BY ALEJANDRO MEZA AGUILAR
LOCAL AND CAMPUS WRITER
Veterans’ Park, Coachella
The City of Coachella will hold it’s first ever lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) Pride Parade.
The historic LGBTQ Pride Parade is held on May 6 and was in the planning stages of a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) group. The group is comprised of Coachella Valley High School, Desert Mirage High School and College of the Desert students and gathered data from LGBTQ youth ages 14 to 24 who live in the Eastern Coachella Valley – Coachella, Mecca, Desert Oasis, West Shores and Thermal.
The purpose of the gathering data was to use it to apprehend the needs of the LGBTQ youth in east valley. The prime goal was to find a way to allocate resources towards community members who did not have the means of transportation to the LGBTQ resources in Thousand Palms and Palm Springs.
These LGBTQ students do not have the same resources as their peers in the west valley. Palm Springs has the LGBTQ Center in North Palm Canyon, Sanctuary Palm Springs, Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays(PFLAG) and Safe House. Resources are mainly located more towards an area which students who are not out, have no form to reach those resources when necessary.
The purpose for resources for LGBTQ youth in the valley is to prevent a harmful environment in the community. On July 13 in 2014, College of the Desert student and Pizza Hut and Travel Centers of America part-time worker, Juan Ceballos, was targeted for a hate crime by his pizza hut co-worker, Miguel Ramirez, outside of his home in Mecca. The reported reason for Juan’s murder was his sexual orientation since he was bisexual. Juan’s death stands as an example of the fear that the LGBTQ community has to be open in their community.
The students’ work was based on mental, physical and social health needs of the community. They compromised a survey whose target demographic was the east side of the valley but went into depth into getting more information from the LGBTQ community with specific questions. Once the first portion of the survey was completed the user would be asked if they were LGBTQ and if they answered yes then they would be taken into the second portion of the survey. Once in the second portion the aspects of health of the LGBT community would be addressed in the questions.
The significance of the Pride event in the east valley is that the LGBTQ people can exist in a space that might not be recognized for its tolerance towards the LGBTQ community. The researchers have found that the population in the east valley has one out of ten youths who identify as LGBTQ, and it is crucial to create a safe space to prevent tragedies from occurring to community members. The qualitative data brought forth the perspective of an anonymous survey taker as, “Because of my religion, I am not supposed to exist. I’m gay, they don’t see me as I am.” The only way to exist as an LGBTQ person is to resist and stand in solidarity alongside each other to help create a safe space for everyone.
The LGBTQ community exists in the valley in every area and they have just the same feelings and aspirations to move forward and live normal lives. The marginalization faced by some east valley conservative values drowns out the possibility to coexist. The difficulty is overcoming the social stigma set from varying sources such as religion and older views of the community. From then on there is an opportunity for the LGBTQ community to exist within the east valley and not face any stigma against them.