Merced’s Momentum into a Safe Place

June 29, 2020 /

Merced, Calif.- 

Pride month is upon us, a month of celebration for one’s self-expression for the LGBTQ+ community. Among these communities, queer becomes misrepresented in smaller populated towns that lack education of LGBTQ+ and the resources for those who belong to this community. With the expansion of the UC, the Queer community has increased and integrated into the Merced community. However, progression has been slow-moving. When asked if they feel comfortable enough to explore around Merced, Edwin Minera 19, psychology undergraduate says 

“No, but if I have to, I put on a “straight persona.”


Multiple individuals who identify as queer and live or lived in Merced all stated that they must put on a facade to maintain their safety. The word “normal” was thrown around often when explaining the precautions these individuals must take around in public. For most, it goes much deeper than that. Robert Garcia 20, openly discusses his family dynamic, as everyone in his family but his father knows of his orientation. When asked why doesn’t your father know?

“My father has diabetes and other health-related issues. I don’t want to tell him anything that might jeopardize his health.”

Garcia, of Hispanic heritage, goes on to explain what it is like being queer in a Hispanic household. From the men, a sense of machismo is expected where talking about feelings is not supported. Outdated societal views pose as a thorn on the LGBTQ+ community’s side of free expression. One individual, in particular, describes their experience of being berated with unwanted stares and looks of disapproval. 

“First year, right before spring term over winter break. I dyed my hair purple, walking around back home in Sacramento, no looks. I walked through downtown Merced. People began to look at me with unfriendly looks. It continued throughout.”

Recently, the Trump administration presented a brief to the Supreme Court. Which claims taxpayer-funded organizations, should be given the right to refuse to work with same-sex couples or those who the organization deems to be defying their religious values. Yet, another knife into the backs of the LGBTQ community. 

According to a 2018 report from the William’s Institute at UCLA Law, LGBTQ families foster and adopt at much higher rates with high numbers in taking in older children and those with special needs. Because of sexual orientation and gender identity, these restrictions put the children at risk by decreasing the number of families who can take them in. 

Merced County is especially at risk,

“Non-heterosexual and gender non-conforming youth have a higher rate of homelessness than their straight/gender-conforming counterparts. “

As claimed by the Merced County Office of Education, which also revealed these homeless youth survey participants. 35.7% identified as Hispanic. While 28% responded that they voluntarily, or were asked to leave due to family conflict as the cause for their homelessness. Furthermore, 33% surveyed, was 15 years old while the next highest was 16 years old with a close 27%.

With the increase of LGBTQ+ homeless youth in Merced County, further implications emerge. LGBTQ+ homeless youth are more likely to participate in substance abuse and experience clinical depression or other mental illnesses than their counterparts. Being at high risk, the homeless youth find available health care to be near impossible. Some obstacles that pose in their ways such as the need for parental consent, lack of insurance, and unfair treatment from health care workers.

 “This calls for reform, starting here locally. Thirteen prisons lay in between the Central Valley, with LGBTQ+ people of color are disproportionately likely to come in contact with the criminal justice system. Transgender people are at high risk of being harmed and most likely not to receive HIV medication.”

Says critical race and ethnic studies graduate. Other UC advocates show their efforts and consideration in the LGBTQ+ community, such as Angi Baxter with LGBTQ+ initiatives and Onar Primitivo with Social Justice and Identity Programs. They hope for more solidarity in our ever-growing community and free universal access to education on LGBTQ+ studies in public libraries.

 As of now, the step towards unity is slowly progressive. Some local businesses show their solidarity by proudly displaying plaques that show they are a safe place for all individuals. As well as openly hiring Queer people, the stride towards equality begins at its foundation. Since 2018, Merced Mayor Mike Murphy’s plan for the future included the addition of police officers, the implementing of new policies, and funding the use of new technology to assist law enforcement. Merced’s safety for its citizens does not rely on the increase in police funding. Rather, funding towards social development. Change relies on Merced City Council to take action. The reopening of a pride center in downtown Merced is a step towards safety for our LGBTQ+ community.

With June being the month of pride, it has been heavy on most to celebrate when hate and injustice has been occurring across the nation. This image symbolizes the Queer Trans people of color who are fighting for equality.


Homeless Youth Need Assessment Merced County,

“Our Future.” Mike Murphy for Merced Mayor,

“Homelessness among LGBT Youth in the United States.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 June 2020,

Homeless Youth Need Assessment Merced County,

LGBTQ Behind Bars.



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