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Nov 9 - Dec 31, 2023

SPOTLIGHT: Salinas Valley Pride Celebrations; Monterey Peninsula Pride

Out and Proud

Monterey Peninsula Pride and Salinas Valley Pride
Celebrations are broadening their reach and inclusivity.

By Agata Popeda

People are more comfortable around those who can relate to their life experiences. Period. So when Crystal Libby, now 30, moved to East Garrison in 2018 from Berkeley she was looking around for any signs of LGBTQ+ presence. She did not see many signs. “People don’t know they exist,” she says about the community of Salinas Valley Pride she encountered one Thursday. “People don’t know there is a place to go.”

But they do indeed exist, and there is a place to go. That is thanks to the efforts of two nonprofits—Monterey Peninsula Pride and Salinas Valley Pride Celebrations—each organizing events and outreach.

The funny thing is that Monterey Peninsula has a long tradition of pride parades, but that somehow ceased to exist around 2010, says Tyller Williamson, one of the people who resurrected the concept as a founder of Monterey Peninsula Pride in 2017. “There was a sense of need in the community,” he says. “People decided: Let’s go out and celebrate our queerness.”

Pride groups have been popping up in hundreds of small and big locations around the country, but there’s not a lot of structure, Williamson says. Things are very grassroots and there is a lot of cooperation and cross-pollination. “Naturally, we do a lot of work together with Salinas Valley Pride,” he says. “We try to be there for each other.”

With more traditional pride parades off the table last year due to Covid, all four regional pride organizations— Monterey Peninsula, Salinas Valley, plus others in Watsonville and Santa Cruz—came together to create a virtual event, “Connected in Pride.”

Libby wasn’t exactly sure what her contribution would look like when she got involved with Salinas Valley Pride, but she was immediately accepted and empowered to pursue a project. Now she is finishing building a directory of local LGBTQ-friendly businesses. “People seek that kind of information,” she says. “Maybe you’re looking for a dentist, or a massage therapist, and you want to be comfortable. People still

deal with prejudice.” The directory will be completed soon and will be made available to the community.

Each nonprofit is raising funds through Monterey County Gives! to give wings to talent and make this community stronger.