Advisory council hopes to help rural LGBTQ Californians

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday February 20, 2024
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Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, chair of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, spoke at a February 20 news conference outside the state Capitol in Sacramento about a new LGBTQ advisory council that will help the caucus determine priorities. Photo: John Ferrannini
Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, chair of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, spoke at a February 20 news conference outside the state Capitol in Sacramento about a new LGBTQ advisory council that will help the caucus determine priorities. Photo: John Ferrannini

A new council made up of representatives of queer community groups statewide will be advising the state Legislative LGBTQ Caucus as it determines lawmaking priorities.

The council made its debut at a noontime news conference February 20 on the west steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento. Lesbian state Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), chair of the LGBTQ caucus, said that the goal is to bring further representation to the needs of LGBTQs outside major urban centers, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, and bear the brunt of homophobic and transphobic attacks in the state.

"We are not just congregated in urban areas, but we are all across the state," Eggman said. "People feel under attack. They don't have the allies they might. The community is not as strong as they'd like."

Hopefully, the new council will help advocates "get ahead of the nastiness," Eggman added.

The Bay Area Reporter asked Eggman and gay Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego), the vice chair of the caucus, how the council will help fight a proposed anti-trans initiative that is currently in the signature-gathering process for the November ballot. As the B.A.R. previously reported, the most recent development is that the conservative group behind the measure is suing the state in Sacramento County Superior Court over the title and summary Attorney General Rob Bonta assigned to the proposed initiative on transgender minors.

Protect Kids California is now gathering signatures for the initiative that would ban trans minors from receiving gender-affirming care; ban trans girls from female competitive sports, locker rooms and bathrooms; and require public schools to disclose students' gender identities to parents if they say they are different from their sex at birth.

In preparing a ballot title and summary for the measure, Bonta titled it "Restricts Rights of Transgender Youth."

"We certainly stand opposed to that effort. We hope people decline to sign," Ward said. "It is a hateful and regressive initiative. If you see anyone gathering signatures outside grocery stores, decline to sign."

Ward said that "next steps" will be considered if the initiative qualifies. The pending suit is asking a judge to grant proponents a new title and restart the 180-day signature-gathering phase.

Tony Hoang, a gay man who is the executive director of Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ rights group, referred to the initiative in his remarks, saying, "we are seeing attempts to ... pass oppressive policies and erase our identities, but we refuse to be erased."

"California must lead by example," he added. "Every single person in the LGBTQ+ community has the right to embrace their authentic selves."

Representatives of the various organizations involved spoke about the need for the advisory council. The advisory council has representatives of 12 organizations, according to Jacob Fraker, the legislative consultant for the LGBTQ caucus.

They are Equality California, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, TruEvolution, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the TransLatin@ Coalition, TransFamily Support Services, the Center for Immigrant Protection, Queer Humboldt, UC Merced, the Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance and GALAS LGBTQ+ Armenian Society.

Three more that he did not name will likely be added, he stated.

The groups converged from up and down the Golden State, painting a picture of the need for solidarity between urban and rural California. Officials said events for LGBTQ youth often have to be shut down because of death threats, while allies also are sometimes terrorized. As the B.A.R. previously reported, a San Bernardino County woman and ally was shot to death August 18 after a man reportedly removed a Pride flag from outside her clothing store and the woman confronted him about it.

Ariel Savage, a trans woman who is public relations manager for Riverside-based TruEvolution, said, "I thought the only way to live my truth fully was to move to Los Angeles or San Francisco."

TruEvolution helps with affordable housing in Riverside and Stanislaus counties, she explained, and is opening the doors to a new community center in the Inland Empire.

"These attacks are targeting the most vulnerable among us, particularly transgender youth," Savage said. "I look forward to the incredibly important work we will all be doing together."

Jacob Daruvala of the Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance, also based in the Inland Empire, said, "We are proud to stand here with our queer fam from up and down the state today."

Lark M. Doolan, the executive director of Queer Humboldt, said that he is "grateful that those distinctions [between urban and rural queer communities] are being recognized in this setting"

"Queer people belong in every city, every classroom, every sports team," he said. "We will never have queer liberation without also being liberated from all forms of racism, ableism, and all forms of body terrorism."

Added Ward, "We're not lost here in a Sacramento bubble."

Though a media advisory stated that the news conference would also address priority legislation, this was not discussed. Ward did say that a resolution to commemorate transgender visibility would be introduced March 18.

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