Laura Bouquet could barely get the words out as she cried. But these weren’t tears of sadness, they were of pride. Her 14-year-old daughter, Hannah Dodson, had just recently come out to her.
“I had a very strong feeling. I wasn’t gonna put the words in her mouth. I wanted her to tell me that, I just let her know that we knew. You know, we’d love her and if no one accepted her then…,” said Bouquet, but she could not finish the sentence. “I’m very proud of my daughter.”
After Dodson came out to some of her family, they decided to celebrate by going to the Santa Clarita Valley Community Pride Picnic at Dr. Richard H. Rioux Memorial Park in Stevenson Ranch on Saturday. This was Dodson’s first pride event since coming out.
“It feels nice to not… have to hide anymore and just be me now,” said Dodson.
The event was organized by the SCV Pride Committee, made up of Queer SCV, PFLAG SCV, and the SCV LGBTQ Center. It featured games, prizes, dance classes, snacks and drinks, an open mic, and a drag show.
It also had booths and tents set up by community organizers to connect attendees with resources and information.
Dawn Walker, one of the organizers of the event, said not only is the picnic a great way for community members to meet each other, it’s also so that the LGBTQ community can be seen, openly.
“I think it’s good for people who identify in the community to meet other people [and] to know that they’re not on an island somewhere, that there are more queer people in Santa Clarita,” said Walker. “And then it’s important for Santa Clarita to see this vibrant community and, you know, being a community that’s relatively conservative… it’s nice to be able to connect with other people.”
Walker said that she figures there are about 7,000 to 8,000 LGBTQ residents in the SCV and that events like these are often the first time they’re introduced to each other.
“I’ve had in the past few weeks people say to me, ‘I’ve never seen another couple walking in Santa Clarita,’” said Walker. “Like people… that are married with little kids and they’ve never met other same-sex couples with kids, you know? I feel like we’re really starting something.”
Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, made a surprise appearance at the event and said she was proud to support the growing community in her district.
“You know, I’m just here to support our LGBTQ-plus community and to show that Santa Clarita is inclusive and we are showing our pride this pride month,” said Valladares. “It’s an opportunity for us, as a community, to come together to show our support and our growing community here. So me, just personally, being here was important for me to show my support for the LGBTQ-plus community.”
Connecting people with each other and making sure people know they’re there was also a goal for the NAACP tent at the picnic. NAACP SCV branch representative Barbara White said that these events are especially important for LGBTQ members of color.
“You know, [the NAACP is] the biggest civil rights, the oldest civil rights organization in the country and we are here for the rights of the people and people that are underrepresented that don’t always get a fair chance,” said White. “Everybody has a right to be treated fairly.”
For more information on LGBTQ pride events in the SCV, visit: bit.ly/3aUfQKN.