It’s been a fantastic journey for the current COO of The Pride Center at Equality Park, Kristofer Fegenbush. After having spent his childhood in Kentucky, the son of a minister and public school teacher, the affable gay rights activist has learned to reconcile his faith with his sexuality while helping to run one of Wilton Manors’ most influential community organizations, The Pride Center at Equality Park.
Before joining The Pride Center, Kristofer had stints at a non-profit in Mexico before arriving in Miami and working for three-and-a-half years at CenterOne/AIDS Project. He received his Masters of Social Work from Florida International University and has a certificate in Addictions. He was named one of The Agenda’s Top Movers and Shakers of 2015, and we had a chance to discuss with him his work with The Pride Center and its future.
Berkley: The Pride Center will be twenty-three years old in June. What has made its longevity possible?
Fegenbush: Love, sweat and dollars. Visionary volunteers, donors and staff have invested time, energy, money and passion into the success of The Pride Center. Radically diverse people have sacrificed and collaborated to provide a welcoming, safe, inclusive home for the community. Our longevity is a product of the perseverance, commitment and generosity of many.
Berkley: What are some of The Center’s most recent achievements?
Fegenbush: The rapid evolution of The Center—it’s changed so much. This past year, we were the first LGBTQ community center nationwide to build a playground. We’ve taken steps to find paths to build low-income senior housing. The Kiki Project provides cutting-edge outreach to communities of color. We have the largest LGBTQ senior programs in the nation. All in all, we’re one of the largest LGBTQ community centers in the world.
Berkley: What makes The Pride Center different than other LGBTQ organizations in South Florida?
Fegenbush: I love the diversity of The Center’s services, participants, staff, events, volunteers, programs, donors, and clients. Every day, the groups, events, and programs may look different, but I hope the message to people in the community remains: you are embraced, you are accepted, you are appreciated, you are worthy, and you are loved.
Berkley: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the LGBTQ community today?
Fegenbush: I think we have a lot of questions to address. How do we help LGBTQ people feel loved and accepted, combating internalized shame and external stigma? How do we ensure quality, affirming housing accommodations when 1/5 of transgender youth face homelessness and many LGBT Seniors fear social isolation, subpar caregiving or financial insecurity? How do we better honor and embrace fluidity around sexual orientation and gender identify? What does it mean to be single in an era of marriage equality? How do we age in a youth-oriented and looks-obsessed gay pop culture? How do we ensure employers are providing insurance that is inclusive of transgender healthcare? How can we help folks connect spiritually—especially when so many have weathered religious persecution and rejection?