As Pride Month comes to a close after various events in Pasadena, a number of local community organizations say that pride is much more than just public celebrations seen on the news, and more than just the rainbow flags that many people post this time of the year.
Newly-elected Pasadena District 7 Councilmember Jason Lyon — “first openly LGBTQ+ elected official in Pasadena’s history” — said the LGBTQ+ community continues to face issues like housing and food insecurity at higher rates.
According to a 2020 analyses by UCLA’s Williams Institute, 70.1% of non-LGBT adults own their own homes, while that number is just under half (49.8%) for LGBT adults.
“Pasadena’s LGBTQ+ community is confronting many of the same issues facing the city as a whole, but at disproportionately higher rates,” Lyon said. “The housing affordability crisis is being felt particularly intensely in the LGBTQ+ community.”
“LGBTQ+ Americans have lower rates of homeownership, higher rates of poverty, and higher rates of homelessness as compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers,” Lyon said. “For youth experiencing homelessness, that inequity is particularly acute, with as much as 40 percent of the unhoused youth population identifying as LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ individuals also continue to face threats of violence right here at home, and a continued effort at the national level to erode our constitutional rights.”
Lyon also worries about the seeming lack of interest especially among national legislators to push for equality.
“Until the mere fact of an individual’s affectional orientation or gender identity is no longer determinative of their income, housing, or employment status, we cannot declare that equality has been achieved,” he said. “We still lack federal protections against the most basic forms of discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals.”
Pasadena’s influential All Saints Church has long maintained a LGBTQ+ Ministry which preaches that being gay, transgender, or queer is not a sin, but “an expression of the wonderful diversity of God’s creation.” The church welcomes and affirms all members of the LGBTQ+ community, striving to be a place of joy and healing, particularly for those who have been rejected by the church because of who they are or who they love, according to the church’s mission.
“Pride is a movement – it’s a movement that started in 1968 in Stonewall, and really the purpose of this month is to affirm to anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ that we are resilient, and also, too, that we can have joy in our individual lives,” said Thomas Diaz, Director of Connection and Care at Pasadena’s All Saints Church.
Stonewall was a series of protests by members on the LGBTQ+ community in New York City. It is considered a watershed event which ignited efforts for LGBTQ+ rights in the United states.
Diaz said among the more pressing issues for the LGBTQ+ community locally is housing, especially at a time when many of the temporary housing programs, including those the church is running, are coming to a close after COVID-19’s peak.
“We have seen a significant need among especially the trans community, who are suffering with great minimal housing options. An example that’s happening at All Saints is we have a program called the Safe Haven Program. And this program is to temporarily allow folks to register through our database to be able to sleep on our campus from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. And folks who primarily identify in this program are folks of LGBTQ+ identities. Like I said, that’s one of many examples happening throughout Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley areas.”
“The state did come into full swing with offering assistance right at the beginning and middle part of the pandemic. But as many of these programs are now wrapping up, many especially for trans folks are being left without permanent housing,” Diaz said. “And so this is going to become an issue as to how we can get folks into the proper placement so that they can start applying for permanent housing, even if it’s through housing agencies.”
Diaz said that this issue has exacerbated even more during the pandemic.
Pasadena City College has multiple LGBTQ+ centers like its QUEST (Queer and Undocumented Empowerment Support to Thrive) Center, which aims to create an inclusive space for LGBTQ+ and undocumented students, staff, and faculty.
“A lot of our students don’t have affirming homes, at home and at school, and they come here seeking that community amongst other individuals who may be having similar experiences,” Desiree Hernandez, Coordinator at the PCC QUEST Center, said. “And so I would say it’s really that the lack of community and support that our students feel just everywhere, every day of their lives. I’d say that’s probably one of the biggest challenges that our students face.”
Hernandez echoed the sentiments of Lyon and Diaz regarding issues facing the LGBTQ+ community.
To help those who are facing food insecurity, the QUEST Center has programs to support students in locating housing and at the same time providing them grocery gift cards so they’re able to get food for themselves and go to PCC’s Lancer pantry, where they can get groceries at least two times a week.
According to a 2021 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau “LGBT adults living in the U.S. are nearly twice as likely to be experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic than non-LGBT adults,” reported NPR. “Overall, about 13.1% of LGBT adults lived in a household that experienced food insecurity in the past seven days, compared to 7.2% of non-LGBT adults,” said the census report which surveyed more than 64,000 people.
As for the discrimination, Hernandez said this is definitely decreasing at PCC, although much work still has to be done.
“I really want to send out a message to those students that they’re not alone,” Hernandez said. “Here at PCC, we’re here to support them as well as just provide them with whatever they need.”
Thomas Diaz at All Saints Church hopes this Pride Month will encourage more members of the Pasadena community to take note of the plight of the local LGBTQ+ community and help them through the struggle for recognition.
“The more we recognize what pride is, the more I feel there will be an impact on how the community can come together, not just annually in the month of June, but really throughout the year,” Diaz said. “And we have a responsibility to make sure that this month not only renews the community and their acclimation of making sure that folks are affirmed, but also that this helps pave the way for more progress to be made for LGBTQ folks.”