LGBT Alliance continues mission of preserving Laguna’s gay identity
By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
Laguna Beach Realtor Chris Tebbutt is proud to show his sons the rainbow flag flying above Laguna Beach City Hall through June 30 because for the first time, their hometown is overtly showing its support for their two-dad family.
If that wasn’t a clear enough message, pride flags also adorn six parking meters in front of city hall through Sunday.
“It’s always been important to me that my kids see their lives reflected,” Tebbutt said. “When they see the [pride] flag, they see their lives reflected in the town.”
Tebbutt helped found the Laguna Beach LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Heritage & Culture Committee in March 2017 to strengthen the gay community’s sense of belonging and honor its history in Laguna Beach. Among the group’s members are representatives of Visit Laguna, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Susi Q Center, the Laguna Beach Unified School District, the Laguna Beach Police Department, local businesses, and residents.
The City Council’s decision to display the Pride Flag at City Hall sends a signal to young gay people that they are safe in Laguna Beach and honors gay senior citizens for their contributions to the city’s colorful history, Tebbutt said.
“It makes their lives a little easier to know that their city supports them,” he said. “It’s that basic human need to feel like they belong.”
One of the first actions the LGBT Heritage & Cultural Committee took after its inception was to petition the Laguna Beach City Council to declare June as LGBT Heritage and Culture Month in perpetuity. However, there were some members of the Laguna Beach gay community, like Craig Cooley, who felt that there needed to be a year-round presence, which led to the Committee’s creation of Laguna Beach Pride 365.
“We wanted to be involved in the community and be more than just a party,” Cooley said.
Now the president of Laguna Beach Pride 365, Cooley said the organization wants to support local charities and have a very important part in supporting Laguna Beach’s diversity. In the near future, he would like to see the organization coordinate bonfire nights and clean-up projects to give back to the community.
“I think for so long, the gay community had been marginalized, not just here, but globally, and it still is marginalized in a lot of locations,” Cooley said. “With greater acceptance, marriage equality, and other wonderful things happening, the gay community is more sharing of themselves than they have been in the past.”
A couple of months ago, Tebbutt and his fellow members decided to change the name of the Laguna Beach LGBT Heritage and Culture Committee to the Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage and Culture Alliance to avoid confusion with the Heritage and HIV Advisory committees that were created by the Laguna Beach City Council.
Under its new name, the Alliance hosted economist Richard Florida in April for the Diversity & Creative Economy Symposium at the Montage Laguna Beach, where Florida spoke about the economic benefits for communities who embrace tolerance and creativity. Bank of America and the Laguna Beach Company were named as the event’s top sponsors.While the event wasn’t a fundraiser, any excess proceeds went to Laguna Beach Pride 365, Club Q Laguna, and The Blaze Bernstein Memorial Fund, according to the Alliance’s website.
Another initiative the Alliance has worked on is meeting with School Resource Officer Cpl. Cornelius Ashton and members of the Laguna Beach Police Department’s business liaison unit to establish a positive relationship between local cops and the gay community if anti-gay bullying or harassment is ever reported.
In the year to come, Tebbutt would like to establish either a walking or trolley tour of significant landmarks for Laguna Beach’s gay community, which would include the Garden of Peace and Love at the end of Mountain Road and the former site of the legendary gay bar, the Boom Boom Room. Some groundwork for this project has already been laid through audio reflections from Laguna Beach’s gay seniors posted on storycorps.org.
“I think this will be a year of discovery for where the Alliance goes from here,” Tebbutt said. “I’m just excited about where we may go next.”
Laguna Beach Pride Events
Today kicks off the annual Laguna Beach Pride celebration, with an array of events in town Friday through Sunday:
Friday, May 31:
- Welcome happy hour & kick-off dance party
Saturday, June 1:
- Laguna Canyon Nature Hike
- Drag Bingo Pride Brunch
- Laguna Beach Pride Festival
Sunday, June 2:
- West Street Beach Pride Party
- Pride Closing Tea-Dance
Mayor Bob Whalen will be at this year’s Pride Festival on Saturday, June 1, at 7 p.m. on the main entertainment stage of Seven7Seven, 777 Laguna Canyon Road. Whalen will introduce Congressman Harley Rouda, who will speak on issues facing the community, the power of diversity, and his optimism for a bright future.