Finding Identity: Workshop Helps Navigating Changing Name, Gender


By Calvin Men from the Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted on August 26, 2018

WATSONVILLE >> Eli Wiley can’t stop smiling.

Wiley is a nonbinary 15 year old that goes by the pronoun they. They are about to start a journey to legally change their name and gender.

“I’m very excited. Like really excited. I have wedding jitters,” Wiley said with a giggle.

Wiley was one of about a dozen people who stopped by a workshop held by the Diversity Center on Friday. Called Document Day, the workshop is meant to help transgender people navigate the legal waters of changing their name and gender on federal and state documents.

Old names are generally referred to as dead names by those in the transgender community. The names are their old identities that they never want to hear again, a painful reminder of who they were and what they want to leave behind.

“It just gets awkward and it’s also anxiety inducing,” Wiley said. “It makes it feel invalidating to be called the name you were born with that you don’t identify with.”

The Diversity Center has had a slate of transgender programs presented in the past. But the nonprofit has taken a more focused approach this year with more specific programs that include social events and workshops.

Document Day — known as D-Day at the Diversity Center — is part of the new program. In the transgender community, people often change their names to align with their new identity, according to Ezra Bowen, transgender program coordinator for the Diversity Center. More than a simple change, the new name is a sign of empowerment and progress for many who have struggled to find themselves.

“It’s not just a nickname. It is carving yourself a new identity and asserting yourself in this world as who you want to be perceived as,” Bowen said.

Legally changing one’s name can take several months, with applicants needing to file paperwork at the county level and having to go in front of a judge.

n October, California legislators passed a law allowing people who don’t identify as male or female to obtain a gender-neutral birth certificate. While the law went into effect this year, it has yet to make the process any easier for applicants.

Bowen, a nonbinary person who goes by the pronoun they, knows firsthand the trials of trying to change their name. It took Bowen roughly four months to go through the legal process because of all the paperwork. And when someone throws in trying to legally change their gender or become nonbinary, the formula becomes much more complicated. Some departments require applicants to consult with a doctor before moving forward with the process. Often, people aren’t prepared for the emotional marathon involved.

But Friday’s event was designed to ease the process for people looking to change their names and genders. Workers and volunteers set up tables inside a room at First Christian Church on Madison Street in Watsonville. Six tables were set up in a half circle with signs denoting various legal processes. One table was set up for immigration questions. Another was geared toward minors who want help with nonbinary name and gender changes.

“It’s just good to have someone there to help you out, guide you and navigate these very turbulent legal waters,” Bowen said. “And just to be there as a support.”

One of the first stops at the workshop was a table with the sign adult name and gender change. Alex Katelyn, who didn’t want to use her last name, is a transgender woman who just finished going through sex reassignment surgery.

She held off on going through the legal name changes to make it easier for her insurance company and doctor. She chatted with volunteers about the process and the documents needed. While she did some of the research herself, she said she was grateful for the guidance.

“I came down with a couple of question of what do you put in this box or that box,” she said.

The people that came in varied. Some were adults who had undergone gender reassignment surgery while others were teens accompanied by their parents. Wiley came with their mom and both were at a less when it came to some questions on the forms.

For Wiley, just looking at the forms induced some anxiety because one of the very first questions asked applicants whether they were male or female.

“I want to stop getting misgendered by people who don’t know me. I’m a feminine person and people just assume I’m a female,” Wiley said. “I don’t expect it to ever stop, but if people can look on papers and see this person is not male or female, then it’ll be a real big help.”





