Queer Goggles

Nick and Brian

March 08, 2019 Brian Poth, Nick Vargas Season 1 Episode 1
Queer Goggles
Nick and Brian
Chapters
Queer Goggles
Nick and Brian
Mar 08, 2019 Season 1 Episode 1
Brian Poth, Nick Vargas

Meet Nick Vargas and Brian Poth from The Source LGBT+ Center in Visalia, CA. Nick and Brian will discuss their work with San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, Equity on The Mall 2019, Leadership Academy, PrEP, and changing the culture, policy, and systems in rural, conservative Tulare County.

Support the show (http://paypal.me/thesourcelgbt)

Show Notes Transcript

Meet Nick Vargas and Brian Poth from The Source LGBT+ Center in Visalia, CA. Nick and Brian will discuss their work with San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, Equity on The Mall 2019, Leadership Academy, PrEP, and changing the culture, policy, and systems in rural, conservative Tulare County.

Support the show (http://paypal.me/thesourcelgbt)

Speaker 1:

Welcome everybody. This is Bryan path, the source LGBT plus center, and we're really excited today because we are starting our podcasts. We have two podcasts in the works, one is called Queer goggles and the other is called Trans sister radio. Queer goggles is just like, it sounds, it's a look at life in the central valley through a queer or LGBTQ Lens and transistor radio is kind of what it says. We like puns here. It's a conversation between cisgender woman and a trans woman and they talk about everything from pop culture to LGBT issues, to trans rights to the Trans military band, and they even do a question and answer period where you can ask anything that you've ever wanted to know about a transgender person. We hope that you will find these educational entertaining mos of all inspiring. Thank you so much for listening and we'll get to the show.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible]

Speaker 1:

hey everybody. Thanks for listening to queer goggles. This is Brian Path from the source LGBT plus center in Visalia, California. So today is our first episode and we'd like to introduce ourselves to you. So we're going to be talking to Nick Vargas and myself and we're going to be talking about the things that we do with the source here and a little bit about a project that we worked on , uh , through the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund and the center. So , uh, I hope you enjoy the show and here we go. Hey Nick. Hi Brian. Thanks for having me on today. Sure. I wanted to hear from you because you were so instrumental in like planning equity on the mall and all of that. Just tell us a little bit about that. You can tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, what you do here at the source and um, but definitely want to focus on equity on the mall.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so really briefly, again, I'm Nick Vargas. My pronouns are, he, him is , uh, I'm the director of development and strategy here at the source, which means that I think about things like our fundraising events, how we partner with other organizations, you know, our, our PR and you know, anything that falls under that plus anything else that the source needs me to do. So that could be, you know, taking a shift at the center as a volunteer. It could be taking the trash out. And in this case it was helping to organize equity on the mall , uh , in which the source was a bus lead. And what does that mean? What does a bus lead? So will, a bus lead is a, an organization that takes a bus from wherever their hometown is, wherever they're traveling from to the state capitol . So let me back up and tell you a little bit about what equity on the mall is. So , uh , the source has a grant through the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, which funds Progressive Organizations in the San Joaquin Valley, a typically underserved area in our state on issues around water quality, immigration, land use, LGBT rights, and a few other things. So the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund two years ago had their first equity on the mall. And what equity on the mall is, it's a day for these organizations funded through San Joaquin Valley Health Fund to come to the Capitol to rally and speak up about what's important for the San Joaquin Valley. It sounds exciting. It is actually. It's, it's, I mean, I was, I was there with you, but I mean, when you talk about bringing people from this part of the state to the capitol , it's , um, it's always, it's always a good thing. Yeah. So to put it in some contexts though, the San Joaquin Valley is one of the fastest growing regions in California, but we don't get the attention that areas like Los Angeles do and the bay area of California. So we've been typically ignored here. It's a, you know, people pass through our , our town on the way the sequoias are on their way to San Francisco or la. So the legislature's , a lot of the power up until now has resided in the, in those big geographical areas and the valley, even though we produce a lot of our nation's food, we have, you know, a third of the state's population, we get ignored. So what equity on the mall is, is a day to create a golden state. For all, you know, the promise of education of healthy families is something that we want to bring attention to. So on March six, 2019, that's what we did. The source took a bus full of almost 50 people. We , we got up at four 30 in the morning, got on the bus by six and we arrived on the Capitol by 10:00 AM. And so we, we got off on the bus and we joined , uh, nearly 2000 other people on the west side of the Capitol to talk about, you know, what's important to us here in the San Joaquin Valley. And we were able to take one of our leadership alum with us this year. Do you want to talk? Yeah, no, of course. Yeah, that was probably the highlight of my day really. So we participate in equity in the mall last year and we took our inaugural leadership class. Rory summers was part of this and this year they were invited back as the poet laureate for equity on the mall, if you will. So Rory has a background in spoken word and slam poetry and and they do very well at it. So they were invited to open up the ceremonies, you know, with a couple of their, their pieces and the pieces were powerful. They , they talked about, you know, their own experience and the inequities

