June 3 2016

We have much to celebrate as Sacramento hosts its LGBTQ Pride weekend. The LGBTQ movement in our state and our nation has made once-unimaginable progress in an unbelievably short time, from the 1969 Stonewall Riots, to Harvey Milk’s historic 1977 election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, to the U.S. Supreme Court approval of marriage equality last summer and everything in-between.

Yet, there is still work to be done, and we recognize that to be truly successful in ensuring all are equal and have access to what they need to thrive, we must establish stronger alliances among underrepresented groups and use the collective power of our voice and our vote. This is critical since we’re in an election year and the stakes are higher for us all.

The fact is, as activist Jose Antonio Vargas has said, we cannot talk about LGBTQ rights without addressing immigrant rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s equality and income inequality.

Many members of the LGBTQ community are navigating extreme hurdles because they also are undocumented, experience racial and gender discrimination, live in poverty and face other challenges that no one community can address alone.

For example, the current national debate over bathroom designations puts a spotlight on immediate issues impacting our queer and transgender youth. While California has led the nation in enacting policies to ensure access to gender-neutral bathrooms, this topic remains a priority for our youth.

In November 2015, during a Queer & Trans Youth Leadership Summit hosted by The California Endowment, with representatives from Sacramento, Richmond, Oakland, Merced, Fresno, Coachella, Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana, participants pointed to a greater access to gender-neutral restrooms as something that would boost their overall levels of engagement and safety at home, school and in their communities. Still, what many have coined as the new civil rights frontier in this country, the bathroom battle is only a glimpse into the many societal and health issues that our transgender community experiences.

Similarly, our undocumented LGBTQ brothers and sisters have many of the same challenges, particularly regarding their health. The Center for American Progress reported in 2014 that this community nationally experiences an increased risk of violence, representing about 8 percent of LGBTQ hate violence, and that “LGBTQ and HIV-affected undocumented people were 3.4 times more likely to experience sexual violence and 3.5 times more likely to experience physical violence compared to the general LGBTQ community.”

This is further amplified by the fact that “California’s estimated 250,000 LGBTQ undocumented immigrants do not have access to the health care coverage they need,” according to Equality California.

We know that being marginalized and isolated has compounded harmful effects on the social, economic, health and psychological well-being of our most vulnerable and has lasting impacts for us all. We also know that there is power in numbers and that coming together to leverage one unified voice can change hearts and minds.

Now is the time, and Sacramento is the place, for our diverse communities to stand together to build a more inclusive and accepting California. As one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., Sacramento is where we should be able to embrace our differences, own the needs and issues of our entire LGBTQ community, acknowledge our common goals and demand health, justice and equality for all.

In this new era of youth rising, we must share their energy, hope and desire to join forces across communities and get loud on important issues. Together, we can create a wave of change that ripples across California and around the world.

This originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee. Click here to read it there.


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