As we gear up for Pride month, we sat down with the SF LGBT Center’s Deputy Executive Director Roberto Ordeñana, to reflect on the pandemic’s impact, discuss ongoing racial and anti-LGBTQ+ injustices that ignited last year, share insight into how the Center showed up for the most vulnerable communities amid COVID-19 and how we are looking ahead in a post-vaccine world.
How has the pandemic impacted you personally?
It’s been a difficult, often scary and anxiety-inducing experience for me. At the beginning of the pandemic, my biggest worry was protecting my 80-year-old parents who also live in San Francisco. How was I going to socially distance myself from them? I remember my mother’s visceral reaction after not entering their home for a while and how horrible that felt. Ultimately, the physical separation from people was incredibly jarring for me.
I also leaned into the power of community. The way our chosen family and friends enrich our lives and enable us to thrive became very clear to me over the last year. As we enter this next phase of the pandemic, where more and more people are getting vaccinated, I want to ensure I sustain the valuable relationships I fostered amid Covid-19.
How did the events of last year impact the Center and the ways in which you supported LGBTQ+ communities?
We had to rise to the occasion to take care of ourselves, our Center staff and the community at large. As an integral community resource, we had to ask ourselves—how were we going to deploy our services to reach the most vulnerable people during this public health emergency? Equally important, how would we support our staff members who were also dealing with the realities of the pandemic?
I am incredibly proud of how our Center staff quickly pivoted to meet critical community needs:
- We transitioned several of our programs virtually—from financial services to mental health offerings. We found that virtual programming opened a level of accessibility that brought even more community members to the work of the Center.
- To meet the increased need for food due to the pandemic, we worked alongside our partners at the SF Bay Area LGBTQ COVID-19 Relief Coalition to provide financial assistance for low-income and food-insecure Transgender, Gender Nonconforming, Non-Binary and LGBTQ+ community members who experienced a substantial loss of income amid Covid-19.
- Due to quarantine and social distancing measures, LGBTQ+ youth experienced greater mental health and wellness challenges. Through our Youth Services team, we offered free, virtual mental health support for many young people. We also provided support for those who had to protect their identities while staying at home with family.
- Our youth services and information and referral programs have been providing on-site services multiple times per week to reach community members that could not access our virtual programming.
As we kickoff Pride month, how will the Center continue to show up for the community moving forward?
I want to encourage those who are seeking valuable community connections and need resources to reach out to the Center because we are here to support you. We are in the process of increasing the amount of folks that can safely come into the building again and will be expanding our on-site programs and services in the coming months.
As we recognize the significance of Pride month for Queer liberation, we can’t lose sight of the need to combat white supremacy and police brutality alongside our Black and QTPOC siblings. Though the impact of white supremacy has been felt by Black and Brown folks for hundreds of years, there was a deep awakening for many people last year due to the senseless murder of George Floyd and countless others. The racial justice movement is far from over—and we need to remember that intersectional solidarity is key.
Right now, Asian American communities are still facing violence and harassment fueled by the previous presidential administration’s vitriol. Remember that the LGBTQ community is made up of all communities, and we need to show up for our Asian American siblings. The roots of hate that target our queerness, are the same roots that these racial injustices are built on. For Pride month, please consider making a gift to Asian led and focused Queer organizations doing important work for community today:
Deputy Executive Director
SF LGBT Center