San Diego

Executive Director of Pride Recalls Being a Homeless Teenager in San Diego

The director of San Diego Pride says he is a stronger person after the struggles of his childhood

What to Know

  • San Diego Pride Parade is the largest single-day civic event in the region
  • The San Diego Pride Festival is located on the west side of Balboa Park off of Sixth Avenue from Laurel Street.
  • There are no parking zones around the park so plan ahead. Use the free shuttles offered from the Old Naval Hospital parking lots.

It has not been an easy road for Fernando López, the executive director of San Diego Pride.

López will oversee one of the largest Pride festivals in the U.S. this weekend as tens of thousands of people will converge on Balboa Park and the community of Hillcrest this Saturday and Sunday. 

Raised in El Centro, California, López knew he was gay at a young age and realized he would be bullied for it by his peers. 

"There was a very anti-LGBT sentiment all throughout Imperial County,"  López told NBC 7 on Friday as he talked about the weekend events. "I just remember being bullied day after day in the school halls."

López said he tried to commit suicide twice growing up. 

"I grew up in a Latino Catholic family and so I didn't always have the same support that a lot of people do," said López. 

López said he was forced to be homeless as a teenager and moved to San Diego for a better life. He chose San Diego because it was the closest big city to El Centro. At first, he lived out of his car on the streets. 

"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the grace of a very kind community member that put a roof over my head," said López. "He told me my life had value and set me on the right path in my life." 

In 2001, he married the love of his life, was able to turn his life around and now is an advocate and activist for the LGBTQ community. 

Today, López and his father have a close relationship. The Pride director said his father will be at this year's event.

"To have my dad standing by my side at Pride this year just means the world to me," said López. 

The parade kicks off at the Hillcrest Pride Flag at University Avenue and Normal Street on Saturday at 11 a.m. 

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