Without representation, entire communities feel unseen | Guest editorial

“There is great harm caused by those who allow their chosen beliefs to erase entire communities of people,” writes Carmen Rivera.

By Carmen Rivera, for the Reporter

In recent months, I have been heavily reminded of the work that still needs to be done with social justice and civil rights movements. We have seen it in the uptick in anti-trans legislation, hateful protests against drag queen story times, and the violence that follows against safe spaces like Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The hatred that fuels this type of violence was addressed by the Department of Homeland Security in a bulletin issued on Nov. 30 warning targets, including the LGBTQI+ community and racial and religious minorities, the perceived ideological opponents of this wave of violent extremism.

I am fed up with the discriminatory spoon-fed lessons of God and Jesus that push this hateful bigotry, especially when the overarching themes of these lessons are about love, generosity, compassion, and forgiveness. There is rarely mention of how the Bible was written over 100 years after Jesus’ death or the many translations and interpretations of the Bible that have been printed that further push false narratives and pervert the fundamental lessons of Jesus Christ. There is great harm caused by those who allow their chosen beliefs to erase entire communities of people. This religious bigotry does not follow the pathway to Heaven but fuels hate campaigns and violence that directly impacts the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual/Ally, Two-Spirit (LGBTQIA2) and other marginalized communities, as visualized in McCauley and Moskalenko’s Two‐Pyramid Model (2014).

Last week, I returned from visiting family in Puerto Rico to find some interesting perspectives shared in three different Letters to the Editor printed in the Renton Reporter. On Jan. 5, a neighbor wrote, “while I believe everyone who lives here is made in the image of God and needs to be shown respect, giving peace to demonic practices and lifestyle choices that negatively affect children is hardly the way to over-correct.” This reader expressed worry at the representation of a renowned drag artist on a previous cover, as did other readers who wrote Letters to the Editor in the Jan. 12 edition of the Renton Reporter. These letters demanded that the “Renton Reporter needs to change course” due to “a front page article about subjects that are not supported by the majority who live here.”

As the first openly queer person to be elected to the Renton City Council (by a majority of Renton voters), who was born and raised in Renton, and a graduate of Renton School District, I’d like to correct the above misconceptions.

I choose to live my life out loud and proud because I did not see anyone like me growing up. I never saw a proud, femme, queer Latina or Boricua when I turned on the TV or read a magazine. Representation is important because, without it, entire communities feel unseen. I felt unseen. In addition to a lot of bullying, I spent many elementary and middle school years feeling small and different. I wish I had a queer role model or was exposed to the queer community sooner, in a positive way, because I know it would have benefited my upbringing.

Regardless, I am very queer, and it is the LGBTQIA2+ children and parents who I have spoken with (while canvassing over 6,000 homes), who live in Renton, that fuels me to write my opinion here publicly with you. It saddens me that there are residents in Renton who choose to ignore the entire LGBTQIA2 community whose only lifestyle choice is to live and raise their children here. Those who claim to follow the word of God should choose to follow all of His words rather than pick and choose. If you study the Bible and truly educate yourself on other religions or spiritual practices, you will understand they are all more alike than they are different and deserve the same respect, attention and representation.

Carmen Rivera is an assistant teaching professor for Seattle University’s Department of Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Forensics and holds position 2 on the Renton City Council.