Connecting • Embracing • Transforming
I was 16 going on 17, and the GSA club at my school (Hostos-Lincoln Academy in The Bronx) had received an invitation to Live Out Loud’s The Gathering, and while our club was of a decent size, I was craving a greater connection with this community, my community. We all took the 2 train down to the vibrantly gay Chelsea (a wonderfully fun experience in itself) and that day I met dozens of LGBTQ+ students from across New York City. Among them was my high school sweetheart, a student from another section of the city.
As LGBTQ+ young adults, we sometimes miss out on that queer-affirming prom, or those meet cutes you see in the rom coms. But I didn’t. And that was only the first way Live Out Loud changed my life. As I stepped into a leadership role at my GSA, I kept in closer contact with Program Manager Bryan, collaborating with them on projects in my school and eventually being honored with the Young Trailblazers’ Scholarship in 2011. The scholarship led me to NYU, NYU led me to a career as drag artist Erika Klash, where I can be a theater company, a role model, and a traveling circus all in one.
When I signed on to compete on Season 2 of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, extraordinary circumstances brought out my inner strength and resilience. After my time on Dragula, so many LGBTQ+ youth from around the world have reached out to me, telling me that I inspire them to keep going when odds may be stacked against them, too. As I write this today, I am proud to say that not only have I completed my second run on Dragula, but I’ve also stepped into an incredibly rewarding role as School Programs Facilitator at Live Out Loud.
A small change in a student’s life today can yield so much, and in ways we may never even fully understand. Consider making a donation to support our mission of uplifting LGBTQ+ youth.
Emm Gabriel Torres
Digital Marketing Associate & School Programs Facilitator