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It’s A LUSH Life…Meet Veronica Lush!

Her name is Veronica Lush , Miss Charm City Triple Threat 2015. She goes by V-Ron if you’re nice…but whatever you call her, this gorgeous queen was the indisputable hit of Equality Fest in York. She took to the street when the stage wasn’t big enough to hold all that fierce walk. From Black teenagers walking past to Hispanic shoppers to female community volunteers, the entire street stopped, stared then danced and smiled and generally loved life for the entire time Veronica was performing. I just had to meet the performer behind that kind of power!

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Of course, I needed to ask the obligatory question of “How did this performance journey start?”

When I had just started practicing and experimenting with makeup and drag, my mother went to a farewell party for my cousin at the Rowan Tree in Baltimore, Maryland. The owners explained that there was gonna be a drag show there, and then Shawnna Alexander walked in. They got to talking and my mom said how I was interested in drag. She grabbed her phone and showed off some of my photos! Shawnna was so happy to see that my mom was into the fact I wanted to start doing drag that she invited me down to perform with her the following month! Shawnna told me about another venue and performers I should talk to, Ada and Vegas Buffet. At that time they were putting together a pageant, Miss Trailer Trash. I was up for any chance I could get to perform, so I signed up for the pageant and actually placed 3rd out of 7 contestants. I met a lot of other girls some of whom offered advice and help. Anita Minnet and Heather Marie Tatersalad Thomas. They later invited me to perform with them at other venues because they said I had impressed them with my performance.

I started playing with makeup when I was living in York, and I didn’t really know of any venues or how to start performing. I was mostly just a basement queen trying to learn how to be pretty as can be! After my mom had met Shawnna, I knew that I could actually perform in Baltimore and started planning to move there. The drag community here accepted me as a queen fairly quickly. I think it’s because I actually listened and payed attention whenever I asked for advice. You’d be surprised, but that is not the norm.

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Now, as a casual lady, the highly stylized world of drag is a whole new energy for me. I asked the fabulous Ms. Lush what she really goes through to transform into a full on stage diva.

When I’m choosing what I want to do for an event, I think about what I’ve done at the venue before, what kind of event it is (Usually just so I can find out exactly how vulgar I can be), and who I think will be in the audience. When planning out my outfits, I’ll look at the music videos of the songs, and the live performances and get some ideas from there, or just listening to the music to see if I can come up with any outrageous costume of my own. Since the last competition I was in, Baltimore Drag Wars, I’ve really honed in on making my mixes. They’re more cohesive with smooth transitions. I make my own costumes too. For a while I was kind of an oddball that people didn’t really understand. Now people think they know what to expect when they see me perform; something crazy, vulgar, probably offensive in some way……and most of my audiences seem to really live for it.

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The night of a show, I usually just roll around in a makeup pallet for an hour and what you get is what you get. No, I kid! After I’m all fresh and shaven, I sit down for anywhere from an hour and a half to about 3 hours just putting my face on. It depends on if I’m rushed or experimenting with something new or if I’m taking breaks and such. Generally I like to take 2 hours. That includes gluing down the biggest eyelashes I can find, and super gluing on some nails so long I can barely text. Body used to be difficult, but I’ve made myself a few different sized hips and booty pads to give me the perfect figure. I kind of overkill it with wearing tights. I wear like 5-8 pairs of dance tights on top of everything to make sure its all smoothed. They cinch in my waist a little and of course, no tucks are popping out. Lately I’ve been really into utilizing my bald head with different wig styles. It’s pretty easy and different from a lot of queens. I just take my wig, spray it with adhesive and slap it onto the middle of my head!

So basically are talking professional work here. Wigs, body padding and modification pieces, full stage make-up, custom wigs able to stay in place through flips and dance moves…it’s the best of Broadway meeting Vegas showgirl. Drag is definitely a labor of love along with a calling of special inspiration!

For me, seeing people smile or laugh while I’m up there doing my thing is the best. It’s a huge part of why I wanted to start doing drag. Sometimes when I’m performin and I can hear people getting really into it and singing along with the music…I can’t really explain it, it’s just a very poweful energy, the cheering, clapping and the YAAASSing. It’s amazing.

Check out Veronica on Instagram @VeronicaLush or look up Veronica Lush on Facebook! And make sure to tune in for part 2.

A Faith Community for Justice!

There is no way that anyone could talk about welcoming and affirming faith communities in York without mentioning York’s pioneer in that field, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York. How many faith communities have their own social justice committee??? As their director of Communication, the awesome artist, Erika Juran, let me know;

Over twenty years ago, UUCY became a Welcoming Congregation. UUCY extends a warm welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals, families, and communities. We work to promote acceptance, inclusion, understanding, and equity for LGBTQ persons of all ages, abilities, colors, and genders, both within our denomination and in society at large. We are committed to protecting the civil and legal rights of LGBTQ people and families across the country. We sponsor meetings of the PFLAG York Chapter and the LGBTQ-friendly Alcoholics Anonymous group. Find out more about us at www.uucy.org.