The Diversity Center in the Santa Cruz Sentinel: Puts on a transgender self-defense Class


Johanna Reynolds holds a defensive stance at a self defense class for transgender and non binary people at Pacific Arts Complex on Friday evening. Johanna said that due to injuries she has suffered previously, running isn’t a realistic option for her if faced with a threat. (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Sentinel)


Julian Litauer Chan, right, and Carson Blumen-Green, left, follow the lead of Kayanu Hoffman, the teacher of the self defense class, as they all strike in unison. (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Skye McIntyre-Blomdal palm strikes the punching bag instructor Kayanu Hoffman holds up during a self defense class for transgender and non binary people at Pacific Arts Complex on Friday. (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Sentinel)


Julian Litauer Chan, center, and Carson Blumen-Green, right, listen to instructor Kayanu Hoffman answer questions at the end of the class. (Marcello Hutchinson-Trujillo — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Read the 7/31 Santa Cruz Sentinel article by Calvin Men





CA Endowment- Pride Month Blog

Youth In Action > > Blog

We call it Pride month. In big and small cities across the country, the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer (LGBTQ) communities gather to celebrate what it means to be LGBTQ in a straight world.  It’s a meaningful symbolic event that began after the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan where LGBTQ people fought back against police brutality. Stonewall was a tipping point for the LGBTQ liberation movement.

Pride is a celebration of identity and love – it’s a time to spread hope that things will continue to get better.  It is a time to be out and proud in the streets. Coming out can be very scary, and is one of the significant challenges faced by all LGBTQ people, but especially LGBTQ youth.  When a teenager comes out, they face the risk of bullying and harassment at school and in the wider community in addition to the very real risk of family rejection, getting kicked out of their house, and becoming homeless.  The amount of courage it takes for a young person to stand proud in their clear or emerging identity with unknown consequences is truly remarkable. 

Young people continue to come out despite pressure to stay closeted.  There is a long history of LGBTQ people being encouraged to hide their identity by people they love to “protect them.”  Recent studies, including one by University of Arizona researcher Stephen Russell, shows that requiring adolescents to keep their LGBTQ identities secret is associated with depression, suicidal behavior, illegal drug use and risk for HIV among other things.  Every day, LGBTQ youth face prejudice in schools, rejection in their homes, and danger in the streets. When LGBTQ youth learn about and disclose their LGBTQ identity to others, it actually works as a protective factor against these risks and promotes self-esteem and overall health. 

At The Diversity Center’s youth program, we see the courage and resiliency of LGBTQ middle and high school students every day. Thanks to generous funders, like The California Endowment, we are able to provide support and leadership development to local youth by supporting Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) on school campus’, a safe, fun, and welcoming space through our three weekly LGBTQ youth groups and leadership opportunities to plan our many events, including our annual CampOUT.  For many local youth, this camping trip is far more than just a fun camping trip, one transgender eighth grader who had experienced a significant amount of bullying said “This is the only place I have ever felt I can be 100% who I am. Can I stay here forever? I never want to leave.” 

As the LGBTQ movement we have come incredibly far, but the struggles that LGBTQ young people still experience is testament to how far we still have to go. 

When you look on at the Pride parade, remember that Pride is the celebration of living authentically, having the right to love whoever we want and be who we truly are. That is always worth celebrating.


Sharon Papo, LCSW

Executive Director, The Diversity Center



New Mural Takes a Stand for Queer Youth and Underrepresented Communities

mural resized.png



The Diversity Center Youth Program and Santa Cruz Teen center finished their “Unify, Decolonize, Thrive” mural at Louden Nelson Community Center in March after months of work. The mural is the first of its kind in Santa Cruz—representing past and current persecution and an idyllic future for queer youth and other underrepresented communities. Many participants said the process made them feel more included, supported and visible.

But soon after its completion, someone painted over a quote and “Go Home Trannys” appeared in black marker under the title. In retrospect, Diversity Center Youth Program Coordinator Jamie Joy says the vandalism wasn’t surprising.

“It won’t be the last time that someone decides to vandalize or deface the mural,” Joy says. “This was always a part of the conversation from the very beginning—we needed to make sure we set aside enough money for anti-graffiti coating.”

The coating hasn’t been applied yet—Joy says they have been waiting for the weather to clear up. 

“The whole mural feels vulnerable to the public until it has been sealed,” Joy says. “I’m hoping that hearing about how it has impacted people positively will change people’s mind, but if they are already set in their ways, I’m not here to change their minds. My job is to uplift the people I work with.”

