Supporting the LGBTQ+ Community in Oakland: Love is the Answer

Stories@Gilead - June 01, 2023 - 1 min read

As a young gay man growing up in Detroit, Joe Hawkins witnessed the stigma and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. And when he entered the military in the 1980s, during the early years of the HIV epidemic, he again faced anti-gay fervor.

“It was terrifying, and it became a witch hunt in many ways,” Joe says.

After he left the military and arrived in Bay Area, Joe found a supportive Black gay culture. But he was surprised to discover that Oakland had far fewer resources for LGBTQ+ individuals than nearby San Francisco.

“When areas are not sufficiently resourced, we fail our communities,” he says. “My whole life has been dedicated to changing this.” 

With support from partners, including Gilead, Joe went on to co-found the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, which opened its doors in 2017. The center is focused on enhancing the wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals, as well as families and allies. They do this by offering a welcoming gathering spot and providing educational, social, and health related services, such as HIV care, mental health support, food and transportation assistance.

“It’s really important we have a humane approach to helping our community,” Joe says. “Without sounding too corny, love is the answer.”

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