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North County’s LGBT Community Looks Forward To Pride Parade

Photo caption: Participants at an event organized by the North County LGBTQ Resource Center.

Photo by North County LGBTQ Resource Center

Participants at an event organized by the North County LGBTQ Resource Center.

Among the crowds expected to brighten the streets of San Diego at Saturday’s LGBT Pride Parade are representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from North County.

Celebrating Pride Weekend? Here's What You Need To Know


FRIDAY

6 p.m. Spirit of Stonewall Rally

6 p.m.-11 p.m. Pride of Hillcrest Block Party

SATURDAY

9:30 a.m. Pride 5K Run and Walk

11 a.m.-1 p.m. Parade (starts at University Avenue and Normal Street, turns south on Sixth Avenue, left on Balboa Drive and ends at Laurel Street. More info, including street closures and parking, here [PDF - Download Acrobat Reader])

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Music festival featuring Kesha (full lineup and tickets here)

SUNDAY

11 a.m.-8 p.m. Music festival (full lineup and tickets here)

Find a map of festival attractions and entertainment zones here.

The North County LGBTQ Resource Center, which moved to a bigger facility in Oceanside this week, has arranged a bus to carry dozens of members to the annual event.

“They’re coming to walk at the parade and have fun,” said Max Disposti, the center’s executive director.

RELATED: Band Students From Across San Diego County Join Forces To Celebrate Pride

But amid the rainbow-colored floats and spirited celebration will be the shadow cast by the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June.

Disposti said the tragedy makes it even more essential that North County’s LGBT community is represented at the parade — because “wherever there is an LGBT community, there's also the diversity that comes with it.” That representation, or lack thereof, motivated him to start the North County LGBT Coalition in 2008.

“I didn't see any infrastructure or dialogue or conversation about LGBT families in north San Diego County,” said Disposti, who moved to the U.S. from Italy as an openly gay man in 1998. “It was quite a struggle for anyone who identified as LGBT to go places and be represented and be served.”

Within three years, the coalition opened the North County LGBTQ Resource Center in downtown Oceanside. Disposti said about 10,000 people walk through the center's doors every year for services including counseling, HIV/AIDS testing and classes.

Photo by North County LGBTQ Resource Center

A sign telling North County LGBTQ Resource Center's visitors to drop by its new facility on Mission Avenue.

Thanks to various grants, the center was able to relocate on Tuesday to a bigger facility at 3220 Mission Ave.

Disposti said the center now employs part-time staff for HIV/AIDS education and to provide counseling and human-trafficking victim support. He added that the number of programs grows as needs emerge in the community, which includes youth, seniors and veterans. Recently, a mother came in with her son who has autism. Disposti said in a few months the center will start a support group for parents and their children who are on the autism spectrum.

“We've been open for five years, and so many things have changed,” he said. “We have marriage equality happening, becoming law of the land. … (But) even though we have an incredible infrastructure of law in California that protects LGBT families, not many people are aware of that.”

He added that despite progress, a stigma remains for those in the LGBT community.

“Men, 80, 85 years old, come in and all of a sudden just cry just for being there because they can't believe we actually have a space,” Disposti said. “The younger generation, they haven't lived through all that oppression. But at the same time, they don't have anyone to talk to because there's so much taboo about sexuality.”

Disposti thinks bullying and violence stem from that stigma.

Following the attack in Orlando, he said the center heard from people who hesitated about visiting for fear of being targeted. But others didn’t want to be alone and came to the center anyway. People also dropped by to bring flowers and donations, Disposti said. The day after the shootings, a crowd gathered at the center for a vigil.

Photo caption: A sign on the window at the North County LGBTQ Resource Center in Oceanside r...

Photo by North County LGBTQ Resource Center

A sign on the window at the North County LGBTQ Resource Center in Oceanside reads "We are Orlando. Love always wins," June 12, 2016.

Some remain concerned about security at Saturday’s Pride parade in San Diego despite extra measures taken by law enforcement.

The center has had its own experience with threats. In May, at its previous location on North Coast Highway, rocks were thrown at the windows.

“The intent was to intimidate,” Disposti said. “Not that they were successful in doing that. But if you're a parent and you're dropping off your kid ... you think twice. Maybe I shouldn't bring my kids here. Especially with the people that we serve, (some) already come from a situation of violence, domestic violence or any kind of abuse. Their safe space was violated.”

Still, the people going to the parade are excited.

“At the end of the day, the more visible we are, the more we can show our strength,” Disposti said. “Some people might be concerned. … We're looking forward to it.”

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