For the 40 or so youth, muralists and facilitators that worked on the mural, the vandalism is far outweighed by the amount of support they’ve gotten. Since the site is so public—right on Laurel Street across from the Santa Cruz Police Station—it received a lot of feedback and positive reinforcement. Joy remembers passersby honking horns, stopping to compliment them, or helping paint while waiting for the bus.

When planning out the mural, local artists Emmanuel Garcia and Oliver Whitcroft helped lead workshops with youth around the county. They heard overwhelmingly that the youth wanted to broaden the scope of issues to encompass underrepresented and marginalized groups, not just LGBTQ+. 

“A lot of the projects that the youth are working on aren’t coming from the self, they are coming from educational institutions,” Joy says. “There was a lot of ownership that young people took from the project, and that was the goal from the beginning, that engagement.” 

From start to finish, the planning and painting process took around a year. The final product is a timelapse from past to present and future that begins with WWII Japanese internment camps, Chinese indentured labor, slavery and sale of tribal lands—all of which occurred in Santa Cruz County. It then transitions from grayscale to vibrant colors, where intersectionality and equality frame the DAPL protests, a Black Lives Matter activist at the Baton Rouge protest, the Stonewall uprising, the Aids Memorial Quilt, and former Santa Cruz Mayor John Laird—one of the first openly gay mayors in America. Amid the forest, rainbows and sunlight, the mural transitions to the future, where diversity and nature are celebrated and embraced by everyone. 

But the project wasn’t at all easy. Joy remembers the biggest milestones being the funding part. Since they had never spearheaded such a mural project, they said that they really underestimated the funding. 

“With its very public placement, we recognized that it was going to create a shift in Santa Cruz culture,” Joy says. “As soon as we realized that, we were like ‘we need more money.’”

They were awarded a grant from the arts council, but were in need of more financial support. The group of youth, artists and coordinators went to the Santa Cruz City Arts Commission, where they presented their mural idea and intent. 

“It was intimidating because this predominantly white affluent group of people was going to decide whether our people’s history was going to get represented or not,” Garcia says. “Things are changing and the voice of youth is so powerful, that’s hard to deny when you see how passionate and aware they are.”

When they went before the SCCAC, their project received not only approval but applause from the commissioners. They then had what Garcia remembers as a celebratory “mini dance party” in the parking lot. 

“It was just so validating,” says 18-year-old Sadie Reeve, one of the presenters who has been part of the Diversity Center Youth Program on and off for the last six years. “To say we are here, there is a reason for this mural and the fact that they said ‘yes, we agree,’ was so important to all of us.” 

Once the mural was complete six months later, the Diversity Center held a celebration in honor of the mural and those who made it all happen. There were hugs, laughs, rainbow tape, impressively large scissors and lots of moms crying. 

“I know that our county is one of the safer places in California, but it still has its challenges and problems,” Reeve says. “To showcase our history in the mural, whether its countywide or countrywide, has brought forth a change in a way that people view the youth here.”



Features Editor at Good Times | Blog



LGBTQ Older Adults Group Combats Creeping Isolation


By Michael Todd, Santa Cruz Sentinel

POSTED: 05/12/18, 6:28 PM PDT

SOQUEL >> Jeaneane and Bev Bishop-York, both in their 70s, were married in October, just more than a year after they met at a gathering by Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County.

Unlike many LGBTQ older adults, who according to an NPR report are more likely to age alone, Jeaneane and Bev are dedicated to staying social by participating in events such as the Diversity Center’s 60-Plus Senior Program luncheon Saturday.

Jeaneane, with her own adult children, had not dated in 30 years when she fell in love with Bev. They met Aug. 21, 2016, a date Jeaneane recalls clearly. They started talking and bonded almost instantly.

“But, eventually, at least one of us in any couple will be alone,” Jeaneane said of hers and others’ fragile mortality, a lesson she learned after a bout with stage 4 cancer. When she met her bride-to-be, Jeaneane said she decided to no longer hide her sexuality.

“No one really understood that I was a lesbian,” Jeaneane said. “I decided, ‘I’m going to be myself and do exactly what I want to do.’”

