LONG BEACH — As queer people of color, we inundate social media with hashtags of empowerment and unity because we want to connect with other like-minded souls and create family. What we overlook, is the lack of conscious support we receive at our biggest queer spaces — Our beloved pride festivals, that we attend to find equality in expressing our queerness and celebrating our freedom. But, this is not always a space that mentors and empowers our youth.
PRIDE PARADE GRAND MARSHALS
For example, let’s focus on the group of grand marshals Long Beach Pride has voted to honor for this years’ Parade Pride.
Granted, several people on the list deserve to be acknowledged for their support, volunteering efforts and loyalty to the City of Long Beach.
They are family. Though, the utterly shocking news is that the Celebrity Grand Marshal is “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member Lisa Vanderpump. Huh?
Acknowledged, she’s established a non-profit fighting to end dog torture (vanderpumpdogs.org), has brought awareness to ALS, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Vanderpump is a spokesperson for GLAAD and has worked with the Desert AIDS Project and The Trevor Project. In 2015, Vanderpump was a recipient of the Ally Leadership Award from Equality California.
QUEER PEOPLE OF COLOR
Nobody is minimizing her philanthropic efforts; however, is there a scarcity of queer people of color leaders and celebrities that we cannot acknowledge?
How about these queer and out celebrities: RuPaul, Michelle Rodriguez (“Fast and The Furious” franchise), Jussie Smollett (“Empire”), Guillermo Diaz (“Scandal”), Sara Ramirez (Tony Award winner, “Grey’s Anatomy”), Wilson Cruz (“My So Called Life,” GLAAD spokesman and youth advocate) Gabby Rivera (novelist and author whose “America Chavez” is the first queer Latina superhero with a Marvel Comics series), Perez Hilton (gossip writer, TV personality), Laverne Cox (“Orange is the New Black,” first trans-person on Time magazine cover), Alec Mapa (actor, comedian), and Wanda Sykes (actor, comedian).
These people are just a few out celebrities in the spotlight that have been supporting causes, volunteering their time at cultural events, sharing their coming out stories on TV, empowering youth and speaking about bullying.
But somehow, Mrs. Vanderpump as an ally is considered a better fit to represent the Celebrity Grand Marshal seat.
After all, if the organization was looking in honoring an ally, why not praise Shonda Rhimes? She’s best known for her shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder.” Those hit TV shows not only have diversity in their casts, but also in storytelling and cultural representations. Rhimes makes a priority to not only create queer characters with leading roles, but also represent people of color of all shapes, backgrounds and ages.
If anyone is leading the way by breaking silence and barriers, that person is Rhimes. This representation is extremely important as our youth, our next generation, needs to see themselves represented, specially during these political times. Having a white, cis-straight woman with privilege as a headliner does bring awareness, but it does not represent a diverse community.
As a queer Latina cis-woman, who sees her queer brothers and sisters discriminated against, deported, beaten to death and tortured in other countries, being visible matters. For example, in April, a queer immigrant group demonstrated at the Phoenix Pride Parade and asking Pride to stand up for the rights of undocumented LGBTQ immigrants.
Let’s keep our biggest queer spaces relevant and well-represented by holding pride organizations responsible of how they are representing our community. Without our voice and support – they wouldn’t exist.