Oscar Orozco Orejel is a 2010 Tokay High School graduate who says he is bisexual. Saying there are more gay people in Lodi than many would think, Orejel is organizing the first peer group in San Joaquin County for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
The peer group, designed to provide a safe haven to discuss concerns among the LGBT community, will have its inaugural meeting from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the Lodi Public Library community room, 201 W. Locust St. It is open to the public.
The peer group is being formed in conjunction with the San Joaquin Pride Center, which will provide opportunities for the gay community to socialize, network and discuss issues in what organizers describe as "a safe and learning environment," said Nicholas Hatten, executive director for the San Joaquin Pride Center in Stockton.
"I think it's important to be there to provide a safe space," Hatten said. "There are a lot of gay people who live in Lodi, but they're just regular folks. They're just living their life."
Gays in Lodi don't tend to outwardly display their sexuality, Hatten said. Although Lodi is seen as conservative, it's an attractive community for some gays who are conservative politically except for gay rights, he said.
Orejel, 19, who lived in Lodi since he was 5, said he didn't experience abuse when he was at Tokay High, but he said he wasn't really that social at school anyway. At one time, Orejel didn't realize there was a gay, lesbian or transgender community in Lodi.
"From my personal experience, I felt (initially) that there was no LGBT community here, and mum was the word for everything," Orejel said. "I thought I was the only one."
Orejel said he discovered there were other gay people in Lodi when he met a gay man when he was 16.
Orejel tells his story on a YouTube video, www.tinyurl. com/crmrmq8. There is a provision for closed captions on the video.
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