Her story also contrasts with the finding that a third of gay and lesbian Baby Boomers identify discrimination as their greatest concern about aging, according to a 2010 report by Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders.

Such concerns have driven some LGBTQ elders to “recloset,” a term 60-Plus Senior Program Coordinator Steven Matzie used to describe someone once openly gay who returns to a life hiding their sexuality.

He said isolation, a quandary for many older adults, is worse for LGBTQ elders, who are more likely to live alone and experience or feel unwelcome in their community or health care settings, according to the organization.

“This leads to isolation,” Matzie said. “That’s our goal: to combat that social isolation.”

According to SAGE, such isolation can have harmful effects: depression, poverty, re-hospitalization, delayed care-seeking, bad nutrition and premature mortality.

Aging LGBTQ Baby Boomers have earned the nickname GenSilent, Matzie said, because of their reluctance to socialize. He said social gatherings, such as those hosted by 60-Plus Senior Program, are one way to connect those older adults.

“Some folks have gone back in the closet — it’s real,” said Sharon Esther Papo, the Diversity Center executive director.

There were about 45,000 Santa Cruz County residents older than 60 in U.S. Census Bureau data from 2010. Matzie estimates roughly 4,500 are members of the LGBTQ community.

The LGBTQ community tends to get mired in the hollow idea that they can be out and proud most easily while they are young, Matzie said.

“Being 60-plus is not a death sentence,” said Matzie, 53. “We’re all going to get there.”

For Bev Bishop-York, the 60-Plus gatherings resolved a dilemma: “I didn’t know any gay people here.”

And, though she wasn’t looking for it, she found love.

“When I met her, I just wanted to be with her all the time,” Bev said.

Reach the author at or follow Michael on Twitter: michaeleetodd.



‘Gender revolution’: Santa Cruz County advocates celebrate landmark law

 Santa Cruzans Jamie Joy, Iris Berrera and Sparrow Frost identify as non-binary. (Shmuel Thaler -- Santa Cruz Sentinel) 

Santa Cruzans Jamie Joy, Iris Berrera and Sparrow Frost identify as non-binary. (Shmuel Thaler -- Santa Cruz Sentinel) 

Published Nov 1, 2017, By Nicholas Ibarra, Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ >> As the first person in the state officially recognized as neither male nor female, the passing of a new law paving the way for others to follow was a moment of celebration for Sara Kelly Keenan.

And the landmark legislative victory was one in which Keenan played a quiet but key role, ensuring the inclusion of “intersex” individuals such as herself whose biology has both male and female characteristics.

“I’m really glad that the people who come after me are going to have an easier time being legally recognized for who they really are,” said Keenan, 56, who retired from her home in Ben Lomond to Mexico weeks after the bill was signed. “There is such tremendous problem with depression and suicide in the nonbinary and trans community and a lot of that comes out of the world not knowing who we are and that we exist.”

Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 16, SB 179 — known as the Gender Recognition Act — makes it easier for a person to change their gender designation on birth certificates and state IDs, while also creating a third “nonbinary” category for those who identify as neither male or female.

It also removes the requirement for a court order or physician’s statement to change a person’s gender and eliminates an age requirement.

The law makes California the first state to officially recognize more than two genders on state identification. Earlier in the year, Oregon became first to allow its residents to choose not to specify their gender on state driver’s licenses.

 Sara Kelly Keenan, left of center, and Jamie Joy, right of center, pose in front of the state house after speaking in support of SB 179 in July. (Jamie Joy -- Contributed) 

Sara Kelly Keenan, left of center, and Jamie Joy, right of center, pose in front of the state house after speaking in support of SB 179 in July. (Jamie Joy -- Contributed) 

Authored by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, the bill was also shepherded through the legislature by its principal co-author, Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley.

The politicians were backed by a coalition of individuals and groups including ACLU California, the California Teachers Association, state Planned Parenthood affiliates, and a host of individuals including Jamie Joy, youth program coordinator at the Diversity Center who identifies as nonbinary.

