I’m really struggling to write this one. On July 13, Marilyn Monroe Cazares was found brutally murdered in Brawley, Imperial County, just east of San Diego County. At the time she was believed to be the 22nd reported transgender person murdered in the United States in 2020; at the moment we know about 25.
I’m from the Imperial County. I was born in Brawley and raised in Imperial County. The county that in 2008 voted 70% in favor of Prop 8. Other local LGBTQ community leaders like Cara Dessert, CEO of The Center, Tiffany Gonzalez, President of PFLAG San Diego, and Cheli Mohamed, Founder & CEO of Volunteer with Cheli are all from the Imperial Valley. Many of us left because of the thriving and violent anti-LGBTQ sentiment that we experienced growing up in this rural community.
We, like many LGBTQ folks from rural communities, come to bigger cities to find community, safety, and freedom. Not all of us are so lucky. Not all of us have the means. Overcoming the obstacles we face as marginalized folks becomes more difficult when our lives rest at the intersection of identities, and for as much progress as we’ve made as a region and state, too often our rural communities are left struggling.
That said, much has improved since I left 21 years ago, but it’s a slow-moving battle. LGBTQ residents and allies in the Imperial Valley organized around fighting Prop 8, and with the help of the ACLU, fought the county’s attempts to intervene in the federal court case challenging Prop 8. They started and are restarting their PFLAG. Have had an LGBTQ youth conference, an LGBTQ Center, and a Pride now for several years. All of these LGBTQ projects and programs supported by folks here in San Diego.
As we make progress and find ourselves better off than we were or than our early pioneers, it’s important to remember that just because some of us are safer, doesn’t mean that all of us are. One life lost is one too many, and there have been far too many lost. Our work is not yet done. While COVID-19 continues to have us separated, I hope each of us is able to connect virtually. Let’s ensure we extend our support to our rural communities, our home towns, so Together We Rise.
Fernando Zweifach López
San Diego Pride
Learn more about Marilyn Cazares’ Memorial and Vigil here.
If you would like to see the Imperial Valley LGBT Resource Center continue it’s meaningful work, you can donate here.