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Pride is Alive and Well 

click to enlarge A replacement Pride flag flies at the Humboldt County Courthouse until a new Progress Pride flag arrives.

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A replacement Pride flag flies at the Humboldt County Courthouse until a new Progress Pride flag arrives.

It's mid-June — the days are long and generally sunny, the summer solstice draws near, and Pride Month is well underway. As Humboldt County's Fourth District supervisor representing most of the greater Eureka area, including the physical space where the courthouse sits in the heart of downtown Eureka, it was an honor to sponsor this year's Pride proclamation. In that proclamation, passed unanimously by our board as a formal part of our agenda, we took the opportunity to share some of the history of Pride Month and its roots: the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, the civil disobedience that both predated and followed Stonewall, the legal battles for basic human rights and the sense of celebration and joy this month brings to millions of people today. In addition, that proclamation is the policy document that affirmed that the county of Humboldt will fly the Pride flag at the courthouse throughout the month of June, keeping with what both the California and United States governments do at civic buildings throughout our beautiful nation.

I did not usher in this tradition — it began in 2022, the year before I joined the board — but I was filled with joy to continue it. I've heard from dozens of community members who were brought to happy tears seeing the Pride flag flown at the courthouse. One community member said he never thought he would see something so affirming of his love and his very existence in his lifetime. Another resident, a young adult, said simply seeing the flag during Pride Month pulled them from a deep depression and gave them hope. I don't know why anyone else chooses to be an elected official, with all its many challenges and nearly insurmountable problems, but this is certainly the "why" for me — the chance to boldly and visibly stick up for the people of my community, in all their humanity.

This past weekend, someone took down the Pride flag at the courthouse and, according to an anonymous report filed through a local hate crime reporting portal that was shared with me by email, left it damaged at the base of the county's flagpole. The crime is under investigation and the precise details are still unclear. However, people noticed — particularly people for whom that flag was an affirmation of their lives and their worth. While no one was physically injured during this overt crime on Humboldt County property, the intention was clear: It was meant to harm and disparage people. To me and I hope to many of you, it is also a call to action to show up and unflinchingly support the community this act was intended to hurt.

Pride Month includes ample celebrations and joyful parades, physical symbols like flags, pennants and special attire, and events galore. While these are sometimes approached with a sparkly, even goofy lightness, we are in fact celebrating people's intrinsic and inviolable identity at these events and through these symbols. I want people who participate in and feel represented through Pride Month to feel safe, seen and supported. Pride represents a true rainbow of identities, including who people love and how people live as their truest and most genuine selves. The risk of not looking out for our community is clear: Increased risk of suicidal thoughts/actions, mental and behavioral health impacts, and physical health problems are the most pressing issues. Harming tourism, hurting our reputation as a safe place to be and impacting important processes like recruitment — of medical providers, students and teachers — are also notable.

What can each of us do to show up for our neighbors, family, friends and even perfect strangers who are hurt by this?

Speak up when people trivialize the importance of these symbols and the very identities of our fellow community members. (That includes trolling like, "Why can't we have a flag for robot appreciation month?" or "I identify as a werewolf.") These tropes are understandably painful for people whose true selves are the butt of the joke, and making clear that they're really not funny is an important act.

Learn about Pride Month, what it means for our nation and community, and how it is celebrated nationwide.

Show your support by joining local Pride events and/or future learning opportunities. Coming up, there is the Southern Humboldt Pride event on Saturday, June 22, in Redway, and the Ferndale Pride parade on Sunday, June 30. Busy this month? There are year-round activities to join. You can find more details about upcoming events organized by Queer Humboldt, Lost Coast Pride and other community partners at queerhumboldt.org/events-and-community-calendar.

I warmly invite you to take this not just as a mean-spirited attack that we can temporarily gripe about and then forget, but as an opportunity to take action or learn something new and lasting. After all, it's Pride Month and the advancement of civil rights for our fellow humans impacts us all.

The Pride flag will be back up before you read this and the celebration will continue year after year.

Natalie Arroyo (she/her) is Humboldt County's Fourth District supervisor.

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Natalie Arroyo

Natalie Arroyo

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