#minorsextrafficking | Pride month is a time for a love so bright, it’s blinding


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, June 21. I’m Justin Ray.

(A warning: This story discusses self-harm and child abuse.)

“People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou once said.

I don’t remember the exact circumstances that led to the event, but I will never, ever forget how I felt. During the tumultuous years of my early teens, I was in a state of panic. I thought that if I kept up great grades and stayed out of trouble, I would have the support of my parents. But that changed when they found out I might be different from other boys.

I walked up to my mother, who was doing dishes in the kitchen. I told her I had taken a bunch of aspirin in an attempt to take my own life.

She responded, “If you really wanted to take your own life, you would have just drank Drano.”

I think about that day often. What if I had listened? What if I had, at any point, listened to all the anti-gay hate? The truth is, I did listen and to this day I’m still trying to unlearn what they said.

My guess is that many people are going through similar struggles of trying to undo damage. I hope to explain how you can shed negative energy in your life and possibly be the light in someone else’s.

***

As I have grown older, I have come to enthusiastically love big ol’ gay June.

During Pride Month, the world shows its support for a community that is as strong as it is influential. Jubilant parades are held across America. Television channels have LGBTQ marathons of sitcoms and movies. Corporations make appeals to the community, even if hollow ones.

At this year’s Los Angeles Pride parade in Hollywood, I was reminded of the family because my friend Jackie’s mother came. She brought Jackie’s little sister too. I remember thinking how great it would be if my own family ever showed up to such an event. Although that didn’t happen, I did get dared to run up to “Bachelor” star Rachel Lindsay and take a selfie. And, well, I’m not one to turn down a dare.

Another feature of Pride is public displays of love and acceptance from parents of LGBTQ children. For instance, Jennifer Lopez used gender-neutral pronouns when referring to her child during a recent performance at Dodger Stadium.

“This is a very special occasion, because they’re very, very busy and booked and pricey,” Lopez joked about 14-year-old Emme. “They cost me when they come out, but they’re worth every single penny because they’re my favorite duet partner of all time.”

It’s a small act that indicates something bigger; Lopez accepted Emme as they are and embraced the amazing person they grew to be.

Perhaps the one that recently has impacted me the most is television judge Greg Mathis talking to his gay son, Greg Jr.

Mathis’ son tells him that, in certain contexts, he hides his homosexuality. There’s a moment when the judge becomes visibly emotional realizing that his son is oppressed. “My heart is hurt right now,” he says.

The clip resonates with me for two reasons: one, because he is Black, and seeing Black acceptance of homosexuality will always hit close to home; and two, because it represents a relationship I will never have with my parents. It’s one thing to get to the level that you are accepted. It’s another thing for them to be so connected to you, they feel your pain.

It’s touching, but it’s hard to watch because I won’t have that kind of relationship with my mom and dad.

***

My parents and I are not speaking. Family dynamics are complicated, but at the center of it is a hurt. For years, I had accepted that my parents would never reach a certain level of understanding when it came to my homosexuality.

I don’t want to deny that they’ve come a long way; I can talk openly about dating men. One year, I even brought a man back for Thanksgiving, whom they treated kindly. I also want to acknowledge that I never wanted for anything material while growing up.

The problem is, they will not accept what they did during those early times. My mother won’t face the times she said she couldn’t love me, because in her view I was going to hell. My dad says he doesn’t remember asking me why I wanted to be gay while punching me in the face. I cannot forget that my mother was the one who asked for him to handle me, which led to that incident.

Every apology has been, “I’m sorry, but….”

Now, it seems like I didn’t internalize those messages. After all, I’m writing this story for the largest metro daily in the country.

But what they don’t know — because they refuse to engage — is that in some ways I did drink the Drano. I have hated listening to my voice recorded in interviews for this newsletter because I think I sound too gay. If I drink too much, I begin to listen to that person in the back of my head who tells me I’m an abomination. I feel gross. I shouldn’t live like this.

Pride is so important because when the world shows you love, you begin to see it in yourself. I was raised on self-hatred, and I’m still learning how to embrace and support who I am.

It is important to see that you can have that kind of love in your life. The 2020 Netflix documentary “Disclosure” documents the representation of the transgender community in media (I hope you watch it). It contains a scene that was brutal for me the first time I saw it. Transgender actress Jen Richards talks about a moment in “I Am Cait,” the E! channel series featuring Caitlyn Jenner. In it, a father shows his child love: not despite the kid being transgender, but because the kid is transgender.

He didn’t love around the LGBTQ identity, he loved through it.

In the Netflix documentary, Richards says that, on one level, watching that scene hurt her because she has endured a lot of discrimination from loved ones. But to see that father go the extra mile made her understand that her loved ones could have also seen the value in her experience. However, the segment ends with a realization that brings tears to my eyes.

“But the person who’s most responsible for failing to have that kind of vision is me. I’ve never seen myself the way that father saw his own child,” Richards says. “I had to see it, and now that I have, I want that.”

