Although America has slowly become more welcoming to those in the LGBTQ community, Del. Gabriel Acevero and other elected officials and activists said it’s not enough.
LGBTQ Victory Institute of Northwest, which provides national and international advocacy and training for elected and appointed officials, noted in an interactive map at https://outforamerica.org the U.S. has nearly 1,000 LGBTQ elected officials.
“Even though we are looking at this pattern and seeing the brilliance of the queer community…we must also recognize that we have so, so far to go in terms of representation,” said Acevero (D-Montgomery County), the first openly gay man of Afro-Latino descent elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018. “I’m not just talking about public office, [but also] nonprofit corporate suites, organized labor to academia to health care. There’s a real lack of cultural competency to LGBTQ+ folks.”
Acevero joined an online discussion Thursday, June 10 which focused on building LGBTQ political power.
Along with LGBTQ+ Prince George’s Pride, PG Change Makers Coalition hosted a discussion on its Facebook page to coincide with June being Pride Month. The original organizers used it to pay homage to the Stonewall revolt in 1969 in New York City, credited as the spark igniting the modern gay rights movement.
Part of Thursday’s discussion focused on boosting representation in leadership positions to craft inclusive policies.
Berwyn Heights council member Ethan Sweep said there should be education for police officers to not misidentify trans individuals. A 2013 document from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs at ncavp_transhvfactsheet.pdf stated transgender people “were 3.7 times more likely to experience police violence compared to cisgender survivors and victims.”
“There are people who are just like, ‘I never would’ve thought of that. I’ll look into it,’” Sweep said. “That simple act of being at the table and making your voice heard can be such a powerful thing.”
Briana Urbina, first elected Latina in the city of New Carrollton and married to her wife of 11 years, said combating culture wars remain a problem.
Urbina mentioned the Arkansas law addressing parents’ role in providing health care for their transgender children. In April, the Republican-led legislature overrode a veto from Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson to ban access gender-conforming health care for those 18 and younger, even with parental consent.
“I don’t know what happened that allowed for this to intervene…but that is definitely a very large concern that I have,” she said.
Combating hate and fear rank high on the agenda, discussion participants noted.
Jeremy A. Lannan recalled receiving death threats in 2018 a few months after becoming the first openly gay man chosen as national vice president for Women and Fair Practices for the American Federal of Government Employees.
“It was definitely hurtful, but I had to recognize that any time you’re creating change or doing what’s right … is never easy,” said Lannan, who emphasized LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter movements intersect in bringing change to society.
With the coronavirus pandemic still lingering, some Pride events took place online.
Some local events still went on in-person such as one Saturday, June 12 in Hyattsville organized by Del. Wanika Fisher (D-District 47B) of Hyattsville, Ashanti Martinez and Krystal Oriadha.
Martinez and Oriadha co-hosted the panel discussion Thursday and said they will continue community dialogue not only throughout this month, but entire year.
“I want [people] to live so unapologetically themselves because on the other end of that is true happiness and greatness in every single thing you do,” said Oriadha, co-founder of PG Changer Makers. “Don’t hide yourself. Be yourself.”