By Max Disposti | North County Update
When The North County LGBTQ Resource Center first found a place to call home in December 2011, we already knew that we’d soon outgrow our cute little space.
Within those 1,400 square feet, we worked tirelessly to catch up with all the needs and hopes of thousands of North County residents.
This year, thanks to the collaboration of the city of Oceanside and their growing interest in serving our LGBT families and individuals, the Center will be moving into a 2,500-square-foot storefront office a little bit more inland, but properly served by public transportation. A federal grant from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) made this move possible and soon our new space, which is in need of renovation, will begin to take shape, with a move date of Nov. 1 expected.
Because of the many activities, mostly run by volunteer efforts, our current Center was early baptized as “The Little Center that could.” We have created a safe but visible place in the heart of Oceanside, merely hundreds of feet from the entry gates of Camp Pendleton.
The news of moving into a bigger place came at the right time, but similar to every move, we are sad as we recollect the many memories that this place has created. Thousands of people have walked through these doors and brought with them stories of isolation, family rejection, fear and desperation but also hope and dreams and ideas for a better future. Here, we have celebrated our legislative victories and hosted many events, but we have also mourned and cried for our loved ones.
I remember that soon after we opened, people would just walk in, attracted by the visible and inviting rainbow flags and chairs, and then silently start to cry. They were in disbelief of what we had accomplished in the heart of Oceanside, where only 10 years before, being a visible LGBT person would have come with a price. This is a scenario that our volunteers and I witnessed for months, with people finding creative ways to walk in without being seen by the public.
Our visible presence — and the work of our volunteers and the determination and tenacious effort of our board of directors — turned this dream into a true experience.
I am also grateful to our courageous youth, who despite their struggle through the tragic losses of our dear friends (Sage, Taylor and Kayle), have begged us ever since to keep going, and surrounded us with love and words of encouragement. I am personally grateful for their courage, determination and patience in understanding how sometimes change happens quite slowly. They are the reason why we keep fighting.
We still have so much to do. Thousands more need to be reached in North County and many still do not even know that we are here. However, we hope that our next new location will increase our programs and activities and give space to the new and old comers. So much work went in and yet we are just at our beginning. So many more moves are in store for our future and each and every one will come with stories of new acceptance and love.
Let’s reduce the gaps that distance our LGBT families and individuals from having access to vital and needed services. Let’s reduce the poverty, the stigma and the racial and gender discrimination that still afflicts so many even here in our county. Let’s make sure no more trans* youth will have to take their own lives and can instead live in an environment free from violence and hate. One LGBT Center at a time, together we can make community and change a possibility.
—Max Disposti is a human rights activist, a community organizer and the founder and executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.