First published in the Dec. 31 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
By Andres de Ocampo
GlendaleOUT, an LGBTQIA+ grass-roots community group, and supporters gathered in front of City Hall for a candlelight vigil recently to mourn and remember the tragic deaths within the queer community nationally and worldwide.
Fourteen members and advocates of the Glendale group attended the candle lighting at 5 p.m. on Dec. 19, including Mayor Ardy Kassakhian and state Sen. Anthony Portantino. Following the hour-long candle lighting, the group moved to Dave’s On Broadway for a fundraising event where $1 from each purchased drink was donated to victims of the Club Q nightclub shooting in Colorado that left five dead and more injured.
The vigil lasted about an hour and, though any tragic death within the global queer community was observed, attendees mourned and remembered the five fatalities and injured victims from the Club Q shooting, 35 fatalities of transgender people in 2022 as reported by Human Rights Campaign and a queer couple that committed suicide in Armenia, as reported by queer rights organization Pink Armenia.
GlendaleOUT also asked for donations to support the Transgender Law Center and Pink Armenia. Portantino contributed $250 and was one of the first to donate to the groups fundraising effort, according to GlendaleOUT.
Spencer Carney, an organizer and member of GlendaleOUT, said, “We’re here tonight for a variety of reasons … nationally and internationally we’ve seen violence committed on the queer community. Our first priority is to honor the deaths in the tragic shooting at Club Q. This hits really close to home because we gather at Dave’s bar and it could be anyone of us at any queer-friendly bar.
“In Armenia, two young teens took their lives after confessing love for each other. Armenia is spiritually connected to the Glendale community, so we felt like it was important to honor them,” he said.
“There have been an alarming number of murders in the trans community in America this year. It’s important that we, as a community, gather in spiritual resistance against the amount of violence inflicted on our community and show solidarity with those who may be states or countries away,” Carney continued.
Anne Mar and Jacqueline Hernandez are librarians at Glendale Library, Arts and Culture and attended the candle lighting ceremony to mourn the losses observed at the vigil and to stand in solidarity with the queer community at large.
“I thought it was important to recognize that we have a community here. At the library we’re documenting that the community exists and we’ve been trying to show up for these events to show that we’re behind them and support them,” Mar said.
Hernandez said that she feels it is important to show up for events recognizing and supporting the queer community, however, she wishes it was under less tragic circumstances.
“For me, it’s important to show up to these events to respect the lives of the people we’ve lost, but also I’m hopeful that one day we won’t have to meet like this anymore because it’s extremely sad and unfortunate,” Hernandez said.
Carney spoke about GlendaleOUT and the local queer community and said, “One of the reasons we all built the group is in response to the need for a community. [GlendaleOUT] is about five years old and before that, there was no queer presence whatsoever in Glendale. In fact, [in the past] some people may have even noted some hostility.”
Carney said that there have been a lot of changes in Glendale in recent years, pertaining to recognition and support of the local queer community.
“One of those [changes] has been recognizing the pollical organization of the queer community here in Glendale. The only way we’re going to stop having less vigils like this, or less of them, is political organizing and receiving recognition, not only within the entire community, but also having equal protections legislatively and from law enforcement,” Carney said.
Discrimination, harassment, mistreatment and violence against the LGBTQIA community have been well-documented both nationally and internationally.
The National LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Working Group is made up of more than 50 organizations that strive to reduce harms and mistreatment of the LGBTQ community through research, education, and federal policy advocacy.
In a 2019 report, the group documented that “In the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 57% of respondents said they would feel uncomfortable asking the police for help if they needed it. Yet, even when they do report crimes to law enforcement, many LGBTQ people report receiving an inadequate response.”
President Joe Biden signed an executive order in June to address the longtime disparities the LGBTQ community experiences throughout the nation. The executive order strives to prevent and combat discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and fully enforce civil rights laws to prevent discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, according to a White House press release.
Glendale teacher and GlendaleOUT member Alicia Harris said that, despite the mistreatment and violence against LGBTQ individuals, events like the candlelight vigil are meant to express heartbreak and honor victims, while also demonstrating strength and resolve.
“The idea of doing these events is to pause and reflect on these recent tragedies and to not let the memories go. But, also, to not be scared by that and not let the hate win. We’re going to keep showing up and keep being visible. Here in Glendale, it’s all about visibility because [there isn’t an LGBTQ+ presence]. We’re trying to change the picture,” Harris said.