My name is Kelsey Norman. I've been a resident of Porterville for quite some time, but that's about to change. I'm heading to the Bay Area to complete my schooling. As I get ready to move away from the Central Valley, I thought I'd take the time to reflect upon my last few years here as a resident of Porterville. The emotions are mixed. Overall, I can't complain too much about the town in general. It was a nice and cozy place for me to live in while I merged into adulthood.
When it comes to LGBTQ+ issues, it was a little bit of a different story. I didn't see much change in terms of equal treatment for all in this city, for any age group. Porterville made it into mainstream national media twice in one year, both times being for negative reasons, the first being the whole situation with Virginia Gurrola being removed from office after the rescinding of the Pride Proclamation (the entire Pride Proclamation nightmare), and the second being Cameron Hamilton's "grow a pair" comment when referring to bullied youth, followed by anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from ex-councilman Greg Shelton and ex-mayor Cameron Hamilton himself. Both of these situations were disappointing, and show that Porterville still has much growing to do.
There was quite a bit of positive in the LGBTQ+ community, though. I personally got to be involved in a few volunteer opportunities with Gay Porterville. I got to be a part of the Gay Porterville booth at Fresno Pride this year, which was such an awesome experience. I got to meet a lot of other people from the Central Valley that could relate to the struggle that Porterville has gone through. I marched in the parade, proudly holding the Gay Porterville banner. I also got to be a part of the art exhibit Protect Our Children: (Re)Creating Family Acceptance. Artists/Activists Ronnie Veliz and Carolina Alcala created pieces showcasing the many different relationships between queer or trans individuals and their families. This event was a perfect space to offer knowledge and perspective to the community. With this art show being a part of Porterville's monthly art walk, it was a perfect opportunity for residents to be exposed to the topics of Queer/Trans youth and their stories--the true struggles they have faced and overcome.
In the future, I hope to see more change happening within the city as whole in terms of equal treatment for all of Porterville's residents. It'd be great to come back to a hometown that I could say has made a change for the LGBTQ+ community; it would be great to come back and feel some pride.
Kelsey Norman has been absolutely amazing. She has diligently volunteered for Gay Porterville on many occasions, regardless of hectic school and work schedules. Not only that, she quickly became one of my best friends. We wish you the best in every thing you do, Kelsey, and can't wait to see the amazing things you accomplish in San Jose. You rock.