Speaker 4:

they've seen principal [inaudible] using the excuse that it was nibble . And here's an old Russian states. We only ask that you respect our opinion or snakes . [inaudible] is what you say to me . Defensive after I haul you out or something knows extremely offensive. Perspect our opinion. As you say, I have a friend that's gay, respect our opinion when all it does is puppy down. And the thousands of other per youth all around respect our opinion. We say , mom , you have your prayer room in a public school. But when I'm trying to put on a simple crime event is pushing the payment sense against the school rules.

Speaker 3:

See Rory go from this, you know, younger person their first time at equity in the mall to being in front of 2000 people and doing a fantastic job at it. That was really powerful. That shows the power of, you know, investing on the San Joaquin Valley. They wouldn't have been up there had it not been for this grant and now they've returned to , they now live in Bakersville and now they've returned there and are doing , uh, continuing their work to advocate for the LGBT plus community and bringing attention to, to our cause here. So was there anything that you, you felt like, I'm surprised you about equity on the mall this year? Was it different? Did it feel different? You know, it felt different and that could have just been that I was helping to organize it this year. Um, I, for me, I could really see the power of different groups working on different issues, collaborate in the one space and getting the attention of legislatures. Our Assemblyman who is a Republican, you know, was onstage with a bunch of other democratic , uh, legislators and you know, that says something that, you know, the , the issue that are important to us, land use, immigration, LGBT rights, those shouldn't be a bipartisan issue. It should be things that both Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, everybody should be concerned about because we are such an important part of the state. And yet we , we have needs that aren't being met. So I'm wanting to talk about a little bit about

Speaker 1:

what we did this year in leadership academy and maybe our relationship with our assembly man . Cause that's, that's been kind of a surprise for a lot of people, right?

Speaker 3:

Yeah . It has, you know, when being in a very conservative area with Republican , uh, assemblyman who you would think like, oh, you know, you're not going to have any relationship in any relationship you do have is going to be, you know, fraught with opposition now hasn't been our experience. So when we got to equity on the mall, part of this is it's an educational component for our youth leadership academy. Uh, we took about almost half of the class there , if not, you know, over half of the class. And we had a meeting with Devin Matha set up and uh, he was very glad to take the meeting, you know, we had no problems getting it scheduled. Uh, he spent a good half hour with us, which, you know, it was a busy day for him. And , uh, he talked to the youth and, and other members of our group about what he does, what's important about the water bill he's working on for our area. And the, the youth leaders got to have some time to ask questions to, to learn about what he does and you know, even start to make those connections. Of what does this person that we send up to Sacramento, what do they do for us? Right? Why are they important? And, but the, the big takeaway is that, you know, a, an LGBT center and one of the most conservative parts of California has a working relationship with an elected official, which to a lot of people we, when we say that they, you know, find that a surprise. But we've, we've done a good job of, you know, being collaborative with our assembly men of, you know, talking about what's important to us but not coming at it from your wrong, this is wrong. Like this is how we can do better. This is what's important to us. And I think , uh, Devin Mathis especially believes that he, you'd have the same people over politics. He, I believe he really wants to do what's right for the community. He wants to represent, you know, the will of the people who sent him up there. And also the , even those who, you know, might not be in the majority.

