The LGBTQ Resource Center hosted San Benito County’s first Pride event at the Esperanza Center in downtown Hollister on Saturday, June 23. The center is part of the San Benito County Behavioral Health Department.
“It’s pride month and we realized we’ve never had a pride event here [in San Benito County],” said Emanuel Gonzalez, peer mentor at the resource center.
The event, which ran from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., included art made by youth members, a graffiti wall for people in attendance to sign, activities such as karaoke, and speeches by organization members and supporters of the LGBTQ community.
Crispin Ruiz, who identifies as a transgender male, is a youth participant in the organization who spoke at Saturday’s event. While speaking with BenitoLink, Ruiz shared his excitement of having a Pride event in Hollister and being able to have a supportive community.
“I feel this intense joy that we can come together and work together to create something beautiful,” Ruiz said. “The people here are very welcoming and there’s undying support for anyone who walks in the door.”
This support and cohesion was not just felt by Ruiz. People who attended Saturday’s event ranged from members of the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ allies, and people who work within government organizations such as San Benito County Supervisor Robert Rivas.
“This pride party made me realize we have a lot of support in the community I didn’t realize was here before,” Gonzalez said.
This feeling was shared by fellow peer helper Raymond Andrade who noticed a shift in resources and support in the community after returning home in 2016. Realizing there were not resources in the community available to him as a youth in Hollister, Andrade jumped at the opportunity to work with an organization that would help youth today in a similar situation he had been in when growing up.
“I wanted to help an organization that was helping,” Andrade said. “I realized we could bring resources to the small town I grew up in.”
Cassandra Guerrero, who works at San Benito High School as the special education program specialist, attended Saturday’s event with her family to support the resource center as it brings awareness to the LGBTQ community and creates a safe space for youth in San Benito County.
“It has always been important for me for everyone to feel like they have a place to belong,” Guerrero said. “A lot of times people think you won’t find resources in a small community so it’s important to have this.”
Rin Evans, who identifies as a bisexual female, came out to her family in the middle of 2016. While Evans was not accepted by her own family, she found true acceptance among other members of the LGBTQ community.
“I can’t be who I want to be around my family,” Evans said. “To me the LGBTQ community is freedom, liberation, and acceptance.”
Tanya Perez, who works as a peer mentor at the LGBTQ Resource Center, explained to BenitoLink that hosting the first pride event in Hollister was special because it let people know there was a safe, accepting place to get support in their community. Perez also shared the importance of raising awareness of the LGBTQ community to help increase understanding.
“If someone approaches you about their identify and it’s not something you understand, just listen with an open mind,” Perez said. “Know that it took a lot [to tell you] and they trust you.”
More information on the LGBTQ Youth Resource Center at the Esperanza Center can be found on the organization’s Facebook page or by emailing the organization at [email protected]