On Tuesday, October 7, Gay Porterville, along with many other amazing individuals, protested the city council of Porterville at Centennial Plaza. Our message was clear: we’re sick and tired of discrimination put forth by our elected officials.
In late September, Gay Porterville submitted a proclamation for the council’s consideration. The proclamation was to recognize Saturday, October 11, as National Coming Out Day in the city of Porterville. Our proclamation was snubbed; it was tossed aside, never to even come to a vote. This was the first proclamation in Porterville’s history to go without sponsorship from a councilmember.
Protesters Lined the Streets to Speak Out Against the Porterville City Council
Our mayor, Milt Stowe, stated that the proclamation was not “all-inclusive,” so therefor he would not endorse it. The thing about proclamations is that they are not meant to be “all-inclusive.” Proclamations are meant to celebrate certain individuals, groups, social causes, and communities. Most—if not all—proclamations are not “all-inclusive,” and that’s fine. To single out an LGBTQ+ proclamation on the grounds of exclusivity is ludicrous.
Vice Mayor Cameron Hamilton—the gentleman who made you “Grow a Pair” a household phrase—declined to support the proclamation as well, stating that individuals are not to be recognized for their sexual orientations. He claimed that it would be harmful to us. The problem is that Porterville’s LGBTQ+ does, in fact, want some recognition. We’ve been denied it more times that we can count, and we’re ready. We are hard-working, tax-paying citizens of this community, and we bring plenty to the table. Furthermore, for him to claim that he knows what is and isn’t ‘best’ for our community is offensive to the max.
So we gathered. We brought signs, our voices, and plenty of anger. We noticed at the rally that something is changing. We are getting far more support from passersby than we have in the past. Cars honked as they drove by in support, people cheered and encouraged us, and the positive tone was felt. We hope that this is a good sign for Porterville; we hope that change is on its way.
Straight Allies Vickie Banks and Carol Trueblood Proudly Showing their Support. (Photo by Brock Neeley)
After the protest, we spoke out against our elected officials at the council meeting. The speeches that were delivered were powerful, to say the very least.
Dr. Ann Marie Wagstaff stated, “When we deny equality, justice, and dignity to any individual or group, we violate the constitution.”
In another statement to the city council, Elliot Trueblood had this to say: “You all seem vehemently opposed to accepting the fact that the LGBTQ community in your city so much as even exists. If you can’t even be trusted to do something as simple as represent all of your constituents, or not discriminate, then you are clearly undeserving of your titles, and are absolute disgraces to this city.”
Perhaps the most powerful speech of the night came from a community member by the name of Jesus Garcia. We were moved to tears by his words. “I want you to realize that I am Mexican; I am gay. This city has taken a lot from me and I want something back! I want to be recognized!”
Vice Mayor Cameron Hamilton issued some choice words regarding the issue. “I feel sorry for anybody that needs a proclamation to make themselves feel whole.” We could not be anymore disappointed or appalled by this remark. Not only was this incredibly insulting and hurtful to the LGBTQ+ community that was asking for some form of recognition, but to anyone in this city who has ever received a proclamation. As a matter of fact, that same night, a brave group of women accepted a proclamation recognizing the major social issue of domestic violence. We can’t help but wonder how his words made them feel.
Gay Central Valley's Yesenia Valdez and Gay Porterville's Elliot Trueblood
National Coming Out Day aims to break down the doors that keep us hidden away in closets. It aims to celebrate the obstacles that each of us in the LGBTQ+ community have overcome to get to where we are today. It is meant to inspire those that may be feeling lost or insecure. One thing is for certain—on Tuesday, October 7, we came out. We made our presence known to the city council, and made it known that we were done dealing with their antics. We were loud, and we were proud.