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Bruce Christensen - BEYOND THE VILLAGE

By Blog Master
Posted: 04/23/2022
Tags: bios

BEYOND THE VILLAGE with Bruce Christensen

 

It was Bruce Christensen’s volunteer work that introduced him to the Pasadena Village. Bruce is a volunteer at the San Gabriel Valley LGBT Center. He is in charge of organizing the weekly gatherings for seniors at Pasadena’s Michillinda Park where they enjoy coffee & donuts or sack lunch and each other’s company. As Bruce explains, “Our issues are very different than younger people who identify as LGBTQ. The younger people are more concerned with social justice. We are too, but we’re also dealing with aging issues and just having community!”  

 

Kären Bagnard reached out to the San Gabriel Valley LGBT Center on behalf of the Village. It was at one of the Michillinda Park gatherings that Bruce met Pasadena Village members Wayne April and Jeff Gutstadt. Wayne and Jeff regularly joined in with the group, and eventually invited Village member Karen to go with them. Bruce found they all had a lot in common, enjoyed each other’s company, and soon he had become a member of Pasadena Village.

 

Bruce grew up in Yucaipa, CA, the son of a Mormon Bishop. “I was in the closet, convinced I was broken.”  He attended Brigham Young University, graduating with a degree in Marketing. He was also a Mormon Missionary for 2 years in Santiago Chile. During his college years he took advantage of study abroad programs to go to Paris France, Guadalajara Mexico, and Hawaii. Seeing more of the world broadened his view of human nature and helped him understand himself better. But it was not until he was an adult, in therapy, that he “came out of the closet.”

 

Even though his family more or less eventually accepted him as a gay man, he has always been trying to build his “family of choice.” Bruce is drawn to a quote from the gay writer Armistead Maupin who wrote in his memoir “Sooner or later, no matter where in the world we live, we must join the diaspora, venturing beyond our biological family to find our logical one, the one that actually makes sense for us.” This makes Bruce a natural connector. And once Bruce makes you part of his family – you are in for life!

 

As an example, Bruce has been coordinating a games group that has been meeting for over 30 years. The group of people worked together at a large insurance company. Bruce got involved 10 years ago and organizes weekly dinners for the group of former employees, including his supervisors. The members of the group are now in their 60’s and 70’s, and, with Bruce’s leadership, they support each other – even through disease and death.

 

During the pandemic Bruce learned of a librarian in Utah who was organizing “The Good Book Club” which was directed to appeal to former members of the Mormon religion. She arranged for some of authors to appear on Zoom to discuss recent books. Bruce helps coordinate that group by hosting the Zoom portion of the meetings. “We have a Facebook group of about 90, and 20-25 regularly show up for our book discussions.”

 

He also organizes a twice yearly beach party for people who have been members of high demand religions. It’s the Inter-faithless Family Beach Day picnic and around 100 people gather at Bolsa Chica State Beach for a barbeque featuring racks of spare ribs and a potluck. All of the people there have lived in a community that places enormous pressure on you to believe and conform. “It is cathartic to be here”, says Bruce, “we all have a similar story of having been cut off from family and friends.”

 

Perhaps it’s not surprising that when Bruce joined Pasadena Village he quickly signed up to be a volunteer driver, one of our most needed services. Bruce is a willing driver who does much more than take a Village member from Point A to Point B. He recently made a trial run to LAX in order to ensure that he would be able to park and escort our member into the terminal. He helps members who need rides to coordinate their appointments so that they can better manage their days. And he is, of course, already welcoming the members into his “logical family.”  

 

Bruce Christensen is an example of someone who understands the strength that comes from “inter-dependence”, and his life experience has prepared him to create his circle of support, sometimes from family, but also from the myriad of people we meet in our lives who all have something to give – and something they need.

 

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