Opposition to the bill was limited, with just two groups — the California Family Council and Catholics for the Common Good Institute — and two individuals speaking out against the bill in Sacramento, claiming it could lead to identity fraud and cause issues with travel outside the state.

Joy and dozens more supporters carpooled to Sacramento to register their support at a July hearing.

“Our ideas of gender are rapidly evolving and what wasn’t catching up was the legal system and the laws to reflect the culture that’s shifting,” Joy said. “There’s basically a gender revolution happening.”


After years as one of the most vocal advocates for a bill like SB 179, Keenan said she was dismayed to find the language and presentation of the bill at first appeared to exclude people like her.

Keenan is biologically intersex, a blanket term applied to a category of conditions affecting the chromosomes, hormones and genitals and causing individuals to fall outside the binary definitions of male and female. She has male chromosomes and female genitalia, a rare condition called Swyer Syndrome.

About a half-percent of the population is thought to have intersex characteristics.

She said she sat at home watching a press conference on the bill in January that focused entirely on transgender and nonbinary gender identity.

“Since in this society we mix up sex and gender so much, it was clear to me that the people who were writing the bill were writing it in a way that completely erased intersex people from the scenario,” she said.

She said she immediately voiced her concerns to the office of Assemblyman Stone and received a personal reply from the assemblyman within a day.

Soon after, Keenan was invited to Sacramento to testify in front of the relevant committees, and Stone worked with Atkins and Weiner to modify the bill based on Keenan’s input. Now the term intersex features prominently in the bill, including a paragraph definition of the term and its context.

We were sort of being stonewalled in terms of the intersex advocacy community being allowed to participate in the legislative process, and (Stone) banged that door right open,” Keenan said.


Keenan said her attention now turns to fighting to end medically unnecessary surgeries performed on intersex infants for cosmetic reasons.

“We look down on certain parts of the world for female genital mutilation, but we mutilate the genitals of infants in this country every day strictly for appearance purposes,” she said.

For Stone, he said that on the inclusivity front he is returning to the less attention-grabbing work of making small changes to state codes.

“Ultimately,” said Stone, “I’ll go back to the initial mission of taking a look at California codes and finding where we can make them more inclusive, and knocking that off a bit at a time.”

While it failed to garner much media coverage, another Stone bill signed by the governor from the recent legislative session was AB 1556, which edited the Fair Employment and Housing Act to include gender neutral terms.

“The goal is to create government interactions, whether through forms or otherwise, that are as inclusive as possible so we don’t have to think twice about who is included, who is not included,” Stone said. “Everybody is included.”

Reach the author at or follow Nicholas on Twitter: @nickmibarra.


Santa Cruz mural artists, youth examine discrimination


Santa Cruz mural artists, youth examine discrimination

 “Unify, Decolonize, Thrive” is a mural that is collective and collaborative in both its message and its process. Queer and trans youth from across the county were involved in the design, a 70-foot-long visual story that moves through time, from the early battles for equality, through a shifting crossroad, to images of a future that embraces the fruits of intersectional activism.

The project, to be installed at Louden Nelson Community Center, is led by our Youth Coordinator, Jamie Joy, and is a collaboration that includes DC staff, artists (the talented mural artists Manny Garcia and Oliver Whitcroft), Arts Council Santa Cruz County, Beth Tobey & Santa Cruz City Arts, and Louden Nelson Community Center.

“The kids that I work with, they hold multiple identities; they’re not just thinking about the fact that they’re gay or trans or gender non-conforming. They’re also thinking about their families’ citizenship status and they’re also thinking about their class status and their mental health and they’re thinking about other issues that affect them also,” said Jamie Joy. “The way that I understand intersectionality is just being aware of multiple identities and how they impact someone’s privilege or lack of privilege in the world."

POSTED: 08/02/17, 4:41 PM PDT
Original Post here

SANTA CRUZ >> Dancers move to the tune of drumbeats on a heavily wooded shoreline while police officers practice yoga and a multiethnic group sails off together into the sunset.

In coming weeks, a new public mural, “Unify, Decolonize, Thrive” will take shape down a once ivy-covered wall bordering the Louden Nelson Community Center along Laurel Street. By the end of the 70-foot painting, Santa Cruz history steeped in slavery, seizure of tribal lands, Chinese indentured labor and Japanese internment camps of World War II will have evolved into a literally more colorful future where “we’re all in this together.”

Local teenager and mural collaborator Andrea Flores-Morgado spoke before the Santa Cruz Arts Commission in June, saying the mural symbolized the community’s struggle and resilience through time.

“We’re in a crossroads of destiny,” Flores-Morgado said, according to Santa Cruz Arts Program Manager Beth Tobey. “Our youth, our generation can look back into the past mistakes and move forward striving for this future or we can continue this cycle of oppression and not improve our lives.”

The mural’s themes will delve heavily into a term known as “intersectionality,” coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw as a way to reveal limitations of single-issue anti-discrimination laws.

Jamie Joy, who came up with the idea for a LGBTQ youth mural 18 months ago, teamed up with muralists Manny Garcia and Oliver Whitcroft for the project, which draws from input of teenagers across Santa Cruz County. Joy is a 2016 UC Santa Cruz graduate who now works as youth program coordinator for The Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County.

“The kids that I work with, they hold multiple identities; they’re not just thinking about the fact that they’re gay or trans or gender non-conforming. They’re also thinking about their families’ citizenship status and they’re also thinking about their class status and their mental health and they’re thinking about other issues that affect them also,” said Joy. “The way that I understand intersectionality is just being aware of multiple identities and how they impact someone’s privilege or lack of privilege in the world. I think the kids that we work with understand that on a deeper level than I did when I was 14 or 15 years old.”

Tobey, who leads the city’s public art efforts, said that LGBTQ community faces challenges with violence and discrimination. The Santa Cruz area also has people who “want to be allies to that community, but maybe don’t completely understand the best way to do that,” she said. To that end, Tobey has put out a public call for ideas on how to expand the mural’s impact and reach in the community.

“(The teens) want a richer, more complex dialogue around issues of LGBTQI people face, including how that intersects other characteristics that they may have or other communities that they may be part of,” Tobey said. “I got really excited about helping them take this beyond just a public art project and really making an impact on the community.”

Project leaders obtained a $1,000 grant from the Arts Council Santa Cruz County, and more recently, an $8,000 grant from the Santa Cruz City Arts, approved by the city Arts Commission in June. Working with Diversity Center peer Alex Santana Jr., Joy and the artists reached out to several teen groups for design input.

Both Tobey and Joy said they hope a public education event or symposium can be timed to the mural’s completion, potentially at the Louden Nelson Community Center and with the help of community partners.

For information, to get involved or to make painting supply donations, contact Tobey at and Joy at



“It’s hard to hate someone you know”

By Suki Wessling, Growing Up Santa Cruz, March 01, 2017.

When you type “diversity center” into your browser, the top hit will be for the one in Santa Cruz. That preferential placement probably reflects that your search engine knows you’re in Santa Cruz, but it also reflects a reality:

Santa Cruz’s Diversity Center was once “The” Diversity Center—the first, the only.

That’s not surprising for Santa Cruz, but unless you or a family member is on the gender spectrum, you might be surprised that living in our county as an LGBTQ youth is not all rainbows.

“Even in our community, which is far more welcoming then many communities in the country, you still regularly hear about children who are getting bullied or yelled at on the street,” explains Diversity Center Executive Director Sharon Papo. “We’ve come so far, and we have so much further to go.”



Carving Out a Safe Space for LGBTQ Youth in Santa Cruz County

By Calvin Men, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Saturdays are safe days for some LGBTQ teens in Santa Cruz County.

On Saturdays, the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County hosts a meet-up event for LGBTQ for middle and high school students.

“A lot of students that come to our group aren’t just gay or lesbian. They’re also bisexual, pansexual, trans,” said Alex Santana, lead youth program coordinator for the Diversity Center. “They’re students who are questioning their gender. Those are the students we see coming more often that are experiencing transphobia or homophobia at school.”

