Troy Coalman(He/Him)

Troy Coalman(He/Him) is Director of Donor Impact, Wellspring Family Services in Seattle, Washington, a position that encompasses his personal and professional passion. His current role encompasses strategic vision for individual fundraising efforts, oversight of Wellspring’s grant program and data administration. He is also a member of the organization’s Operations Team and executive sponsor of the newly formed LGBTQ+ employee resource group, Queerspring. 

Troy’s two-decade plus career in fundraising has spanned all facets of the sector. He has worked with causes ranging from the arts, education, domestic violence, LGBT activism, homelessness, economic development, and community building from Seattle to Florida, Philadelphia to San Francisco. His career also includes extensive experience in public relations, marketing, and advertising.  

He has served the fundraising sector on the Board of Director of the Association of Fundraising (AFP) Professionals Advancement Northwest and on committees with AFP International. He has published on the subject of accessibility and is an outspoken advocate for the blind and disabled community.  Being a gay, legally blind, bi-racial executive, has opened the opportunity to become a passionate motivational speaker within the intersections of access, diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Troy is a native Washingtonian having grown up in Kirkland, attending Lake Washington High School and Seattle University.  After a 20 plus year residence in San Francisco, Troy and his husband Alejandro returned to Seattle in 2013.  They love exploring the Northwest and delight in the urban setting of Seattle’s Chinatown where they are proud residents. In Troy’s spare time he devoted to fitness, food, and friends. 

When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so? 

Coming out for me was complex, and not entirely my choice. 

I had finally reached a point in my life where it felt like I was hiding who I was, and I literally could not take it anymore.  My entire life I had already felt different and was treated differently because I had a disability (I am legally blind).  I had spent a lifetime being bullied and facing adversity on that front.  But I knew I was different because of whom I was attracted to. I felt that as early as I can remember, but it took until I was 21 and lots of internal turmoil to come out. It felt like I was a volcano of confusion and I had to let it out. 

 The first person I came out to was a dear friend at the time and one afternoon I made the decision to come out of the closet.  We went for a long walk and broke down into an emotional mess, she said I could tell her anything.  So I did, through my tears and fear she held my hand and said, “your amazing, being gay is who are, I love you and those that truly love you will be there for you”.  In that moment, my life changed.  

Yes, I had only come out to one person, the next step in coming out was not by my choosing. My sisters decided to tell my parents over valentine’s dinner a month after I had come out to my friend. I had told them I thought I was gay but had not yet confirmed it to them.  I was living at home at the time, but had not gone to dinner with them, I was with my boyfriend at the time.  When we all came home, I was confronted with, “so are you gay?” A sick feeling fell over me, strangely enough no anger towards my sisters, they figured it out.  My mom was hysterical and crushed. My dad on the other hand was very calm and made sure I knew he loved me.  He said, “mom will be okay, this is hard for a parent to hear”.  After talking for a long time, she called it a night.  I went to my room and wrote a ten page letter that in essence said, “I am still you son, I am the same person, I am gay and I love you”, it just took 10 pages to say that.  I left it where she would see it the next morning.  When I came out for breakfast, she sold me to sit down and said, “I will always love you, I don’t understand, but it doesn’t matter as long as you are loved and you are okay”.  This was a-typical for my mom, hysterical for 24 hours and then, let us move on.  After talking she simply said, “when do I meet him” and “do does he love you?”.  

From that point forward I was OUT, flaming for all the world to see. I was freed from the chain that had bound me for my life up until that point.  In both cases ultimately love made me feel safe, but deep seeded fear kept me from being open until then.  

How do you ally yourself with others who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community?

By being Present and Participating.  You can not be supportive and align yourself with other by being quiet and hidden.  You must put yourself out there, take the risk of being seen and be vocal.  On the same token you must be respectful and compassionate.  Every person, every story is different so you must be “present” and “available” to hear the need and respond accordingly.  

Not every person is in a safe space place to be “out” and their true authentic self.  It is important to help create a safe place for them and held them or provide resources.  Sometimes it is as simple as a hug and a shoulder to lean on.  Being LGBTQ+ and coming to your true self is a journey, everyone is at a different place in the journey, we must support each other no matter who we are and where we are at.  

Let me share a story from many years ago that illustrates my point. I was working for San Francisco Pride and attending an annual LGBTQ+ job fair at the community center.  I was there to promote opportunities to volunteer with Pride.  I noticed through out the day an older gentleman walking back and forth in front of my table. Finally, I decided to engage him in conversation and ask him if he had ever considered volunteering with us.  He was startled and quickly shuffled away.  He would later come back and apologize and go on to explain he really wanted to volunteer, but he was scared. He was in the closet and was severely harassed by his employer for being femme.  He had come to the job fair to look for a new job but was scared to even be at the community center.  I invited to sit and talk, he broke into tears when I asked to share his story, he reply was “wow someone cares, someone isn’t going to beat me up for who I am…” and so on.  It was my role in that moment to simply be present and let him know that, YES someone cares, and it will be okay.  For so many in our community it is not okay, and we need to help them feel safe and loved. 

