LGBT community's post-election fears lead to meeting

Farmington Police Department has had no reports of local hate-related crimes in the wake of the election, but officials say they support efforts to bring together the community to discuss concerns

Leigh Black Irvin

FARMINGTON — While some have expressed optimism about economic changes under a Trump administration, other community groups are becoming increasingly nervous about societal changes that could occur in the next four years.

Community member Joe Rivas, Identity Inc. board member James Penrod, Identity Inc. President Judy Palier and community member Mark Lewis attend a bi-weekly community meeting Wednesday at the organization's community center in downtown Farmington.

That includes members of the local LGBT community, many of whom say they are worried about an increase in hate crimes after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports there have been hundreds of bias-related incidents after Trump's election.

To address those concerns, Identity Inc. — a community group that aims to provide a safe place for those identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — is asking community leaders and allies to attend a Jan. 16 meeting at the center to discuss how the community can keep people safe.

The idea for the meeting came shortly after the election when members of San Juan College's LGBT club, SJC out, contact​ed Judy Palier, president of Identity Inc. and advisory board co-chair of Safe Zone, a college group that advocates for LGBT students.

"They wanted to meet with the Identity board to see if we could find a way through the great unknown of the next few years," Palier said.

A week after the election, about 30 people attended a meeting, hosted by Identity Inc., to discuss fears and concerns, Palier said.

"There were a number of straight allies and their spouses who attended, as well as two Muslim doctors from Indian Health Services in Shiprock. It was an interesting mix," she said. "The meeting really started getting depressing at one point, as people were talking about how worried and fearful they were."

But, Palier said, the discussion began to move in a more positive direction when participants focused on assets available in the community and the need for everyone to come together.

Community members gather for a meeting Wednesday at Identity Inc. in downtown Farmington.

"We realized that we have each other and realized we need to build a strong community and learn from each other," she said. "We started making a list of who our friends are in the community and also which institutions are our allies."

The list included local pastors who support the LGBT community, as well as the Farmington mayor, chief of the Farmington Police Department and several business owners who have shown support in the past. Palier ended up with a list of 40 groups or people, and late last month, she sent a letter inviting them to the Jan. 16 meeting.

Rather than an open-forum format, Palier said the meeting — which will also focus on ways to resist hate against racial and religious minorities, people with disabilities and immigrants — will provide a chance for participants to talk with one another.

Despite fears of increased hate directed at those in the LGBT community, Palier said she has not heard of any local incidents. But, she said, a rise in hate incidents across the country, as well as anti-LGBT talk on social media, had made those in the local community nervous.

"I know there have also been a lot of requests for personal safety classes (from those in the LGBT community), and we’re trying to work with the police department to set those up," she said. "It’s a combination of what we can do personally to keep ourselves safe and also what we can do together as a community."

The Farmington Police Department has had no reports of hate-related crimes since the election but has expressed support for Identity Inc.’s efforts to bring the community together to discuss fears and concerns.

"We’re always open to partner with different groups in the community and to be proactive," said Georgette Allen, a spokeswoman for the police department. "We’re here to provide equal protection under the law to everyone. Although people have different beliefs, it’s not OK to victimize anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, and we look for opportunities to make sure all community members and visitors are safe here."

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621. 

If you go

What: Identity Inc. community meeting

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 16

Where: Identity Inc., 218 W. Main St., Farmington

More info: Call 505-427-3383.