The group meets regularly in Santa Cruz to hang out, as many of the teens describe. While hanging out can mean the usual for teens — snacks, jokes, internet videos, sitting on the couch — it can also mean heavier topics — bullying, sexual identity and navigating the nuances of gender.

There were 18 teens in Saturday’s session and the mood was lighthearted. The group gathered to celebrate Piper DeBella’s 14th birthday. Piper, who was born female and transitioned to male last year, was all smiles and joked with the group. But it’s different for him at school.

“At school, people say a lot of horrible stuff,” said the Aptos teen, adding that peers at his school make jokes about being gay.

The group allowed Piper to make friends without feeling judged. Many of the teens called the meeting a safe space to discuss those topics, which some said could and do ostracize them at school.

Max Brandt, a 17-year-old Santa Cruz resident who identifies as trans and gay, attends every week and has been a part of the program for at least three years.

“It gives us a chance to be who we are in a safe space where we know we won’t be judged for it,” he said.



Santana said the program fills a gap in the area. While there are a number of LGBTQ support programs in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, a majority are affiliated with academic institutions. This group is focused on middle and high school kids, he said.

While Santana said the perception of the LGBTQ community has shifted from tolerance to acceptance, there is still a lot of ignorance on issues out there and still discrimination.

“People talk about what’s going on in their schools. If they’re being harassed at a certain school, the kids share affirmative advice. They’re there for each other,” Santana said.

More than support the group’s morale, the Diversity Center also works in coalition with other county and city agencies to identify and change pockets of problems. Schools with the most challenges with LGBTQ students are identified and the organizations work to assist them with changing policy, Santana said.


What: LGBTQ youth meetup for middle and high school students

Watsonville: 3:30-6 p.m. Fridays at First Christian Church, 15 Madison St.

Santa Cruz: 1-3 p.m. Saturdays at The Diversity Center, 1117 Soquel Ave.



Beside Manners

Over the past year, the Diversity Center's medical initiative has led powerful trainings on Transgender Healthcare to create a more welcoming environment for transgender patients. With the help of Jennifer Hastings, director of transgender healthcare at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte; and UCSF assistant clinical professor, this work has created the possibility to expand proper treatment for transgender patients. Read the GoodTimes full article here.



LGBTQ+ Immigrant Issues

Even though a lot of work is left to be done to improve the lives of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States, our situation pales in comparison to the violence some LGBTQ+ communities face in other countries. For LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum in the United States (many from Central and South America), Immigration and Customs Enforcement subject detained LGBTQ+ immigrants to sexual assault and psychological torture. Click here to read Sharon Papo's Connection's Magazine article on LGBTQ+ Immigrant Issues.


1 Comment

Gender Freedom

Thanks to the agents of change in the LGBTQ+ community, our understanding of the fluidity of gender has profoundly evolved over the past few years—but the work is far from over. In this month's Connections Magazine article, Sharon Papo discusses how the Diversity Center's programs assist many transgender and gender questioning individuals in the community.


You can read the full article by clicking here


1 Comment

1 Comment

Love Wins. #Equality

After decades of hard work and activism, marriage equality is now the law of the land for our nation. This decision is just one small step forward on the long road to justice.  Sharon Papo, Executive Director of the Diversity Center, shares her opinions on a few of the many areas where full equality remains negated today. 

Read the full article by clicking here

1 Comment


OUTSpoken: Come Out for Youth

What are some challenges LGBTQ+ Youth face in today's world of post marriage equality? Sharon Papo, Executive Director of the Diversity Center, answers that question in her Connections Magazine article. 

Click here to read the full article



A New Year, a New Pride

After 41 years of similar shape and direction, the  Santa Cruz Pride Committee is taking a leap in revamping the celebration. Read the Santa Cruz Sentinel's Interview with Pride organizer, Dina Izzo, online by clicking here.



Marriage Tipping Point

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, will the LGBTQ+ community finally gain full equality? Sharon Papo, Executive Director of The Diversity Center, discusses her thoughts on this question in her article "The Marriage Tipping Point."

Click here to read the full article.