By Nick Martinez
San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol
The LGBTQ+ Progress Pride Flag was raised in front of San Fernando’s City Hall on June 1 in celebration of Pride Month. The City of San Fernando flies the flag at all City offices and facilities.
“Last year, City Council approved a resolution recognizing June as Pride Month in the City of San Fernando and directed staff to raise the Pride Flag at City Hall throughout the month of June in honor of Pride month and recognition of the LGBTQ+ community,” said City Manager Nick Kimball.
City officials decided this year to switch from the traditional Gay Pride flag used last year to the redesigned Progress Pride flag that came out in 2018. Its multi-colorings not only combine the different LGBTQ+ flags into one, symbolizing representation, but also life, healing, new ideas and prosperity.
“We did some research, talked with [officials] from West Hollywood, and learned the Progress Pride flag represents more than just LGBTQ,” Kimball said.
He said that while community residents have asked about flying the flag — which is underneath the USA and California flags — “there has been no formal effort asking us to take it down. And if there was, we would tell them a City resolution was passed recognizing Pride Month.”
But to many involved in the local LGBTQ+ community, “Pride” goes far beyond a flag.
Their push for inclusion does not end there, said Richard Salazar, an event organizer who is hosting the first Pride-themed event during the monthly outdoor market in the San Fernando Mall.
“We’ve hit a milestone, and it’s something that the community needed.” Salazar said, referencing the Progress Pride flag. He believes that both good and bad reactions to the flag help bring awareness to the LGBTQ+ community.
“I feel like it’s ‘shock value’ to some people, which is nice because it opens up different perspectives,” he said.
Salazar is already anticipating pushback for his upcoming event, but assures there are no bad intentions.
“Because the City of San Fernando is so religious, it’s hard to bring things like this into the community — [many residents are] so ‘old school,’ and don’t like to see change.” Salazar said.
“We’re not trying to take anything away from our city,” he said. “We’re trying to bring more diversity, more culture, but different types of culture.”
Salazar’s event will be during the outdoor market at the San Fernando Mall on June 25.
That same day, Somos Familia Valle, an LGBTQ+ organization in the San Fernando Valley, will host a separate event at the Panorama City fairgrounds. Events will include a “Summer Pride Ball” featuring a drag show beauty pageant.
Somos Familia Valle co-founder Kevin Perez said their goal is to provide resources to the LGBTQ+ community through their events. One resource is their LGBTQ+ scholarship, which will be awarded to a high school senior on June 15.
He said, “This is the first time his organization is offering a scholarship,” and the inspiration came from Perez’s own lack of resources as a gay youth in high school.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t get much support from my teachers or staff,” Perez said. “It has always been my dream to change that, because when you’re in your youth it’s an important time, especially when you’re coming out and exploring your identities.”
Somos Familia Valley is one of three organizations that offer LGBTQ+ resources in the San Fernando Valley. The others being the San Fernando Valley LGBTQ Center, and Village Family Center.
All three lack a physical location. By partnering with the nonprofit organization The Social impact Center, Perez hopes to someday build a location in the San Fernando Valley dedicated to LGBTQ+ resources, especially in regard to mental health.
“There is no [physical] LGBTQ+ center in the Valley, so we’re creating a coalition group called the SFV Out for Mental Health Task Force,” Perez said.
“We are asking our political leadership, our partners of public health, and mental health, on how we could make a safe space in the valley for [LGBTQ+] resources.”
Daniel Rodriguez, community outreach manager for The Social Impact Center, adds that the push for a location is inspired by other nonprofit centers in Los Angeles, such as The Big House, and TransLatin@ Coalition.
Like those organizations, Rodriguez wants to both provide awareness and resources to anyone in the LGBTQ+ community who has faced trauma due to their orientation or gender identity.
“The dream is to build a physical community center in the San Fernando Valley,” Rodriguez said. “We want to host educational programming and serve the community. There is a need for a space that acknowledges and amplifies the need to heal the harm of systemic trauma.”
According to a 2022 national survey by The Trevor Project, 60% of LGBTQ+ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year did not have access to it.
By building a physical location in the San Fernando Valley, organizations like The Social Impact Center would be able to reach the local LGBTQ+ community, Rodriguez explained.
“It would be incredible for folks to not have to go far for resources. They could [instead] be able to look [for it] in their community,” he said.
LGBTQ+ representation continues to grow in the San Fernando Valley and has come a long way throughout the years,” Rodriguez said, and it will only continue to improve as “we learn more about our community.”
“Every year there is more LGBTQ+ representation, and the San Fernando Valley area has come a long way over the years,” Rodriguez said. “There’s always room for improvement,” He added. “We’re constantly learning more about ourselves, learning about other people’s experiences, and I feel like that’s a good way to grow more compassionate and empathetic so that we can build an [inclusive] community.”