In further proof that Santa Clarita is no longer simply made up of Ward and June Cleaver types (except “The Beav” himself, who I think still lives in the Santa Clarita Valley), there are a number of residents who devote their time to advocacy for underrepresented groups.
This month the LGBTQ community gets the spotlight, as the Santa Clarita City Council is expected to recognize June as “Pride Month” at their meeting Tuesday.
It will come as no surprise that I support recognition for minority groups of all kinds, whether or not you can relate to them. Sometimes it’s just laziness that makes us ignore their voices – we don’t put ourselves in their shoes because we don’t have to.
Times are changing, however, thanks to some women who are investing their energies into creating a community of acceptance and tolerance.
Women such as Kelly Ramnarine, who founded Queer SCV with her wife, Amanda, are making sure their voices are heard as completely as we hear from rank-and-file residents. The reason they started the group is to establish a sense of community.
Kelly Ramnarine grew up in Santa Clarita where she attended elementary, junior high and high school followed by College of the Canyons.
“I moved to Scotland for grad school, met my wife there and moved back here,” she explained. “I felt more out of place here in Santa Clarita than in a foreign country where I was, literally, an alien.”
So, the Ramnarines began searching for a community. The groups most of us have heard about, such as GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) and PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Gays & Lesbians), are for students and allies, not adult members of the LGBTQ community themselves.
“So, we looked everywhere, but I realized I had to leave the valley to find a queer community,” she explained. “I grew up here. I should feel at home here.”
When Kelly explained what it meant to “feel at home” I imagined having my guard up, like it feels to be around a critical parent or boss, every time I walked down the street or went to the store. That feeling disappears when they get together.
“I can just go and be a person and not think, ‘I’m a gay person.’ We have to put emotional energy and psychological energy … put in actual work that isn’t necessary,” she said. “Part of your brain is constantly worrying about safety … wondering, ‘Are they people I’m going to have to deal with?’”
And Kelly is talking about physical safety, as well. Fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color.
“The amount of hate the trans community gets is dangerous,” she said. “The reason Pride is important is because we’re still not safe.”
Pride Month is a combination of a celebration and protest, Kelly explained.
“By our mere existence we’re committing acts of resistance,” she said. “The celebratory part is that we’ve chosen to make a space where all of us can come together and feel safe.”
Becoming more visible is one way to normalize the LGBTQ community, a group that often doesn’t get the protections other minorities get, such as in the workplace.
“It’s legal everywhere to get married, but in many states you can get married, but get fired from your job or get kicked out of your apartment,” Kelly explained. “You can’t get kicked out for being a woman or being a certain religion, but you can for being trans.”
This year’s local celebration will take place Saturday, June 22, at Richard Rioux Park, 26233 Faulkner Drive in Stevenson Ranch, from noon to 4 p.m. In a collaboration between Queer SCV and PFLAG SCV, there will be a “Picnic in the Park” and the public is invited.
Carnival games will include twists, such as “Queer Pong” with rainbow glasses, a trivia wheel, live music by Hipified Records and food and drinks.
Boston Scientific is supporting the event through an employee relations group that’s geared toward embracing diversity. For more information about the event, contact [email protected] or visit QueerSCV.com.
Queer SCV Board members Kelly and Amanda Ramnarine, Ritchie Hagen, Bea Castillo and Nicole Vizcarra will continue to bring clarity to the Santa Clarita community, including their plans to participate again in the Newhall Fourth of July Parade.
Meanwhile, other local women such as Ashley Rubay and Tere La Guisa at Saugus High School, who planned a successful LGBTQ prom last year, are contributing to the march toward freedom of gender expression.
In addition to the similarities I see between the fight for women’s rights and LGBTQ equality, I couldn’t help but notice how many females have played roles in the cause. The PFLAG founder was Jeanne Manford, who launched support groups for parents. And in 1990, Barbara Bush made a statement to PFLAG President Paulette Goodman: “I firmly believe that we cannot tolerate discrimination against any individuals or groups in our country. Such treatment always brings with it pain and perpetuates intolerance.”
Well said, Barbara. Leave it to the late first lady to use her power to raise the volume of their voices.
Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal.