Long Beach, California– In response to community demand The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach (The Center Long Beach), in collaboration with the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s Family Services Program and The Center Orange County, have launched a new support group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people with special needs. The first meeting in September was highly regarded by attendees, with monthly meetings now scheduled through 2014.
After being approached by a community member with special needs, The Center Long Beach youth program manager Kyle Bullock realized that no programs currently exist in Southern California for LGBTQ people with cognitive or physical differences. Along with operations manager Natalie Altman, Bullock began planning a group specifically geared towards this population. “This group will give voice and representation to an incredibly marginalized group within the LGBTQ community,” says Bullock.
This group is open to anyone who identifies as LGBTQ with cognitive and/or physical limitations. The inaugural meeting was met with much fanfare from attendees. Intending to serve as a support system for LGBTQ community members with special needs, this group provides the opportunity for attendees to socialize, meet new friends, and create a sense of community for one of the most invisible segments of the LGBTQ community.
“We had planned to meet quarterly but once I announced this to the group, I saw their faces drop,” says Bullock. “With such an overwhelming demand for this group I am thrilled to announce we will be meeting monthly to better meet the needs of our LGBTQ special needs community. Many thanks to The Center OC and The LA Center for their invaluable support in promoting this new group.”
With the formation of this group, all three major LGBTQ centers in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas are able to collaborate on increasing access to services for this often invisible population. “There are many individuals who are part of the LGBTQ community who haven’t been able to have their voices heard,” says Kim Wedner, family advocate for the LA Gay and Lesbian Center’s Family Services Program. “We are honored to be a part of helping to make this happen and applaud The Center Long Beach for implementing this wonderful initiative.”
Echoing the LA Center, community liaison specialist Darby Restorick says “We hope that this new programming can make a difference to LGBTQ individuals with special needs. It is critically important that we provide a safe space for them and increase their visibility in our communities.”
The group is open to anyone with a cognitive or physical limitation over the age of 18. Attendees must be able to provide their own transportation and either care for themselves during the meeting or bring a caretaker with them. There is no cost to attend the group.
Future meetings will take place through 2013 on the third Saturday of the month from 11:00m to 1:00pm at The Center (2017 E. 4th Street Long Beach, CA 90814). Those interested in attending or who have questions are encouraged to contact Kyle Bullock at (562) 434-4455 ext. 227.