Jams for all

GemFest takes a swing at gender bullying

By Mike Ritchie

Photo: A Shade of Red will perform at GemFest on Oct. 3; photo: Mike Ritchie

Just be you.

That’s the theme of the all-day GemFest event sponsored by GLSEN Greater Dayton. The Dayton chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network has dedicated the event to the continuing education, counseling and support of kids of all living situations dealing with the stress and pressure of everyday life due to gender preference, identity, peer pressure and appearance.

The event will host a gala of activities from artists to vendors and bands. The theme this year is “stand up and be heard, youth pride” and will feature speakers, music, presentations and the chance for kids to speak their mind and tell their stories through drawing, painting, singing, writing or just getting on the mic.

“Whether they come from the street or supporting/un-supporting homes, the event will provide a safe, nurturing haven for kids to see that no matter how bad their situation is,” GLSEN Greater Dayton Chairman Kevin Mabrey assures, “there’s light at the end.”

“Bullying knows no gender preference. This is to let the city know we’re there.”

The event is mainly held to help those gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals who are looking for support, understanding, help, friends and acceptance. Representatives from the GLSEN community, including drag queens, bisexual people and transgender people will also share their stories and experiences. There’s one message: No matter how specific their situation is, someone has gone through it, survived and become empowered.

“Human sexuality is a very complex thing, and a result of a myriad of factors, both in born and environmental,” Mabrey explains. “Gender fluidity is the recognition that sexuality is not a black and white issue.”

The event also promotes the community’s gay/straight alliance, which provides positive outlets for those persecuted with a focus on respect, kindness and understanding to help relieve and channel anger, rage, negativity and sadness and marginalize the effects of bullying.

“The days of bullying and harassment strictly based on appearance are over,” Mabrey says. “Only 9.9 percent of schools have anti-bullying policies, where all occurrences are reported. The school systems, principals and teachers need education that not all students are straight.”

Law has been implemented to improve the school climate for those students—in 19 states and D.C., according to the Movement Advancement Project. Ohio is not one of those states.

GLSEN Greater Dayton supports Yellow Springs, Stivers, Meadowdale, Thurgood Marshall, Beavercreek, Fairborn, Kettering, Greenon Local, Stebbins, Centerville and Springfield with Diversity Clubs, GSAs (Gay, Straight Alliances or Gender Sexuality Alliances) and QSAs (Queer/Straight Alliances).

This event is strengthened by Musicians for Unity, which offers a creative and artistic outlet for the cause.

“The Musicians for Unity are trying to become the creative backbone of the city helping various causes and reach out to a wide spectrum,” adds GLSEN member Jill Dodson. “Both Musicians for Unity and GLSEN provide and reach out for community support. Music is the universal language and speaks to all in different ways.”

“All bands contacted, regardless of personal preference, immediately accepted the invite to play the first time festival-style event with several others offering their time and talent,” Mabrey recounts. “The message to the kids, whatever issues and challenges they’re going through, whether caused by others or their own personal struggles to find themselves, there is a large group of community support.”

This marks the first time the Dayton scene has come together for such an event. Guests/representatives from several cities, Yellow Springs, Lancaster and Cleveland among others, will attend, making it a statewide event. MFU and GLSEN hope this is the first of many events to help open eyes and ears.

“GemFest was discussed during a workshop with chapter leaders in Boston,” Mabrey says. “After the event, Dayton GLSEN wants to expand and make GemFest an even bigger deal.”

Ninety percent of funds raised by GLSEN has gone back to the youth movement. In the past, other groups have done youth summits, proms and other events. Dayton GLSEN wanted to do something different.

“We just wanna rock and roll and have a good time for a great cause,” Dodson says with a grin.

There will also be a 50/50 raffle, prizes and games. Fronana Ice Cream, The Drunken Waffle and The Crazy Redhead Canteen will be stationed outside for refreshment.

Eleven bands will play during the event including Jasper the Colossal, A Shade of Red, McGuff and the Dumpster Fires, Evil Eye Gypsy, Skurt, Far From Eden, Kyleen Downer, Death by Fetish, Team Void, Duderus and En [P] de. Kyleen Downes, Georgia Goad & Jill Dodson, and ThunderTaker will play earlier during Youth Pride.


GemFest will take place on Saturday, Oct. 3 at The Old Yellow Cab Building, 700 E. Fourth St. in Dayton. Cover is $5. All-ages activities run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with 18 and up admission for all events 4 p.m.-1 a.m. For more information, please visit facebook.com/GLSENDayton.

Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Ritchie at MikeRitchie@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Ritchie at MikeRitchie@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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