Candace is one of those people that when you talk with her you feel like she truly cares about what you have to say. So many people fake niceties and you can tell they are not really invested in knowing anything about you. That couldn’t be further from what it is like when talking to Candace. She has a loving heart, and having her as an ally to help fight the battle for LGBTQ+ equality and justice is phenomenal.
When I decided to do this project I knew that I needed to have the voice of allies as well as those that are members of the community. Candace was the first person that I thought of when I was trying to figure out who to ask to be part of this.
Candace: Hi, my name is Candace Valenzuela and this is Jacinto, and I'm a school board trustee for Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD. I'm also a candidate for United States Congress in Texas' 24th district.
TMP: What does Pride Month mean to you?
Candace: Pride month is a few things, but I'll say that it's quintessentially American. First off, because it's a rebellion. The first Pride that happened in Dallas, as I'm sure many people watching know, happened about a year after the Stonewall riots, and that pride month, that time I know is a celebration of the time that folks really stood up for themselves and stood up for it for the LGBTQ+ community, and it's just been rolling forward ever since, over the past almost 50 years. Now we're starting to see how Pride has become more beautiful, more inclusive, more intersectional as a celebration. It's also a time of reflection for all of the struggle that has occurred and all of the struggle we have yet to encounter as both people who are members of the community and people who are allies. People who know that we're not going to be free or equal until we're all free and until we're all equal.
TMP: For those that feel they are alone and unable to come out, what message do you have for them?
Candace: If you feel like you're alone and you feel as though you're unable to come out, there are a few things that you can do in order to prepare yourself to be able to do this. First off, try to make sure you surround yourself with people that you trust. I know that that's not always easy if you're a kid or if you're in a vulnerable place, but do what you can where you can. Another thing I would highly recommend is journaling. Journaling is really good to kind of just get your thoughts in order as you make sense about who you are and what you hope to be. Try to make sure that wherever you journal or wherever you record your thoughts, you have it in a safe place.
And finally, above all else, there are a lot of people have put themselves on the line for you to be able to be who you are and if you need to wait until you are in a safe space to do so to come out to folks, do that. Don't wait your whole life, but make sure that you are not in any physical danger when you are trying to express yourself and be who you are, because more than anything else we need you alive.
TMP: As an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, what advice would you give to others that also like to be an ally?
Candace: An ally is not a label or something that you get after working a certain amount of time. There isn't some sort of ally certificate. Allyship, just like love, is a verb. You have to do it constantly and in various ways. If it's in your workplace, making sure that your workplace is inclusive. Making sure that policies take care of everyone and that they're equitable is one way you can be an ally. Another way that you can be an ally is just by listening, by being there in support of your friends, of the LGBTQ+ community. Making sure that even if you don't quite understand everything that you hear or that you see, that you approach with love and with open-mindedness and with support, trying very much to respect other people's processes, other people's places, and not trying to insert yourself so forcefully in the narrative that your friends or people that you're advocating on behalf of don't feel unsafe around you.
TMP: What is something that you would like to say to those viewing this, that we have not specifically covered?
Candace: Equity is not born of complacency. Equity is bought for. Equity is maintained with love, with compassion, and with diligence. We have come a long way in this country in our celebration of our rights and in celebration of Pride, but it's not over and we have to keep working.
A big thank you to Candace for being a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and an all around amazing person.