SAN DIEGO — Metal detectors located at the entrance; a boosted security detail with guards skilled at crowd control in case violence erupts, a strict ban on toy guns and full-face masks inside; all newly adopted measures that have been added for an October 29 daytime Halloween party for transgender youth and families in Hillcrest.
Parents and event organizers tell CBS 8 that threats of mass protest and rowdy demonstrations are making the event scary for all of the wrong reasons.
What began as a chance for transgender and non-binary youth and their families to celebrate Halloween together has resulted in threats of mass protest and demonstrations in hopes of derailing the event.
In recent weeks, organizers of TransFamily Support Service's October 29 Boo Bash have started fundraising drives in order to pay for extra security after opponents filled local school board meetings and appeared on conservative talk shows alleging the organizers wanted to corrupt and "pimp out children."
The backlash over the event is the latest example of what local and national LGBTQ+ leaders say is an "escalation of cyberbullying, hate speech,
threats, and harassment against LGBTQ+ youth and the adults that support them."
Meanwhile, parents who are planning on attending the event with their family this weekend in Hillcrest say the outrage at the school district meeting and the chatter on social media calling for "1,000 people to scream and yell together to disrupt the outdoor event," is shocking.
"As a parent, you try really hard to keep a clear head and keep your head up but it's hard," said two parents who will be attending the event with their child. "It's really hard to try to shield a lot of what's on the news from them. They aren't even really aware that there are people who have a problem with who they are."
The parents, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity to protect them from retaliation said their child was looking forward to going to what should be a fun, carefree event near the Pride Flag in Hillcrest.
"The fact of the matter is, this is a family-centered Halloween party and there has to be a GoFundMe for security because there are people who are willing to put children at risk. And that is what it boils down to. And that's not okay."
But opposition to the event heated up when a vocal group of adults stormed an Encinitas school board meeting and appeared on a national conservative talk show alleging that the event was "hyper-sexualizing" young kids.
Meanwhile, organizers who are planning the Boo Bash and the parents and families who plan on taking their child to it, say the outrage is misplaced and misdirected. They say opponents are jumping on social talking points at the expense of teens and others who are transitioning or are questioning their gender.
"It's getting harder and harder to keep some of that information, the [negative news reports and social media posts] from them. They knew they were going to get to go to this party, and it was so fun and so exciting. And now they are aware that there are people who are trying to cancel it. They are aware that there are people who were trying to protest. Now the question has become, why are people mad? And that's a hard question to answer," the parents told CBS 8.
In response to rumors that organizers would be forced to cancel the Boo Bash, the parents said that would only cause more issues for their child.
"When we cancel events like this, or when we're forced to cancel events like this, it definitely sends a message to our kids that we will support you to a certain extent, or we will provide you with safe spaces until it's uncomfortable, or until it's hard. And I just don't think that's an option."
Kathie Moehlig serves as the executive director for TransFamily Support Services.
Moehlig says that she was surprised by the negative attention about the event.
"We did not expect any of this kind of media or attention, social media stuff, people protesting, you know, we just wanted to throw an event for families to come to feel safe, and to have a good time," says Moehlig.
She says that she has seen more divisiveness than she has support for those who question their gender.
"It's not just at LGBTQ events, it's happening at school districts, it's happening at school board meetings, our students are being harassed and bullied by not only peers at school but the adults at school," said Moehlig. "We need to provide a place so that these kids can feel like, hey, there's a whole group of people that have my back here."
San Diego Pride says the attacks against the LGBTQ community are igniting across the country. There are more than 300 anti LGBTQ proposals in schools, , cities, states and on the federal level.
"Which is an increase over last year's record of 250 around the country," said Jen LaBarbera, San Diego Pride Director of Education and Advocacy.
They say local protests are being controlled by the Heritage Foundation, a national conservative think tank.
"Rhetoric and the words and the way that this is being framed in 2022 about transgender folks, is the exact same thing that we saw a few decades ago about lesbian and gay and bisexual folks right?" said LaBarbera.
Even with all the noise, Pride continues to fight for trans youth to ensure they survive and thrive without fear of being attacked.
"What we are doing is acknowledging it saying hey, we know this is happening. And we've got your back. We love you. We're going to fight for you," said LaBarbera.
Moehlig added about the importance of the Boo Bash and events like it, "I think about the kids that maybe aren't out to their parents yet. Or the kids who aren't willing to leave their house because they've been so bullied at school. They don't feel like it will ever be safe. They may not come to our event, but maybe they'll hear this story. Maybe they'll hear something else and think oh my gosh, I had no idea there that there were people out there that are pulling for me. And we are."
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