I’m Nick Vargas. I’m currently the treasurer of the newest LGBT+ center in California, theSOURCE LGBT+ center. TheSOURCE is located in Visalia, CA, my hometown and the place I was born. It’s an unlikely place for an LGBT+ center. The area is very conservative, religious, undereducated, and one of the poorest counties in California. Yet, theSOURCE has received only support from the local community. It’s been open since May 2016, and in that time, we’ve held dozens of events, become an official non-profit, created a functioning board of directors, created partnerships with other organizations, and had over 1500 visitors. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of helping to create something from the ground up and expanding skill set. I’ve met great people, including elected officials, and am helping to create a conversation about what it is to be gay in a rural area. TheSOURCE has given me opportunities beyond the work with the center, such as participating in Leadership Visalia, a leadership program sponsored by the Visalia Chamber of Commerce. In short, life is good. But a year and a half ago, I wouldn’t have imagined my life would be what it is now. I want the following story to show an example of how life can take you through ups and downs, but to a place you need and want to be:
I was born in Visalia, CA. My family moved to Altadena when I was 4 and I attended a catholic school from K through 8th grade. We returned to Visalia, where I went to high school at Golden West. I did well there, and was accepted to Stanford University. It was at this point that I thought I had made it. I was going to get out of Visalia and go on to big things and a place where I could be my gay self. It took a couple of years for me to come out, I even had a girlfriend my freshmen year. But eventually, I met my first boyfriend, Ty. It was a short relationship, but a good first one.
At Stanford I studied psychology, economics and history. I thought I wanted to go on to be a clinician or a lawyer, but a year of doing research right after college and my LSAT scores, persuaded me otherwise. Fortunately, I was recruited to a management training program through Charles Schwab. I never thought of being involved in finance or the stock market, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. I was also very good with financial sales and advising clients. I started out in a front desk role and in a few years my title was VP-Financial Consultant. I worked with the firm’s high-net worth clients in San Francisco.
However, the housing markets and life intervened and I ended up leaving that role after 12 years. It was a low point in life for me, after having done very well, having homes, cars, vacations, and other things. I ended up having to give up a lot of my things and ended a relationship. I went on to work for one of my clients in his businesses in San Francisco. I helped manage the social media and events for two gay bars in San Francisco. Many of you are probably familiar with Badlands and Toad Hall. I was also a bartender there. In my role I was asked to hire the gogo dancers for the bars. This was fun. I also created a weekly show called “So You Think You Can Gogo?”. It was a competition for amateur gogo dancers to win money and a chance to dance for the bars professionally. This life was something I never anticipated or would have sought, but when I had it, I enjoyed it. I also learned new skills and met a whole new group of friends. It taught me to be flexible in my thinking. And I can still pour drinks very quickly and accurately.
This phase of my life came to an end. At first I was disappointed and didn’t know what else would happen. The bar lifestyle had become unhealthy for me for a variety of reasons, and my relationship (with one of my former gogo dancers) had come to an end. At this point, I didn’t know what else to do. I decided to return to my hometown of Visalia. It felt a little bit like a defeat. I had left when I was 18, gone to a top university, had a successful career, built a life in San Francisco, only to have to return from where I started.
I came back to Visalia, and my instinct told me to stay. I met Brian Poth, another returnee to the Visalia. We became friends and in that friendship, began this newest phase with theSOURCE. Brian had the idea for the center and been it’s biggest asset. Not only that, but he’s one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Working with him on theSOURCE has been a culmination of many of the things I’ve learned along the way. I’ve met new people and found a new purpose: to help make LGBT lives better in this area. In turn, I’ve been rewarded with fulfillment, a chance to make a last difference, a new relationship, and the chance to start a new career.
Please like theSOURCE LGBT+ Center’s facebook page and see what we are up to. Or send me a message through Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.