The San Fernando Valley LGBT Community Center is the first LGBT center within the Valley. It is an all encompassing center that works to “promote liberty, equality, and justice” for the LGBT community. We were able to speak to the founder and President of the center, Renato Lira to learn more about the unique approach this center takes to advocate for the LGBT community in San Fernando Valley.
What prompted you to start the LGBT Community Center?
I grew up here, and I saw how unaccepting the overall community was of the LGBT population. I wanted to change that so the youth today has a safer place to grow up in. I was an ambassador in D.C., and the right hand of the Chief of Staff for Obama, and after I had finished my duties there, I decided to move back to my hometown to really try and change some things for the better. So that’s how this center came to be.
Tell me about some of the main programs your center offers.
We offer anything ranging from support groups to HIV and STD testing services. Our main support groups are our youth group that has people anywhere from age 12 to 18. We also offer another group where the participants are anywhere from 19 to 45 years old. You get a lot of different perspective with these age groups. Other than that, we have community events where we hand out condoms and information pamphlets, and we also have an AIDS walk, which is one of our bigger events.
What is the San Fernando Valley LGBT Community Center doing for Pride Month?
This is a really exciting time for us. We have been travelling to various cities to advocate for the LGBT community. We had a march recently, and we had events in LA and Long Beach where we handed out information and condoms. We also just got back from Orlando, FL, where we hosted a similar event, and we’re doing an event here in the Valley and in San Francisco as well. We’ve also been able to fundraise during these events which is great because we are connecting with the LGBT population nationally while also raising awareness for our center.
So I know your center uses a bit of a unique approach when it comes to advocating for LGBT rights. What strategy do you use?
Over the years, we’ve found that the best way to gain acceptance within the overall community is to include them. This is why we work with the straight community regularly and have events with them. This allows them to get to know more people within the LGBT community so they can overcome their initial bias or stereotypes found in the media. We also offer testing for everyone, not just the LGBT community, and the youth support group is also all-inclusive. This makes everyone feel welcome, because one of our goals is to spread equality. Our training program for parents also ties into this because it gives them a place where they can learn more about what it means to identify as LGBTQ+ and allows them to learn how to accept their children.
What are you looking forward to most for the upcoming months?
There’s a lot going on, so I don’t have on particular event in mind. However, i’m very excited to continue promoting LGBT Pride Month in various cities. Our efforts focused on Pride Month end on July 8th, but our school supply giveaway efforts begin then, so i’m excited for that as well. Other than that, I’m just curious to see where the rest of the year takes us, and what else we can accomplish.
Renato Lira’s dedication has motivated all of us at Say It With A Condom, and we’re excited to create more Pride Campaigns that will help any LGBT organization properly execute their messages into the community.