In much of California, you might not blink an eye at a pride flag fluttering in front of a home, business, or municipal building. A proclamation honoring pride month by elected officials? Usually not the latest news.
But there are places in the state where the raising of the rainbow flag has become, like so many things, a source of partisan political conflict.
It surprised Jewel Hurtado, a 22-year-old city council member from the Fresno County hamlet of Kingsburg, who proposed in May that the city recognize Pride Month with a proclamation and by flying the flag.
“My story is no different from anyone else in the Central Valley – that’s why I brought this proclamation of pride to the table,” Hurtado, who spoke to me, told me. identifies as bisexual. “I know these experiences and these struggles. “
And while Hurtado has grown accustomed to pushing back his initiatives as a young Latin American progressive in an evolving region increasingly seen as a political battleground – she helped campaign for Senator Bernie Sanders during her career. presidential race – it was taken aback this time.
“I didn’t expect it to be on the news,” she said. The proposal failed.
The episode also caught the attention of Dr Carole Goldsmith, president of Fresno City College, about 24 miles northwest of Kingsburg, where Hurtado is expected to graduate this week.
“I thought, ‘This is one of our students,’” Goldsmith told me.
Goldsmith is the first openly gay president of the college, which she said was the state’s first community college – a large system with more than two million students at 116 colleges. The system does not grant admission based on grades or other academic requirements like California State Universities do.
For Goldsmith, that means building on her own history, growing up in the Central Valley and, she says, “feeling different”, to make the school welcoming to everyone.
“I know what it’s like to feel like people hate you because of who you are,” she said. The pride flag, she said, “serves as a symbol of hope and inclusion.”
So she spoke to other education officials and board members from the State Center Community College District, which passed a resolution encouraging all of its schools to hoist the flag.
Fresno City College held a ceremony for this, for the first time in its history, on June 4.
During the ceremony, Hurtado spoke about his experiences. The same goes for Goldsmith, who spoke of being kicked out of her home for a few months during her senior year of high school.
“A lot of hurtful things have been said,” she reminded me this week.
In the audience that day was Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, a Republican and former police chief.
At the time, Dyer was embroiled in a controversy over his suggestion that the pride flag fly in a nearby plaza instead of Town Hall, because as he wrote in a Facebook post , he had “the potential to alienate those who do not support him.” particular cause.
Members of the LGBTQ community, including Goldsmith, saw this proposal as a half-measure that negated their full humanity.
“What I ended up learning from speaking with the LGBTQ community was that it was offensive,” he told me this week.
He asked Goldsmith if she would mind if he attended the Fresno City College event.
“Story after story, it broke my heart,” he said. “I cried most of the ceremony.” Soon after, Dyer, who is open to his reborn Christian faith, spoke to clergy affirming LGBTQ.
“I cried for most of this too,” Dyer said.
And so, he turned the tide.
On June 11, the Pride Flag flew for the first time over Fresno City Hall.
Dyer said he was accused of letting political considerations motivate his change of mind.
“I hope that leaders – whatever their political status or their religious views – will recognize that there are populations within our community who feel excluded, left out and unrepresented,” he said. declared. “It is so important that we, the elected leaders, listen.
Kingsburg council member Hurtado said she was encouraged to know his words helped move the mayor.
And she hopes the change in perspective will be lasting.
“The way I see it is that it fulfills a campaign promise to make”A Fresno, ‘”she said.” And I hope he continues to do so. “
Pride Month is a good time to reflect on how the language has evolved over the decades to reflect identity. An example: Dr Carole Goldsmith of Fresno City College, who is 56, said that she had only recently started to identify as gay, when she “feels particularly powerful”.
The term was once exclusively pejorative.
And over the past year, the accounts of racism have sparked discussions about how to speak about race and ethnicity with more precision and nuance.
My colleagues want to hear your thoughts on the changes. Tell us here.
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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from UC Berkeley and has reported throughout the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she always wants to see more. Follow here or on Twitter.