How do you educate people about the LGBTQ+ community? 

I share who I am, I share about my community, I am not silent, and I ensure that anyone who will listen knows our stories. Educating people about our community is imperative. You can only break down prejudice and bigotry by educating others and opening their eyes to the reality.  Through out my whole life I have been a passionate advocate and educator.  I seized every moment I can to talk one on one or in groups.  I have spoken in front of groups from 10 to several thousand and I will always take a mic and preach the glory that is love, equity and equality.  

In my professional life I am out and proud, I am heavily involved in diversity, equity, and inclusion work with an emphasis on service to the LGBTQ+ community.  I have been fortunate to lead Pride efforts for my originations in multiple cities.  One of my greatest joys has been to start LGBT efforts that remain strong when I move on to other organization. This then creates the space for organization to really live the values of DEI and educate others about the struggles, challenges, and joys of the community. 

I also feel I educate others by just being my true and authentic self.  During pride I express myself and the glory that is the rainbow of a community.  I put on my high heeled boots and headdress and march the length of the pride parade for everyone to see. My goal is to break down walls, open lines of communication and create an opportunity for others to follow. 

How do you educate people about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community?

This is a fascinating question because there are many riffs within the LGBTQ+ community.  Often challenges have existed brining gay men and trans together, bridging an understanding between the gay community and bi community, etc. As a gay man I am all about unity and we share in community march towards justice and equality.  It should not and does not matter whether you are bi, trans, whatever! To help educate people about where we intersect and become community I have been heavily involved as an advocate and leader. I have served on boards within various communities to be a voice for unity and healer.  I have marched in the trans march, the bi-march with my brothers and sisters.  I have stood up against hate speech and provided shoulder for anyone who needs it. 

We also owe it to our community to tell the truth and educate others about the truth of our history as well. What is often left out is reflecting the true diversity of our community, not just our sexual orientation, but the beautiful rainbow of culture, race, and religion.  We must remember and celebrate how trans women of color started Stonewall and how the many voices silenced over the years have given way to proud voice! 

What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ+ youth who have questions? 

Coming to discover who you are today has so many more resources than it ever has in the past.  It is important for young people to know you are NOT alone, that we are OUT HERE for you.  There are some great resources via the internet and hotlines where you can find someone to talk to. It is scary, it is hard, but it is not impossible, and you do not have to struggle by yourself. Some of the resources I’ve worked with that do amazing work include: 

  • Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
  • The Trevor Project
  • It Gets Better Project
  • Gay Straight Alliance Network
  • Lambert House (Seattle)
  • Gay City (Seattle’s LGBT center) 
  • Emerald City Metropolitan Community Church (Seattle’s LGBT non-denominational church)

What did you think your life was going to be like after high school? 

I could not wait to seize the world after high school, I was excited for what lay ahead, I could not wait to break free from school like any teenager. The new world ahead also meant that I could leave the bullying behind that I faced through out school.  Being gay was under the surface, being disable because I was legally blind was out for all the world to see, I could not hide that. 

 In many ways I was prepared to come out of the closet because I already faced the challenges that someone who has a disability faced.  Yet I also knew I was different and my attraction to men complicated my view the future.  It was also the early years of the AIDS epidemic in 1986 further pushing me into the closet. 

I dealt with it by pushing aside the fact that I was gay, even though it was something that haunted me every single day. I chose to focus on going to college, not dating, not taking part in the community, but fully immerse myself in my studies and family.  I chose to look at the future professionally, not personally. to hide from who I was.  I had a limited personal life at that time because I found it confusing and terrifying.  I excelled at academics and was popular enough in school (but that still stop the bullying) that I could keep up appearances. Through it all I never really felt truly present though and often had an undercurrent of fear.  I thought maybe once I entered the real world, I would feel a greater sense of freedom, but that would take many more years to realize. 

Through it all and throughout all my life I did feel a strong sense of hope.  Hope kept me moving forward even in the darkest of moments.  

What tips would you have for people questioning their gender identity? 

My best advice is to not go through it alone, seek out someone to talk to and share your thoughts. Fine a friend or family member who can walk the walk with you. Look at resources in the LGBTQ+ community to support you if you are not sure you have someone you can rely upon. It is critically important to not do this alone and you do not have too.  

I would also say learn to love yourself and trust yourself, being true to who you are will carry you farther than anything else I can say.  Know that when we say “it gets better” it does and there are people and resources out there to support you.  Do not let fear hold you back there is simply too much life ahead not to explore it to it’s fullest potential. 

I wish I could have come out earlier and been able to not go through all the pain and feelings of loneliness that haunted me my entire youth.  

What tips would you have for people questioning their sexual orientation? 

