In my previous post about LGBT Pride Month proclamations, I spoke of two Californias. One of those is the state most of you think about, when you think “California”. I’ve said in the past that it’s not the one I live in. On Monday, my home town, Visalia, will issue it’s second LGBT Pride Month declaration. On Tuesday, in what in some ways is an even more incredible act, the city council of Porterville will issue the first LGBT Pride Month proclamation for that community. With Porterville’s history, this is a huge step for the region!
In 2008, when Proposition 8 was before the voters of California, the Porterville City Council was the only elected representative body in the entire state that passed a resolution supporting the measure. From a time of blatant prejudice and disrespect aimed at a segment of their constituants, to declaring June LGBT Pride Month in only five years is a major turn-around.
Porterville is nestled up against the foothills of the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, about 130 miles north of Los Angeles. It is surrounded by citrus and stone fruit orchards, and suffers from both high unemployment and poverty. Thirty miles southeast of my hometown of Visalia, Porterville is generally more conservative than most.
In 2011, a local LGBT activist discovered a posting on the Porterville community college’s website, placed there by a campus Christian club. That post, seen here was a long presentation from an anti-gay site that purported to explain homosexuality and why it was a mental disorder. To their credit, once this posting was brought to the attention of the College Administration, it was immediately removed from college servers, and an apology was issued.
For the past several years, a former resident of Porterville has returned regularly to protest at various intersections. Carrying signs pretty much identical to those of the Westboro Baptist Church, he preaches that “God Hates Fags”, and “Fags Burn in Hell”. He writes letters-to-the-editor in the local paper, to expound on his “righteous wrath”. (It should be noted that he does not seem interested in protesting divorce in front of the courthouse, or the serving of lobster at local restaurants. It’s only the gay thing that bugs him. Makes one wonder why.)
Since the Proposition 8 vote by the city, there has been a growing LGBT movement in Porterville, with numerous public demonstrations of local pride. An ever increasing presence, and visibility, has now led to a truly historic event.
The Porterville City Council will present a proclamation on Tuesday, June 4, 2013, at their chambers at 291 N. Main Street, at 6pm, declaring June 2013 as LGBT Pride month in Porterville.
Here is the text of that Proclamation:
WHEREAS, June is LGBT Pride Month across the United States; and
WHEREAS, Porterville has a diverse LBGT community, which includes individuals from all walks of life; and
WHEREAS, the LGBT community in Porterville has organized dinners, and other activities to celebrate Pride throughout the year; and
WHEREAS, LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and more than 1/3 of LGBT youths have attempted suicide and nine out of ten LGBT youths report harassment at school, and three-fifths report feeling unsafe at school; and
WHEREAS, High School students in Porterville have organized Gay-Straight Alliances to fight bullying, provide support, and encourage education to combat homophobia; and
WHEREAS, Porterville College has an organized PC Pride Club to fight bullying, provide support, and encourage education to combat homophobia; and
WHEREAS, being “out” is the most important action members of the LGBT community can engage in to provide role models, and support to young people who may be struggling with their sexual orientation.
NOW, THEREFORE, the City Council of the City of Porterville does hereby proclaim June 2013 as LGBT Pride Month in the City of Porterville and commend the LGBT Community for helping to raise awareness in our community.
First Visalia, now Porterville. Larger cities in the region, Bakersfield to the south, and Fresno to the north, have yet to make similar proclamations. (Fresno’s lack of recognition is especially glaring, as Fresno Reel Pride will hold it’s 23rd annual film festival in September. This is a major event in LGBT festivals in the United States. You’d think from their lack of recognition that Fresno city government wishes they didn’t have such a prestigious event in their city!)
The “other” California is changing, and for those of us who live here it’s doing so at a breathtaking pace. Although far behind our big city cousins in Los Angeles and San Francisco, we are gaining ground at a remarkable rate. Saturday is Fresno’s Pride Parade and festival, Monday will be Visalia’s LGBT proclamation, Tuesday will be Porterville’s, and the following Monday will see a community forum in Visalia, “Understanding Gays” (not sure what this will be covering, as it’s hosted by a religious organization, but I intend on showing up to find out!).
Who knows? In a few years, I may have to find some other way to describe my “other California”!