Massimiliano “Max” Disposti, founder of the North County LGBT Coalition and the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, was recently awarded the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award from the city of Oceanside.
Judges said they picked Disposti as their winner for the 11 years of community service he has brought to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community.
After Disposti accepted his award, he assured the LGBT community that he will bring awareness, acceptance and advocacy to residents and servicemen and women in North County.
Patch caught up with Disposti and asked him a few questions about the LGBT community.
Patch: What can people expect from the North County LGBTQ Resource Center?
Disposti: As a Resource Center we aim to provide services for all our families and people that reside in North County. However, limited funding resources often don't allow us to reach as far as we would like to. We are certainly proud of what we have already accomplished, but we always reach for more visibility, community building and programs for all. To our LGBT community I would say: "ask for the best and give the most you can"
Patch: Not every member of the center is gay, lesbian or transgendered. In what cases are straight members encouraged to join?
Disposti: Everyone is welcomed at the center, as matter of fact many of our most committed volunteers are straight allies. Sometimes they join because a family member is LGBT and they understand the value of having a safe place where to meet. Others times it is because they need help in how to overcome prejudice and stereotypes on LGBT folks and/or their children. A different sexual orientation or gender identity is not a requirement to use the Center because we can all benefit from understanding and acceptance. We believe in creating a better supportive community where love and acceptance are among our priorities.
Patch: It’s been a year since Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. What would you like to tell service members who haven’t yet checked out the center?
Disposti: We have several service members using our resources and/or volunteering with us. However, the repeal of DADT is just the first step in the right directions. You can't easily repeal years of stigmatized ideas and discriminatory legislation without an educational program in place. We do what we can do with our resources in place and people appreciate that, but what we really need is for Camp Pendleton to officially reach out to our Center as they do with other minority groups in Oceanside. Help us to educate, inform and undo years of damaging discriminatory actions, and more service members will feel comfortable to participate and get help as well.
Patch: Can you tell me what a new member to the resource center would expect?
Disposti: They can expect to become part of the change by supporting a safe place where LGBT people can feel accepted, included and loved for who they are. Membership help us with providing free support and discussion groups for over 800 individuals each month. A new member if qualified, can lead one of these groups or volunteer with many other available tasks at the center. Every day we encourage people to become positive LGBT role models while encouraging education, responsible choices, and respect for others.
Patch: What was your first reaction when you won the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award?
Disposti: The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Award is a huge legacy that I was very honored to receive. However, this recognition is more than a personal achievement, it acknowledges the existence of our North County LGBT families. The struggle to be recognized as active constituents within the community at large. However, there are so many people in our community that are dedicating personal time and resources in helping others, but many of these local heroes and heroines are also LGBT people that often struggle to get their families and loved ones recognized and protected. Despite that, I believe that change becomes possible everywhere, from the remote Africa villages where being gay is a death sentence to the heart of our communities, where persistence, perseverance but also compassion for others can make progress and better quality of life a possibility.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article contained errors and it has since been updated and republished.