SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — If you make it San Diego Pride's next event, chances are executive director for Pride San Diego, Fernando Lopez, will among the crowd smiling, laughing, spreading joy and reminding people they're in a safe space.
But what spectators might not know is behind that smile is a well of strength and resiliency that runs deep yet lies right on the surface.
"We get so comfortable, but people are still fired in situations where they're not treated fairly," Lopez said.
Lopez is a first-generation U.S. citizen born in a multicultural family. Their dad was a Mexican Catholic, and their mom was a Jewish immigrant.
"What my parents weren't prepared for was to have an LGBT kid," they described.
They said at a young age they were faced with discrimination at school, and at home.
"Once I came out, I was met with homelessness and struggled with that for several years," Lopez said. "I was ready to end it all. I went to Hillcrest where I knew there was an LGBTQ community. I just sat in the gutter and cried when a stranger found me put their arm on my hand and said, 'what's wrong, what can I do to help', and I'm so lucky that that person was a good person."
Twenty years later, Lopez is offering that arm they once needed to others who feel like there's nowhere to turn.
"There's hope and so many LGBTQ-serving regions who want to find your interest and meet you where you're at and help lift you up, those resources exist for that person," they said.
Lopez has grown into a prominent leader in the LGBTQ community locally and nationwide. They're heavily immersed in creating programs that foster youth leadership, and works with the organizations Equality California and Marriage Equality U.S.A.
They added while Pride celebrations are a time to unite, connect and spread love, it's a reminder of all the work they've done and the work that's still to come.
"Every day I get to be part of this, it not only makes the world safe for me but for the next person and that's so important to me," Lopez said.