  • Be yourself and be true to yourself as best you can. As Mama Rupaul says “how are you going to love someone else, if you can’t love yourself”, those are wise words and no truer words have ever been spoken.
  • Talk to others and find support.  Many schools have chapters of the Gay Straight Alliance, PFLAG and others so you can find someone to talk to if you do not have someone close already.  
  • Keep a journal, I wish I had learned this early on.  Particularly when you first start the journey. It is a great tool to be honest with yourself and start to explore your thoughts. It also serves as a wonderful tool to look back and see how far you have come. 
  • Read, listen, and watch, there are so many books, videos, and resources out there to help you understand what you are going through. There are many social media and online resource sites to learn and read about the journey. When I was going through discovery and coming out, I found it so helpful to read what others had experienced, it helped me not feel so alone, that there were others out there just like me. 

How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?

With time you learn to let this roll off and know that hate is hate! Loving myself and enjoying my life also give me the strength to get through all the negativity that surrounds us. I don’t ignore it, but I also try and not immerse myself it.  It is okay to feel sad, and mad, but more important it to be resilient and rise above the hate.  

What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ representation?

I would say the Pride Flag! I had an opportunity to work withy Gilbert Baker, the creator of the original flag several years ago in San Francisco. This experience gave me a very deep respect for what the flag stood for.  While each color of the original flag represents something different about the community it was really designed to provide an umbrella for us to unite under.  Today the flag has been expanded upon to be more inclusive of bi and trans members of our community as well as our black and brown brothers and sisters.  I will admit it took me a while to get used to the new flag, but now I embrace it for the glorious diversity it and we represent.  I look forward to seeing the inclusive flag flown more and more.  

What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community?

My hope for the future is Equality! I am hopefully for a day when the LGBTQ+ culture is celebrated and that our uniqueness is interwoven into the fabric of society. I hope for a day when we aren’t fearful for our freedom and justice. We have come a long way, but in the last few years we have slipped backwards, and we have a long way to go. Unity, equality, and freedom can be reality, but for today we take it one win at a time.  

Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ+ teens of today?

Easy … Be Proud, Stay Loud and NEVER BE SILENT!

Edite Forman(Any Pronouns)

Edite Forman(Any Pronouns), is a volunteer at Lambert House. When volunteering, they hang out at the front desk, walk around the house to chat with youth, or participate in Wednesday art night. They are also part of the Outdoor Recreation group, where they organize and lead seasonal outdoor activities, like hiking, sledding, or paddle boarding.

When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so?

I didn’t really “come out” as it were. Being below the radar (even to myself) had always been the safest route for me growing up, and this continued into adulthood. Many folks in my greater social circle, as well as Seattle in general, had been living openly and happily as LGBTQ+ for years. So, I knew I could just slide into living openly in a quiet way that I was comfy with, and that friends and acquaintances would follow my lead on it.

I, possibly weirdly, had more concerns about the LGBTQ+ community. I’d seen a lot of gatekeeping and strict expectations about what affectations and appearances got you accepted verses rejected. It looked like a different version of the cultural strictures of my upbringing and I wasn’t interested in repeating that experience with another group that claimed to love and accept me unconditionally…but didn’t. This continued pretty much up until I learned about Lambert House last year and that they actually meant inclusive and unconditional. I wanted to be part of that type of community, so started volunteering there and have been growing increasingly comfy being “out” around my fellow queer folks.

How do you ally yourself with others who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community?

In a general sense, I talk about aspects of queer life as nonchalantly as I’m able in order to normalize it for everyone, both queer and not. More specifically, I make a point to learn about friends’ and acquaintances’ identities so I can incorporate that knowledge into how I think about and speak to them.

How do you educate people about the LGBTQ+ community?

Discussion, primarily. I tend to take a more academic route, so often explain social systems and structures, and how culture shapes our perceptions of gender and orientation. I have an easier time meeting people where they are through that route. I find it helps minimize awkwardness, and lets people who genuinely want to learn know it’s ok to ask questions and seek out insights.

How do you educate people about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community?

Same as above, but I’ll pull in some examples of how various identities can combine to create additional or different challenges for people.

What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ+ youth who have questions?

What did you think your life was going to be like after high school?

Nothing like it turned out. During high school knowing I was queer (both in gender and orientation) wasn’t safe knowledge to have, so I simply didn’t have it. Any awareness I did have was kept very vague and subconscious. It became more conscious after I had moved to Seattle and got some distance from home.

As a teenager I thought I’d follow a very mundane work > college > work > relationship > family route. As it happens, I was never particularly interested in relationships or family, but I did really like school, so now I get to focus on grad school in the way I want to.

What tips would you have for people questioning their gender identity?

Learn about how gender operates within your culture. It’s personal, but also influenced heavily by things like language, social systems, social roles, etc… This will help you understand the ways people around you view and react to gender, as well why you may think or feel certain ways about it. It also offers you new ways to communicate and relate your experiences to the people you want to understand it. Most importantly, it will help you with questions and internal struggles.

