First Hemet Pride Day planned for this Thursday
Event aims to raise awareness, prompt talk of LGBT issues
By Diane A. Rhodes
As the mother of a transgender child, Ashley Hanson knows firsthand the importance of education and awareness and the need to reduce the stigma associated with the LGBTQ community.
“My son, whose assigned gender at birth was female, knew since he could talk that internally he felt like a boy,” said Hanson, of Hemet. When he was about 8 or 9, he questioned his gender and was asked what his heart told him. Kameron said he felt like a boy.
“I knew in this moment that we weren’t just dealing with mental health challenges like he had been diagnosed with, but rather my son was truly trapped in a little girl’s body,” she said.
Hanson is one of several panelists who will share their journeys at the first Hemet Pride Day on Thursday at the Historic Hemet Theatre. The three-hour event will begin with a one-hour meet and greet at which resources and light refreshments will be provided. The next two hours will feature poetry, songs and some dance, and a screening of LGBTQ short films in addition to the panel presentations, all led by Master of Ceremonies Benita Ramsey.
The event was made possible through NAMI Mt. San Jacinto, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness; the MHSA Cultural Competency Program and Community Advocacy for Gender and Sexuality Issues (CAGSI)-LGBTQ Task Force; and Riverside University Health System Behavioral Health.
“We had the opportunity to apply for a small grant for an event from NAMI California and Each Mind Matters,” said Brenda Scott, executive director of NAMI Mt. San Jacinto. “There is a lot of discrimination in the LGBTQ community, and we wanted to raise awareness of the issues and provide resources to the families and friends and members of this community.”
Hanson said her 17-yearold son, who will be at the Hemet event, struggled socially because he always had to conform to societal standards.
“At age 15, Kameron decided he had had enough pain, low self-esteem, social anxiety, hospitalizations and thoughts of suicide and embraced his true self,” Hanson said. “He thrives being open about being a boy and having his family support him every day.”
Hanson said she wanted to be included in the Hemet Pride Day to share tolerance,acceptance, support, love and Kameron’s story from a parent’s perspective even though she is a senior TAY (transitional age youth) peer specialist for children’s mental health at Riverside University Health System Behavioral Health and sits on its transgender workgroup developing trainings and best practices for all Riverside County children’s clinics and staff. The Riverside TAY resource center provides an LGBTQ Tea Time and a parent support group.
“Transgender youth have an increased risk of suicide and mental health challenges,” Hanson said. “These children need the support of knowledgeable and compassionate doctors, clinicians, behavioral health specialists, teachers and all other community members so they too can become responsible and productive members of our community. Every day, I pray that events like Hemet Pride Day will bring people to the table for open communication and dialogue and to encourage the idea that fear is a liar and education is key.”
Ashley Hanson, right, with her son Kameron, will share her experience of being the mother of a transgender child.
COURTESY OF ASHLEY HANSON
Scott said the event will provide a great opportunity to learn a personal perspective on the LGBTQ community.
“Any time we hear a personal story, it helps us to understand another person’s personal journey,” Scott said. “As with any other life event, it varies from person to person.”