Councilmember Perea: LGBTQ+ has fears of hate crimes, need for more support & services

Latino families are known for being close-knit, and at times old-fashioned and conservative.

That can present a major hurdle for a son or daughter who is weighing when and how to reveal their LGBTQ+ status.

Fresno City Councilmember Annalisa Perea was in her early 20s when she came out, and was embraced by her parents and other family members.

Not everyone is so fortunate, said Perea, 36.

“We have a lot of folks, especially our younger individuals, who come out and they’re rejected by their family; so, they become homeless,” said Perea.

That is why homelessness is a major issue within the LGBTQ+ community, she said.

But homelessness is not the only fear in the LGBTQ+ community.

“We have a higher suicide rate within the LGBTQ communty, and that’s because an individual is led to believe that they are less than, or that there’s nowhere for them to go for assistance or resources,” said Perea, who helped push for an LGBTQ+ liaison within the Mayor Jerry Dyer’s Office of Community Affairs.

The city also provided $100,000 to support the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission LGBTQ+ Resource Center, and another $100,000 in grants for organizations that provide support to that community.

California State Library
California State Library

“In many cases, this could be a life or death situation,” said Perea. “I’m really proud that our city is taking a step up for this segment of the community that historically has gone underrepresented and has not been invested in.”

Despite the fact that California was among the first states to recognize same-sex marriages and has embraced the LGBTQ+ community, that has not made LGBTQ+ residents 100% comfortable.

That is because anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric crosses the border and can empower people to resort to violence against the community. For example, a clothing store owner in San Bernardino was targeted for flying a Pride flag at her business and was fatally shot on Aug. 18.

State legislatures throughout the country have been busy considering more than 500 bills that target the LGBTQ+ community.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta released the 2022 Hate Crime Report in late June, which showed an increase in hate crimes, especially against the LGBTW+ community.

A hate crime is one that targets a person for his or her gender, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, nationality or association with a person or group with one of these characteristics. A hate crime event meets the criteria for a hate crime and has been documented by law enforcement.

“It’s just really sad to see that we are regressive as a nation when it comes to equality,” said Perea during a half-hour interview with Vida en el Valle in July. “Instead of moving forward and modernizing our rules, we’re going in time.”

States, she said, are “attacking the right to marry your partner,” “trying to limit free speech in books,” or making it “legal for a business to discriminate against a customer based on their sexual orientation.”

“Here in California, we choose to do the right thing when it comes to social causes,” said Perea. “There’s still a lot of work to do from a nationwide perspective.”

“They see a leader that is wanting to silence them”

Perea referenced an effort by Clovis City Councilmember Diana Pearce to question the selection of books on display for children at the Fresno County Library during Pride Month.

“The biggest issue for her is books and content within books,” said Perea. “That’s very disappointing.”

Having an elected official who resonates with this community is crucial, she added.

“We don’t know if there’s a little girl or boy that lives in the City of Clovis that is struggling with their identity, that is struggling with their sexual orientation,” said Perea. “They look to their leaders and they see a leader that is wanting to silence them and basically say that who they are is not relevant.

“They’re willing to go as far as visiting libraries and making this a conversation topic, talking about why we need to ban certain books. I think there’s a lot bigger issues in our county to deal with than stooping to that level.”

The City of Fresno, said Perea, is stepping up its support for the LGBTQ+ community.

“There’s just a lot of issues that are unique to our communities that cities don’t typically invest in,” said Perea. “So I’m just really proud that our city is taking a step up for this segment of our community that historically has gone underrepresented and has not been invested in.”

Meanwhile, the national environment doesn’t help. Perea said legislators in other states “are going out of their way” to introduce anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

“It wasn’t very long ago a black individual and a white individual were not allowed to marry,” said Perea. “While we’ve come a long way in that regard, it seems like we’re going in reverse.”

Discriminatory legislation that limits marriages or allows a business to discriminate “can take a toll on anyone’s mental health,” said Perea.

“It’s scary to think that there might be a chance one day that my right to marry my partner will be taken away,” she said. “That’s a heavy toll for anyone to carry, right? Because it wasn’t that long ago that right was just given to me, to us.

“It’s tough. It’s extremely tough.”

This is part of a series on Stop The Hate, a project funded by the California State Library.