Opening this weekend is San Benito County’s first gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth resource center and safe space. Its effectiveness and longevity will depend on several factors, including client ownership, transgender-affirming services, and a staff that reflects the demographics of our county, according to outreach coordinator for LGBTQ Youth Space, Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley, Adrienne Keel.
On Thursday, Oct. 12, Keel will join two Gavilan College professors in a discussion on gender, sexuality, and identity at the San Benito County Free Library. Free and open to the public, the event starts at 7 p.m. in the library’s Barbara Room.
The evening discussion is part of, “A Closer Look: Using Academic Inquiry to Probe Current Issues,” a series that began last year and that is organized and funded by the junior college’s Civic Engagement Title V program.
In an email to BenitoLink, the program’s community liaison and a Gavilan faculty member, Leah Halper, explained that the decision to hold a discussion on LGBTQ issues was a combination of general interest expressed by Hollister students and an effort to support National Coming Out Week, which coincides with the opening of the LGBTQ youth resource center and safe space at the Esparanza Center in downtown Hollister on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Keel—who facilitates support groups for LGBTQ youth and provides workshops and trainings for parents and educators—explained in her telephone interview with BenitoLink that whether at home or at school, children need to receive “intentional messaging” by their caregivers and teachers.
“As soon as your child enters your life, you must have an open mind,” she said, adding that its best to refrain from assigning either gender or sexual identities, and as the child ages, parents should, “explicitly state that their cool with all identities.”
Because LGBTQ youth often face rejection by their families, schools become a haven. School districts, Keel said, must recognize this, implementing curriculum that “reflects all communities” and displaying signage that declares their campuses as “safe zones,” areas where all students feel welcomed and accepted.
Joining Keel on the panel will be Patrick Yuh, professor of biology at Gavilan.
In his email to BenitoLink, Yuh explained that gender and sexual identity are both rooted in one’s DNA.
And he stated that by understanding how "our genes contribute to who we are…can help us be more aware of, and compassionate towards, people who look and act differently."
Keel hopes that community members who attend Thursday’s forum leave more informed about LGBTQ issues and more accepting of one’s gender or sexual identity.
“If someone’s identity is new to you, stay open and don’t be dismissive," she said in her interview
Gavilan College's Civic Engagement Title V program website
San Benito County Free Library
470 Fifth St.
Note: The seating capacity for the Barbara Room is limited to 49, according to the library's website.