Speaker 1:

So I want to just touch briefly on some exciting part of the leadership academy that is being added this year with the support of one of our local funders and supporters because of the work that we've done through San Joaquin Valley Health Fund. And I'm been able to do with our leaders. They want to see us do more outside of our little area, right? Yes.

Speaker 3:

A little bit . So, yeah. Way, way outside of our area. So , uh, one of our funders, a good friend of the source owns a retreat in Ecuador. So it's a town called Auto Bolo , which is in about an hour and a half north of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. And they have given us some money where we can take the class to go visit them for just over a week. While we're there, we're going to work on an LGBT focus service project. So the idea right now is that we're going to , uh , have a gathering, a social gathering with , uh, our youth leadership academy and the local LGBT people in the town. So there'll be a night of cultural exchange of education. And you know, just bridging that gap between cultures. I know the youth are really excited about it. I'm excited. Our board's excited. So we're really happy for this opportunity at , you know, the youth leadership academy began with just a few people two years ago and this year we had 20 applications. We took a class of 10 and now we're able to add a really exciting component of international travel, which I , to the best of my knowledge, doesn't exist anywhere else. We're going to be able to take some kids who have never been on an airplane, let alone out of the country and we're going to take them to another continent and exciting it is. And while we're there, we're going to do some, some good work for the community. They're going to learn just the act of traveling internationally is an educational experience.

Speaker 1:

Yes . And some of them had never even been like to Sacramento when we went on that class. Right. This is like this is really, really a big deal for a lot of these for a lot of these kids.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Like, again, the, going back talking about why equity on the mall is important because our area's so underserved. I want, you know, those people listening to realize the power that giving to an organization, the San Joaquin Valley has, we're able to give youth and others and experience that they would not have otherwise. You know, going to Sacramento, going to Ecuador, you know, even having the chance to spend six months with other likeminded peers, learning about different topics. One thing that you've heard me say before is that when people feel safe and included in their communities, they build lives that benefit the communities in which they live. And I would say when people feel safe and included in their state, they build lives that benefit their state, their nation and the world. Yeah. And we're, we're coming free Ecuador. Well

Speaker 1:

thanks nick. Thanks for taking the time. Um, it's been a pleasure like working with you , um, you know, in all aspects, but especially in the leadership academy. I know every year when we would go through that process of interviewing applicants and trying to figure out what's a good fit and we don't really know. We got a really good, really, really good team this year. And it's the highlight. It's definitely the highlight of my year is working with these kids working with you. So , um, thank you so much. Yeah , thank you.

Speaker 5:

Hello .

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Do you want to ask me some questions? I wanted to ask you about some of the work you do though. I don't see, you know, we spend a lot of time together, but you're really involved in the policy work of the source. Tell us, ah , how you got into that.

Speaker 1:

Sure. So I'm kind of by , I want to say by accident, you know, I mean, we started doing this work a couple of years ago in 2016 and um, you know, very quickly we became sort of the face of the LGBT community. And so a lot of , uh, there are a lot of committees, like a lot of committees around what are some of the committees? Well. So there's health committees through the HSA, through Tilera county health and human services. There's mental health services board, community, sort of a stakeholder meetings, there's school boards, there's all kinds of stuff. And now that there's sort of a face to the LGBT community with , with the source, people know where to go if they need sort of an LGBT voice or they want some , some people on their board. So we were invited to, to attend some of these. And very quickly I realized that, you know, not only was I the only LGBT person in the room, a lot of these meetings is that people are listening to us. And it was a very powerful place to be. Um , I had never been in that situation before. And so it was really interesting to see that , um, the work that we were doing was so , um, valuable to me .

