Pride month events have taken place across nation for decades, but in conservative cities like Delano, demonstrations like Delano’s LGBTQ+ Day of Action held last month was not accepted by many in the community.
As someone who helped plan the event, along with Delano’s LGBTQ+ Alliance, I knew there were going to be challenges, but I also knew how important and how necessary this event was. The Day of Action was the first step to having a more accepting community.
For me and the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, that march was more than a time to wave rainbow flags and chant. Our day of action was the first stride towards an inclusive and welcoming environment for the LGBTQ+ community — a community that is marginalized, silenced and neglected in Delano.
Planning for this event was difficult. Many of those in charge of the event identify as LGBTQ+, but because of Delano’s political climate, they were not comfortable taking on leadership roles due to their fear of being rejected or harassed by the community.
Being the face of an LGBTQ+ demonstration put these individuals at risk of having to come out to the entire community and even their families.
That alone made me realize how important it is to normalize the LGBTQ+ culture — so members of our community don’t have to feel unwelcomed or alienated because of who they lose or who they desire to be.
As the event drew closer, it began to receive opposition and hate.
Some people felt the event would take attention away from the shootings and the violence in Delano, and others just saw it as an opportunity spread homophobic hate on social media.
I understand everyone is entitled to their opinions, but when you have people on social media saying Pride Month is unnecessary and implying LGBTQ+ issues are simply trends, it minimizes the struggle some of our community members live with every day.
For someone who had never been vocal about sexuality, these comments made me feel like I was making myself a target for hate and bigotry by taking the lead for this demonstration. Luckily for me, I had the support of my team, so I never gave in to that fear.
Still, I couldn’t help but imagine how much harder it must have been for all the LGBTQ+ organizers who came before me. I realized just how important it was to make Delano’s first LGBTQ+ march as successful as possible.
Although most felt empowered and united during the march, a big concern for some was safety. With all the negative comments on social media, the group feared that some might put their words into action.
During the march, several drivers took the time out of their day to yell out homophobic slurs and aggressively honk at our group.
While planning for this event, we discussed the possibility of these things happening. Although we were expecting it, in the moment it was unbelievable.
These hateful actions were further proof that demonstrations like this are needed in order to fight against the heteronormative ideals of Delano.
During the reflective sessions, we had the opportunity to hear from people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community in Delano. Many said they were happy they found a support system.
We also had a chance to discuss what’s next for the Delano LGBTQ+ Alliance. Just about everyone expressed a desire for bigger and better events for future pride months.
More importantly, one goal that was created for the Alliance was to eventually bring an LGBTQ center to Delano.
As we grow and begin to strengthen the LGBTQ+ community, I am sure we will be able to accomplish every goal and continue to offer solidarity and continuous support as we fight for equality, inclusivity and recognition in Delano.
Moving forward, my goal for the Delano LGBTQ+ Alliance is to create an environment that allows people to be who they are apologetically and to cultivate a culture of acceptance in Delano that challenges the homophobia and transphobia that still exists in our community.
Much progress has been made, but we must continue to counter people’s ignorance with education and demonstrations like our Day of Action.
We must recognize that being neutral on this issue is no longer an option and in order to being justice and equality to this community, we need to keep community members and elected officials accountable.
LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. And Delano needs to accept this and do better.
South Kern Sol is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, youth reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.