It took a five-day drive across the country from Pittsburgh to Long Beach, but the LGBTQ Center’s new Executive Director Carlos Torres has begun his tenure and is getting acquainted with the community.
Serving as an introduction to the Long Beach community, Torres held a virtual conversation with drag queen and comedian Jewels, taking time to also engage with those tuned in.
The Thursday, April 22 conversation delved into Torres’ background, his vision as the LGBTQ Center moves forward and other developments.
Torres was named the new executive director in late February after a nationwide search following the Center’s decision to not renew former director Porter Gilbert’s contract.
See Related: UPDATE: The LGBTQ Center will not renew employment contract for Executive Director Porter Gilberg
Before coming to Long Beach, Torres was the interim director at the Persad Center, an outpatient mental health facility created to meet the needs of the LGBTQ community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Torres has a vision for how the Center will continue operating health services.
“[They] will continue to go strong,” Torres said. “We are working to enhance the services that we provide to the community. We are working on a vaccination clinic for our community, related to COVID-19, we’re working on a PrEP clinic.”
Torres also noted that the Center is working on providing primary care for transgender people.
“We have a program right now making sure that trans individuals have the accurate information about sexual health,” Torres said. “And they have access to resources needed to protect themselves going forward.”
The program also connects transgender people to other resources such as housing, employment, food and transportation.
For the first time, the Center has a director of development, Myron Day, who has a history of helping organizations diversify fundraising efforts and resources.
As a result, a few events are being planned including QFilms, the possible return of the Black and White Ball, Pride events and an AIDS walk.
Torres announced that the plan is to have QFilms in person this year, with a virtual and drive-in component.
“I wish I could take credit for Myron being part of our team,” Torres said. “But I’m certainly grateful that they’re a part of our team.”
Torres also noted plans to find a new home for the ever-expanding programs and services of the LGBTQ Center. More information on this development will be forthcoming.
Engaging with the community present for the virtual event, Torres answered some of the audience’s most pressing questions, including where Torres saw the Center in the next few years.
“I envision the Center in a beautiful new space where we can house all of our services,” Torres said. “Services for youth and families, services for our older adults, services for people seeking mental health, services for people seeking primary care. We’re dreaming big.”
The Center has a five-year strategic plan and Torres hopes to double the annual income from $2 million to $4 million, although he did not address how during the event.
Torres, who hails from Puerto Rico, also addressed what his role and the organization’s role would be in supporting staff members of color.
Last year, former employees wrote an open letter to the Center’s board detailing a “hostile workplace and a culture of misogyny against Black and non-white women of color” by former director Gilbert.
See related: Former employees pen open letter alleging a history of hostile workplace behavior at the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach
“As a person who is of Latino descent, the issue of equity and inclusion is very important to me,” Torres said. “It is important for me that our staff know on a daily basis that they’re appreciated, that they are compensated properly for the work that they do and that they are recognized for their efforts.”
The new executive director also answered questions about how the Center will be more welcoming and inclusive of Black, Latinx, Indigenous and the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. The Center, he said, should be a “beacon of hope.”
“I’m being purposeful about those actions,” Torres said.“Making sure that the people on staff right now and the people that will be on staff tomorrow and the day after are reflective of the communities we serve.”