Listen to what you’re feeling and what you feel drawn towards being. There can be a lot of focus put on looking or acting a certain way in order to be accepted as a binary gender or a non-conforming gender, but that doesn’t actually determine who you get to be. It’s your identity and you get to determine whether or not that includes aesthetic or behavioral elements. Talk the way you want to. Move and carry yourself the way you want to. Dress the way you want to. Engage in the activities you want to. Feel about and view yourself the way you want to. 

Give yourself time to figure out how you want to reconcile yourself with the world around you. Try stuff out. You’ll find what feels right.

What tips would you have for people questioning their sexual orientation?

Learning about how sexual orientation operates in your culture can be invaluable, and help you gauge what kinds of struggles you may face, and ways to deal with them.

Attraction and libido are not the same thing. Neither are romantic and sexual attraction. Being of a particular orientation doesn’t mean you have to behave in any particular way. Listen to yourself and go with what feels comfy. You know you best.

How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?

Honestly, friends with shared experiences, or who have dealt with a form of dehumanization. They know how good it feels to just be allowed to exist as you are, so are like the comfy pajama pants of the friend world.

What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ representation?

Rainbow color coding.

What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community?

That we continue to wear away all vestiges of gatekeeping from our community. Exclusion being something nearly all of us know intimately, we’ve experienced the kind of pain we’re inflicting on others when we keep them out. We are responsible for ending that cycle and making sure our community is open to everyone.

That we keep using our experiences to build bridges and acting as agents of change for anyone who’s faced dehumanization because of who they innately are.

Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ+ teens of today?

A culture is simultaneously upheld and created by the people in it. It’s yours. Make it what you want it to be.

Taylor Briggs(He/Him)

Taylor Briggs (he/him) received his undergraduate degree in Multicultural and Gender Studies from California State University, Chico. After earning his BA, Taylor went on to earn an M.Ed. in Student Development Administration at Seattle University. Now, Taylor serves as the Scholarship Program Manager for the GSBA Scholarship and Education Fund which supports LGBTQ+ students pursuing post-secondary degrees. As a queer, transgender man, Taylor has firsthand experience in navigating inequitable systems that lack resources for queer and trans students. To uplift those who came after him, Taylor now aims to utilize his positional privilege to challenge traditional hierarchical power dynamics and center those most at the margins.

When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so? 

I came out during my second semester of college. By absolute chance, my roommate happened to identify as a lesbian. Having someone who was an out LGBTQ+ person who was in such close proximity to me for the first time ever was such a great opportunity for me to have a safe place to explore my identity. She was the first person that I ever told that I thought I might be interested in women and she was so kind and compassionate. She helped introduce me to other LGBTQ+ people at my college and I was able to find an amazing community where I finally had the freedom to explore my sexuality and gender.

How do you ally yourself with others who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community?

For me, allyship is a verb so it needs to include action. Part of my internal work includes educating myself about other identities within the LGBTQ+ community and unlearning biases that I have internalized. Even within the LGBTQ+ community there is a lot of bias and discrimination against people of color, bisexual people, trans people, and people with different abilities to name a few. So to be an ally to those communities that I am not a part of, I do a lot of listening to figure out how I can step up to disrupt various –isms. I also believe that as an ally I need to take a back seat to leaders within other communities who are going to be the best equipped to lead their own movements. I look to them for direction on how I can use my privilege to aid in their efforts.

How do you educate people about the LGBTQ+ community? 

I lead a lot of trainings for various businesses and groups on how to create more trans-inclusive environments. These trainings often include some historical context, terminology, active ally scenarios and role play, and suggestions for policy reform within organizations.

How do you educate people about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community?

As a white, transmasculine, able-bodied, full-time employed person, I think it is of the upmost importance for me to name those identities and how I am privileged by those identities. Many of my trans, POC, and disabled siblings are not as fortunate as I am and that is through no fault of their own, but is a reflection of a system that is not designed for them to succeed. I think by having more people in positions of power actually naming and interrogating their own privilege we begin to dispel the myth of meritocracy and take a deeper look at institutionalized –isms. The honest truth is that because of my privileged identities, my voice carries more weight so I need to speak loudly and unequivocally about how my identities have played a role in getting me to where I am today.  

What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ+ youth who have questions? 

In Seattle, I think that the Lambert House is an amazing resource to find community and explore identity. The GSBA Scholarship Fund and Pride Foundation also provide scholarships to LGBTQ and allied students to attend college. I also know that Planned Parenthood is doing a lot of work to rethink their sex education curriculum to include diverse bodies and relationships including LGBTQ folks. I know that there are more, but those are the first that come to mind.

What did you think your life was going to be like after high school? 

