library books, a craft and cupcakes.
Hoogstraet even asked parents who attended what they would like to see as far as ways to build community among LGBTQIA+ elementary school kids.
Hoogstraet said now is an important time to show support to families in Missouri who have LGBTQIA+ family members, especially families with young kids.
“The prevailing social attitude toward the LGBTQ community is not fantastic so that’s why I feel now more than ever it’s important for these kids to know that they’re not alone and, you know, that they have a community,” she said. “This is real and the thing is if you don’t have a transgender child or a nonbinary child then you don’t have to worry about it, but if you do, it literally could mean that you’re going to have to find a new place to live in order for your child to be healthy and live life as their authentic self.”
“We’re all a community, we’re all in this together. We’re all on this globe with each other and if we don’t take care of each other then what are we doing?”