I’m sure you have all seen that Gay Central Valley has expanded. We are very excited and proud to now be operating Gay Porterville. Already there have been articles posted, an up and running Facebook page and more things that you just don’t know about yet. You might be asking yourselves….who is this Gay Porterville? Well, I’d like to take this time to let you know about the woman behind the curtain, so to speak. It is my honor to introduce Melissa McMurrey, Division Leader of Gay Porterville. Melissa has only been with us for a short time but already has great ideas, great initiative and most importantly, a great passion for her community.
Melissa was raised as an Army brat. She and her family lived in various places throughout her childhood; Georgia, Washington, Germany, and New York, to name a few. She spent a lot of her adult life in Santa Barbara. Being out in the world and coming from a pretty liberal area as SB, you can imagine the culture shock she received moving back to Porterville. Lucky for you however, because that is one of her driving forces. Oh yeah, and to answer the burning question….. Yes, Melissa is gay. She currently lives with her partner of a year. She also has a dachshund named Sadie. She’s an Aquarius, likes long walks on the beach and her favorite color is teal. Did I just take that too far? :)
To give you a better perspective of her, we had a little Q&A session and here’s what she had to say:
What was your biggest adjustment moving back to the valley?
Biggest adjustment would have to be lack of cultured events and/or not having the option to do anything after 9pm locally that doesn’t include alcohol or strippers…although those things can be fun too. (Note to self: Take Melissa out for alcohol and strippers)
What was your motivation in starting up Gay Porterville?
Having been raised in various parts of the world I've had the opportunity to see full acceptance and tolerance of people outside of the traditional norm. Having Porterville to come back to on and off throughout my army brat upbringing made it easy to see how repressed the central valley is and saw what kind of advancements it could make. Porterville being off the beaten path sometimes contributes to the lack of resources we have here.
What do you think the hardest struggle for your area is?
Gosh, where to begin? Lack of LGBT community resources. Lack of understanding by the general population of LGBT issues. I feel that many LGBTQ people in the area think they are alone but don’t realize how many of us are actually here.
Did you find it difficult coming out to your friends and family?
I actually made a mountain out of a mole hill with this one. I had anticipated some resistance from my retired military gone correctional officer father but he actually was really open to the fact. My dad’s exact words were “I don’t care who you date as long as they treat you right and make you happy”…another favorite quotable from my dad when I first came out to him was in my asking him if he feared I wouldn’t be giving him grandchildren he said “What? Why? Women get inseminated all the time!! You better be giving me a grandkid!” With my mom…I was very fortunate to have the opportunity in coming out to her shortly before she passed away. My mom’s response was “I always knew something was up…especially with the effeminate men you used to date”. Friends… Again, I have been really fortunate in my coming out experience. Most of my friends stated they weren’t surprised and found it exciting. However, I do have one or two friends from high school that have struggled with it. They have voiced their more conservative opinions to me but I take it as a challenge to try and educate them rather than turn the other cheek.
What can the community do to help you in your efforts?
Voice their opinion. Pass any information or leads they may have to me. Voice any ideas they have or resources that I can try and harvest into a community resource or outlet.
What's the one goal that you, Gay Porterville, have for this year?
I have a couple of ideas still brewing that I still need to figure out a means and a plan of action for. I would like to get the LGBT community working on some volunteer projects and other types of community outreach where we are working side by side with other every day people. I also am looking to get a general LGBT support group going to allow people of like mind to get together and chat.
Have you ever been discriminated against for identifying as an LGBT community member?
I've had a few comments and remarks made to me since I've been back in the area but nothing I really cared to hear. I imagine as I become more active in the community more people will recognize and associate me with the gay community possibly making me a target for discrimination. But I am ready and excited for that challenge.
Now that you have people's attention, what would you like to say to them?
That I would like for any member of the community to feel comfortable in approaching me at any time for any reason. I will never judge anyone for their feelings. I am a safe space. I will always do my best to help in any way I can...If I personally can't help I will find the appropriate resources.
I’m excited to have her with us and I’m really glad that the Porterville area has someone who can help continue the growth that has been started. Many of you have already done such great things there, together, you guys will be amazing. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity. Connect, share, engage and empower. Melissa is full of ambition and truly wants to bring everyone together for a stronger and better community.
Melissa: On behalf of myself and Gay Central Valley, welcome and thank you for coming aboard. The journey you are embarking upon is not an easy one at times, but I can’t think of a better person for the job.
Get involved Porterville, let her know what you need and how she can help!