When I was in high school I didn’t even know that I was queer or trans. I thought I was going to be a high school English teacher because I knew that I was good at school and I respected my teachers. Once I went to college and my world-view was so widely and rapidly expanded from the bubble that I had grown up in, my vision of what the future would hold began to change. My queerness and transness became much more salient identities for me and I knew that I wanted to work for and with my community specifically.

What tips would you have for people questioning their gender identity? 

I think there is still a lot of pressure to name and claim one identity and have that be stagnant for the rest of your life. The reality is that gender identity and gender expression are so fluid. If you can, don’t give into pressure to figure out exactly who you are right away. Who I am today and how I understand my transness is completely different than who I knew myself to be 6 years ago when I first came out.

What tips would you have for people questioning their sexual orientation? 

I know how scary and exciting it can be! When I first began questioning my sexuality I was terrified that I would lose family and friends as a result. And I did lose some people, but what I gained was so much more than I could have ever imagined. Learning more about yourself and surrounding yourself with people who encourage that exploration is such a gift. I am so thankful every day that I gave myself that gift!

How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?

Therapy! And really good friends. I know that I could not face the negativity alone so I highly encourage finding people who make you feel less alone and drown out the noise.

What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ representation?

I just watched ‘A Secret Love’ on Netflix last night and bawled my eyes out. It is about two women who have been together since the 1940s. It was so beautiful and simultaneously heartbreaking to see their love and how they were forced to hide it for so many years. It was also a great reminder of the resiliency of our community in the face of hatred. Queer people have always existed!

What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community?

I hope that we keep asking questions. My favorite part about being queer is that we get to chuck the rulebook out the window and create something new. We get to invent what we want our relationships to look like and how we want to do gender. For centuries we have lived under the assumption that gender and relationships look a certain way but the reality is that those norms are all created by humans and we get to imagine something different and more inclusive if we want to. I am excited to see how the next generation continues to push boundaries.

Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ+ teens of today?

Learn your history. There are so many queer and trans elders who have done incredible work to advance the rights and acceptance of our community. Tap into them as resources and keep building a brighter future

Luis Viquez(He/Him)

Luis Viquez(He/Him) has been an outreach member and counselor at Gay City since 2002.

When you came out the first time, what made you feel to do so?

Very important question. Coming out for me is a long never ending fluid constant path or journey. I can not recall a specific event, set of events of something in particular that might have triggered “coming out”. The first thought that comes to my mind is “What is coming out? What does it mean individually and collectively? If I have to specify, it was probably when I started to feel more secure about who I was a person, as a human being and how that matched to whom or what I felt attracted to or happy being me. What made feel safe in accepting who I was, it was the validation of feeling supported and good about myself and who I was, by being accepted about my feeling, who I choose to love or feel connected with. Coming out is a very fluid long term never ending process that can accompany us all our lives. If I have to put a specific memory to my coming out and feeling safe, it was probably the first time connecting to others who felt or saw me in the same way they were feeling too, other LGBTQ people who accepted me for my feeling and heart the way it was. 

How do you ally yourself with others who are part of the LGBTQ community?

I think by finding common ground, by connecting to other who will see you and accept you by who you are and how are presenting yourself to the world. By finding that we are not that different even within our own diverse community. 

How do you educate people about the LGBTQ community? 

By sharing our experiences, by letting other communities how the sucessses and struggles are or might not be too different from theirs. By showing the beauty and love that our community has to offer. By showing other communities all the great things we can share and do together, by sharing our diverse communities within our communities and how they exist, by participating in groups, educations, virtual resources and online resources, by writing and sharing our stories. 

How do you educate people about intersectionality in the LGBTQ communities?

By sharing experiences and stories with people. By highlighting how our LGBTQ community or communities is made of diverse and complex and rich layers and segments that are all different but inter-related within and within each other. By sharing stories what talked about health, gender, gender expression, LGBTQ immigration stories and other cultures, coming out, acceptance, etc and to show how all of these crossroads are interrelated and how they all cross each other in different ways.

What resources do you recommend for LGBTQ youth who have questions?

There are variety of online resources widely available to see

Youth Programs

Gay City has also the largest LGBTQ LIBRARY in the Pacific Northwest with more that 7000 books, many on sexuality, coming out, youth, etc

What do you think your life was going to be like after high school? 

Very good question. Hard to answer. I knew I wanted to help and assist others, how I was not sure then, I wanted to be a teacher, a social science teacher, I knew I wanted to make a connection with my mother and make her proud, as we all do, and be a good person, I also knew that my life was going to take to different cultures and languages and travel or migrate, then it happened when I travel to another country like USA. 

What tips do you have for people questioning their gender identity?

Very important question. I would say ask questions to others, reach other to family or friends, or groups. Join a social media support group, reach out to a school support group if available, find people who are going thru the same and find support and comfort and feeling you are not alone or the only one. Find comfort in knowing in discovering the beauty of you gender in whatever way, shape or form you choose to express it and smile at every step of the way as you embracing and discovering who you are. Gender identity is very fluid as sexual identity is as well, so finding support is very important. 

