LGBT Booth Wins 1st Place At Fair! 9/15/12

2012 is turning out to be a historic year for local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (and questioning) citizens of Tulare County.  This month, another first, with the inclusion of the LGBTQ community at the 93rd annual Tulare County Fair.  Over a dozen local groups put together a booth, recognizing their commitments to equality, service to the community, and providing resources and information to the general public.  Local members of the community have volunteered to staff the exhibit, talking to the folks who stop by to check out the display.  Booth staffers have reported near-universal welcoming and friendly responses by the public, and an eagerness to learn of local LGBTQ events and resources.

In a completely unexpected turn of events, the booth, a last-minute creation of a group of dedicated community members, won a First Place Ribbon and trophy!  The community has been stunned by this honor, and word is spreading quickly through the region, as Facebook lights up with pictures and individual stories coming out of the Fair.

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The booth’s theme is “Celebrating Diversity: In Our Agriculture, In Our Community, In Our People”.    Miss Tulare County (both of them!) stopped by for a picture with the coordinator of the booth, Jennifer.

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Things have been changing rapidly in the arena of LGBTQ equality, both in the nation at large, and in Tulare County.  In 2012 Visalia became the first city in the Central Valley to proclaim June LGBT Pride Month.  Fresno and Bakersfield have yet to make such proclamations.  (Fresno is home to Reel Pride, the 6th oldest LGBTQ film festival in the United States, holding it’s 23rd annual event this month, and has yet to officially recognize the event as LGBTQ!)   The Visalia Times-Delta recently carried an article about a weekly LGBTQ night at a local nightclub, and hosts Alternating Currents as one of it’s community blogs.

GSA’s are sprouting up at various high schools in the region.  The local Community Colleges (Porterville College and Visalia’s College of the Sequoias) have LGBTQ clubs on campus.  PFLAG of Tulare-Kings Counties is one of the fastest growing chapters in California, and one of the most active in the Central Valley, and is starting it’s fifth year of existence in a place the original founders were told would never support such an organization! Visalia Pride Lions (chartered in December 2009) is the second LGBT Lions group in the United States, after San Francisco’s group founded 27 years ago. (A member of the Castro Lions was pleased to see our display at the fair, and to see Visalia Pride Lions active in the community)  This year will see the 4th annualFamily Fest at Mooney Grove Park, a family oriented LGBTQ Pride event.  To be held September 29th, the event draws a large crowd to the historic park as the summer draws to a close.

Various others are also represented at this month’s Fair.  Local dining groups of LGBTQ persons and their friends and allies, community groups (Visalia Pride Lions),  the softball team “The Skittles”, locally based gay websites (GayVisalia.com,GayPorterville.com), and national organizations (The Trevor Project, QueerLandia.com), just to name a few, were highlighted at the booth.

Much progress has been made in the past few years in the efforts to dispel the old prejudices and fears directed at the LGBTQ community.  As more people come out, identifying themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (or questioning), it becomes more difficult for people to say they don’t know a gay person, or have a gay relative.  Once people become aware that someone they love is gay, the old hatreds fall away fairly quickly .  It becomes clear to them that the LGBTQ community is what any group of individuals is, simply another part of the vast diversity that makes up our city, our county, our state, and our nation.

Congratulations to the dedicated people who put this booth together on short notice, and thanks to those who have volunteered their time to put a face on the local LGBTQ community.  As we continue to work for equality and inclusion, they are examples of the diversity and dedication that is another beautiful part of the rich fabric of Tulare County, California, and the United States.  “E Pluribus Unum”

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