OCEANSIDE — Rainbow banners flew at the fourth annual Pride at the Beach festival on The Strand on Oct. 8. More than 3,000 people attended the all-day event that celebrated understanding and acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.
On stage speakers addressed the crowd and chorus groups and singers performed. Venders included gay and lesbian-friendly businesses, support organizations, health services and food sellers.
“The emphasis is that it is a family event,” said Max Disposti, executive director of North County LGBTQ Resource Center. “Our community is not only lesbians and gays. It is the community at large.”
The annual event has grown over the last four years. Pride at the Beach was held in the recreation center its first year and moved outside to the parking lot next to the amphitheater in following years as more venders were added.
Anti-bullying and suicide prevention remain a big focus of the event. LGBTQ Resource Center contributes to Gay and Straight Alliance clubs in local high schools. The clubs promote tolerance and understanding.
“They are a safe places in high schools that everyone can go to,” Disposti said. “Schools that have them have a lower dropout rate and more welcoming environment.”
Tolerance is also growing in the community, but there are still obstacles to overcome.
“In my opinion there is too much fear about others,” Disposti said. “No one is exempt from this.”
While laws protect the employment rights of gays and lesbians, a lack of tolerance in the workplace can cause discomfort and hurt feelings. Not being able to talk openly about family leads to a lack of human connection and frustration.
“We have an amazing diverse community,” Disposti said. “Having gay pride day in Oceanside would have been impossible five year ago. Today it isn’t.”
North County LGBTQ Resource Center is a nonprofit organization. The group currently works with local colleges and high schools and is in the process of opening its first resource center.
“The resource center will connect all those dots in North County,” Disposti said. “It will put people together in a more coordinated more visible effort. My hope is youth don’t need to waste the rest of life worrying about who they are.”
For more information on the LGBTQ Resource Center, log on northcountycoalition.org.