What tips would you give to people questioning their sexual orientation?

Similar to my answer for question 7, let’s remember together that gender and sexuality are very fluid, transparent, I usually compare to a “Constant flowing moving rivers” that can change, stay or move directions during its journey. Know that what you are, what we experienced and feel is ok, it is part of who you are, who you are becoming and will be, keep a open heart and mind and acceptance of it. It is ok to feel whatever is the feeling is, and keep discovering the sexual identity and sexual orientation your body and spirit are feeling with open arms and a good smile. 

How do you stay resilience in the face of negativity and stereotyping? 

A very important question for sure, particularly in present times. Being strong and facing obstacles with uplifting positive moving forward attitude is all familiar to our LGBTQ communities everywhere. Breaking stereotypes and confronting negative attitudes or negativities can be broken by sharing our stories, by sharing what bond and unite us instead of what divide us. By looking at the things we shared and have in common as people, that your identity, gender, sexual orientation, skin color, immigration or citizenship status does not make you different or less than others. 

What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ representation? 

DIVERSITY, strong DIVERSITY. Also love the different layers and communities within our community, so many, so many color and incredible amazing beauty. Love the expression in so many different forms and shapes that comes from our communities, whether is art, support, and bonding.

What are the hopes for the future of the LGBTQ community?

My hopes are many, that we continue to feel strong, resilient, find common ground once and once more again and again. That our generations inspire future generations to be the leaders they want to be, that the efforts and common struggles today can make future LGBTQ generations stronger and more resilient than before. 

Is there any advice you would give to LGBTQ teens today? 

Youth of today continue to be strong, resilient, and have NO FEAR in fighting for what you believe are your rights, your happiness, you are the ones building the bridges and happiness for the youth coming after you.  

Ashley Vaughn(He/Him)

Ashley Vaughn(He/Him) is a volunteer for Lambert House.

When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so?
I don’t think I actually felt safe at the time. I was just so tired of not being my true self and I felt I had to do something to try and improve my wellbeing. 

How do you ally yourself with others who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community?
I have friends who are LGBTQ+ and I volunteer at Lambert House in an effort to be an ally to younger people in the community.

How do you educate people about the LGBTQ+ community?
In situations where I meet people I don’t know well, I mention my husband as a way of introducing the fact I am LGBTQ+ and see where the conversation goes.

What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ+ youth who have questions?
Lambert House has numerous resources for youth.

What did you think your life was going to be like after high school?
I assumed I would go to college. I don’t think I thought about an ideal situation where I would be with a same-sex partner and happy. I certainly didn’t entertain the idea of marriage.

What tips would you have for people questioning their gender identity?

To seek out as many understanding people as possible to talk about your feelings.

What tips would you have for people questioning their sexual orientation?

Assume that you are absolutely normal and seek advice from well-meaning adults.

How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?

I live in Seattle and at this point in my life I have not had to deal a lot with negativity and stereotyping.

What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community?
I would hope that in the future that there will be complete acceptance of the community and untimely that people will feel less pigeon-holed.

Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ+ teens of today?
Please know that how you feel is normal and that people, maybe not today, but soon, will be accepting of who you are.

Casey Bent-Callaghan(He/Him)

Casey Bent-Callahan(He/Him/His) is one of the teacher advisors of Shorewood High School’s Black Student Union, as well as the school’s math instructional coach.

When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so? 

I came out in the spring, of 1981. It was a very different time then, and it was really risky to do so. I came out while living in southern West Virginia which is very much in the “Bible Belt”. There were no community centers for gay (it was only gay back then, not LGBTQ+) youth, so I met other queer folks in unhealthy ways like the one gay bar we had in town. But, I only came out to those who I felt would still love me and not spread my business all over our small town. Unfortunately, I didn’t always make the best choice and got burned…leading to some distrust I have in friends, even today.

How do you ally yourself with others who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community?

I live my life as openly as I can in all aspects of my life and have since about 1990. Prior to that, I could have ben kicked out of my university program and fired from my job for being gay. Therefore, I was out to those in the club and other friends prior to that, but until a law was passed so that I couldn’t be fired from my teaching job in 1990, I kept a low profile politically.

How do you educate people about the LGBTQ+ community? 

Again, I am out to everyone in every aspect of life and I’m very comfortable with folks asking respectful questions.

How do you educate people about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community?

I was a race and equity lead for Shoreline District for 3 years prior to this one. My new job as Instructional Coach doesn’t allow me to also be race and equity lead, but I am in Shorewood’s Equity team. I do workshops and professional development with classes (such as ASB) and more so with teachers. I have been broadening my knowledge base around race issues in recent issues and speaking to the intersectionality of race and LGBTQ issues.

What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ+ youth who have questions? 

Camp Ten Trees, GLSEN, Lambert House, Ingersoll (for gender identity issues) and many more via websites. Fortunately, we live in Seattle where there are a lot of resources for youth.

