Queens' Gay Youth Talk, Organize And Hang Out
By BRAD GROZNIK
a window over a mattress store on the busy Astoria
street of Steinway hangs a rainbow flag and poster
announcing the headquarters of Generation Q.
Gay youth have a safe haven in Astoria.
For several years, Queens' only drop-in center
for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer,
questioning and straight ally youth has operated
in the space hosting a variety of after school
programs, social events and activist training
sessions, as well as, a place just to hang out.
Generation Q offers kids a safe haven to be themselves,
something they are continually at odds with.
For gay youth, it is difficult to explore identity
said Generation Q director Marisa Ragonese.
"We want people to feel at home here," she said.
For one youth, it's a home away from home.
"I feel I can be myself here," she said.
As a 17-year-old black lesbian, the high school
junior said most of her family thinks she is going
through a phase and that she will "grow out if
"But it's real," she said. "I can't change it."
Generation Q looks like any number of after school
spaces with posters of pop stars on the walls,
comfy and broken-in couches, puzzles and games
strewn about and the noise of boisterous youth
clamoring over various topics.
The kids come from all over the City, Ragonese
said. Some as far as Long Island come for their
regular socials, parties and dances. According
the to group's myspace page, Generation Q has
a membership of 200.
"When people come in here we don't pressure them,"
Ragonese said. "It takes some getting used to."
About a dozen kids showed up the Monday Generation
Q hosted a session on finding a job.
Like most high schoolers, their attention span
was short and Shira Fishkin, a program director,
did her best to drive home the points of making
a good impression during an interview.
Fishkin has worked with the youth at Generation
Q for about a year now, but when she started she
was not sure she would reach them.
"I thought 'I'm just going to remind them of their
teachers,'" she said. "They're going to think
'here's another straight, white woman telling
me what to do.'"
Fishkin said many of the kids who come to Generation
Q have bigger problems then their schoolmates.
"Many have issues of society treating them unequally,"
she said. "They're living a double life."
According Ragonese, the suicide rate for LGBT
youth is three times higher than straight teens
and the dropout rate for LGBT teens is also 27
"Everything is missing in schools for these kids,"
For this reason, Generation Q facilitates diversity
training in schools.
Simone McBride, 25, Generation Q's Youth services
coordinator, said she found the group several
years ago while walking along Steinway Street
with her sister.
As a lesbian, McBride said she saw an opportunity
to mentor youth.
"We deal with a lot of relationship stuff here,"
she said, noting most friends and family members
of LGBT youth do not know how to talk with them.
"I just listen," McBride said. "I don't pry and
I don't force anything - that's what they need,
just someone to listen and be supportive."
McBride also involves herself in some social activism
by going to schools and talking to students and
teachers about the young LGBT community.
"I don't think kids are coming out sooner or that
there are more of them," Ragonese said. "I think
they're just being braver."
Generation Q is located at 30-74 Steinway St.
in Astoria. For more information call (718) 204-5955
or visit their myspace page at www.myspace.com/generationqrules.