Project Resilience will sponsor an event at the Ridgefield Library to raise awareness about LGBTQ youth tonight — Thursday, March 9 — at 7 p.m.

“All Our Children: Understanding the LGBTQ World” will be led by advocate Cathy Plourde and feature performances from Ridgefield High School students.

Plourde believes in the power of theater in building awareness, tolerance and leadership for kids that are LGBTQ, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer — and/or questioning — individuals/identities.

The Rhode Island native has been putting on these events in towns around the country for the past decade.

“When kids are holding the words and the stage, it is a lot easier for people to step in with their hearts, words and actions,” Plourde said.

Barbara Jennes, an eighth grade teacher at East Ridge Middle School and the organizer behind the event, told The Press that the environment among children she sees daily is very tolerant.

Plourde agreed.

“We’ve turned a corner generationally where on the whole kids don’t care whether or not somebody is this gender or not,” she said.

The discussion Thursday is geared toward a different audience.

“It’s more of a family concern,” said Jennes. “They’re afraid to come out at home.”

Country divided

Plourde said the topic is of extreme importance in today’s divided political climate.

Supporting youth doesn’t have anything to do with politics, she said, but legislation can impact them in negative ways and it’s imperative to know how to empower them.

“It’s more important now than ever to not get caught up in policy and rhetoric,” she said, “to make it specific, local and personal.”

The performances are meant to give the audience a glimpse of what life is like and how various issues affect LGBTQ youth.

“If you can see it locally, the family next to you, the kids next to you as people who are dealing with these issues, and it’s painful, then you have compassion,” said Plourde.

“When you move things out of the abstract and you make it specific to a person, it’s much easier.”

What’s happening

Children deal with adult problems.

“They may be the adopted child, they may be the kids in the family dealing with a marriage that’s not recognized,” said Plourde.

She said the harm can extend into the person’s own process of self-discovery.

“If you are getting messages from your culture, community, and television that are saying, ‘This is not a good idea because this is what can happen to you,’ then it’s going to stunt your own personal self-discovery.”

Performances

That is why Plourde travels around the country speaking about the barriers faced by LGBTQ youth and children who are in LGBTQ families.

The performances will allow teens from RHS to communicate with the community about their struggles.

Some of them will be showcasing original work, while others will be performing adapted monologues from Out & Allied — an anthology of works by LGBTQ youth around the country that Plourde edits and publishes.

After the show, the audience will have the chance to ask Plourde and the students any questions.

“I find it really brave that these students are willing to get up in front of the community,” said Jennes.