Guest Column

Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Alliance

Being an LGBTQ ally

The month of June is LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Month in Laguna Beach, as unanimously proclaimed by City Council in 2017. Both our current city manager and mayor happen to be openly gay. This milestone has happened without any brouhaha in the press, unlike when Laguna elected our first openly gay mayor Bob Gentry in 1982. This is a good thing; much progress has been made to be sure.

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Courtesy of Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Alliance

City Hall

However, this progress is not representative of the recent increase of anti-LGBTQ moves against the Laguna Beach queer community. Over the last two years we have seen several rainbow flags in our town stolen and broken. Hateful slurs have been repeatedly shouted toward our local gay community. We’ve heard numerous reports of residents refusing to do business with our LGBTQ community because of their “lifestyle.” And after more than 100 years of providing a safe haven to the gay community, our last remaining gay bar in Laguna Beach quietly closed its doors.

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Courtesy of Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Alliance

Support LGBTQ community by displaying the rainbow flag

Now, more than ever, our LGBTQ community needs the support of our allies.

Being an ally is more important than many people realize. It sends a powerful message that everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect, regardless of who they love or how they identify. It also shows the LGBTQ community that they are welcomed and embraced by you. Being an ally helps foster a safe and empowering environment where residents and visitors feel safe to be themselves and are supported by those who care about them.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Rainbow flags on our city streets

However, developing oneself as an ally is a skill that doesn’t happen overnight. It comes from engaging in open conversations, asking questions, recognizing your own biases and often stepping out of your comfort zone. Being an ally means learning, empathizing and, in many ways, taking on the struggle as your own.

What is an ally exactly? An ally is someone who supports and stands up for one or more marginalized groups. Here are a few specific ways you can become an ally:

Listen: The easiest way to become an ally is to listen.

Educate yourself: Identify and challenge stereotypes and unconscious bias. It starts with learning a little history. Come to an event.

Talk with others in our community: Have conversations with LGBTQ+ people, from high school students to senior citizens, from your neighbors to your community leaders and learn about their experience and their history.

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Courtesy of Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Alliance

Raise flags on businesses

Learn and use correct inclusive language: In the LGBTQ community, language is everything. Using the right words and pronouns is important when referring to someone’s gender identity.

Speak up and intervene: Don’t tolerate anti-LGBTQ jokes or statements expressed in your presence. It matters that derogatory language is called out.

Raise a rainbow flag: Show that your home or business is safe. Show that our town welcomes the LGBTQ community.

Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Alliance exists to ensure residents and visitors find their lives reflected and honored in the policies, arts, culture and celebrations within the City of Laguna Beach.


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