PRIDE FOUNDATION STANDS BEHIND YAKIMA PRIDE, DENOUNCES YAKIMA CITY COUNCIL MEMBER JASON WHITE’S DEHUMANIZING AND PERSONAL ATTACKS
This morning, Pride Foundation leadership sent a letter to Yakima City Council Members and city leadership, and we are proud to share broadly and voice our support for our grantee and community partner, Yakima Pride (Read/watch Yakima Pride’s original statement).
Dear Yakima City Council,
At Pride Foundation, our work is grounded in the simple, yet revolutionary belief that every person should be able to live safely, openly, and genuinely as our whole, authentic selves in all the places we call home.
Pride Foundation is the only LGBTQ+ community foundation serving the Northwest region of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. We work to fuel transformational movements through providing grants to community organizations, scholarships to LGBTQ+ and allied student leaders, public education and advocacy work, timely initiatives, and more.
Since 1985, we have worked to create a safer, better world for LGBTQ+ people and our families. Earlier this week, Yakima City Councilmember Jason White, threatened the safety of that world, and the ability for people to live openly and safely in Yakima.
We are writing you today to denounce Councilmember White’s attack on the humanity of trans and gender diverse people, and to stand in support of our grantee and community partner, Yakima Pride. Councilman White’s language—specifically in reference to the joke he made comparing transgender people to cars, and his personal attack on Yakima Pride President, Cristina Ortega—dehumanized an entire community and sought to erase their existence.
The sad reality is, we have seen the effects of anti-trans rhetoric on the mental health and physical safety of trans people facing dehumanization. White’s words are particularly harmful toward trans and gender diverse youth, who are already at greater risk of violence, mental health issues, and devastatingly high suicide rates.
In his initial post, White stated that his words were not anti-trans, but that is plainly untrue. Imagine what happens when a transgender student at Washington Middle School in White’s district hears that their own public official—the leader who is supposed to be representing them on the issues that matter most—is comparing their identity to a car model? Or that this representative is also calling a prominent leader within the local LGBTQ+ community an idiot? How do you think that student would feel if their peers bully them, mirroring that same language and disrespect, emboldened by the hateful words of someone who has sworn to serve all their constituents?
White’s Facebook posts—even if they were made on his personal account—were discriminatory, hateful, and alarmingly personal. In the age of social media, a public figure’s social media accounts represent every aspect of their humanity, including their role as an elected official. His posts were blatantly unethical and a clear violation of nearly all of the Yakima City Council Principles of Conduct, most especially:
VI. Refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges, or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of the City Council, boards, commission, committees, staff, or the public.
VIII. Avoid personal comments that could offend others.
We respectfully ask that Councilman White be held accountable for his clear violations, and for undermining the humanity of the very people he represents. We also ask that Councilman White issue a formal apology for his personal attacks on Yakima Pride President, Cristina Ortega.
As Ortega writes in the 3/31/20 statement issued by Yakima Pride:
“A council member takes an oath to represent their community and constituents, to help them feel safe, welcome, and to help their voices be heard. Today, Councilman White went against his oath, he has shown his LGBTQ constituents that he does not respect nor care about them or their safety.”
Pride Foundation is proud to be deeply embedded within the LGBTQ+ community in Central Washington, and to have built meaningful relationships for more than three decades in Yakima. We commit to continuing to support Yakima Pride, trans and gender diverse people throughout the Yakima Valley and beyond, and allies working toward safety, inclusion, and an affirming and welcoming community. And people like Councilman White will never stop that work.
Let us be clear: trans and gender diverse people in Yakima deserve to feel safe in the place they call home.
We hope you’ll do what is right to reconcile the harm that has been done to our communities, and, moving forward, work to build a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment in Yakima and beyond.