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Open Lesbian Bursts the Conservative Bubble

14 Jul Posted by in • Guest Writers | Comments
Open Lesbian Bursts the Conservative Bubble

My name is Beatriz Valencia, and my friends call me Betty. I was born in Mexico City, and I am the last of 12 children. My family emigrated to the United States when I was five years old. Growing up in the U.S., I understood and witnessed many injustices and disparities in our community. I never had any desire to enter politics, yet like many post-2016 elections, I felt the deep call to action.

On April 10, 2018, I attended a city council meeting in Orange, where a resolution against the sanctuary city was presented. This was the moment I was propelled into local politics. At 11:30 at night, after a hostile meeting ended and surrounded by the community, I decided to run for office.

The following day with only a few hours of sleep, I put on a pair of red sneakers (These would later become the signature of our work) and became the next candidate for the city of Orange in the middle of a Ph.D. program and while working full-time. It was an ambitious move, but not impossible. I was ready to burst the Orange Bubble as the first immigrant, openly queer woman to run for city council in the city’s history.

While we did not obtain the two seats, we continued to work as a team to garner support for an appointment of a then-vacant third seat. Even after violent acts, hostile posts, and less than desirable messages sent via email, we did not stop. We couldn’t stop. (Peter Morales, 35, brandished a pocket knife during the Orange City Council meeting and was arrested during a heated public discussion on how to fill a council vacancy.)

Eventually, we would be victorious in obtaining city district elections and greater representation in the city council. Our campaign:  Valencia4Orange, continues to be different from any other campaign in Orange County. Being the first qualified, openly queer, immigrant woman of color to run in a conservative city kicked open the doors for others to run as open and authentic as possible.

The journey has not been smooth, but it has been full of life-changing moments. One of the most challenging experiences is realizing that people may find something to dislike about you regardless of how qualified and proficient you may be. Experiencing the hate that comes from a lack of knowledge and biases can be tiring. Still, I have learned from many of the young activists and elected, like AOC and Greta Thunberg, that for whatever hate is expressed, there will be more support and love to help stay resilient.

As a team, we have shown that no matter where you come from, who you love, or what language you speak, you have a place and space in city politics. I may not have been born in Orange, but I arrived as soon as possible. After 25 years, I intend to continue to contribute and pave the way for others to join. Ultimately the work is for all of us.

There have been several moments that will forever be recorded in my memory. First, the moment the campaign moved from fifth place to third. We didn’t win one of the two seats, but we showed that hard work and authenticity were valued. Second, the community that was built around this campaign and endures today and their similar commitment for justice and equity. These volunteers became family. We were brought together by a traumatic and disruptive event, yet we did not let that stop us from creating a powerful and loving movement built on coalitions. Finally, our community, our team, our family, and our movement are forever intertwined in this historic campaign.

The work is not specific to one seat, one position, one role. This commitment is a continued practice and a longing desire to make a difference. Throughout these years, I continued to be motivated by the continued activism we witness in our Country primarily young  Game Changers. Our work matters, our words have power, and our collective presence will move mountains. We have this great privilege thanks to the many before us who sacrificed for us to be able to speak up, stand up, and live a life full of purpose.

Together we will change the world. — Betty

Find out more about Betty Valencia here::

Beatriz ‘Betty’ Valencia
Photo: Matt Fitt

 

 

 

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