By Max Disposti | North County Update
It was just a year ago when in this column we first announced our move. Since then we have dueled with construction, scheduling, permits, money (lack of) and all of the fun stuff that makes moving something that you want to run away from.
Well, now it’s really done and the results are here for everyone to see. We moved a mile away from our original location in a space that is double the size (2,500 square feet), half the rent and it was designed and built the way we wanted.
It was a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) that made this move possible, but a collaboration with the city of Oceanside helped us find the site and with the approval process. While CDBGs are federally funded, they require City Council approval to move them forward. Our application got almost unanimous approval with the exception of one — expected — “Nay” vote from Jack Feller, (now up for re-election- hint, hint).
Years have passed from when the need to create community in Oceanside was faced with ostracism and the kind of indifference that resembled the silence of certain bystanders when they witnessed bullying or discrimination. The North County LGBTQ Resource Center is now on the map, not only when you Google it but also for the political presence that it represents. We increased our programming and services and the number of people we now employ. We received grants on human trafficking and on divulging education on HIV prevention, but we have also developed LGBTQI competency training that we brought to other nonprofit organizations, mental health providers, school districts and even law enforcement.
We are not the same; we grew into the reality we used to dream of eight years ago.
Despite all of these great efforts, we still feel that what we do is not enough. We have lost kids to suicide, we have no place for the many homeless youth that knock at our door and we can’t yet fully accommodate all the poor, the hungry, the fearful, and those who are running away from violence and discrimination. We do it, but it is not enough.
For those of you that struggle to understand the role of an LGBT Center post-marriage equality, try to see if you can offer some of your time — even just a few hours per week — to volunteer here at the North County Center or in San Diego. The reality of needs that are not yet met will soon overwhelm you.
There is definitely much more to do despite the incredible progress of the past 10 years. This is because the reality is changing and so are the people that need our Center. The intersectionality of being transgender and a person of color and the fear of becoming a target permeates our daily conversations and the reality many of us live.
Being an immigrant or a refugee and fearing to return to a country that is persecuting you because of who you are, but yet not feeling welcomed here, is also who LGBT people are.
Those struggling with breaking away from the pattern of domestic violence and rape — that many of our youngest women often experience in their own home and colleges — is also whom we serve. Sexual orientation and gender identity in this context of human rights cannot fully represent who we are, but it certainly reflects that complexity and the contradiction of the world we live in. LGBT Centers should aim to become the centers of this new reality, where leadership for a better tomorrow are created, forged and launched from within.
From “The little Center that could” we expect even more: We want to be a place where everyone can find refuge, acceptance, and safety, but also where they can cultivate the same strength and courage that we all saw and experienced in the days post-Orlando.
—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.