HANFORD — Brian Poth, co-founder and executive director of The Source LGBT+ Center, assured the attendees of the organization’s first “pop up” event in Hanford Thursday night that they were making history.
“This is history in the making,” Poth said to begin the presentation. “It’s very brave to be out and to be visible.”
The Source opened two years ago in Visalia with the goal of advocating for LGBT rights in the community, as well as providing resources to those who need them. The nonprofit organization provides the local LGBT community with education, peer support and services that would not be available otherwise.
In partnering with Kings County Behavioral Health and the Suicide Prevention Task Force, the Source will be now create a presence in Kings County with their meetings every second Thursday of each month.
About half of those in attendance said they had never been to the Source’s office in downtown Visalia, indicating a need for their services in Kings County.
“Being visible in the community can change hearts and minds,” Poth said. “ A lot of people may not even realize they know an LGBT person.”
Poth, who grew up in Tulare, told the group that he had the idea to form the organization after moving back to the area from Los Angeles, where he lived for years.
“I came back and felt uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin,” he said. “I didn’t want to go back in the closet, so I said, ’something’s got to change.’ “
The Source’s HIV peer support coordinator Dean Jackson said, “Someone has to be the first to speak up. It gets the ball rolling and it lets people know they’re not alone.”
Poth explained in partnering with the Suicide Prevention Task Force, they hope to bring awareness to the statistics around suicide and LGBT youth. Gay, lesbian and bisexual youth are four times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to commit suicide and transgender youth are eight times more likely.
Poth and Jackson also stressed the importance of health services, including education about and access to PReP and PEP, treatments that can prevent HIV infection.
“A lot of people don’t know about this and it can save lives,” Jackson said.
The Source’s next meeting will be Thursday, April 12 at Kings County Behavioral Health, 460 Kings County Dr. #101, Hanford. The topic of discussion will be transgender visibility in rural communities.
For more information, visit http://thesourcelgbt.org or call 559-852-2444.