What did you think your life was going to be like after high school? 

I had no idea. I had addiction problems from the time I was 15 to 27, but have been clean and sober 28 years now. I don’t think I imagined myself ever being in education for 33 years. I started as an elementary teacher but always wanted to teach high school math but didn’t think I was smart enough back then. I have had the honor of teaching high school/middle school math for 15 of those 32 years and now I feel honored to have been chosen as an Instructional Coach to teachers. Yeah, I didn’t imagine any of that. As far as LGBTQ issues went…I thought it would never get better than it was…being an isolated teenager living in my parents’ house. I would have never dreamed of being open about my being trans…I knew I was different but the words weren’t even out there yet. I’m so grateful that I can be my full authentic self now.

What tips would you have for people questioning their gender identity? 

TAKE YOUR TIME! There is no rush to transition. Enjoy all the spaces above and beyond the gender binary. Two years ago, I was really upset that I couldn’t go on testosterone and fully transition. Now, I’m at peace as a very non-binary trans masculine guy. But, I will say this, if the issues facing someone as a trans person are such that they will self harm if they can’t transition (medically or psychologically) then I think they should do what they need to do. It’s different for everybody.

What tips would you have for people questioning their sexual orientation? 

Same as above…but I will say that I knew very early on that I was primarily attracted to women. That has now expanded to just about anybody who is not a cis male. Again, be flexible with it as it will probably change, but maybe not. I would tell them to be gentle with themselves no matter how they are feeling about any sexual orientation.

How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?

I stand up for what I believe to be true. As a queer who has never passed for “woman”or “straight”, I’ve developed a pretty strong resolve after many years of persecution. I love living up here because up until I moved up here 9 years ago, I was harassed verbally and sometimes physically on a regular basis regarding my gender expression and sexual orientation.

What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ representation?

The rainbow flag…it’s a universal message to anyone that a certain house, store, corporation, church, etc welcomes us. And it’s inclusive.

What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community?

My main hope is that someday our US government will pass a comprehensive civil rights bill for ALL of us so that we could all be protected in every state. I have friends that live in different states that must be on the “down low”so that they don’t get fired, evicted, etc just for being LGBTQ. It’s one of the main reasons I moved here, so that I can be free from that worry, but it should be everywhere in the US.

Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ+ teens of today?

Today, during the Covid crisis…STAY HOME! For the sake of you, your family, and community, please stay home. In general, know that whatever horrible things you may be going through because of unsupportive family, it will get better. In my case, it meant me having to completely distance myself from all family members, but my life is so much better and free now that I’m away. No matter how bad it gets, reach out to supportive friends, online resources, and know that this current situation will not always be your reality

Dick Jones(He/Him)

Dick Jones(He/Him) is a volunteer for Lambert House.

When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so?

This is a difficult question as I grew up in the 40”s and 50’s.  It was a scary time here in the US.  We had the Korean War and we had the McCarthy hearings.  The term homosexual was a very derogatory term and occasionally used in connection being a communist. In high school I had a couple of encounters with friends.  We considered it experimenting.  The general belief was that once one was married all those feelings would go away.  Got married.  It didn’t work.  I had some encounters with male friends of both my wife and I and along the way we had two children.  Worked for a lesbian and she had a party one night that my wife and I went to.  I got very drunk and got sick on my way home and my wife had to stop for me to throw up.  I told her then that she was the only heterosexual at the party.  We split shortly after that.  I then met someone who was involved with the Imperial Court of Seattle and Rainier Empire.  The bars in Seattle were a little scary as the police were raiding then and if you were caught there your were arrested and the next day it would be printed in the paper that you were picked up in a homosexual bar. That would have meant your loss of a job.  However, I had met someone from the Court and she invited me to a meeting.  I went.  I walked into the meeting and I immediately felt at home.  I was gay.

How do you ally yourself with others of the LGBTQ community?

For some time, my primary association with the gay community was through the court.  It was were my friends were and I was safe.  At that time when you were a member of the court you were also a member of the United Ebony Council and the Knights of Malta. Because they had gay bowling at a long gone ally out near the UW I began to go and eventually, when I had my kids on weekends started to take them with me.  They were accepted and my kids had fun and looked forward to coming with me. At the same time I started performing male roles in a number of drag shows being done by court members.   I was living with a gay friend whose birthday was the day before my mothers.  When they discovered this they wanted to celebrate together.  My folks had kind of figured it out so we planned a party at a bar/restaurant here in Seattle called Mr. Larry’s.  Several friends from the court came to the party.  That night after dinner my father and I went into the bar my mother sat with the drag queens and they talked fashion, hair, and makeup.  There was no going back.  My folks wanted to be at every drag show and my mother started making some of the costumes.  I was comfortable saying I was gay, my parents accepted me and were regulars in the gay community, my kids liked the guys they bowled with, and my ex just went along.

