LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert offers youth a safe space

LGBTQ+Community+Center+of+the+Desert+offers+youth+a+safe+space

Photo courtesy of Miguel Navarro

The world is made of so many different people. Whether they look differently, believe differently, or love differently, they are all still people: still human.

There are times when LGBTQ+ youth have no place to go. No place that is safe for them to be themselves. Some don’t have anybody who supports them or anyone to speak with. One safe space available for everyone is the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs, California — about a 30-minute drive from La Quinta High School. 

“We open our doors, we open our hearts, we open our minds to anyone from the LGBTQ Community. It doesn’t matter if there is a young person that’s needing guidance, or how it doesn’t matter if it’s an adult person that needs it,” Miguel Navarro said, who is the center’s community engagement manager.

The center provides a variety of help for those in need of it, such as food to people who are experiencing food insecurity and in emergency situations. 

They also have support groups like the Spanish parent support group for parents of LGBTQ+ children and LGBTQ+ youth hangouts on Zoom. One of the youth hangouts happens every Wednesday for students ages 13-21. It’s facilitated by two College of the Desert students and is a safe space for anyone. The Zoom hangouts can be accessed on the center’s website

The center has a behavioral health clinic with licensed clinicians that helps parents, families, couples and youth if they are struggling with depression, anxiety or any other mental illness.

The center also hosts activities.

Navarro said the center plans hikes and movie screenings where young people could come and learn the nature of the desert. Virtual events would be offered as well due to the pandemic. 

Navarro said the Coachella Valley Unified School District has an agenda and identity support binder that teachers have access to. The binder is meant to guide teachers on what to do when a student comes out and to show the student that they are safe to be themselves.

So far, only the Coachella Valley Unified School District has this binder. The center is hoping to expand this program to other districts such as Desert Sands Unified School District and Palm Springs Unified School District.

Navarro shared some advice to give to young people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“They are loved. They have a community behind them. They’re not alone,” Navarro said. “It might feel many times like the world is against you, but you are not alone. You are worthy, you are beautiful as you are, as you feel, as you want to express yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Navarro added that a lot of events are starting soon. He wishes to invite everyone to be a part of the events. 

“It doesn’t have to mean that you have to publicize an event or you have to volunteer,” he said. “It just means a lot when friends and family and allies just show up, right. Just the simple fact of physically being present in an event just means a lot to our community.” 

“Be part of those conversations and to learn a little bit more and to not be afraid and to know that you’ll be received with an open heart,” Navarro said.

La Quinta High School also has its own safe space in the form of a club called Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, for short. GSA is a club that takes place during lunch where students eat and sit together in a safe environment. 

“That was the goal,” Tracey Martin, the GSA adviser, said, “to provide that space for students who like they don’t have a space to go to.”

Everyone is welcome, it’s never too late to join. GSA is a work in progress at the moment, but their next meeting is on Tuesday, April 12 in room 515. 

Martin had some advice to give as well.

“Some people are ready by the time they’re 10 and some people are ready by 48,” he said. “Everyone’s different. You just take it one day at a time depending on what you’re going through. Everyone is so different.”