By Patrick MacFarland
LGBT leadership in San Diego has come a long way. Since 1993, when Christine Kehoe broke the ceiling as the first openly LGBT elected official in San Diego, and 2005, when Steve Padilla became the first LGBT mayor in the county, our representation has grown dramatically.
The first female president pro tempore of the California Senate, Toni Atkins, is a lesbian from San Diego. There are political districts where being a member of the LGBT community is all but a prerequisite to run, and even the Republican mayor of San Diego seeks LGBT support in the age of Trump. The influence of the community should not be underestimated in both local and state politics.
Elsewhere in the county, however, being an out and proud member of our community is still seen by political opponents as something to be weaponized on the campaign trail.
I am running for City Council in Chula Vista. South Bay is culturally more conservative than much of the rest of San Diego, and LGBT community members are often not treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. South Bay doesn’t have a fully functional LGBT Community Center like Hillcrest does. Up until a few months ago, our youth and seniors had nowhere to go when they were targeted.
This is part of why I’m running for office. Not because I’m gay, but as a gay man. Younger members of our community in South Bay need examples. They can look to people like Councilmember Padilla and myself and know that it is possible to be respected, be a community leader and be gay.
Unfortunately, this has come with some unexpected drama from a source I would not have expected: one of my Democratic opponents.
A few years ago, I wrote and published a book called “Plum Crazy.” It’s not secret. I’m proud of it and count it as one of my favorite personal accomplishments. (It didn’t sell as well as I would have liked, but hey.) It’s easily searched on the Internet and I assumed it would be a non-issue.
“Plum Crazy” is a story about a dysfunctional family that deals with alcoholism, gambling addiction, drug addiction, homophobia and racism. The book is intended for mature audiences because of the difficult subject matter as well as a few explicit scenes of physical intimacy.
It’s probably not hard to guess that the protagonists in the book are gay; and that the physical intimacy takes place between two gay men.
Recently, one of my opponents has taken pages of the book and shown it to supporters, implying that it is some kind of problem. Unsurprisingly, this sways none of my supporters. The attempt to discredit me has been met with shrugs and questions about tactics and motivation.
It is imperative that this kind of campaign tactic be called what it is: homophobic.
Plain and simple: If the characters in my book had been straight, my opponent wouldn’t think it could be used against me. Stirring up homophobia and weaponizing gayness should be off limits for “leaders” in San Diego County, especially those who call themselves a Democrat and have served in leadership positions in the Democratic Party.
I have never hidden the fact that I am a proud member of the LGBT community, and I will not allow my community to be thrown under the bus for political gain. The people of Chula Vista deserve a debate about the future of the city on the merits of the issues and the differences between the ideas and experiences of each candidate.
The Trump administration has placed a target on the back of the entire South Bay region. Chula Vista needs a fresh vision and fresh leadership to solve problems and have the backbone to stand up to hate and protect vulnerable communities. My diverse roots, as a gay man and the son of a Mexican immigrant, are a strength in these times. This perspective gives me the motivation to stand up for those who need it.
According to the FBI, hate crimes in San Diego County are up 117 percent. I will not stand for rhetoric that contributes to hatred and puts lives in danger. LGBT people and immigrants are both disproportionally impacted by these crimes. This fight is personal for me. But it’s not about me — it’s about the lives of the people who call our region home.
To my homophobic opponent, I say this: Shame on you. Shame on you for stirring hatred and contributing to a culture that puts Chula Vistans at risk.
Stick to challenging me on the issues. We can fight it out over the things that Chula Vistans care about. I will fight for public safety. I will fight for affordable housing. I will fight for more jobs. I will fight for accessible government. And I will fight for the people of Chula Vista when they need me to stand up to people like you.
Patrick MacFarland is a candidate for Chula Vista City Council in District 2.