Guest Commentary: Assessing LGBTQ+ friendliness in Richmond

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Richmond to celebrate diversity throughout June
Two banners were erected at the Richmond Ferry Terminal on Friday in honor of Diversity Celebration Month in Richmond in May 2019.

By Greg Brock

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month! The LGBTQ+ community has made significant strides in recent years, fighting for equality, acceptance, and inclusion. While progress has been made across the United States, LGBTQ+ friendliness varies widely from place to place. In this article, we will assess whether Richmond, California, provides a welcoming environment for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Richmond boasts a diverse LGBTQ+ community, where individuals not only identify as LGBTQ+ but also belong to other traditionally marginalized groups. This intersectionality enriches their experiences, making it vital to understand the distinct challenges they face and the valuable perspectives they contribute to the community.

Historical Context
Richmond, like many cities, has undergone societal changes regarding LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance. Prior to World War II, Richmond was a sleepy town primarily made up of people of Anglo ancestry. The war brought an influx of people of color, which led to racial tensions and a long struggle to achieve equal rights for all residents. In the 1970s and 1980s, gays and lesbians began claiming a seat at the table in national, statewide, and local politics.

Historian Donna Graves has participated in several projects focused on LGBTQ+ history in California (see here). In the 21st Century, LGBTQ+ rights have taken pride of place. There is growing interest in discovering and preserving the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. For example, the Rosie the Riveter National Home Front Monument in Richmond is collecting stories documenting the lives of LGBTQ+ people who dwelt in our city from WWII down the decades (see here).

Community Support
One crucial aspect of an LGBTQ+ friendly city is the presence of community support and resources. Richmond hosts LGBTQ+ organizations which allow individuals to connect, seek guidance, and form a strong network within the community. Among these organizations is Richmond Rainbow Pride, a group of LGBTIQQ individuals and allies who live, work and play in or near Richmond, CA, and who come together for the collective benefit of the
LGBTIQQ community. 

The RYSE Youth Center, 3939 Bissell Ave., Richmond, CA 94805, (510)374-3401, [email protected], has a website with a section devoted to LGBTQ+ resources. There is a wealth of helpful information here, including, for example, a college guide for LGBTQ+ students.

Richmond Pulse is a community news and media outlet, committed to amplifying the voices of the city’s underserved residents. Its reporting is led by young people, with the intent of serving the entire community. Richmond Pulse has a section devoted to content relevant to the LGBTQ+ community (see here).

Safe Spaces and Social Scene
LGBTQ+ friendly establishments and safe spaces are vital for creating a welcoming environment. Richmond and the neighboring area offer a number of LGBTQ+-owned or -friendly businesses.

Gay Pink Spots hosts a website that profiles LGBTQ+-owned or -friendly establishments (see here). One business listed in Gay Pink Spots is Camp It Up!, located in San Pablo, right next door to Richmond. Camp It Up! is the first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Asexual, Intersex + (LGBTQAI+) family camp in the United States. It has served more than 6,000 campers and 700 families since 1990. Camp It Up! offers
programming that affirms, embraces, and celebrates LGBTQAI+ families, LGBTQAI+ children and teens, and their allies, honoring the uniqueness of every family. 

Psychology Today publishes a list of LGBTQ+ Therapists serving the Richmond community (see here).

Events and Celebrations
In addition to providing a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ individuals, Richmond Rainbow Pride sponsors a Pride Parade each year in June. Richmond Rainbow Pride features collaborations with local cultural organizations, showcasing performances, music, and art. These parades foster dialogue, understanding, and acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals and groups among Richmond’s diverse communities.

Local Government Support
A city’s local government plays a crucial role in fostering LGBTQ+ friendliness. Richmond has a recent track record of electing officials who actively advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and participate in Pride-related events. Jovanka Beckles, for example, was Richmond’s first openly lesbian councilwoman. She won a Richmond City Council seat in 2010 and was reelected in 2014, also becoming Vice Mayor of Richmond. Beckles is now a candidate for the California State Senate for the 9th District, which includes Richmond.

The Richmond Police Department now has a LGBTQ+ Liaison Officer: Sergeant Donald Patchin, 510-620-6942 (see here). 

Challenges and Room for Improvement
While Richmond has made progress in LGBTQ+ inclusivity, there are areas where improvement is needed. Some community members still face discrimination, and the work to combat prejudice and promote understanding is ongoing. It is essential for the city to continue efforts to create safer spaces, enhance education, and provide resources for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Richmond, California, is on a positive trajectory when it comes to LGBTQ+ friendliness. Civic representatives, community support, safe spaces, and celebratory events all contribute to an environment that fosters acceptance and inclusivity. However, there is still room for improvement, and the city must remain committed to addressing the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. By increasing its commitment to equality and understanding, Richmond can further solidify its reputation as a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ individuals to live, thrive, and be proud of who they are.

Gregory P. Brock is a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Realty, with offices at 1495 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, O. (510) 486-1495, and 6137 La Salle Ave. in Oakland, O. (510) 339-4700. You can also reach him at [email protected].