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I struggled with what to write to commemorate this month’s festivities. Because fuck! Oh, how Pride Month has changed, and Juneteenth is now a recognized holiday.

Is this how my black ancestors felt when they were informed they were free? For real this time?

Is this what a queer, who felt safe and supported while coming out one June feels when the rainbow memorabilia is pushed away and overrun with red, white, and blue propaganda?

What’s the use of exposing our Pride and celebrating Juneteenth instead of July 4th if, once June is over, everyone puts their rainbow flags and copies of ‘White Fragility” away until next year?  

We are never safe and who’s genuinely advocating for us is always in question despite rainbow capitalism and seasonal inclusion.

When I moved to where I am now, it was important to me to find a sense of community with those with similar lifestyles to mine. There was no way I would adjust myself to adapt to the community I landed in ever again. And my family and I sort of just landed where we did. The schools here do not have the high ratings on Great Schools as they did in Rancho Cucamonga; the BIPOC demographics here are about the same as well. But, when I enrolled my kids into their new school district, I didn’t have to enter clever keywords to find that their new school district strived to include LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC students, encouraged inclusion and acceptance. There were no stringent dress codes. There were clubs and designated safe spaces for queer kids in middle and high schools, which is also very unlike Rancho Cucamonga. And, it didn’t take long after venturing out into our new land to discover that despite what the demographics reported online, there were more people of color in our new land than there were in Rancho Cucamonga. Not only that, the city invests in BIPOC and LGBTQ-owned businesses. 

Of corpse, there are still severe issues with racism, transphobia, and homophobia where I live now. It’s more spread out and rural than within the California Distinguished Schools where I came from.

Here, the queer is displayed year-round. Some city buses are painted rainbow, and some are adorned with portraits of civil rights activists and trailblazers and their facts. Here, local small businesses organized an entire Pride Block Party with a drag fashion show and a queen reading books by queers to little children. There were queer kids there with their supportive and opened-armed parents. The mom with the FREE MOM HUGS shirt and the fur babies with their rainbow gear on was more than what my queer self and kids have ever experienced. 

I wasn’t hesitant about attending the Pride Block Party where I live now. Leading up to the event, it didn’t feel like a spread put on by local mega corporations, utility companies, or governments to check the boxes on their “Diversity and Inclusion” surveys for the quarter. It didn’t feel like rainbow capitalism was the objective as the vendors there were more interested in interacting with the community and offering resources and education. The Library, local NAACP, and again local small businesses were there to provide a truly safe place. 

I’m so sick of Michelle constantly bashing Rancho Cucamonga about its racism, homophobia, and bragging about the PNW! We get it bitch! But, it’s getting better in Rancho, right?

It may seem easy for me to highlight all that was wrong with being Queer and Black in Rancho Cucamonga versus living where I do now. If it comes off as bragging, and you are sick of reading and hearing it from me, just know I’m used to being told I’m “too much.” 

But I am Michelle Motherfucking Halloween every season. I exist to be a safe person, the person I needed, for anyone who resonates with my experiences. Rancho Cucamonga was a place I assumed was a safe place to raise children. My youthful ignorance had me believing that raising a family in a suburb with high-ranking schools would give my kids an advantage in their education and into adulthood. How wrong I was.

Two of my children are queer. All of my children identify as black despite their fair skin. Still, these two magnificent aspects of their existence were not accepted and often politely reprimanded by their teachers, school administrators, peers, and the community. As a stay-at-home Mom, I spent most of my time volunteering and working at their schools and the Alta Loma School District. I was team mom, team parent, coach, and party organizer. I inserted myself into gatherings and truly got to know the families we lived amongst.

Do you know what I discovered in all those years living in such a place as Rancho Cucamonga and having sent all my kids through the Alta Loma School District? 

I had to be my children’s Critical Race Theory educator; the district barely touched on Black history month, and as each February passed, fewer Black History lessons were taught to make more time for state testing which is how the community keeps its title of California Distinguished Schools.

Pride was considered “inappropriate” at the Jr. High level. I’ll never forget when two high school-bound queer kids came crying to me when the school Dean and principal told them to wash the painted rainbow flags off of their cheeks as it was deemed unbecoming.

