BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Up until a few years ago, one local man was married and raising two children with his wife. But for most of his life, he had to hide who he truly was. that's when one place in town helped him find himself.
“You fool yourself into thinking if you do everything you’re supposed to do, it will be enough, and it’s enough to a point.”
Before coming out a few years ago, Jaime Ortiz, a psychiatrist in his fifties, tried to live what he calls a normal life.
Being born in Puerto Rico, during a time where being gay wasn’t as accepted, he says he tried to push down his feelings.
“I wanted to be like everybody else. I wanted a wife, I wanted kids, and I fought with all my strength, not to be any more different than I was, and I was already different already. Q wallflower, straight-A, four-eyed student. So no, I didn’t need anything else about me to be different."
So that's what Ortiz did: married a woman, had two kids and has had a successful career. He came to Bakersfield in 2004 and started telling a few people close to him that he was gay around 14 years later.
During a coffee run, he discovered the center across the street. That’s when he saw the flags, eventually deciding to contact the organization behind them.
“Once you pop your head out of the closet, there’s no going back. So, I came to the center.”
Ortiz started receiving counseling from the Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity, a nonprofit organization providing safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community in Kern County.
With Ortiz, finding a group of people that made him feel he belonged.
“We didn’t choose to be different. We didn’t choose to cause the pain we have caused to family. We didn’t choose to cause the pain we caused ourselves. We didn’t choose to do this because it’s popular.”
From then, he came to the center every single day. Now he's the vice-chair of their board of directors, trying to help others in the LGBTQ+ community and anyone who needs it find who they are and feel they belong as well.
“For some people, this place changed their life. And I was one of them. This place saved my life.”
Ortiz has a message for anyone who may be confused about who they are. He says take a deep, breath, take your time and if you need the center, they are here for you.