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Youth drag show canceled in Roseville after community uproar

Last summer, the Landing Spot hosted its first-ever summer camp for Queer youth and in two previous years held a youth drag show to raise money for that camp.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A youth drag show fundraiser in Placer County has been canceled.

That’s after outcry from some community members over both the youth drag show, in general, and its originally scheduled location at Roseville High School.

“I think growing up Queer and depressed, you have this feeling of, like, hopelessness, and you feel like things are truly never going to get better,” said Isa Seoud.

Seoud is 21, but in her teen years, she was a member of the Landing Spot, a “non-religious support group for LGBTQIA+ youth and their parents in Placer County," according to a website for the group. In this story, you'll read the umbrella term “Queer,” a word which – for years – was used offensively but has since been reclaimed by the LGBTQIA+ community.

Seoud is now a mentor with the Landing Spot.

“Finding the Landing Spot and having Queer elders and mentors I can look up to and feel like, ‘Oh, there is hope I can thrive. I will be OK,’ was huge for my mental health,” said Seoud.

Pastor Casey Tinnin leads Loomis Basin Congregational United Church of Christ and – through his church - founded the Landing Spot.

“There are very few places where Queer kids in this community have the ability to just be with other kids like themselves, and to just be in a space that is safe and supportive,” Tinnin said. “One of the reasons why the Landing Spot is so important is that it gives young people the opportunity to be a teenager, to establish healthy relationships, to learn how to communicate well with others...We must give them a future and a hope, and that's what the Landing Spot offers them.”

Seoud knows this firsthand.

“I met Pastor Casey when I was 11 or 12 years old. I was in sixth grade, and I had just lost a friend to suicide because she was a lesbian and she was being heavily bullied. She did not feel safe in her community. She didn't feel safe at school, at church. She just had no place to go," Seoud said. "Then Casey came in, and he established this place where we could feel safe. We could feel welcome.”

Last summer, the Landing Spot hosted its first-ever summer camp for Queer youth and in two previous years held a youth drag show to raise money for that camp.

“It was standing-room-only, and those young people performed their hearts out," Tinnin said. "I'll never forget a mom saying at the end of that night, ‘Thank you for giving me my kid back.’”

That's why this year, they looked for a bigger venue and found the Roseville High School theater, which community groups are able to rent - outside of regular school hours - for things like dance recitals and church services. 

But then some community members learned the Landing Spot planned on holding a drag show on the school campus.

“Drag is a biological male who dresses up as the opposite gender in women's clothing," said Tanner Di Bella, president and founder of The American Council. "We look at this and say, ‘Well, what value do these teach children?’”

The Rocklin-based American Council is a Judeo-Christian advocacy group, Di Bella said.

"We advance values that are related to life, liberty, morality and family,” he said. 

In a press release on Friday, Di Bella wrote, “Drag should not be an underage activity on a high school campus…The American Council has a family network of ~9,000 people in Roseville. We quickly emailed our stakeholders, letting them know of the event, and encouraged them to reach out to Roseville High School.”

The district ultimately decided to revoke the Landing Spot’s permit to hold the event, telling ABC10 in a statement they received “numerous complaints...causing significant disruption to the district’s daily operations. Additionally, there were concerns as to potential threats to the safety of students and staff.”

Furthermore, the district statement said, "the Landing Spot did not accurately describe the type of fundraising event they planned…Once clarified as a drag show event involving minor students, an administrative review determined the event did not comply with Board Policy and Administrative Regulation 1330, adding that the district still appreciates the Landing Spot’s “ongoing support provided to various students and families within RJUHSD (Roseville Joint Union High School District).” 

“It was heartbreaking to know that there were people in the community who would do ill to our students,” Tinnin said.

On Sunday, Pastor Greg Fairrington of Destiny Christian Church in Rocklin mentioned the drag show in his sermon.

"Looming Basin Community Church is sponsoring a drag queen event, promoting to minors," he said in the sermon.

Later, in his sermon about confronting sin, he said, "I wish...we had some Christians and church leaders who were not afraid to confront some things."

Tinnin said the high-profile attention from the megachurch’s leader, the American Council and others in the community have caused the youth and parents of the Landing Spot to fear for their safety.

“I had to sit with parents who grieved and cried and were concerned about their kids,” Tinnin said.

On Monday evening, the youth, parents and leaders of the Landing Spot met to discuss the situation.

“We had the kids go around and tell us how they felt about having a drag show, and they were like, they didn't feel safe,” Seoud said.

That's when Tinnin said they decided not to continue with this drag show.

“For me, it is heartbreaking because as a Christian, as a pastor, the greatest commandment is to love," he said. "To love our neighbor, to tend to the least of these. And these are the least among us; these young people have no place to go.” 

ABC10 asked both Fairrington and Di Bella about the concerns raised by the youth over safety.

“We would never advocate violence to anybody, any individual, especially minors or children. We would never do that, so we're not inciting anything," Fairrington said.

Asked what he meant by saying he wished there were more Christians willing to "confront some things," Fairrington said, "Our voices need to be heard in our community. And we can't be silent as a church. We’ve got to speak up.”

"Nothing in our messaging, nothing in our tone, nothing in our hearts would ever advocate for violence or condemnation of people," Di Bella said. "We love people, even those that we disagree with. And we are opposing this because of the safety and innocence of children.”

Meanwhile, with the cancelation of the drag show - which was scheduled for March 31 - the Landing Spot is working to raise money to send kids to camp

A new report from the CDC tracking youth risk behavior found a little over half (52%) of Queer students had recently experienced poor mental health and 1 in 5 had tried taking their own life in the past year.

Incidentally, both Tinnin and Di Bella cited these stats. Tinnin said this is why places like the Landing Spot are so crucial; they create a safe space that supports those teens' mental health. Di Bella, on the other hand, said he wonders if those teens are experiencing higher rates of mental health issues because they identify as Queer.

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