Pacifica Celebrates Pride Month

Community Member Spotlights

As part of celebrating Pride at Pacifica, we are spotlighting Pacifica staff, faculty, and learners. Today, we are proud to feature two of our staff: Lauren Lastra (Director of Academic Affairs & Learner Services) and Corion Douver (Admissions Coordinator). Read more about them and their stories below. If you are interested in being featured in another spotlight communication, please respond to

Lauren Lastra Lauren Lastra (she/her), Director of Academic Affairs and Learner Services at Pacifica Graduate Institute, also serves as Board President of Santa Ynez Valley Pride, the first non-profit organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ residents and allies in her home community of the Santa Ynez Valley (SYV). The SYV is comprised of six rural towns located in the mountains behind Santa Barbara. The anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and misinformation happening at the national level has also played out locally in Solvang, CA, one of the six towns, as seen in the headlines of The L.A. Times and S.F. Gate. Solvang, which prides itself on its Danish heritage, denied rainbow crosswalks and banners in celebration of Pride month. This sparked a collaboration between SYV Pride and Copenhagen Pride which resulted in a letter from Copenhagen’s Lord Mayor being sent to the Solvang Mayor and City Council urging them to wholeheartedly support SYV Pride for the benefit of all Solvang residents and to “show the world that respect and acceptance are vital elements in a modern, welcoming society.” Shortly after receiving this letter, the City Council voted in favor of an amended application for the Pride banners. They are now up in the downtown area of Solvang.

Solvang is also where SYV Pride will host its second annual SYV Pride Parade and Festival this Saturday, June 24. Despite local turmoil, Lauren and her organization have remained committed to their mission of creating a safe, supportive, and empowering home for local LGBTQ+ residents. In response, there has been an outpouring of support from local businesses, organizations, and residents. SYV Pride was able to expand upon last year’s Pride events to include a month long schedule of events this year which range from discos and gayroake (a play on karaoke) to yoga and comedy nights. Their landmark event, the annual Pride Parade and Festival, will be a family-friendly event with live music, a beer and wine garden, and several booths and vendors.

Lauren has seen and experienced how impactful creating space and visibility for the local LGBTQ+ community has been in the Santa Ynez Valley. There seems to be a more urgent call for allies to show up in support of their queer and trans neighbors, friends, and family and the local residents have responded to this call in beautiful and meaningful ways. For Lauren, she recognizes the ‘us vs. them’ narrative that is so rampant across a variety of issues in our nation today and refuses to participate in furthering that narrative. She believes that there is room for us all at the table. There is space for joy, and truth-telling, and grace. Her work with SYV Pride also informs her work at Pacifica where she hopes to help create an inclusive, welcoming, and supportive experience for all learners and fellow colleagues.

Lauren lives in the Santa Ynez Valley with her wife and their two sons. She is also a Board Member of People Helping People, a non-profit in Solvang focused on food and housing security, mental health and wellness, and support for vulnerable populations. She is an active member of Bethania Lutheran Church, a community of inclusive and social justice focused individuals. In addition, she is part of the local Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) advocating for underrepresented students at the local public high school.

Corion Douver, Admissions Coordinator

Corion’s Story (in his own words)

Early years:

Corion Douver My story begins with love and acceptance.  My community was very much my family, and I felt safe everywhere I went because there was always a congregation of like-minded individuals. The community/religion I was part of were the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I grew up in Los Angeles, and my family was modeled after what the Jehovah’s Witness faith shared is a Christ-like lifestyle. A lot of the values I carry with me today come from what was impressed upon me during my youth. In my belief, the lifestyle was a protection/shelter from some of the anxieties/realities of the world. Towards my early adulthood, I started to recognize my lack of interest in the opposite sex and that I was more focused on my connections with my male counterparts. I started to question my beliefs as I was in a compromised mindset, and I really wanted to learn more about the feelings I was developing.

I approached the elders (priests) about what I was feeling and moving towards sexually, and it caused fear to arise in them. Instead of helping me, I was made fun of by the very men I looked up to. I shared with my elders some information on the close relationships I had with fellow believers that were male and was reprimanded and ultimately cast out for not meeting the standards of the belief.  However, the casting out gave me the freedom to start building relationships outside the faith and focus on my true self. There was a sense of relief once I was free to explore myself and the world around me, but also a feeling of sadness because of all the lifelong relationships I instantly lost, including members of my own family that no longer accepted me. The love I thought I had was built around what they believed I needed to be to receive their love. It was lost to disagreement.

Life in the free world:

Being 30 and having no experience outside my religious group left me in a naive and vulnerable place, and for the first time I didn’t feel safe in the world. I had a great dream of building a life filled with loving friends and choosing my new family/community, Making new friends as a gay man that has only been Christian wasn’t easy, and many saw how naive I was and only took advantage of me. It got better as I learned more about the world and how to recognize a good friend, but many lessons were learned to earn this wisdom. Thankfully my mother after some time accepted me. I was privileged to have my mother in my life again and my father who mostly absent and dismissive remained that way. Even with these challenges, happiness for me was in the journey and I found motivation in not being fearful of being denied by others because of my choices. Building strong relationships built on truth remained my focus. The people I’ll meet and the experiences I will create for myself is my story. Who you surround yourself with is ultimately who you’ll become, and I’m determined to make a good life full of loving people.


I thankfully have beautiful friends who love me and I’m moving towards having a committed relationship.  I love being a gay man. I always thought I’d marry a woman and have children because of what was always portrayed to me in my youth but I’m proud of who I’ve become. I’m glad I had the courage to stand in my truth and follow the love in my heart. For me being gay is wonderful because I love and accept myself. Even though I lost the tribe from my youth, I’ve been able to find the tribe of my adulthood and I love that. I feel it’s so thrilling to live in your magic. The experiences we have in life are very special, and I’m grateful.