This past weekend, I did something that up until recently, I would have been afraid to do.
I walked hand-in-hand through downtown Lodi with my partner, Cris.
It was a nice day. We had gone to a Lodi Rainbow Project (LRP)meeting.
The meeting was at a downtown business and we discussed plans for the year. The Lodi Rainbow Project is a lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) organization founded in 2012 to be a catalyst for personal growth, acceptance and equality for LGBTQ+ people and their allies in the Lodi area.
The LRP is the only community LGBTQ+ organization besides high school Gay-Straight Alliances.
After the meeting ended, we window shopped. We stopped for food and then walked home.
In the past I would not have done this.
I was too afraid of the reaction of others. I cared too much about others opinions and actions. I was scared and was not wanting to be so noticeable in a town I viewed as ultra conservative.
Yes, we did get some reaction. Passersby looked longer than usual. A woman passing in an SUV drove by with her jaw dropped.
The walk was only about an hour and a half around downtown, but taking note of my surroundings it seemed longer.
“Oh my god, gay people,” said teenagers riding by on bikes. Some people pointed from their cars, but nothing more.
We were not harassed or harmed in anyway.
I was surprised.
To me Lodi had a vibe of “ultra conservative.”
It comes across as a “hold your Bibles and shun the rest” type of community. While growing up in Manteca, I heard people talk about Lodi as the conservative small town that clings to religion.
But we were not shunned in a way I was expecting.
I felt we were a normal couple accepted by most, and ignored by the rest.
This may be due to Lodi becoming more like home to me, or as my partner would say I am part of those that come to Lodi and fall in love with it.
I agree, I do love the town.
I understand that being in a new place may take a while, but I was also apprehensive because of what I have heard before moving here.
I grew up in southern San Joaquin County. Manteca is my hometown. Lodi is my new home.
Since moving to Lodi in 2012, the town has grown on me. I am also slowly learning the ultra-conservative view I held is only partially true.
Lodi does have a long way to go toward being a truly equal place, proven by the reaction to the Lodi Rainbow Project being in the Parade of Lights last December.
While the parade was in progress, members of the LRP did get glares and stares by people, and some chose to yell obscenities at us as we passed.
Parents told their children to make rude comments and gestures. All the while members of the LRP did not react; we smiled and waved, wishing everyone cheer in this holiday season.
These letters to the editor in the Lodi News-Sentinel claimed that we were strutting our sexuality around and how we forced our views on the parade, which was not a religious event.
The parade was a holiday light parade to celebrate the Lodi Community as a whole, and that is what we in the LRP did we walked wishing everyone holiday cheer, next to a car that was decked out in Christmas lights.
But I think Lodi will become more accepting in the future.