Happy New Year from South Bay

Last year was an eventful year for the entire community.

First, we saw tremendous headway on the marriage equality front with the expectation that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear and perhaps settle this issue nationally in 2015.

At the same time, the trans* community has broken through in media and awareness around these issues have been expanded. Cisgender and transgender alike are questioning issues of inclusiveness that surround traditional gender conformity.

There have been set backs as well.

We are confronting segments of society that have escalated their hate speech and efforts to turn back the clock even though the majority of those in the U.S. and other industrialized nations are in favor of LGBT equality, cognizant that that equality enhances everyone’s (LGBT and heterosexuals alike) ability to express themselves honestly and authentically.

Certainly, we have a long way to go, but it has been more steps forward than back. With that said, we also need to address the backlash that is happening internationally.

Despite the progress we have made, much of our international LGBT community has seen a loss of rights and an increase in discrimination and violence. Those of us who have it better need to stand in solidarity with them and continue the fight.

Other equality issues have recently erupted around race, showing us that our battle towards equality, and treating people as individuals — by dismantling not only explicit and overt bigotry, but implicit and systemic discrimination — cannot be ignored.

Years ago, Audre Lorde spoke emphatically that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

We must always remember that when bigotry is tolerated, it hurts all of us. It hurts the cause of equality.

The expectation of equal treatment is the very argument that the LGBT* community has used in asking for their equal rights and cannot be selectively used for one group while ignoring others. The validity of our argument does not stand if we ourselves do not protect and affirm difference as a celebrated basis for the entire community.

Our community is a diverse one where all of these marginalities intersect. This can be a source of great strength if embraced or a division if we fail to look inward at our own attitudes and practices. Our differences, our uniqueness, our individuality — as the ingredients for a complex and affirming community — should be our goal.

Locally, San Diego County is also a diverse place with pockets of bigotry against the LGBT community and our youth often pay a high price for it. A large percentage of the bullied and homeless youth belong to our community. They are often ostracized, disowned, and left to struggle alone. We need to help them.

South Bay Alliance’s goal this year is to bring in enough donations and funding so that we can move to open a LGBT center in a central location near public transportation here in the South Bay. Many of our LGBT youth cannot travel to the San Diego LGBT Center in Hillcrest and need that sort of support, information center and refuge to assist them.

Please give to make this so. Donate by going to our website at southbaypride.org or contact us to participate on the board in order to make this a reality.

Our South Bay Pride Art & Music Festival had a 7,500 attendance this last year.  Think, if all of those people and their friends supported not only the celebration, but a meeting place, what a wonderful legacy we could leave our LGBT youth and in turn, mentor them to continue the fight for equality.

Let’s make 2015 a year to remember for the South Bay!

— Dae Elliott is a founding executive committee member and the current executive director of South Bay Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit and organizer of the annual South Bay Pride Art & Music Festival. Contact her at southbayalliance@gmail.com.

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