Although homophobia doesn’t plague our country in the ways it has in the past, America still must do work to ensure queer and trans people aren’t burdened by criminalization and poor mental health. I came out at 15 years old. Surrounded by a loving, chosen family who helped support my evolution as a child who was raised Jehovah’s Witness and shunned for being queer. When I came out, my blood family was not supportive. This lack of support as a young person impacted my mental health and was a big factor in the development of my anxiety and depression.
Criminalizing queer people of color
Poor mental health outcomes impact people’s ability to live productive and quality lives. I witnessed young queer folks be swallowed up by multiple systems- be it foster care or the criminal and legal system. The unfortunate reality is if you are queer and of color your chances of criminalization are increased. Remember the story of the young black lesbians in New York who were harassed by a white vigilante, and when they defended themselves they were put in jail for years? Or Cece McDonald, who defended herself from being killed by a white Nazi? Cece ended up doing her time in a men’s prison even though she is a trans woman. The law didn’t protect her right to life.
Rethinking public safety
Here in Los Angeles, in the midst of gentrification and the push out of Angelenos, the accelerated rates of poverty, homelessness, and discrimination in schools and the workplace, has contributed to disproportionate contacts with the justice system for queer folks that have been left with little to no resources to defend their right to live in this city with dignity and respect. The impact of these life-changing factors on our mental health is undoubtedly dire- and that becomes exacerbated when the first to respond are the police.
For almost two decades, my life’s work has been focused on the need for rethinking public safety, where our tax dollars are being invested, and the need to challenge the police state and invest in the social welfare state.
On March 3, we have an opportunity to vote on a local measure that will force public officials to have this conversation with us: Vote Yes on Measure R.
On January 12, 2016, communities all over LA County fought and won to implement the Civilian Oversight Commission (COC), a body that is comprised of community members and government officials. The commission’s six areas of oversight include family assistance, county jail, immigration policy, mental evaluations, use of force, and deputy subgroups. This was an important victory for us, but our fight is not over.
Yes on Measure R
A Yes on Measure R vote will ensure the COC thoroughly investigate, research, and create a Comprehensive Public Safety Reinvestment Plan to reduce jail population and provide alternatives to incarceration.
We cannot afford to suffer in silence. We cannot afford to suffer in silos. We need Los Angeles now, more than ever, to show up and vote for ourselves, our family members, and everyone in our community so that we can do better. It’s time for us to heal. Let’s do it together.