Homophobia in Fresno

It breaks my heart to see that acts of hate and hate speech are openly still being expressed in 2021. The insurrection in Washington, D.C. on January 6th was filled with acts and words of gender, racial, political and law enforcement hate. Law enforcement officers were being called racial slurs; female officers being called “b….;”  threats to execute legislators of one party; all in the name of patriotism. Overt hate speech and acts of hate seem to be on the rise all around us.
It has been reported that there has been a rise in acts of hate being perpetrated on Asian Americans as a response to the presence of COVID 19 in our country. Leaders calling COVID “China Flu” or “Kung Flu” has given many the courage to turn on those of Asian ancestry in our communities. In particular, hate crimes against particularly elderly Asians is surging. There are people volunteering to escort elderly Asians to maintain their safety. These acts of anti-Asian discrimination and hate are popping up all over the country.
Twice this last week I was confronted with homophobia. Last Sunday morning while driving around the Tower District in support of the Save the Tower Theater efforts, the opposition demonstrators, yelled, “Homo!” at me. My reaction was to laugh and yell, “Is that all you’ve got?” Those are words that I haven’t heard openly yelled in public for many years.
When walking our dog “Cody” this week, I discovered FAGGOT scrawled on a trash bin behind a popular pizza restaurant on the corner of Bullard and West; my own neighborhood.
These are certainly not the first times I have been confronted by homophobia, but it does make me realize that that hate and ignorance, and efforts to oppress, continue, regardless of the legal rights that have been achieved. I am both sad and disappointed that this kind of behavior is still so openly expressed.
My personal approach to homophobia has always been to educate people. I have always felt that once people realized we were their sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, aunts and uncles, grandchildren, teachers, students, doctors, and neighbors it would lead to greater acknowledgement of  our rights to be ourselves. Seeing that we are everywhere people would come to realize that we are no threat and there would be greater acceptance. In some ways and in some places there has been greater acceptance; but my experiences this past week suggest we have a long way to go.
We can’t legislate acceptance, yet without acceptance, legislation will not be passed. Since January, dozens of bills have been introduced in 14 states that would negatively impact the LGBTQ+, particularly targeting the transgender community. Is it any wonder that the rate of suicide and suicide attempts among members of the LGBTQ+ is so high?  “According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than half of transgender male teens who participated in the survey reported attempting suicide in their lifetime, while 29.9 percent of transgender female teens said they had attempted suicide.” Those numbers are staggering.
The Equality Act, which the Biden Harris campaign promised to pass, would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life. The areas impacted would include protections in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces, and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. When this legislation finally passes LGBTQ people will be covered under federal law and will have protection from discriminatory state and local laws. I encourage you to reach out to your congress-member and urge them to vote for this legislation.
I was called to stand for Equality for Women and the LGBTQ+ community in my 20’s. I have marched in Sacramento and Washington DC, lobbied for legislation, organized rallies for the ERA, Equal Pay, Choice, against the “Briggs Initiative”, spoken in classrooms, on TV and radio, was one of the first co-chairs of the Lesbian-Gay Caucus of the California Democratic Caucus, started a short-lived gay Democratic Club in the ’70s, been a Grand Marshal of the Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade and Queer Hero of Fresno in 2019. I have been the president of the National Organization for Women and am currently President of Fresno Stonewall Democrats and  Fresno National Women’s Political Caucus.
Feminism and the fight for equality for all of us runs in my blood, and I am proud of my activism. But to some fool on the street in my hometown, I am still a “homo”! 
Again, I say, is that all you’ve got? We still have much work to do….

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