Yesterday’s vigil was a beautiful tribute to the late Jeffrey Robinson. It was bittersweet seeing people I haven’t seen in as many as 14 years, but it’s terrible it took such a profound loss to bring us all together again. Jeffrey was a giant in the Fresno LGBT community going back to the 1980s.
I met Jeffrey in fall 2007 when I was 17 years old. I was a senior at Kerman High School and I didn’t have any friends at school. My dad had just gotten out of jail and my life was quite tumultuous. I’d heard about GSA Network, but we didn’t have a club at KHS. That’s when I heard about this LGBT youth group at the Fresno Center for Non-violence.
I drove into town that Friday night and drove passed the building. I saw all of these kids of different backgrounds, different cliques, and fashion styles standing out front waiting for the meeting to start. It was the first time I was around other queer people who were my age and I was petrified. So I kept on driving and eventually went home to my grandparent’s farm in Kerman, telling myself I’d get the courage to actually park my car and go inside next week. I was too shy to go in that first time.
It took two more tries before I finally did park and go inside and that was truly the first night of the rest of my life. I instantly felt like I was home. These were my people. This was where I belonged, where I felt safe, the place I could find out who I really was.
Hearing the speakers at the vigil yesterday made me realize I am only one of hundreds, maybe thousands of ”Jeffrey’s Kids” who feel exactly the same way about him and the difference he made in our lives. I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that his dedication to supporting queer youth who are just trying to figure out their lives saved countless of us who struggled with living as out queer kids growing up in one of the most socially conservative areas of the state. Jeffrey Robinson was a hero, and Fresno’s LGBT community would be half of what it is today without his decades of service on behalf of all of us.
Rest in Power, Jeffrey Robinson.