Write Now: A GLBTQ Youth Writing Workshop

November 15, 2006

Writing Workshop for Gay Youth
by: Dewey Davis-Thompson
The Gazette, Tampa Bay, FL

When Steven Reigns arrived on a recent Friday night for the first gay youth writing workshop at True Expressions in downtown St. Petersburg, he was not even sure if there would be any attendees. After all, the Drop-In Center at 554 First Avenue North had only been open for a month or two. Word was getting out slowly, but he hoped at least somebody would be interested in his WriteNow Workshop.

Reigns, 27, is a graduate of The University of South Florida's Creative Writing program and taught for Hillsborough County Schools for two years. His recently published debut collection, Your Dead Body is My Welcome Mat, deals with abuses of power and offers a glimpse at life in the margin of our society. But he wasn't there to promote his own work. Instead, he handed the students at the workshop a list of gay writers and photocopies of samples of gay literature. "One of the goals was just to connect the students to gay-les-bi literature," he said. "I gave them packets with photocopied works of poetry and fiction and I did not chose any straight authors. At their ages, at high school, they have had enough straight lit." Students do have access to gay literature," says Reigns. "The books are there. They can go to the library, but if they don't know who the authors are how can they go look them up?" Fortunately for the gay authors in question, several students and gay youth did indeed show up to receive the packets, read some gay literature and poetry, and do a few writing exercises. This workshop was one of the first activities at True Expressions, the Tampa Bay area's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) Youth group, in their permanent home.

Ken Locicero, Executive Director of True Expressions, credits Reigns' workshops with contributing to an early start at establishing a strong youth community and sense of place. "Steven is an exciting and dynamic individual," Locicero. "By allowing our GLBTQ youth to explore their feelings through creative writing in a safe environment, we believe that they will develop a more positive sense of who they are and what they can become."

Reigns believes that it is "unfortunate most youths' exposure to the written word is the solely the writings of heterosexuals, as taught in our public schools. It is important for youth, especially these youths, to understand that there are written works out there that call out to their experiences. It is also equally important for them to express their own experiences in a creative way—as an outlet." Reigns says that he wanted to give the students the opportunity "to express anger through the written word," and adds, "Writing can be very healing."

The True Expressions Drop-In Center, located in the revitalized downtown St. Petersburg area, also provides diverse programming and a safe environment for GLBTQ youth to meet.

The Center is open on Tuesday afternoons from 2 - 6 PM, Thursday and Friday evenings from 6 - 9 PM and from 4 - 9 PM on Sundays.

Please call the Center at 727-898-8783 to register for the next workshop.

With a mission to provide peer support, educational programs and social activities for youth dealing with sexual orientation, gender identity and gender issues, True Expressions has a long history in the Tampa Bay area. To learn more about True Expressions or to volunteer, please visit their website at True Expression.
Poem On My Family

By Anonymous Student

My mother
I don't know my father
I wasn't planned

My life was
I was to be the lawyer
She never was
Because I was born
My sister is family
My life support
Her Safety Happiness Love
Is my Is my
That is my family

Will that be all my family ever is?
High School

By Anonymous Student

She kissed me right there in the middle of the courtyard and at school during lunch. I knew at that moment it would all change. I had done such a good job at only telling those I trusted that I was a lesbian but now that is all over. The time in high school progressed and it wasn't too bad. I was actually surprisingly popular. She, however, was an underclassman with not many friends. I was a senior, to graduate and leave for the Marine Corp in months. I took her to my senior prom. Her mom, very accepting, helped her dress. At the end of the night I kissed her and went to my party. It is sad what happened after I left. They scared her out of school and that scared me out of her life.

By Anonymous Student

I'll always love them
They'll always love me
Always love from him
All I was Was all he needed
Daddy's Little Princess

Always turbulent with her
All I was Was never enough
Mommy's disappointment
Always my closest friend
All I was Was inseparable from him
My Brother's Keeper
I know they love me

Though sometimes harsh
They are mine
First Time

By Anonymous Student

"I'm going to finish what I started." Yes, he had started it... was it 2 months ago when he had said, "your boyfriend's not watching now," and kissed me? His small lips pursed together, and then his tongue searching out my taste. I gave him my phone number for the second time, and he called. He came over about a week later, while my parents were at my brother's high school band concert. He had started by having me take off all my clothes... "it's the only way I give backrubs." He had oiled me up and then flipped me over. "Are you sure?" Yes, have to get it over with, my first time. We moved to my bed, my childhood bed in my childhood house, and he made a woman of me. He had made it an almost instructional experience. How to use the condom, how to dispose of it, how to move my body under his.

Passion wasn't a part of his lesson, nor was love. Then we stood in front of the mirrored medicine cabinet in my bathroom, and I felt freed, beautiful, new. Was it good? No, but it was. I had though he was only in it for the sex, only to finish the job. Then he called, again and again. Apparently, he needed a few more sessions to "finish." He came by, unexpected, and tried to woo me again. I had hoped I'd never have to see him again. After all, he was just a tool, a way to get the first one over with so I could enjoy the rest. As our bodies had danced, I thought, "Wow, I guess I expected something else. I guess I expected too much."
John Patrick

By Anonymous Student

John Christopher Patrick. I think I will always remember his name. I went to high school with him, but I never talked to him. I never really looked at him. He was more like a name to some abstract thought, but nothing that is real. He was gay. Everyone knew, but I didn't know how they knew. He was in my geometry class. He was the target of all the taunts and paper products the second the teacher would leave the room. I remember him because I feared to be gay like him. I had enough problems in my life and I didn't want being gay to be one of them. In an odd way, I was right about being gay, it isn't a problem in my life. I just wish I knew that then.