Speaker 3:

So, yeah. So tell us why, why is it so valuable in a state like California that's a progressive leader and the nation of the world ?

Speaker 1:

So that's an interesting question. You know that we live in California, it's very LGBT friendly. It's one of the most progressive states in the United States. Um, we're a leader in a lot of ways, but , um, you know, things get passed at the state level and then , um, they sort of don't trickle down into our communities just depending on where you are. And, and so we , we've noticed that, you know, there are laws passed that protect people and it's almost like we don't hear about them here or the policy is passed, but the system that, that the policy is meant to sort of help or make better, you know, their close systems, you know, healthcare systems, they're , there's like four or five different FQHC cs around our area. And those are federal, federally qualified healthcare centers. They're , they're federally mandated to do certain things. And then because we're in California, there's a mandate at the state level to , you know, either be trans inclusive or, or , or what have you, or provide education. So, yes , the prep,

Speaker 3:

give us some examples about what some of the policies that are enacted that aren't filtering to our, to our area.

Speaker 1:

So in 2016 , uh , ab 26 40 was passed. Um, by the governor at the time , uh, Governor Brown, and it was to help , uh, get the word out about preexposure prophylaxis. And that is a highly effective medical treatment to prevent the spread of HIV. It's up to 99% effective. It's been around for quite a long time. And um, you know, in 2016 when we opened, there were doctors here in the area that had never heard of it, which was sort of baffling to us. Um, but that same year , um, there was this bill passed that would ensure that with every HIV negative test results, so you go in, you get tested for HIV, you come out and you're supposed to be provided education, sort of , uh , some coaching as to safer sex practices. And those safer sex practices should include information about prep pet and that's not happening. So that's really surprising. Why, why do you think that's not happening here? Um, I don't think it's happening in a lot of places. We live in a very conservative county and a lot of times when these people go, you know, we send our youth out to clinic visits. They are only being, if they're being told anything about safe sex or protecting themselves against STDs, it's usually abstinence. First secondary would be condoms. And then , um, you know, the birth control and things like that. It's very traditional thinking. Um, you know, I think we've even heard complaints about our own pride festival having condoms at pride. Uh, you know, there's still a very sort of conservative way of thinking here. It's partly the culture. Yeah. That's the culture, you know. And so then when those things get passed and they don't trickle down, those affect people's health, you know, if nobody knows that they can take medication to keep themselves from getting HIV, then there are people getting HIV that, that that wouldn't have to, if they had known they would have made a better choice for themselves. I know some of those people. Yeah. So tell me about some of the policies so that you've worked on that have been successful. Give me some success stories. Well, I want to talk about , um, this committee that I sit on. So we were asked early on to sit on a committee with the county health department and they had done a study a couple of years ago and they looked at customer service and quality and all of this stuff. And a lot of times , uh, LGBT people, if they self identified on the form, they were very dissatisfied with their service. They needed somebody on their committee. And so I said, I would show up and do that. And so through sitting on this committee over the last two years, this access to care committee, one of their main focuses now in our county is now LGBT access to care. So there's a lot of attention in our county now of collecting Soji data, which is sexual orientation, gender identity data , um, which hasn't been collected historically. It's not asked on the census. Um, it's not asked. It's sorta taboo to ask people like, you know, what's your sexual orientation? So we're trying to steer people away from that and, and coach them into better thinking that if you ask people , um, who they're sexually active with or their there about their identity, whether they're LGB or t, you're going to know how to serve them better. And so our county is starting to do that. And a big part of that was getting them to , um, educating our county about the health equality index. And so the health equality index is something that the human rights campaign is in charge of. And they look at policies and procedures internally with hospitals, FQHC, FQHC, lookalikes, look at if they're trans inclusive, LGBT friendly, they look at um, domestic partner