Art, music, and obviously cultural programs were sometimes funded by the PTA’s of each school within the district. Still, only one music teacher and one art teacher were hired and shared between elementary schools. 

There was only one student therapist available throughout the entire district.

The school board is all white. 

The City Council is all white with the exception of one bi-racial woman who doesn’t seem to have a clue what’s happening to real-life residents.

It was surprising to find that even in Southern California, the flag salute was still required to be stood for and repeated every morning. Once, the Dean of Students at Vineyard Jr. High asked me to just convince my queer, black kid to at least stand for the pledge to avoid tension and disruption to other students. 

It was okay to celebrate the rare coming out of a queer kid, as long as it wasn’t one of the “popular” mom’s kids that was gay. Another blatant ignorant encounter was when one mom struggled when her daughter proclaimed her bisexuality. The mom needed to vent to her circle that she wasn’t homophobic but hated that her only daughter wanted to lick pussy. I watched that same mom congratulate another mom’s child come out of the closet a few years later and offer her full support to that kid on Facebook only.

I had to endure one of my queer kid getting bullied and harassed by a malicious Jesus-loving kid, becoming isolated from their friends and when they acted out in fear and anger their long-time best friend was restricted from speaking to her ever again.

The City of Rancho Cucamonga has endless opportunities and programs for small family businesses and franchises, but queer and black-owned businesses are on their own. As of 2020, there is only one black-owned business and zero LGBTQIA + one. In Rancho Cucamonga.

So, while rainbow capitalism is allowed in stores in Rancho Cucamonga, and perhaps the library may offer a little section on LGBTQ+ history, hidden in the teen corner where young ones can’t see,  the rainbows can’t be worn proudly at the schools. There are still strict dress codes in place to deter any queer or black kids from expressing themselves through fashion. Kindness and anti-bullying campaigns are the umbrella effort for inclusion and diversity. Other forms of expression, such as art and music, are limited to a strict conservative curriculum, and resources are shared to restrict the individual expression of queer and BIPOC students. Without queer BIPOC on school boards and city councils, Rancho Cucamonga continues to discourage Critical Race Theory and other real-world education for its students and residents. White people cannot be the faces of diversity. At least the one thing Rancho Cucamonga got right is not hosting a Juneteenth Celebration. 

While my gloating of my new community may be repetitive to endure, I cannot help but keep reminding my growing following that I am a safe person. I offer hope and encouragement to Queer and BIPOC people who have no choice but to live and hide who they are in a city like Rancho Cucamonga. While I tried to invoke progress by embracing my roles as room mom, PTA mom, Team Mom, Site Council Member, Lunch Lady, and unofficial student therapist, the hatred, heaviness, and lack of community support had me throwing my hands in the air. I gave up on trying to introduce progressive ideas on allies with boundaries.

But what about the queer and black kids I left behind? How many students are terrified to come out to their conservative parents? How many more incidents of racism got swept under the rug? How terrifying to be alone in an entire city that pretends it’s inclusive but is so full of boredom and hate that their hypocrisy is accepted as normal. All of which shield progress and inclusion. 

My hope, because I gave up, doesn’t mean a small community of queers and people of color can’t create safe spaces for each other. Those spaces hold collective energy that drives change despite resistance from the complacent, conservative white people in power. I hope that the outside world of queers and Black people shines its light on places like Rancho Cucamonga and forces change. 

Until then, I remain a safe person for the queers and BIPOC of the land of the entitled and ignorant. Especially for the weirdo children stuck there. By sharing my experiences when living in a place where myself and my children were considered nuisances because of our outspokenness, queerness and blackness, my aim is to release the terror, anger and resentment I have for the people in Rancho Cucamonga who are still working hard to oppress the progress of non-whites and non-cisgendered people. My goal is to be honest with my readers even when fear of retaliation, violence, or even being silenced is heavy on my mind. Fuck my fears if a black transgendered child needs a safe person during this month and any well after.

This weekend, take time to give your platforms to a black queer person. Take time to be quiet and listen to their accounts and educate yourself! To my queer and BIPOC readers, I will you a Happy Pride Month as well as every day after. Celebrate what makes you, YOU!

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