In most parts of California, you cannot fly the pride flag outside a home, business, or civic building. Announcement honoring Gaurav Month by elected officials? Usually not breaking news.
But there are places in the state where flying the rainbow flag, like many things, has become a source of partisan political struggle.
This surprised 22-year-old City Council member Jewel Hurtado in the Fresno County hamlet of Kingsburg, who in May proposed that the city recognize Pride Month with a proclamation and hoisting of a flag.
“My story is no different from anyone else’s in the Central Valley—that’s why I brought this proud declaration to the table,” Hurtado, who identifies as bisexual, told me. “I know these experiences and struggles.”
And while Hurtado has gotten used to pushback for his initiatives as a youth, in a shifting region the Latina progressive is increasingly seen as a political battleground – he helped campaign. Senator Bernie Sanders During her presidential race – she stunned this time.
“I didn’t expect it to be on the news,” she said. The offer failed.
The episode also caught the attention of Dr. Carol Goldsmith, president of Fresno City College, about 24 miles northwest of Kingsburg, where Hurtado is set 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, he said, was the state’s first community college—a massive system. has over two million students in 116 colleges. The system does not offer admission based on grades or other academic requirements as do California State Universities.
For Goldsmith, that meant drawing up her own history, growing up in the Central Valley and, she says, “feeling others” to welcome everyone to the school.
“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 it spoke to fellow education leaders and members of the State Center Community College District Board, who passed a resolution encouraging all of its schools to fly the flag.
Fresno City College held a ceremony to do so for the first time in its history, on 4th June.
At the ceremony, Hurtado spoke about his experiences. So did Goldsmith, who talked about being kicked out of his house for a few months during his senior year of high school.
“A lot of hurtful things were said,” she recalled to me this week.
In the audience that day was the mayor of Fresno, Jerry Dyer, a Republican and former police chief.
At the time, Dyer was embroiled in controversy over his suggestion that the Pride Flag be flown at a nearby plaza instead of City Hall, as, He wrote in a Facebook post, it had the potential to “isolate those who do not support that particular cause.”
Members of the LGBTQ community, including Goldsmith, saw the proposal as a half-measure that denied their entire humanity.
“What I learned speaking with the LGBTQ community is that it was offensive,” he told me this week.
She asked Goldsmith if she would mind attending the Fresno City College program.
“Story after story – it broke my heart,” he said. “I cried for most of the ceremony.” Shortly after, Dyer, who has been open about his newly born Christian faith, spoke to LGBTQ-affirming clergy.
“I cried through most of them as well,” Dyer said.
And so, he reversed course.
On June 11, the Pride flag was flown for the first time over Fresno’s City Hall.
Dyer said he has been accused of allowing political views to inspire his change of heart.
“I am hoping that leaders – regardless of their political status or their religious views – will recognize that within our community there are populations that are excluded and left out and not represented,” he said. “It’s so important that we as elected leaders listen.”
Hurtado, a Kingsburg council member, said she was encouraged to learn that her words helped move the mayor.
And she hopes the change in perspective is permanent.
“The way I see it is that he’s fulfilling a campaign promise.”One Fresno,'” he said. “And I hope he continues to do so.”
Pride month is a great time to reflect on how language has evolved over the decades to reflect identity. One example: Dr. Carol Goldsmith of Fresno City College, 56, said she’s only recently begun to identify as queer, when she’s “feeling particularly powerful.”
The term was once particularly derogatory.
And over the past year, calculations on racism have inspired discussions about how to talk about race and ethnicity more precisely and with nuance.
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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’s always wanted to see more. follow here or next Twitter.