Palm Beach Gay Teen Artist Fights for Equality
"When I went to my first PrideFest event and discovered all those other people just like me, I knew I had to get involved in everything I could," said 18-year old Kyle Pierre. "When I started attending the Compass HOPE Youth Group, I knew that I needed to work for equality for all of us."
That was three years ago when Pierre was 15. Today, at 18, Pierre is an avid advocate for civil equality and takes every opportunity to assert his belief that "We must all love one another and make the world safer for each other regardless of perceived differences."
Pierre was born in Trinidad and spent much of his life there. His parents divorced when he was young and his mother moved to South Florida. His paternal grandmother raised him until his father paid some cousins to "beat him into being a real man."
When that effort failed, he was shipped off to his mother in Palm Beach County where she and her boyfriend made his life uncomfortable until his mother told him to leave when he was 17.
"I went to live with my best friend," he said. "Her parents have treated me like I’m their own son. I have really found a family among my friends and I’m so grateful. When both of my parents rejected me I had no place to go. It was very scary but in many ways it has been the best thing that ever happened to me."
Once Pierre became active in the youth group he was a major recruiter for the Compass program, which is funded by the Palm Beach County Children’s Services Council. He introduced more than 20 teens to the safe place at 201 N Dixie Highway. Gay, and gay-friendly, he’d coax them to "just try it and see what you think." Many stayed.
A group in South Palm Beach called Boca Raton’s Promise is working to end stigma and ’break the silence’ about mental health. The organizers recognize that there are unique mental health issues faced by gay youth who often suffer from the effects of bullying and rejection rather than from systemic causes.
Rita Thrasher, president and CEO of the group invited Pierre and another youth to speak to the group about this issue and had this to say, "Kyle was very straightforward and effective. He told what he believed and pulled no punches. People seemed eager to hear what he had to say."
More recently, Pierre was invited to be a member of a panel on violence at a youth summit at Gaines Park in West Palm Beach. More than 20 county organizations helped create the summit including the Urban League, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office, the School District, County Health Department, Workforce Alliance, Planned Parenthood and more. From the gay community there were Compass Gay & Lesbian Community Center and Tri-Angle Consulting, which specializes in the issues faced by LGBT people in the county.
Pierre took his place on the stage in front of 300 plus teens and introduced himself saying, "Hello. I’m Kyle Pierre and I’m gay." He touched on his experiences as the victim of anti-gay bullying as well as being a witness to bullying. He said, "It’s really just about love. Isn’t it? We all want to love and be loved."
"I thoroughly enjoyed having Kyle as one of our summit’s panelists," said Marcia Bahia, one of the summit planners. "His delivery was very informative and engaging. It is sad that some kids (and adults) are victims of bullying. I am happy to see that this young man overcame the emotional abuse and is now helping others break the silence. Many thanks to Kyle for his powerful presence and participation, and I hope to see him again at the next Youth Summit."