San Mateo County on Thursday kicked off LGBT Pride Month on a high note.
Officials unveiled a Pride Center at 1021 S. El Camino Real in San Mateo, joining approximately four other cities in hosting an LGBTQ community center. It will also be the first in the state to feature a clinical health center in addition to its other resources.
"The Pride Center is actually funded through the Mental Health Services Act," said Jei Africa, the director of the San Mateo County Health System’s Office of Diversity and Equity. "It's unique because it brings together the clinical services for behavioral health and recovery and provides services for the community... and it also features an online resource."
Speakers acknowledged the long-awaited opening of a meeting and community resource space in San Mateo County, which is also home to California’s first LGTBQ Commission.
The commission was announced three years ago with the unanimous approval by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to focus on the needs of the LGBTQ community.
Former Assemblyman Rich Gordon, the first openly gay candidate in San Mateo County, said it was an important and symbolic message to send to residents.
"I never thought the day would come that I would see the gay pride flag flying on El Camino Real," Gordon said. "This is where I was raised, at a time and a place where — if you were gay — the only role that you had was in the closet. We’ve come a long way in 69 years."
Speakers also said the timing of the center's opening is apt due to the current political climate and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
"Together, we are powerful," said Lisa Putkey, the center's director. "[We] have the ability to overcome hate and oppression as long as we are bold, take risks, stand in solidarity, centering the voices of the most harmed amongst us until each one of us is honored, seen, heard, valued and loved."
In collaboration with San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, the new center is run by five partnerships including StarVista, Peninsula Family Service, Outlet of Adolescent Counseling Services, Daly City Partnership and Pyramid Alternatives.