You can dress down or dress to the nines,” says Pizza Klatch co-founder Lynn Grotsky of this year’s Pizza Klatch Gayla on February 2 at the Washington Center. All are welcome, though they recommend ages 10 and above. “The Gayla is a joyous, fun, and poignant event,” adds Lynn. And this year the line-up of performers promises a rollicking evening of music and laughter in support of LGBTQ+ youth in our community.

Aleksa Manila will emcee. She is a Seattle-area favorite entertainer and community advocate, billed as “drug counselor by day, drag diva by night.” Aleksa has a long list of achievements and awards, and was recently recognized with the Greater Seattle Business Association Community Leader Humanitarian Award of 2018.

Cris Williamson
The 2019 Gayla will feature women’s music pioneer and icon Cris Williamson. Photo credit: Katie Marie

Musical performers include lesbian feminist singer-songwriter Cris Williamson and the hilarious social justice-oriented Righteous Mothers. Cris Williamson’s groundbreaking 1975 album Changer and the Changed is the first record written, produced, and performed by women for women. It was named one of NPR Music’s top 150 albums made by women. She has released over 30 albums since. Her voice and lyrics continue to bring inspiration, hope, and joy.

The Righteous Mothers capture womanhood and the highs and lows of life in general with songs that often leave the audience in tears. Those tears could come from laughter, joy, sorrow, or all three at once, depending on the song. With titles like “Old Fat Naked Women for Peace” and “Boring Meeting,” one can see how emotions tend to swing during their performances.

Comedian El Sanchez weaves together embarrassing personal stories, nerdy obsessions, and social politics in their stand-up routine. In addition to being booked as this year’s comedian at the Gayla, El was recently hired as a Pizza Klatch facilitator and advocate.

Righteous Mothers
The Righteous Mothers are a high energy band of local career mothers with amazing musical talent. Photo courtesy: Pizza Klatch

For those of you wondering, a klatch is an informal gathering to foster conversation. In this case the klatches serve as support groups for LGBTQ+ youth. Pizza is involved because the gatherings happen during the lunch period at all 14 high schools in Thurston County. Groups are also forming in local middle schools. “I like Pizza Klatch because I feel comfortable being honest and other people do too,” writes an Olympia High student. “My friends in Pizza Klatch are the most genuine friends I have.”

Pizza Klatch got its start in 2005-06 after a rash of youth suicides. “All those kids identified or were perceived to be LGBTQ+,” shares Lynn. Lynn is a counselor. She has been with her wife for 38 years. Their son is gay and was in high school at the time. He was struggling socially and became suicidal. He was born into an accepting family. That left Lynn wondering, “If he is struggling with all this support, how do other kids do it?”

Pizza Klatch Costumes
Costumed or casual, all are welcome and encouraged to attend the Gayla on February 2. Photo courtesy: Pizza Klatch Gayla

That concern prompted Lynn to contact high school counselors and ask them to start a support group. The schools lacked time and resources, so Lynn took on the task. She got permission to hold groups during the lunch period. The first year they held a fundraiser at Lynn’s house. “Our goal was to raise $5,000,” says Lynn. It was loosely organized. People simply announced an item or service they were donating for auction as they walked in the door.

Now the Pizza Klatch has an office, employees, and Lynn is working on a grant to take the program national. El is one of the employee facilitators, but there are also many volunteers who help guide the meetings. Facilitators travel to each of the schools once a week at lunch time, bearing pizza. The facilitators offer guidance on a wide variety of topics. “The kids do check-ins and we talk about the highs and lows of the week,” shares El. “They ask for advice about things going on.” Topics range from typical teenage problems like tests to more complex issues LGBTQ+ kids face like acceptance by family members and peers.

Pizza Klatch has a lot of local support. Their biggest fundraising event of the year is the Gayla and auction. The auction has gone from loosely organized to high tech. It is all online now. The auction goes live on January 19. Participants can register for the Pizza Klatch auction and bid on a large variety of donations provided by local businesses and residents.

Pizza Klatch Costumes
Costumed or casual, all are welcome and encouraged to attend the Gayla on February 2. Photo courtesy: Pizza Klatch Gayla

Even during the Gayla itself, the auction will be done online through computers, phones, and iPads. Volunteers will be on hand at kiosks to assist participants and help people bid. Lynn recommends registering for the auction before the event to avoid standing in long lines upon arrival.

The Gayla offers a fabulous VIP reception, chance drawings, the “best photo booth ever,” cupcakes and, of course, pizza.

Pizza Klatch Gayla Concert & Auction will be Saturday, February 2, 2019, at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. Get tickets online or by calling 360-753-8586. VIP reception is at 5:00 p.m., doors open at 6:00 p.m., and the main show is at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices: $25 – $67; VIP Reception (includes the show): $127. Student and senior discounts available.

The online auction begins January 19.

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