by Justin Kamimoto
In 2011, strives have been made in the LGBT+ community to continually push for improvements – improvements in organizations providing resources, improvements to equal rights, improvements in creating safe and supportive environment for our youth.
Being active within the LGBT+ community, I asked the question of what we need to do to improve our community in 2012 to colleagues and friends. The most common answer I received was continuing to give/receive support and to create more support outlets to utilize in the push for equality.
Ken Pierce, President of Equality Action NOW says, “There are two major areas [I feel] the LGBT+ community needs to improve. The first is having more courage to speak out about issues and the fact that LGBT+ individuals are treated as second-class citizens. The second is those in our community tend to shy away from volunteering their time or money for grassroots efforts need to step up and get out of their comfort-zone and become more of an activist, rather then someone who [does nothing].” Pierce is a mentor to Central Valley native Benancio Garza, leader of their “Youth Force” group and is the youngest Board Member for Equality Action NOW in Sacramento.
Victoria Benavides, Central Valley Program Coordinator of Gay Straight Alliance Network, makes the important comment on building coalitions between organizations. LGBT+ community organizations have been found to be particular with organizations working with each other and it is time to build stronger connections. “[Coalition building] is a strength we need to play off of because we are all social justice organizations. By building coalitions with other organizations we will be able to gain better insight about other factors we need to better our own organization. We can do this with discussions and meetings with other groups,” said Benavides.
In 2012, Visalia Lions Pride Club is doing amazing feats by touring south valley high school Gay Straight Alliance clubs, donating books to their library, hosting guest speakers and promoting awareness and acceptance through their members, including their new scholarships being awarded in the fall.
Slade Childers, a Visalia community activist, says this is the year political action needs to be taken due to the fact that basic rights of LGBT+ individuals are being discussed by both parties running for President and there are candidates that oppose and support granting us our civil rights. When I asked Childers about a positive movement in 2011, he referred to the speech by Hillary Clinton which can be heard here.
“The LGBT+ community needs to commit itself to building a broad and deep grassroots constituency working toward comprehensive justice and equality for all,” says Joe Wilson, director of the film Out in the Silence.
Feats such as the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and marriage equality in new states and countries around the world are showing that the drive supporters of LGBT+ individuals will not end until all human beings are treated fairly.
As a community, we need to continue to support one another and have an emphasis on our youth. Teen suicides have been on a high, and within the last month, three new suicides were completed by LGBT+ youth. Any number is too high when it comes to suicide and everyone needs to know that there is support within our community to help you at any time.
• Bulldog Pride Fund, an LGBT and straight ally friendly scholarship fund, has reached $212,500 in donations providing financial assistance to five scholarship recipients in 2012. Bulldog Pride Fund awards a GSA Network Award and a brand new Harvey Milk Scholarship.
• My Lgbt Plus, Central Valley’s newest online interactive resource for the LGBT+ community launched November 19, 2011 and now has a worldwide support system.
• Gay Central Valley continues to provide resources to the LGBT community at the community center on 1055 North Van Ness, Fresno, now with new support meetings and monthly activities.
• A new Gay & Lesbian Center in Bakersfield is now in operation.
• Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Groups in the Central Valley are doing amazing work in providing support, advice and resources at their monthly meetings! Join a PFLAG Group in your area! (I recently went to the Fresno PFLAG Chapter Meeting and you will not be disappointed!)
Check out Justin’s articles on other great organizations working to help LGBT youth–GSA, The Trevor Project & Rainbow Delegation–and an article on bullying.