Queer Santa Cruz: Stories of the LGBTQ+ Community in Santa Cruz County

Groups and Organizations


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Beach Volleyball Scene

The first groups came out and formed in the mid-1970s. This included the gay and lesbian counseling collective in 1978, a weekly women’s group and a weekly men’s group in 1979, gay men’s volleyball in 1979, the Freedom Democratic Caucus in 1984, the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP) in 1985, and The Santa Cruz Lesbian and Gay Community Center (now known as the Diversity Center) in 1989.


My ears perked up and my brain shifted out of neutral when a beautiful blond and tan lifeguard mentioned gay volleyball at a men’s meeting in the early 1990s. Eventually, I met my husband while playing volleyball.

Brandon Bowen

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Radio Collective
Photograph by Clytia Fuller
The Lesbian Umbrella Flier
Santa Cruz County Sentinel Newspaper Article about 1989 Reunion of Gay Men's Support Group

The Radical Faeries formed in the 1980s. They focused on consciousness and spirituality. They helped establish a variety of events, including queer camp for youth and the Queer Youth Leadership Awards. The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County established the Diversity Partnership Fund to benefit LGBT and social justice outreach and in 2005, through community fundraising, $1 million was raised to permanently endow the fund. Every year, about $40,000 in grants are awarded to LGBTQ+ programs.


The Diversity Center (in the 1990s) was located in what I believe was Pearl Alley in the back behind what looked like you better have a collar you can put up and sneak in cause you don’t want anyone to see you…. It was the first time I realized that there were a group of people making an effort to make safe space happen for people who identified as queer.

Adam Spickler

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Photograph of the Front of the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County
Classroom with students.

Things were so different in 1991 when Triangle Speakers was formed. The goal was to educate young people and to fight fear and prejudice one story at a time. Having students meet and hear directly from gay, lesbian and bisexual speakers and their family members broke down stereotypes. We met a lot of resistance from school districts in the beginning, but the students and teachers gave us high marks. Although things have changed in many ways, unfortunately, bullying and discrimination of the GLBTQ community continues even today, so Triangle Speakers continues to provide panels of speakers to schools, groups and work sites today.

Cynthia Druley

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