I moved to Oceanside in 2012, literally a week after I graduated from high school in the Bay Area. I was 17, gay and fearful of the unknown. Oceanside was beautiful, but it was also a military town that didn't exactly feel cultured. Quickly, however, i found my community within the North Country LGBTQ Resource Center.
I joined their youth group within the first month of moving, eager to explore a side of myself that was repressed and unexplored. I was nervous as hell for the first few weeks (it was a weekly meeting) but it quickly routine for me. I attended every week for 2 years, carving out time in my school and life schedule to make it. I made some awesome friends there, like Markie, Sierra, Wyatt, and others. There's also been some amazing mentors there as well, whom I think of as family. (Shout out to you, Linda, Nicole and especially Max.) I would bring friends from school or those that visited me because I thought it was such a cool space, one that I'd never seen growing up.
The Center introduced my family to PFLAG, which my mom now attends regularly and will be hosting her own "PFLAG Moms" dinner soon. (I'm proud of you, mommy) My aunt even goes with my mom sometimes, showing her support for me as well. To say I have some pride in Oceanside and its LGBTQ community would be an understatement.
Speaking of pride, the Center also puts on an annual "Pride by the Beach," in October, during LGBT History Month. It's a great break from all the craziness of June's pride month but also provides a mid-season party as well, so you get two doses of Pride in a year. It's not huge, you won't see hundreds of thousands of people like Los Angeles, San Francisco or even San Diego, but it's a beautiful display of community and love in a town that teeters on the conservative side.
Pride by the Beach has been going on for a decade now, growing steadily each year and moving from a parking lot on the beach to an entire street. I've attended the past three years in a row and I can't help but be in awe of its growing presence every year. People come out from all of the San Diego area, from community centers and clinics, to LGBTQ+ identifying/supporting businesses and the San Diego House of "The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence," an organization of queer nuns (many in drag) that deliver "community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges," and strive for "promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. "
Every year that I go to Oceanside Pride, a feeling of ownership washes over me because I am so proud of this community and of the Center for everything it has done for the community. On top of Pride at the Beach, the Center also hosts an annual Gala, a dining out fundraising event and sponsors the GSA (Gender-Sexuality Alliance) awards around the North County colleges, which celebrates the work of the local high schools.
I also feel a sense of ownership because I know that I have contributed to this community, especially at the Miracosta College GSA, where I served as the vice-president and social liaison for a year. That year, with the help of the entire board (Bryan, Chelsea, Adam, and more), we really propelled the GSA's presence in MiraCosta. We organized the first ever Coming Out Forum, and Drag Show (which are both annual events now), and we became more involved in the community than ever before. The GSA now, has also helped establish MiraCosta as the first-ever college in the US to provide a Trans Scholarship specifically for trans students.
This isn't to say that the efforts of those before us weren't impactful for they were the stepping stones for us to accomplish what we have so far, just like we were the stepping stones for the current board to accomplish what they want. But truly, a piece of me will always be with the GSA and the North County LGBT Resource Center. They taught me so much about myself, but more importantly, helped me master my voice and use it to help others.
Oceanside, as much as I hate admitting it sometimes, you have captured my heart and I have so much Pride for you. You're my family.