If there are two things we here at PopLurker have always tried to make clear, it’s that the site owner is queer and our headquarters are in Santa Clarita, California. And while we are not an entertainment news website by any means (though by the speed our articles are plagiarized, you’d think otherwise) we cannot help but focus on topics in our community when they overlap so many things that we (and our readers) represent.
I had the pleasure of recently meeting Finley Walker and his mother Dawn. Together, they are creating a non-profit organization and fundraising to build an actual brick and mortar LGBTQ center in the Santa Clarita Valley. This effort moved me on many levels and as an event planner, pop culture writer, and admitted Yenta, I immediately reached out to Finley to form an acquaintanceship.
Because my own coming out story was met with violence and sickening accusations from my mother and straight up uncharacteristic creepy questions from my father, I didn’t really know what to do as a teenager. My sisters were accepting that I sometimes liked to date guys ranging from effeminate to hyper masculine and sometimes liked to date girls ranging from effeminate to hyper masculine, but it was never a deeper conversation that I can recall. I’d say in typical fashion, my grandmother (the most incredible person in my life) has always been the most accepting and supportive of just about everything I do.
Circling back to Finley Walker’s SCV LGBTQ Center effort, I am so proud of him and this project. I wish I just had somewhere to go as a teenager. One by one, my queer friends fell victim to abuse by older men (many that they met on the internet), drugs, or a downward spiral of a lifestyle. It’s wonderful to me that there are so many queer teenagers today who can be gay without a follow up tragedy. It’s also (finally) reflected in the media and novels in circulation.
I asked Finley to share a little more of his story with us, which I think is a beautiful one, to learn more about the young man behind this valiant and inspiring project. Santa Clarita is a diverse and mixed group, but at the end of the day, I think most residents want each other safe and happy.
In Finley’s words:
Since my early childhood, I had never felt quite comfortable in my skin. I understand that many people feel this way for many different reasons, but my knowledge of the LGBTQ community was little to none so I was stumped. This confusion and discomfort manifested itself as depression and difficulty forming lasting connections that got worse as I got older. I was hidden deep inside a shell that I did not understand, trying to find the words to express something nameless.
It wasn’t until I changed schools that I found a group of people that showed me what it meant to be queer. I was exposed for the first time to a world of possibility and labels (and lack of labels). I began questioning myself, playing with my expression, doubting what I knew to be reality. It took a year until I began letting myself question my gender identity, having just learned of a friend’s identity as “gender-fluid.”
Once the seed was planted, it was all I could think about. I asked my parents if I could see a gender therapist, and was met with a mix of confusion (they thought I was just going to be a lesbian), support (they are the most loving people), and fear (this was a whole new realm they had never thought of before). They quickly began helping me figure myself out, and I was helping them as well. They had never heard of non-binary pronouns or identities other than boy and girl. They believed in the binary world of simply male and female, and that those are what defined people.
As I grew into my identity as a proud transgender man, their understanding of binaries and genders grew too. My sisters had their own ways of understanding. My oldest sister Olivia was always on board and always supportive, my other older sister Arielle took her time in her process of understanding and acceptance. My younger sister Juliet has always had a non-caring blasé attitude, so she just shrugged and accepted it.
In 9th grade I learned that I was accepted into Academy of the Canyons, so I made the difficult decision to change schools. I took that opportunity to socially transition over the summer before entering my new school. I started hormones, went on blockers, and changed my name (not yet legally). The opportunity to do that as well as go into a very small liberal school on a college campus was invaluable to my experience in making it safer and easier. I was who I always was going into AOC, people saw me as a guy and that was what I needed.
AOC brought a lot of different things to my life. I got rejected because I was trans but I also got my first boyfriend (separate people). I was GSA president for my Junior and Senior year. I completed enough credits to be able to graduate from college in two years with my BA. Though it was not associated with AOC, I joined a program where I was a Youth Ambassador of Queer Education at the ONE Archives at USC, and that not only taught me so much about Queer history (primarily in LA), but introduced me to the queer members of the LA city government. That experience was invaluable to me and taught me more queer history than I had ever learned in school, which was zero queer history, so the standards were not high.
I ended up attending to San Francisco State University (where I still am now, virtually), primarily because of the city and the diversity of the University. I found a beautiful and diverse group of friends and fell in love with the city. When COVID-19 hit and I was forced to return home to Santa Clarita, it was like getting dunked in an icy cold swimming pool on a cold day in spite of my amazing family and network of accepting friends. I was used to the diversity and acceptance of San Francisco and Santa Clarita was a sudden reminder that the whole world is not like that.
My mom has always connected me with kids of parents who reach out to her confused and scared about the sudden gender identity confusion of their children. It really dawned on me that not everyone has the opportunity to just leave Santa Clarita when they can in order to be themselves. They deserve to not be scared, to be able to pursue their diverse gender identities and sexual orientations when they want rather than when they can.
That is what I want to accomplish with the SCV LGBTQ Center, giving the residents a chance to be themselves by fostering a safe community outreach center and hopefully to change the racist homophobic reality that has antagonized its residents for far too long. I do not want to run away, I want to start the change that will make Santa Clarita a better place, something that is also being done by the incredible BLM movement and it’s sympathizers here, protesting every week.
The ideal future presents a place where not only the youth can go, but the adults and seniors who live here and have lived without their community. I want to present enough resources to help anyone I can, whether they are being kicked out of their homes, are struggling to find jobs, do not know how to help their queer kids, or want a friend or two that understand who they are and what they have gone through. Additionally, there are so many allies here that feel like there is nothing they can do for the people they love, and this center will raise opportunities for everyone to contribute and find community. We want to foster love and acceptance, the cornerstones of the LGBTQ community.
Raised in Santa Clarita, Finley Walker, a queer 19-year-old transman, returned home from his freshman year at university in San Francisco to face the harsh truth he had grown up with: Santa Clarita is not an ideal place for LGBTQ people and other minorities. Having been the GSA president at Academy of the Canyons and participating in a Youth Ambassadorship for Queer Education during his high school years, he knew that he had the drive and passion to start something he, and unbeknownst to him many others, believed would be an incredible and imperative addition to Santa Clarita, an LGBTQ center. Since deciding to start this project, he and his beyond supportive mother Dawn Walker have been working non-stop to make this need a reality.
For additional resources on the SCV LGBTQ Center, you can visit the following:
Official website: http://www.scvlgbtqcenter.org
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