On Saturday night, 70 young queers and their allies gathered for Queer Youth Space’s pilot event Still Screaming. There's been a lot of talk about the group's request for $100,000 from the city to build a community center for queer youth. So I decided to check it out.

Inside Club Diamond near the Seattle Center, there were unhealthy snacks (pancakes), healthy snacks (puffed chips, hummus, fruit), poetry being read from iPhone screens, and earnest musical performances. Toward the end of the night, we actually stood in a circle, held hands, and sang the Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” in its entirety. Cute, dorky, and full of energy, it was sure as hell more wholesome and affirming than anything I ever did as a teenager. Despite being a little church camp-y, and probably not every young queer’s idea of a good time, it was undoubtedly a positive event not centered around a drugs-and-alcohol-agenda. Considering the LGBTQ community's relationship with disproportionately high substance-abuse, depression, and suicide statistics, a little feel-good, clean camaraderie is certainly to be applauded.

I spoke with four QYS organizers—Jordawn, 18, Kurt, 22, Kyle, 19, and Monica, 19—and asked them to explain why creating a new queer youth space is necessary, why they needed $100,000 to do it, and why, if they succeed in getting the grant, their space would serve them better than Lambert House, Vera Project, or other services for youth. What is the essential service they would offer in their $100,000 space that queer kids can’t get anywhere else?

Monica told me that the grant was simply an opportunity which they had decided to jump on. “We thought, what do we have to lose? The application was due, so we just tried for it. Why not? If we don’t get it, we’re already claiming space and we will continue to do so. The grant doesn’t shackle us."

Kurt and Jordawn said the space will be different than Lambert House or the now-dead LGBT Center. For one, the space they’re looking to rent is affordable, and one of the reasons the LGBT Center closed was “lack of money” because the rent was too high. But the biggest difference is that QYS would be youth-led, not adult-led. They plan to offer counseling services and yoga. But they won’t be a glorified drop-in center with “fun activities” planned by and run by adults.

Why are these services so essential for queer youth to get here, or better provided by a bunch of amateurs than experienced and allied adults? They might not be, but I don't think that's really the point. It’s the emphasis on “ownership,” the pursuit of the uniquely American obsession to stake your claim, stick a flag in it, and call it yours. It’s an ideal undoubtedly ingrained in the heads of all Americans, gay or straight. They're just trying to get a piece of the pie to call their own.

More after the jump.

Why can’t they just do what straight youth do, and use the social resources the city already provides for teenagers? For the same reason that the gay bar as an institute is such a historically important part of LGBTQ history. People don’t go to gay bars just to drink or to hook-up. They go to see a representation of themselves, the essence of who they are inside, all around them and in the faces of others in an overwhelming majority. People want the comfort of unity, normalcy, inclusivity. LGBTQ rights have come a long way—and Capitol Hill is really, really gay. But it is especially vital for identity-forming teenagers, who are often being rejected by family members, to go somewhere that can provide the affirmation of a group. They need to create a “chosen family,” a home base to go to, and QYS would be that, a function generally filled for the 21-and-over crowd by gay bars and not being filled for them by Lambert House.

Queer Youth Space is what the queer youth want, what the queer youth need, and they will create it wherever they go, with or without the grant or the permission of adult authority, like underage kids have always done everywhere. And $100,000 might just be pretty fucking cool for a bunch of positive-ass, proactive kids to get their hands on.