How do you educate people about the gay community?

I can’t say that I have every really educated people about the gay community.  I have been involved in projects that were done to raise money for AIDS.  I have introduced nongay friends to the community at times, and I have participated in Gay Pride quite a few times.  I have been a volunteer at LH for over 15 years.  I got educated about LH when working at Echo Glen.  I had a young native American boy on my caseload.  One night he revealed to me that he was gay and very afraid someone in his tribe would find out.  Through some research I learned about LH and one night while we had our session, I called LH explained who I was and why I was calling.  I asked if there was a youth there that would be willing to talk to my kid.  They talked for 30 minutes.  The kid was getting out in about 30days and he was now able to go someplace that would help and support him.  I started volunteering there about the same time.  I then transferred to DCFS and became an adolescent social worker.  Had a couple for gay kids on my caseload and always had LH for them.  I met some other professionals during that time, some were gay and a couple has children that were part of the LBGTQ community.  I introduced them to LH.

What resources would you recommend for LBGTQ youth who have questions?

LH is at the top of my list because I know that they are safe going there and they could meet other youth who are the same as they are.  Youth are the best educators about the LGBTQ community there is.  Plus, the volunteers are also there to help them connect with services they may need for counseling, housing, and employment.  I am also impressed that every high school and junior high and even some grade schools have a gay group in them.

What resources would you recommend to LBGTQ youth who have questions?

Lambert House, gay school groups.  Although there are times when an adult member of the LBGTQ community are the best resources for youth In helping them get connected with services I have learned that many times we are their safety net when things are going wrong.  We can get them to the right recourses when there is abuse, etc. to help them be and feel safe.  My experience at LH has taught me that youth there know who to refer and peer to there that will support them and get them to the right people to help them.

What did you think your life would be like after High School?

I graduated in 1961.  Things were very different then.  Antiwar protests were very much part of the late teen early 20’s people.  Not only did it provide a path to protest injustice of the time, but it became a pathway to fight for other injustices and prejudices towards women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ community.  This became my total social life for about 10 years.

What tips would you give to people questioning their gender identity?

First and foremost, I would let them know that I will care about them and who they are as a person.  I have had a couple of friends that identified as being of the opposite sex from their physical identification. Luckily, there are many options for them now to meet others like themselves and there are groups that they can become part of that are like them.  LH is a great place for youth to be who they are.  I get very emotional at times when I see youth come to LH and within 5 minutes they are who they are and dress like they want to regardless of the sexual identity.

What tips would you give to people questioning their sexual identity?

I would first give them a safe place where they can talk about themselves and how they feel, making it clear that their orientation and who they are are nothing to be ashamed of or that there is something wrong with them.  I would introduce them to other transgender youth because they can provide experiences and support from the youth point of view.  If necessary, I have known some psychologists that would support them and help them develop skills to deal with those who will find these issues something they want to avoid.

How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?

Today it is not really an issue for the most part with the exception of certain political and evangelical groups who only accept those who agree with them on everything. I watch commercials and tv programs today and there are members of the LGBTQ community being presented in positive and normal in every way 24/7.  Young children are not going to see people of the LGBTQ community or another racial group as different for the most part because it will be part of their life continuously.  The arguments against by those groups will carry no weight.

What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ representation?

There are so many today it is hard to choose.  Police shows have gay officers, the show Tommy has the police chief a gay woman.  There is hardly a show on TV nowadays that doesn’t have a gay character in it.  There are out actors and political office holders that are in the public view and generally accepted.

What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ community?

I just hope that the progress that has been made over the past 60  years will continue.  WE are moving in a good direction at the moment. However , with have to be vigilant.  There are political and religious groups that will never accept the LGBTQ community mostly because as the more we are accepted and considered normal by the majority there are minority groups that feel threatened.

Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ teens today?

Be yourself.  The moment you start questioning who you are as being something undesirable you will start to lose yourself.  

Note:  Things are so different from when I was growing up.  I fooled myself into believing that once I was married I would be straight.  WRONG!  Because of that I had affairs with men who were friends of both my wife and me.  I lost unbelievably fantastic times in the gay community with my parents and my kids because I was afraid.  I learned that the people who care about you don’t want you to be someone you aren’t. I have been lucky to have visited people in the gay community all over Asia and Europe.  I lived in Japan for 7 years and found myself involve with the gay community there.  Because of this I have friends all over the world who are gay and who I keep in contact with, so easily now with messenger and email. I look back at some of the terrible times. In the 5 years before I moved to Japan.  I was loosing friends every month due to AIDS.  I despised Reagan because he compounded the situation.  I couldn’t understand why people I loved and cared about were dying and I wasn’t because I wasn’t doing anything different.  I will never know why I didn’t get AIDS.  Maybe I was supposed to be here to help kids on my caseload when I was a SW or the youth who come to LH.  They bring joy to my life and I am proud to be there for them if they need me.