OCEANSIDE — The North County LGBTQ Resource Center held its fourth annual town hall meeting to share its yearly accomplishments and future goals Jan. 30.
Financials, programs and outreach efforts were discussed along with the news of recently appointed city, police and fire department liaisons. Neighborhood Services Director Margery Pierce, police Lt. Leonard Cosby and fire battalion Chief Felipe Rodriguez will serve as liaisons.
The center took a big step to expand its outreach to Oceanside Unified School District last year with teacher and staff sensitivity training on LGBTQ students.
Trained teachers can display a rainbow sticker to let students know their classroom is a safe zone and LGBTQ slurs will not be tolerated.
Along with the positive impacts the center is having, grim statistics were shared. For example, one in four transgender individuals commits suicide or is murdered.
Also, same sex marriage is legal in 36 states, but it is allowable to fire someone based on their sexual orientation in 29 states.
Max Disposti, center founder and executive director, summed up social challenges that still exist.
“In Alabama you can get married, and get fired for being gay,” Disposti said.
Needs for services were also shared and brought home by testimonies of family members of LGBTQ individuals.
Michelle Powers, a mother of two sons, one who is transgender, shared her experience. She grew up in the southern Bible belt with strong religious convictions and little knowledge about transgender individuals. Her daughter Hanna told her that he was a boy inside a girl’s body. Powers took the steps to learn and understand more about transgenders to help her transgender son, now named Hayden, through the transition process. She said the PFLAG support group was a big help to her and her family.
“A shift happens,” Powers said. “There are 30 other families in the group, now I have people I can talk to.”
Powers said she is forever changed, and is a more compassionate person now.
Councilman Chuck Lowery also shared his gratitude for the work of Disposti, the center and how far Oceanside has come since the 1950s.
Lowery said his father is gay, and it was difficult for him to watch the discrimination his father faced. He said his childhood taught him compassion.
Lowery pledged a private donation of $500 to the center and said the donation comes from a personal spot in his heart.
Later that night the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation made a $13,000 donation. Foundation Executive Director John Brown said the donation goes to support the best programs to aid the LGBTQ community.
Brown praised Disposti and the center’s programs, outreach events and trainings.
He stressed the importance of educating people about the LGBTQ community.
“When people hate, they’re filled with anger, and that’s ignorance,” Brown said. “Once something is learned, you can’t unlearn it. There’s no going back from this.”
The LGBTQ resource center operated on an $189,000 budget last year with 38 percent of funds going toward programs. Other expenses include staff, facility rental, operations and marketing.
Last year’s operating budget was twice that of the previous year, and allowed many new programs.
Funds to support the center were gained through fundraisers, grants and donations, with top amounts raised through the annual Gala Fundraiser, and contributed by San Diego Human Dignity Foundation grants.
Future goals of the LGBTQ center include outreach to inland school districts, and finding a larger facility for the overbooked center.
In the year ahead the center will work to increase contributions to expand its programs.
The North County LGBTQ Resource Center was named a top-rated nonprofit in 2014 by the GreatNonprofits donor and volunteer site.
This story has been corrected since its original posting.