By Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
On June 9, the North County LGBTQ Resource Center held its annual gala, “Leading with Love” at the Leichtag Foundation Coastal Roots Farm to raise money for its ongoing programs and services to the North County LGBTQ community.
The afternoon was filled with music by Celeste and Dogfish Jazz Collection, Mystery Boxes sold by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a silent art auction of local queer artist Patrick Brown, direct donations and live auctions filled the afternoon with entertainment, powerful testimonies and recognition of the many people and organizations that support the Resource Center year-round.
Ruby Empress XL Ajax emceed the afternoon events which aimed to support more homeless youth, serve more marginalized and disadvantaged people through its diversity of programs. This signature events is the cornerstone of what keeps the Resource Center’s doors open as it serves thousands of people each year.
Executive Director Max Disposti recognized several openly gay elected officials that came in support of the Resource Center. He also recognized corporate sponsors and local organizations for their support, including Harrah’s Resort & Casino who donated $15,000 to the Resource Center. Sister Ida Know from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was presented with the Resource Center’s Ambassador of the Year award.
“We started this gala nearly 10 years ago,” Disposti said. “I would say for the past 11 years we have done everything we could to grow our support circle, and we have. Despite all of the great work we have been doing, it hasn’t come without a price. The center has been vandalized several times over the past few years, last time just a few weeks ago. Perhaps it was a people that don’t agree with what we do or just a reminder that homophobia and transphobia still exist. But they got the message that we are still here to stay.”
Disposti said that many people told him in the beginning the Resource Center would not be accepted in North County, especially being such a military town.
“But, this coming Wednesday our local service members are having their own Pride parade and we are invited as their guest of honor,” Disposti said. “Never underestimate where queer people can be. We are truly everywhere. That should be noted that we are definitely making a difference here.”
Disposti said it has been a struggle in LGBTQ local history and things have changed, but said, “We have had to fight for these things to change.”
“Despite some of these achievements, despite marriage equality, still coming out as a gay trans person in Escondido, or even here in Encinitas is not an easy thing to do,” Disposti continued. “We talk to these people every day who are struggling with their families. They find themselves out on the street when their family finds out that they are trans. These are real numbers, not just ideas. Forty percent of our LGBTQ youth happen to be homeless due to lack of support from their families. And those are the ones we are helping every day. We want this to go away. This is about your heart and your mind. It’s about loving people for who they are.”
Disposti said there are a few things that keep them up at night. Just in the last few month trans troops have been banned to serve. “We want our allies, all of our allies, to speak up,” he said. “Just in the past few weeks, trans people are being denied in shelters. In the time of life when they need the most help, people can be rejected from shelters, even if they are publicly funded because of religious rights. Here in California we can get by with that, but the majority of the states don’t have any protection for LGBTQ people. So we have a war on our hands.”
Gregory Richardson said that the Resource Center did wonderful things for him as a transgender person of color.
“Whenever I share my coming out story to others I am always reminded as a child I would ask my parents to have a younger brother,” he said. “I was fascinated by this idea of brotherhood. I wanted to possess the traits of this brother figure, with a deep voice, a beard and being recognized as a boy. So when I was confronted for wearing t-shirts and shorts or for dancing wildly shirtless with my male friends on hot summer days, I didn’t see a difference between them and me.”
Richardson said he didn’t understand why they used the boy’s bathroom and he had to use the girls and he didn’t understand why there was a difference of playing equally.
“When I finally began to come out, I didn’t fully recognize my identity. I researched as much as I could from famous trans people, different types of surgery procedures and legal rights,” Richardson continued. “I realized there was a chance for me to really explore this. However, my life at home kept me from fully being myself because I was harassed emotionally and physically for not shaving, for kissing girls, wearing suits and presenting as masculine. I secretly worked at the North County center because I wanted to learn and give as much as I could for my same age range and to learn about the history. At my lowest point in high school I faced a deeper abusive relationship with a partner whose own internal homophobia kept me from being out. I struggled with self-acceptance as many LGBTQ youth have and also struggled with anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal attempts.”
Richardson said being a part of the Resource Center and an activist for people his age it gave him an entirely sense of purpose, and he built a life out of the ashes that he had buried himself in.
“My toxic family had destroyed my sense of self-worth,” Richardson said. “So when I was kicked out early last year, I was completely helpless and alone. I got used to sleeping in my car, got used to the moldy smell when it rained and leaked through the windshield. I was addicted to peanut butter, bananas and rice cakes and it was easy for me to stay in school from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. because I didn’t have any other place to go. But soon this transformed into a life that is more substantial and grateful that I can appreciate to say and when I finally reached out for help I got another chance to make things right. I found myself humbled and overwhelmed having nice warm showers and a place to sleep. I can’t explain how positive my life has been since the Unicorn Homes program started and the support that I received from Unicorn Homes but everybody who is at this table today and students and teachers that motivated me to graduate as well. When I did go out for graduation, I heard the name I chose for myself called out on the stage. I thank the Resource Center every day for making the platform that I needed to shine.”
— Albert Fulcher can be reached at email@example.com.