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By Cilladean Hopkins for Ledger Dispatch

Cilladean Hopkins

Hello reader, I am so happy you are here with me today! My name is Cilladean Hopkins and my pronouns are They/Them. I am a 2019 graduate from Amador High and originally from Ione. After my graduation I moved to Humboldt County to attend Dell’Arte International: School of Physical Theater for their professional training program. In 2020, I completed the program. I am still living in Humboldt and now work as an Administrative Assistant for the Ferndale Reperatory Theatre while running my own jewelry business called Queer Tears Creations.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to write this column and I bet you are wondering what this is even about! This column will be exclusively for op-ed and historical pieces specific to the LGBTQ+ community of rural Amador County.

Community building and work has always been essential in everything I do. While attending Amador High I had the opportunity to be a part of the Soroptimist Service Club and served as the President my Senior year. I was very active in the Drama department all four years, working as the Jr. High Drama Program Coordinator for 2 years and the Drama Club Vice President for my Senior year. Amador Arts has also been present for my high school career and beyond; for 3 years I served as a Student Director for Amador Arts.

Without all of these programs, I would not be where I am as an artist or person today. They were able to be spaces where I could be myself in-full, especially the Drama Room. The Drama Room was my home for 6 years, somewhere where I could meet other kids like me and I could be queer without fearing for my safety.

I will be honest when I say that it was hard to live in Amador County as a queer kid who didn’t even fully know who they were or how to navigate new discoveries of identity. When I moved away, I could feel a difference in how I carried myself. I was able to discover that I am a nonbinary person and explore what that means without being questioned or shamed by every person I met. Truthfully, I felt free.

Being able to see people that looked like me, have lived the similar life as me, and felt the same feeling about their own identity was one of the biggest eye-openers for my own self discovery of identity. I didn’t discover that I was nonbinary until I was 20 and this is because I didn’t even know this identity exists and could look different to each individual person. I have always known that I was different, never really fitting in or aligning with what it can mean to be a woman. Even though I knew this, I never had a safe space to explore and didn’t have access to the language that would help me look deeper into myself.

This column is intended to provide visibility first and foremost for the LGBTQ+ community of rural Amador County because, whether you believe it or not, there are queer people in your neighborhood. They are our neighbors, our teachers, our friends, and even our family whether you know it or not. It is so important to see people like ourselves and see people that are unlike ourselves. I want this column to provide space for all the children and adults alike who do not feel seen and who are afraid to talk about their identity because of bigoted rhetoric seen all throughout Amador County. This is a space to learn and to listen. A space to question what we know and believe. And, of course, this is a space to grow!

I believe one of the most important aspects of self growth is being exposed to people and ideas that you didn’t even know existed. We must challenge what we believe is the “right” way to be a person because there is no one way to live. When we see people that are different from ourselves, we can start to question ourselves and allow space for our own being to expand. Who knows, maybe the people we think are the furthest from ourselves are actually the most similar.

If, as you read this column you start to feel defensive or mad, I ask that you take a moment to stop and think. Think about where these feelings are coming from. Are you mad because you do not understand or because you have never lived this life? Are you afraid of those who know themselves deeply because you do not know yourself in that way? Are you yourself complacent in the world we live in and fear a challenge or change?

It’s okay to have these feelings but it is not okay to project them on people you do not know or understand. I hope you can take a moment to think about how you might feel if you were in your community and everyone around you was telling you that you don’t belong; that your inherent being and identity is somehow wrong even though you are just trying to exist as your true self. Because this is what it feels like living in Amador County as an LGBTQ+ person.

Thank you for taking the time to read this column and to listen to what I have to say. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or column suggestions feel free to contact me directly at

See you in the next one!

Cilladean Hopkins is a member of the volunteer team called “#OUT4Mental Health Amador Taskforce”. Along with other local LGBTQ+ folks and allies, Cilladean works to advance mental health for all people in Amador County, especially historically under-served LGBTQ+ locals. To be a part of this taskforce, contact Amador County Arts Council at or 209-256-8166. This activity is supported by a grant from Health Access Foundation and the California LGBT+ Health and Human Services Network.

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