By Dave Fountinelle | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the roughly four and half years since forming, The Source has provided spaces and resources for the LGBT+ community in Kings and Tulare counties from their Visalia location. Their mission has been to encourage learning and growth, provide a place of belonging, and support the community through education, information, referrals, counseling, and any assistance they can offer. Through advocacy, partnerships, and fundraising, they seek to unite and advance the LGBT+ community. Nick Vargas is the Director of Development and Strategy for The Source. He took some time to talk with Fresno Flyer about himself, his organization, and how the current events have impacted Pride.
DF: What inspires you and gives you hope for the equality movement here in the valley?
NV: What motivates/inspires me: The fact that we have an LGBT+ Center on Main Street in Visalia is a big deal to me. When I was in high school, that would have been impossible. Not only do we have a center, but it’s also been relatively well-received by the community. When we opened, we weren’t sure what the reception would be. Many of the folks involved with LGBTQ issues and organizations before The Source had lived through Prop 8 and warned us it might not be easy. And it hasn’t been easy, but we’ve become a respected part of the local nonprofit community and been able to affect systems change in Tulare/Kings Counties. Our Pride Visalia event has drawn about 3,000 attendees for the last two years, including many straight allies. I’m thrilled that our events do very well. Drag Queen Bingo, Visalia Over the Edge, and others have been sold out and become popular. This is in part to the uniqueness of the events, and that our community really sees the need for what we do. And our events are FUN.
There’s still a lot of room to grow. HIV primary care is nonexistent in our area, PrEP access is scarce, and the same can be said for Trans healthcare and HRT. Also, we still have a lot of room for progress on inclusivity and equality in general. We hear from people who still struggle to come out and are sometimes rejected by family or friends when they do. Social media comments and letters to the editor in opposition to the LGBTQ community are still common.
DF: The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear months ago that Pride as many of us know it wasn’t going to be happening this month. Can you talk a little bit about what Pride Inside is and how the community is adjusting to still honor Pride and celebrate in the time of social distancing?
Pride Inside was our idea to have a community event on the day we had initially scheduled Pride Visalia, May 23, 2020. It included many of the aspects of an in-person Pride such as entertainment, education, and drag shows. We even had three celebrity appearances by Gus Kenworthy, Latrice Royal, and Lance Bass, who wished The Source and our community “Happy Pride.” People loved it. It’s still on social media for people to view.
DF: The killing of George Floyd has sparked national outrage. And with protests igniting as we enter June and Pride month, it’s impossible not to remember the Stonewall riots and their impact on the gay rights movement. Do that history and your own personal experiences affect your perspective on the protests?
NV: I’m outraged at his killing and the murders of other Black people. We can’t compare the systemic oppression and racist history that Black people have had to endure with Stonewall. They aren’t the same. However, we do understand what it means to push back and stand up to a culture and system that tells us that we are less than and that our lives don’t matter. We recognize the intersectionality of our mission with Black Lives Matter. Our trans people of color are murdered on a regular basis. Words can’t describe how I feel. As an organization, we are meeting the moment by using our social media to bring awareness, our networks to spread information, and our youth to deliver water, snacks, and other supplies to protest organizers. Individually, I know we are all donating to organizations on the frontlines of this movement and supporting in more direct ways. Pride month should be a potent reminder to the LGBTQ community that resistance is powerful. We need to stand with our Black siblings and do our part to dismantle systems of oppression.
DF: For those in the hetero community who want to be allies and support the LGBTQ movement in the fight for equality and acceptance?
NV: It depends on the person. There are a lot of ways to be an ally. Here are some of my ideas on how allies can support: 1. Donate to LGBT+ causes and centers. Pick a cause on Facebook and donate your birthday to it. It’s a great way to raise funds and visibility. 2. When you see, read, or hear incentive or derogatory comments, speak up. 3. Bring LGBTQ people to the table in your organizations, your businesses, and your network. 4. Attend LGBTQ events.
DF: Where and how would you like to see The Source continue to grow in the future?
NV: I’d like to see us expand from our current location in the basement of Montgomery Square; for us to have a building and a bigger space for groups. I’d like us to continue to build out our HIV, Trans, Youth, and mental health programs. We have only part-time people but need full-time work on those programs. When there are health care crises and economic downturns like we see with COVID-19, our LGBTQ community is disproportionally affected by a lack of access to health care and other resources. The Source has been able to distribute $40,000 in direct aid to our folks who needed help with food, utilities, rent, hygiene items, mental health, and other basics because of COVID-19. I’d like to see The Source continue to be supported by foundations and the community so that we can continue to provide meaningful aid at the moment. I want the community to know that we still need strong LGBTQ centers. When our folks feel safe and included in their communities, they build lives that benefit those communities.
DF: Can you give a personal message for anyone who may need the services provided by The Source who might not even be aware of your organization?
NV: I’d invite them to reach out to us directly on social media, email, phone, text, or any way they are comfortable. You don’t have to be out to come in. People can help the most right now by texting “Pride Inside” to 44-321, watching “Our Story” and donating. If they can’t right now, I totally understand. Please share the information and the video “Our Story” with others.
Lastly, I’m happy to say that we have rescheduled Pride Visalia for October 10, 2020, from 11 am to 4 pm at the Old Lumberyard in Downtown Visalia. It might look a little different this year, depending on what the guidelines for safety include. Still, we feel it’s important to have it if we are at all able to. Please plan to attend, be a vendor, sponsor, or maybe even a volunteer.
This month is Give Out Day. All month LGBTQ organizations are competing for donations and leaderboard prizes. The organization with the most $10 contributions will win $10,000. We’ve won the last two years in a row. Because of COVID-19 canceling our fundraisers and the sharp decrease in donations, we need your support to keep going. If we win the leaderboard prize, we will use half of it for our COVID-19 Relief Fund, and the other half to sustain our primary operations. Plus, we have a donor who is matching the first 1,000 $10 donations, so your donation will have a double impact, and a triple impact if we win the leaderboard prize. For more information, you can visit www.giveoutday.org/thesourcelgbt.
If you would like to donate time, money, supplies, or other resources to The Source, and to get more information on how you can help make a difference for the LGBTQ community in your area, please visit www.thesourcelgbt.org.