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Reflecting on Pride Month with Irvine Program Officer Victor Garcia

The Irvine Foundation is fortunate to have talented staff with diverse backgrounds and life experiences, and we want to introduce some of our colleagues to you. We spoke with Program Officer Victor Garcia about Pride Month . Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Why philanthropy? How did you get into this work?

As the first person to pursue a postsecondary education in my immigrant family, I wasn’t aware about the field of philanthropy until after college. I knew about service and mission-driven organizations tackling pressing issues (e.g., public health, college access for low-income youth, services for immigrant/migrant populations, etc.) in the communities I called home. But I knew much less about how such organizations were sustained.

My first professional experience after college helped expand my awareness about both the non-profit sector and philanthropy. That position was as a coordinator of an HIV outreach & prevention program reaching farmworkers, the LGBTQI+ community, and underserved youth in rural Santa Cruz County. In most of the subsequent professional experiences that followed, my roles included grant implementation, grant writing, or grantmaking. My current position as Program Officer in the Priority Communities Initiative at Irvine is directly informed by those formative experiences I’ve had across sectors in California.

What does Pride month mean to you?

On a personal level, the month of June is a time of deep reflection, gratitude, and joy. Each year during Pride month I think back to my younger self growing up in a small, rural, agricultural town and wondering if I could or would ever be able to come out as gay. It was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and I didn’t know any out, gay individuals either in my community or in the media who I could identify with. At the time, the media and mainstream sentiment in the U.S. were overwhelmingly opposed to non-heterosexual identities and lives. Pride month is a time to recognize the courage, resolve, and dedication of many generations, past and present, whose struggles led to major victories for anyone who identifies as LGBTQI+ in the U.S. today.

What does the legacy of Pride mean to you?

The legacy of Pride is that sense of commitment to continue pushing forward and against hate until all LGBTQI+ individuals everywhere can live full lives without fear of being ostracized or persecuted. This legacy is uniquely important for those of us who identify as part of an LGBTQI+ community, but this is truly a mandate for everyone invested in having a more just and inclusive society.