Our city recently raised the rainbow and transgender flags over City Hall, a small yet important symbol of San Jose’s commitment to the LGBTQ community.
This event is timely for two reasons. First, June is Pride Month. Second, today, June 28, marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising—an extraordinary six-day point in time that sparked what would become the modern gay rights movement.
As the flags rose on that warm afternoon, I kept thinking of just how well our local LGBTQ organizations embody the greater meaning behind these flags.
Each color signifies an idea. Red symbolizes life. Orange represents healing. Yellow for sunlight. Green denotes nature. Blue for serenity. And purple for spirit.
The red on the flag reminds me of the LGBTQ individuals living their lives loud and proud. They are our daughters and sons. They are our colleagues, cousins and friends. But oftentimes, they are the young adults who exit the proverbial closet, and fail to find parental acceptance.
For those forced from their homes for living their truth, the New Haven Inn offers hope. The Inn is only the second LGBTQ focused shelter ever built in this country. You’ll find this place of refuge right here, in San Jose, California.
If orange symbolizes healing, then so does the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center. Three years ago on June 12, 49 people lost their lives at Pulse Night Club. Just hours after that horrific tragedy took place, the Billy DeFrank Center mobilized various stakeholders, and hosted a powerful vigil that showcased their ability to find solace in community.
Yellow is emblematic of the power sunlight has on important issues. A few weeks ago, the LGBT Youth Space began their morning by reporting vandalism to the police and cleaning shattered glass from their floors. Because of the exposure on social media and news outlets, readers rushed to support this incredibly compassionate organization.
The green stripe symbolizes nature. I am reminded that it was only in 1973 when homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental disorders. That same year, the Bill Wilson Center was founded. The center connects LGBTQ youth directly with mental health resources and supports the genuine nature of these individuals.
I give thought to LGBTQ seniors when I see blue. Seeking acceptance from peers or caregivers, some are pushed back into the closet. Serenity at old age is hard to experience without acceptance. I applaud the advocacy of our LGBTQ seniors and call for the appointment of more LGBTQ individuals to senior commissions.
In just one month, the #SVStonewall Collaborative hosted eight different events to celebrate the Stonewall Uprising. They represented nearly every major South Bay LGBTQ organization and remind me of the color purple because they worked in unison to demonstrate a tireless spirit in celebration of their history.
The transgender flag is light blue, pink, and white. Light blue signifies the traditional color for baby boys, pink for baby girls, and white is for intersex individuals. The flag was creatively designed so that even if you fly it upside down, it’s still right-side up. The palindromic nature of the transgender flag signifies the correctness of our trans friend’s and family member’s gender identity.
Just like the colors of the rainbow and transgender flags, our local LGBTQ community is varied, vibrant and strong. Still, we must remain resolute. Straight allies like myself need to be louder and prouder than ever before.
The LGBTQ community has tirelessly fought for visibility, acceptance, and rights leading to several victories over the last five decades.
California voters defeated propositions backed by Lyndon LaRouche and Anita Bryant. President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard Act. We triumphantly legalized gay marriage—only four years ago! And this year, the first openly gay man is campaigning to become the next president of the United States.
In the 50 years since the Stonewall Uprising galvanized the movement, we have steadily become a more accepting society. As a straight ally of this vibrant, diverse community, I ask you to join me in this advance towards a more equal future.
Pam Foley represents San Jose’s 9th City Council District, which lies between Willow Glen and Almaden Valley in the southwest corner bounded by Campbell and Los Gatos. Opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].