Santa Clarita Valley resident Finley Walker is working toward his goal of creating a safe space for the LGBTQ community, a population he feels has been underserved in the SCV.
“I am pansexual and transgender,” Walker said. “Growing up in the valley … I was never really exposed to the (LGBTQ) community, and I think that that’s what stopped me from realizing my identity sooner because I just didn’t know about it. I wasn’t aware.”
It was in his early teens that he made the realization, and upon returning to the SCV, Walker began exploring the LGBTQ resources available, later becoming president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance club at Academy of the Canyons.
“In terms of the Greater SCV, I tried to start a group for trans and gender non-conforming people, but it didn’t really take off,” he said.
“(I thought), ‘I’ll go to college, and that’s where I’ll find my people.’ And, I did, and it was amazing,” Walker said.
When the pandemic brought him back to the SCV, he began attending meetings of PFLAG Santa Clarita, or Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, with his mother.
“It seems like it’s the only place for queer people to go, even though it’s a support group for the families of queer people, it’s not for queer people themselves. So people were going there, but they weren’t really equipped to handle that.”
It was through these experiences that he began to realize the lack of resources available to LGBTQ individuals in the SCV, and he and his mom decided to do something about it.
“There should be a center here,” Walker added. “People shouldn’t have to drive to L.A. like I had to. … We’ve got to make it so this place can foster a healthy and welcoming LGBTQ community.”
With the goal of ultimately having a physical center that would serve as a resource hub for the LGBTQ community, providing services ranging from mental health and social services to support and hangout groups, Walker started the SCV LGBTQ Center organization.
“I want it to provide queers with a sense of community, as well as resources for people to really have a safe and healthy life, which isn’t afforded to queer people the same way it is heterosexual and cisgender people,” he said.
Now, Walker has joined CenterLink, a national coalition that supports the development of LGBTQ community centers, begun fundraising efforts through GoFundMe and by making masks to sell, and created the organization’s social media accounts, which he’s seen take off over the course of the last few months. “That’s been amazing to see.”
“What I’m focusing right now is not just establishing ourselves as a 501(c)(3), but creating a board and committees to really get things done because it’s just me right now,” he said, adding that many in the community have already begun to step up to help.
Nonetheless, Walker said he hopes to continue spreading awareness about the organization.
“Even though we don’t have much to offer, yet, we want them to be aware that we exist, so when we have more to offer, we’re there for them,” he added.
The organization already has some upcoming events, including partnering with Citadel Krav Maga in Canyon Country for a self-defense course scheduled Friday, along with a PRIDE March set to end at Rustic Burger House in Valencia on Saturday. For more information on the SCV LGBTQ Center, visit scvlgbtqcenter.org.