***

My silence in my relationship with my parents is because I want that too. I see the vision. I’m not accepting emotional half-assedness. I realized that being around that dynamic is holding me back from being the happy adult I am fully capable of being and deserve to be. I realized that in keeping myself around a toxic environment, I am complicit in preventing my own growth.

This Pride Month is one that caused a lot of emotions for me. I share all this because there are parents who have LGBTQ children who don’t know how to approach them. As someone who has seen these relationships sour, I implore you to approach your kids with love. When we are young, we are vulnerable. You are who we have. If we don’t have you, we have nobody. If there are things you don’t know, learn. You can prepare yourself with books and media that now exist.

Maybe you don’t have a child who is part of the community. I hope you can take away from this how powerful we as individuals can be in one another’s lives. That father in “I Am Cait” had no idea that two years later I would be writing this column talking about him, but that is the resonance of loving through. It makes disparate narratives align.

You can be the clarifying light in someone’s life. You can show them a world they didn’t know existed. It is a love that is so bright it is blinding, but I can tell you from experience: Your eyes eventually adjust.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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L.A. STORIES

After escaping domestic violence, a sportswriter’s ex-wife speaks out to help others. Jonah Keri was caught on video attacking his fiancée, Amy Kaufman, in an elevator. Days later she married him, worried that if she didn’t, he was going to take her life. She’s speaking out to try and help others. “When times were good,” Kaufman said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “they were somewhat too good to be true.” (Warning: This story contains discussions of intimate partner violence.) Los Angeles Times

Amy Kaufman discusses domestic violence in baseball and how she hopes her own survival story can help others.

(Yadira Flores / Los Angeles Times)

One of Elon Musk’s children has filed a request in Los Angeles County Superior Court to change their last name, citing a desire to cut ties with their famous father. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Column: Why L.A., not San Francisco, could become the most progressive city in California. Los Angeles is one of the most progressive cities in the country, but it’s rarely thought of as the most liberal city in the state. That title usually goes to San Francisco. However, the recent primary election brought signs of a new leftward shift in L.A. politics. Los Angeles Times

 Community activist Eunisses Hernandez passes out in fliers

Community activist Eunisses Hernandez passes out in fliers Glassell Park.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

More than half a dozen affordable housing projects in California are costing more than $1 million per apartment to build, a Times review of state data found. The seven subsidized housing developments in Northern California are under construction or close to breaking ground. They will provide housing for more than 600 families, but experts explain why the price tag is “untenable.” Los Angeles Times

CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING

A controversial bill to repeal a provision of California law that prohibits loitering with the intent to sell sex is on its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. Advocates for the measure argued that law enforcement uses California’s loitering rules to disproportionately target Black, brown and transgender Californians, and that the practice leads to unsafe conditions for workers. Opponents said SB 357 would remove a crucial tool to stop sex trafficking, especially of children, and would hamstring victim-outreach efforts. Los Angeles Times

Three people, self-described as “sovereign citizens,” were arrested Saturday near Joshua Tree National Park after officials found explosives in their vehicle and at their residence, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

As the water crisis worsens on the Colorado River, an urgent call for Western states to ‘act now.’ “With the river’s depleted reservoirs continuing to drop to new lows, the federal government has taken the unprecedented step of telling the seven Western states that rely on the river to find ways of drastically cutting the amount of water they take in the next two months,” reporter Ian James writes. Los Angeles Times

A formerly sunken boat rests on a dry lake bed

A formerly sunken boat rests on a now-dry section of lakebed at the drought-stricken Lake Mead on May 10.

(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

The trauma of fighting California’s wildfires. Those who combat blazes in the Golden State suffer emotional injuries that have only gotten worse. “Longer and more intense fire seasons have taken a visible toll on the state, leaving a tableau of charred forests and flattened towns. But they’ve also fueled a silent mental health crisis,” writes Julie Cart. CalMatters

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Private airlines hired by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport immigrants also shuttle collegiate and professional sports teams, according to a University of Washington Center for Human Rights report. One airline has transported college basketball teams from the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California. The report argues that, “sports teams who fly on the same planes used for torture are sustaining a system that not only perpetuates brutal abuses, especially against people of color, but reaps a profit from human suffering.” Capital and Main

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Sunny 86 San Diego: Sunny 74 San Francisco: Sunny 80 San Jose: Sunny 96 Fresno: Sunny 103 Sacramento: Sunny 103

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Candace Wade:

Disco, L.A. style, was an earnest little sister to the New York club scene. Studio 1 on North La Peer was our version of Studio 54. The two-story warehouse, with mood-pumping strobe lights and undulating strains of ABBA, was Mecca for our girl-posse from “the Valley” on Friday nights. First “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at The Bruin in Westwood, then cut the line of guys at Studio 1. We were embraced for our sassy-disco attire, expectant smiles and guileless ease as we melded with the mostly gay clientele. Dancing was the drug at Studio 1.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.





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