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Thursday, July 14, 2005 | Since 1973, the

Delores Jacobs, Ph.D., who had been working with The Center’s psychological services unit since 1998, was asked by the Board of Directors to serve as the interim chief executive officer and then was made the permanent CEO in 2001. Currently, The Center generates an annual budget surplus and provides direct services to more than 13,000 people a year. Programs include individual, family and drug counseling; HIV testing, prevention and counseling; an annual AIDS Walk, a free lending library, bingo Tuesdays, and a monthly community coalition breakfast.

Jacobs, who was married briefly, has one daughter, and moved to San Diego in 1984 to attend graduate school. In a wide-ranging interview, Jacobs talks about her life and The Center’s current challenges.

What are the current major challenges and needs?

Equal rights will always be a major need. The coming marriage amendment to the California State Constitution poses a real challenge and a real threat. We are also concerned about HIV rates, HIV prevention not being fully funded, a methamphetamine epidemic that contributes to high HIV rates. The needs of our most vulnerable population, our youth and our seniors, are always of concern. Families are particularly threatened by the surrounding debate on marriage. And then there’s the everyday issues of how do you continue to have a family, lead a normal regular life and do well at work, in the midst of what some people call the culture wars.

How have you done it?

I’m fortunate that I have a job that calls me to do it, in fact demands that I do it, and I don’t have to worry what my employer thinks about my sexual orientation. Because of what I do, it also forces a degree of transparency and “outness.” It’s not like my neighbors couldn’t not know.

When did you know you were gay?

I grew up on the beach in Florida in the 1970s in the middle of that whole era of the women’s movement and the gay rights movement, and I knew that in high school that was likely true. I got married when I was 19, and I told my husband that I thought it could be true. So for me, coming out wasn’t an event. I sort of knew from the time I was a young adolescent and that it would or wouldn’t evolve in my life and because of where I grew up, I didn’t experience the terrible fear that some people talk about.

What do you want people to know about the gay community?

I would like people to know about our community as a part of a larger San Diego. What’s lost in the culture wars is the fact that the firefighters, the police officers, the nurses, the landscapers, the architects and on and on, a portion of all of them are gay. So what does it mean to be gay? It means they go home, they worry about their kids, they worry about their relationships, they try to take the time to take care of their life’s business because their jobs take up too much time. And then at the same time, there’s what it means to turn on the news and hear people vilify you or your relationship. So you have the challenge of being a person like all people and at the same time a target of tremendous vilification. I’ve heard lots of people say, “I don’t care about marriage but as soon as I hear people talk about my 20-year relationship like it’s been meaningless and it’s not worthy of dignity, then I care a whole lot about marriage and the right to marry.” This is the underpinning to the argument that is the essence of the struggle just to be equal.

What do you do outside of work?

Is there an outside of work? I have dinner with friends, I read, I play with my dogs who are Keeshonds, and I spend time with my partner Dr. Heather Berberet.

What are you proud of?

My daughter. Teresa is 26, and she just graduated from the University of Minnesota with a masters’ degree in public health. She’s working in Minnesota in a small private foundation that works with exploited kids. She’s everything that I could hope for in a kid – bright, talented and much more creative than I am.

– BARBARA BRY, Voice Editor in Chief

Please contact Barbara Bry directly at barbara.bry@voiceofsandiego.org with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips.

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