For the last three months, peer mentors from the LGBTQ+ Resource Center of San Benito County have been working with Hollister City Manager Dave Mirrione and Hollister City Council member Rolan Resendiz to revise a manual that covers LGBTQ+ issues, history and terminology. The finished work was published online by Mirrione on June 1 in the agenda packet (starting at page 727) for the June 5 City Council meeting and is now available to city employees, staff and elected officials.
“Hollister places a high value on inclusivity,” Mirrione said. “This manual is designed to provide insight and clarity on matters pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community.”
The project began when City Council member Tim Burns gave Resendiz a copy of the Friendly Workplace Training Manual, which had been created in 2011 by the Inland Northwest LGBT Center. Burns told Resendiz that he was considering using the manual as a guide and wondered if it needed to be updated.
“I said, ‘Well, why don’t we include the peer mentors in the discussion?’” Resediz told BenitoLink. “Even though I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I feel I am more of a senior member and that we should look to the youth for guidance and direction. I thought their input would make it a little bit more powerful.”
While most of the center’s mentors had input into the project, Camila Barker Celador and Dylan Yearton were the primary editors, filling the manual with sticky notes that updated accepted terms, removed outdated references and clarified definitions to conform more with current usage.
“I could definitely tell that the authors were coming from a place of solidarity,” Celador said, “Some terminology just naturally drifted out of use, but I believe that the core of the document relating to fighting misconceptions people have about the LGBTQ+ community was still rock solid”
However, as the manual was compiled 11 years ago with a more academic perspective, Yearton said he thought the project benefited from taking a more grassroots approach.
“Overall,” he said, “the biggest change was that we had members of the queer community actually helping with the revisions, so it was informed by the community’s perspective and more representative of it.”
As part of the revisions, the mentors added terms like “asexuality” (“A person who experiences little to no sexual attraction”) and enhanced definitions of terms like “closeted” (“This should be respected as it is often a means of surviving in a family, group, or broader setting which might be intolerant or confrontational”). They also removed discredited scientific concepts like the Kinsey Scale, described as an “outdated model of sexuality that relied more on behavior than identity.”
“At the very beginning of the manual,’ said Yearton, “they had a list of vocabulary, and that’s where a good chunk of our revisions came in. And we did update the historical section to include some more current events since they stopped around 2009.”
With existing laws protecting people for their sex, gender, and sexual orientation, the mentors do not see the manual as having a punitive use.
”The idea is to just have it handed out like a training manual,” Yearton said. “similar to other sorts of sensitivity training. It is intended to inform and spread awareness, not to be used for discipline.”
Yearton said while he thought the manual would be helpful in understanding LGBTQ+ issues, the greatest means of bringing change in the way LGBTQ+ people are viewed in the community is through education and representation.
“We can combat resistance by making people aware of the queer community in all aspects,” he said. “It is important to have more queer people in the sphere of politics locally, having more voices in city meetings, and giving more input on legislation.”
The experience of working with the Esperanza Center’s peer mentors, Mirrione said, was useful for all involved.
“I think it was good for the peer mentors to get some exposure into the public process and learning how things like this work,” he said. “And it’s good for us as public officials to sit down with them and hear them out, to find out what’s going on in their world and how we can all be supportive and work together.”
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