“I think moving to the Bay Area, moving to Berkeley and Oakland and being in the East Bay where there is more exposure to just more self-love culture and what that looks like, and then also just witnessing my queer friends and kind of being an observer of the queer community and really admiring and wondering where all of these people got their strength from to be themselves in the world. I remember asking myself who told them that they were – I don’t remember what I thought. I think I thought, who told them that they were so fabulous?” –Kimmy, 30
As an interviewer for our LGBTQ Adults and Tobacco Stigma study, I heard countless stories like the one above. Stories of heartbreak and struggle and triumph and solidarity and love. While each story was different, a distinct pattern emerged. I was reminded over and over again just how important a sense of community is. When I asked our participants what was most needed in the Bay Area LGBTQ+ communities, so very many of them expressed a desire for a central place to access medical, housing, job, and mental health resources. A central place to meet people and socialize. A central place to simply “be themselves in the world.” On September 7, the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center opened its doors. From all of us at the Center for Critical Public Health: Welcome to the neighborhood!!!