like rights. They look at healthcare within the system itself. And then they look at things like, do you train your staff on like, so g data and pronouns and Trans Healthcare and HIV. And when was the last time you did this stuff? And so we looked at our map, you know, there's a map, there's an interactive map on the HRC website and there was nothing here. There was no federally qualified or hospital institution listed in our county. And the closest one is in the next county over and they get like a 60% like a d, you know, so , um, that's not great. So we have been working with our county , uh, health department to get them through this process and now they are, they will be the first , um, FQHC listed on the health equality index , um, as an LGBT friendly provider because they've gone through all these hoops. So internally they're looking at policies, procedures, things like that, that protect trans people, protect LGBT people , um, and they are doing training . So now they have access to this, this wealth of knowledge, these webinars and coaching, like the gold standard of, of LGBT health trainings. And they can offer them to all of their providers, all of their doctors, all of their frontline staff. And so I think they have an 85% already. Wow. They'll be listed, there'll be the highest ranking on the Hei within like three counties. That's amazing. Yeah. So it took two years. Uh , thanks. It took two years to get anyone to interested in it. Um, cause a lot of times what we hear is that LGBT people may make up like 10% of the population. Um, and that's just not enough people to care about and that's not enough to care about. Yeah. Um , nobody says that outright, but that's sort of the implicated , uh, the implicated. I hear that. So you've talked about the human rights campaign, you work with a couple of other organizations, the suicide prevention task force and also Visalia unified. Can you tell us about your involvement with those? Sure. So , uh, you know, we've been really lucky, the source and , uh, has been very lucky to be able to do this work. And , um , I've been very fortunate to have really great partners like suicide prevention task force. So that is a task force that was , um, like a two county task force that looks at prevention focus on suicide prevention , um, mental health. They came to us to look at what that looks like through an LGBT Lens , um, because LGBT people are at higher risk for suicide. Uh, I think LGB, lesbian, gay, and Bi kids are four to five times as likely to complete or attempt suicide while Trans Youth are about eight times as likely. So the risk factors , uh, are high for LGBT kids and they wanted us to work with them. So we've been doing popups in Hanford, so we go out once a month. We do some , uh, community engagement. We have fun, Fun Nights, we do education nights and um, and that community really needed something. You know, their transportation is a , is a big barrier here in central California. Um, a lot of people don't have a car or they don't have a way to get around and they use public transportation, but we don't have things that, that sort of run after hours. Right. If you're coming from Porterville, you need to get on the bus at like six o'clock to get back home or you're not getting home. So , um, so that's, that's been a good partnership with suicide prevention task force and we've been able to provide mental health services for people with that, grant's been able to train some clinicians to be more trans competent. So we're looking at systems within our own little county here , um, and changing them sort of at a grassroots level. Then with Visalia unified, we were asked as the source, again to sit on a committee to be the voice of LGBT people and we're looking at inclusion and diversity because if I saw unified just as just been sued by the ACLU and um, that's a big red flag for them to look at some internal policies and some procedures within their , uh, their organization to change things for and change their culture around LGBT kids, African American students, anyone who's quote unquote different in this area, you know, if you're not at the table, you're on the menu.

Speaker 3:

Oh yeah, sure. So we're finally at the table and um, people are listening. They're really listening, so I , that's great. Yeah, it's a good , it's a good thing. Well, is there anything else you'd like to share with us today? No, that's great. I mean, that's already a lot. You've done quite a bit and the two years that you've been doing this work, and thank you for, for doing that.

Speaker 1:

And that's our first episode. Thank you so much for listening to queer goggles. Our next episode, we're going to be featuring one of our leadership participants, Kiki Vella . She's going to tell us all about experience with leadership and what it's like to be transgender in a very conservative, central California community. See you next time.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible] .