Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 11 a.m.
Kevin O'Grady is the new executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Orange County.
O'Grady comes to Santa Ana-based advocacy group after serving as the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Orange County/Long Beach region, where he oversaw programming, including civil rights, government affairs and community relations.
Through magic of G(ay)mail, I caught up with Kevin to ask about his plans for the center, and what his favorite LGBT joke is.
What is your vision for the Center OC?
The Center OC should be the hub of the LGBTQ community; the place that people come to for programs and resources. I'd like to see The Center grow into a real community center; a place where people can come for classes, cultural events, counseling and support groups, art and photography shows. Eventually, I want us to offer emergency and transitional housing for youth and a child care facility. To house all of this, we will have to move into a new building, so part of my vision/dream is a donor who steps forward and buys us a new building. The Center should be a strong activist voice in the community and a primary liaison to law enforcement and elected officials. More immediately, The Center will offer increased support services for seniors, LGBTQ families with children, and more women specific programs.
How strong is the LGBT community in OC, compared with other regions?
There is a core segment of the community that is engaged and strong but I don't think we have claimed our real strength. If you accept most measures, there is anywhere between 200,000 and 400,000 thousand LGBTQ people in Orange County. That's potentially a very significant political bloc; consumer group; source of activism. One of my goals is to see our community own our strength, and as we do political, social and cultural leaders in the county will have to take note.
Is there anything that makes the LGBT community here different than in other places?
We are an incredibly diverse community. This diversity goes beyond ethnic and racial diversity. We're a politically and religiously diverse community; perhaps, more politically conservative than the average LGBTQ community. I think we are more closeted than some other communities.
What are some of the challenges the LGBT community in OC faces?
Beside the fact that we are better looking; there are some important differences. Because California affords a broad range of legal protections for the LGBTQ community, I think folks assume we don't have anything to worry about, but Orange County is more like the conservative Mid-West than it is like LA. The power of the evangelical community actively works against our interests. Combine that with a general political conservatism and we have a group of elected officials who, for the most part, have very little interest in the LGBTQ community (some are openly hostile). In fact, many elected officials in Orange County garner political support by working against our community. Many school districts that allow student clubs to meet on campus refuse to allow Gay Straight Alliances or any other LGBTQ clubs to meet. This is a direct violation of state and federal law. Even if school administrators are supportive, they are often stymied by hostile school boards. The LGBTQ community in OC is always the second most targeted community of hate incidents and hate crimes. So, the challenges are many, but the Center OC is committed to meeting those challenges.
How much fun do gay people really have?!
More than I could even begin to describe.
What's your favorite LGBT joke?
You'll get me fired!