As I walked into the LGBTQ Center, I was greeted by Mary Simun, Education Coordinator. It was evident that Mary was extremely passionate about her role and the Center. As I toured, I learned the mission of the LGBTQ Center is to create spaces where all LGBTQ people can thrive through cultural awareness, community building, community service, and learning opportunities. “We hope to foster greater inclusion as well as understanding of our LGBTQ+ and other intersecting communities in the South Bay area,” shared Mary.
The history of the Center was clearly defined in 1989 when community need and interests were discussed, and various committees formed to implement a formal organization, the ‘South Bay Lesbian and Gay Community Organization, Inc.’ As the group searched for a facility, activities were planned and held in private homes, rented public places, and out-of-doors.
By November 1989, a steering committee created and filed necessary paperwork with both State and Federal agencies to incorporate the new organization as a non-profit educational organization. Over the years the name has evolved to include ‘Bi” and later “Transgender”, recognizing the beautiful diversity within the organization and the community it serves.
Mary, a retired high school science teacher who is active in the community served as president of Friends of the Redondo Beach Library and sponsored the Gay-Straight Alliance for several years at Redondo Union High School. At the LGBTQ Center, Mary, shares in a multitude of projects and programs. She painted a colorful mural on the entrance wall and is knowledgeable in a myriad of programs and resources offered at the Center. Mary explained that during the pandemic, individual bags were filled and distributed to motorists on Crenshaw Blvd by volunteers. The Center provides a variety of support groups including young adult, bi and beyond, teen group, women’s group and a transgender social support group. Additionally, board game nights, potlucks and social gatherings are continually being planned.
The South Bay LGBTQ Center is located at 16610 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance. Information can be found at www.southbaycenter.org