The struggle for equality: A first-hand account in La Mesa
by Jen Lothspeich
As many La Mesans can attest to, realtor-turned-city councilmember Laura Lothian likes to cause drama. I’m not sure if it’s to distract from all the real issues at hand, or if she’s just one of those people without any real problems, so she has to create them.
I have plenty of real problems – among them: being a newly-widowed, single mom to a toddler; recently losing a good friend and seeing her family suffer in the way I am; and watching politicians who actively try to take our small joys away.
Whatever noble reason she had in mind, Lothian’s ill-conceived proposal to not fly a Pride flag at town hall in La Mesa during Pride month blew up in her face, leaving a trail of rainbow glitter in its wake.
I could not be more proud of the place I was born and raised.
Myself, my niece, and a few dozen other allies and queers crowded into the La Mesa Town Hall chamber on Tuesday, March 23, to offer fiery public comments opposing Lothian’s amendment during the La Mesa City Council’s twice-monthly meeting.
At issue was Lothian’s proposal, “Consideration of Directing Staff to Amend the Policy for the Display of Flags at City Facilities to Only Allow the Display of Government Flags at City Hall,” which in layman’s terms meant putting a stop to La Mesa’s annual raising of the LGBTQ Pride flag.
I said it that night (yes, in a rainbow halter top) and I’ll say it again — what a waste of time.
There was at least one older woman — who actually resides in Alpine — who showed up in loose support of Lothian, saying she’d prefer to see a “sanctity of life” flag (i.e., an anti-choice flag) raised. I would like to counter that ours is a sanctity of love flag, which is the essence of life; plus it’s cuter. The Alpine resident, Mary Davis, later spoke with News 8 reporter Richard Allyn (visit bit.ly/3oEwJ3m to watch full interview) about her critiques.
“I’m really looking for the city to be neutral,” Davis told News 8. “Because if we go down the identity politics rabbit hole, where does it end?”
And here, dear reader is the dog whistle.
“Identity politics” is a way to label something as “other.” Lothian even recently posted a shameful video on Instagram mocking the words “equity,” “inclusivity,” and “diversity” by suggesting making them into a game (to watch her video, visit bit.ly/3C2dRyg). Making these important concepts simple fodder for a drinking game highlights the mockery Lothian also makes of public office. Because somehow wanting fairness and a beautiful, varied representation offends her and her ilk.
And a flag of vibrant (God-made?) colors to make myself and my niece and my other queer friends and family feel safe and worthy is a threat to someone? Like I say about anything in this world, if you don’t like it — look away.
Of course, Lothian made sure to paint herself as the victim in all this — noting that she’s half Guatemalan and her “best friends are lesbians.” You can imagine the collective sighs and rolled eyes in the room for pulling the race and friendship cards. Those things don’t absolve you from bigotry. In fact, I think Laura being a woman of color and having queer friends makes her behavior on the council that much more disturbing.
As the night wore on, several media outlets also covered Carlsbad Unified School District’s decision to not raise a Pride flag for June (to learn more, visit bit.ly/45FZKfO), reaffirming why we make signs and chants to try to remind the bigots that we’re constituents, too.
Back in La Mesa, Lothian’s arguments for even bringing this “matter” to the council rang hollow. It wasn’t even brought to a vote. She said herself she knew it wouldn’t go anywhere, but asserted that a rainbow flag is a gateway for other groups with a multitude of “causes” asking for flags.
Well, Laura, this isn’t a cause. This is life or death; especially for our kids.
Representation matters, and if that makes me woke, I’ll wear that title like a crown.
I, for one, am calling on Lothian to resign.
–Jen Lothspeich is a local digital content specialist, a passionate freelance writer, and a mom.
Editor’s Note: The Gilbert Baker website, which honors his life and work (Gilbert was the creator of the original rainbow Pride flag), has launched a “Save the Rainbow” campaign. You can see (on a map) all the locations across the nation that have passed laws banning the Pride flag or making sure it does not get raised for Pride month. The website asks for the public’s support in sharing when other state, city, or local school district rules or laws occur that are not already identified on the map, to keep it current. To learn more, visit gilbertbaker.com/save-the-rainbow.