“The Bible says…”
Last year, around this time, we heard this phrase during a good portion of a four-hour nightmare of public comments. Last council meeting, June Hess insisted Kingsburg was pro-God, pro-Life, and pro-America. In that same meeting, Councilman Pursell informed a group trying to take on the multi-faceted issue of homelessness, with regards to location, that Kingsburg was not a good candidate for the program because his constituents have made it clear it is not the kind of thing they want to see here. A bit ironic for an allegedly Christian prioritized community—it seems the least Christ-like thing. In fact, when I posed the question of Christ-likeness to an active community page online, I found some odd defenses for the seemingly contradictory behavior as well as those who perceived the general “Christian” nature of the town as a sort of ruse of hypocrisy.
I open by highlighting the way the Bible and Christianity have been used to oppress some things in this chamber while remaining silent on others where they ought to speak up. Inconsistency. None of us need hear what the Bible does or does not say on what I bring before the council today.
According to an interview with Melissa Block, an NPR Special Correspondent who covers Gender Issues, there have been “more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in nearly 40 states.” Many states are taking their cues from Texas and Florida which have all but declared war on their LGBTQIA+ citizens—their fellow Americans. More than 58,000 youth will see a loss of necessary, and life-saving, medical care as a result of these bans (Williams Institute).
The Human Rights Campaign reports there have been “at least 12 transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means” in 2022 so far (HRC Foundation). They emphasize “…’at least’ because too often these stories go unreported – or misreported” (HRC Foundation).
According to the Williams Institute School of Law, LGBTQIA+ individuals 16 years of age and older are “nearly 4 times more likely to experience violent victimizations, compared to non-[LGBTQ+] individuals” (Williams Institute).
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the LGBTQIA+ community is at a 3-6 times greater risk for suicide than non-LGBTQ individuals. While some may point to this to say, ‘hey! See! This is a mental health problem,’ I point them to the testimonies which demonstrate that the poor mental health statistics are a result of mistreatment, bullying, violence, and other forms of abuse used to marginalize these human beings—your fellow Americans.
Last year, in light of similar statistics and testimonies, we failed to assert that Kingsburg stands with the whole of its community. The motion to declare “Pride Month” died without a second. The traditionally marginalized community members were told: the sensitivities of a prioritized group within this same community were of far greater importance than their public existence.
In failing to approve the motion set forth by the youngest and, arguably, bravest councilmember, the council affirmed the message of the bigots who stood outside with the hate group, Proud Boys, along with those who represented the far-right “Three Percenters” ideology. Councilman Palomar went as far as to say “the city has spoken” referring to the few hundred—not thousands as some reported—making noise outside.
“The city has spoken?” White supremacy, fascism, bigotry—this is who and what speaks for our city?
Worst was the invocation of our nation’s flag. Often associated with our troops. As a retired United States Sailor who served a career in the Navy, it may come as a surprise for some of you to learn that 6.8% of our military identifies as LGBTQ. They serve openly and honorably. I served with them. They put on the uniform every day and fought for the country they love. Tell me, how are they not worthy of an act of solidarity—especially from a uniquely, military honoring, patriotic city?
We have an opportunity to assert that Kingsburg is a place that welcomes to the public spaces all its citizens as equal members. Last year we hid behind the matter of a flag because there were ‘other flags’ that should have been prioritized. It has been a year. No flag requests. It was never about the flag. There was fear of a Pride Event taking place. It happened. It was family-friendly, showcased the talents and skills of our LGBTQIA+ community, was attended by a number of outside dignitaries with zero incidents, and no one was made gay against their will. The surrounding communities saw our shame in the headlines and, as a result, passed their own Pride Month declarations without incident and without fear.
I implore this Council to consider declaring June 2022 as Pride Month. Let us send a clear message to our community that we stand with our LGBTQIA+ members and that we will not engage in, nor tolerate the same abuse and discrimination that is facing their communities across this nation.
Block, Melissa. “Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have already been introduced this year. Here may be why.” All Things Considered, NPR.org, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/04/14/1092904560/hundreds-of-anti-lgbtq-bills-have-already-been-introduced-this-year-here-may-be-.
HRC Foundation. “Fatal Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2022.” Human Rights Campaign, HRC.org, 2022, https://www.hrc.org/resources/fatal-violence-against-the-transgender-and-gender-non-conforming-community-in-2022.
Williams Institute. “Bans put more than 58,000 transgender youth at risk of losing access to gender-affirming care.” Press Release March 2022, UCLA Williams Institute School of Law, 2022, https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/ga-care-bans-press-release/.