Their person-centered and compassionate perspective is well summed up by their pastor, Rev. Robert F. Renjilian:

We are real people: broken and mended, imperfect and growing, questioning and seeking, striving for meaning and purpose. This is a very special spiritual home, where we offer our children (and adults) the opportunities to explore the wisdom of the world’s religions, and remind ourselves how to care for one another. We want to be a place that makes a difference – for our children, for our individual religious paths, and in our community and the world.

So what exactly is Universality Unitarian anyway? (For those who are curious, as I was!) It’s a group of people who have come together to celebrate spirituality centered around 7 principles and 6 sources (The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.) UUs live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience. For the still curious, the 7 principles are:

1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Want to know more? Pay them a visit. Sunday services are at 10am but they have events throughout the week from drum circles to Kirtan chanting sessions as well as events hosted on site like York’s local PFLAG chapter. See you there!

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Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York
925 S. George Street
York, PA 17403
717-845-8212
office@uucy.org

A Church of TRUE Community…Heidelberg United Church of Christ

An introduction to one of the welcoming and LGBT affirming faith communities here in York, by their Pastor, Amy Schultz.

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After a period of decline similar to what so many churches are experiencing in our culture, Heidelberg UCC made a decision four years ago to focus very intentionally on revitalization, a process which lead us to redefine our mission and identity as a progressive church for a new day. We began to look for ways to connect to our neighborhood and started outreach programs providing meals, a food pantry and a clothing bank to those in need. We also opened our doors to the growing arts community providing a monthly coffee house and a performance venue for artists. And, as part of that process, we also began to talk about who wasn’t represented in our church. We discovered that most of us had children or siblings or aunts or uncles or best friends who were part of the LGBT community, and we confessed that we didn’t want to be part of a church where we couldn’t freely bring everyone whom we loved.

After studying the scriptures and much conversation, we agreed that we felt called by God to create a beloved community of acceptance and welcome, and we voted unanimously to become what our denomination calls “An Open and Affirming” congregation. Our statement is this:

The people of God at Heidelberg, United Church of Christ, of York, Pennsylvania, affirm our regard for the worth and dignity of all persons as beloved children of God. We recognize, celebrate, and give thanks for the many diverse gifts of God among us. We declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming congregation, welcoming into full membership and participation in the Body of Christ persons of every race, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, physical or mental ability, and economic or marital status.

We acknowledge that throughout history the Christian church has often condemned and excluded gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons from the community of faith, or has condoned such condemnation and exclusion by its silence. We hold that such discrimination is incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We commit ourselves to work diligently to end all oppression and discrimination which afflict God’s people in our society. We affirm and celebrate all relationships founded on the principles of God’s love and justice.

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Since becoming Open and Affirming, we have been blessed with an ever-growing community of people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity. Because so many have felt unwelcomed in faith communities in the past, our members are anxious to share the acceptance that they have found here, and the church has become a place of radical welcome, enriched by the gifts and talents of those who have chosen to be part of us. We mean it when we say, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, for an hour or a lifetime, you are welcome at Heidelberg United Church of Christ.”

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Want to visit? Summer worship is Sunday at 10am. Come as you are to Heidelberg—in your “Sunday-Go-To-Meeting Clothes” or in jeans and a T. They’re a flexible, casual bunch and we’re concerned with your comfort, not your clothes. Worship is eclectic….always sacred, but not rigid. Generally, worship services run about an hour. After worship, they invite you to a fellowship hour. It’s a chance for a beverage, a bit to eat, a conversation. Gather in our Auditorium for this relaxed time.

47 West Philadelphia Street
York, PA 17401

Phone: 717.854.7125
Email: heidelbergucc@aol.com
Web: http://heidelberguccyork.com

A lesbian poet found her voice…and prepares to share it in York!

Elena Damrauer was a single mom and a passionate LGBT volunteer when she heard York’s Poet Laureate performing and was overcome with the need to find a new way to express her own voice. She began writing poetry, the words began pouring out and now, less than a year later, she is preparing to release her first book and is about to perform her first feature back where it all started; York, Pennsylvania!

Fresh Starts

Like fresh fruit
Ripe from the Earth
Juicy with promise
Sweetened with hope
Tough skin covering
Meaty flesh
Bite through and
Taste the redeemed lovely
Bounty put before your
Pallet to enjoy
To really taste this time
Around table are faces
Memories woven into
Fruit baskets made
From sour and sweet
And cut up and
Left whole
And once you realize
How much you can eat
You never want to stop tasting

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I was born in Pittsburgh but raised in the Colonial Park area of Harrisburg. Graduated from Central Dauphin High School in 1990. My son was born in 1993 and, when he was 4 years old I came out of the closet. I was a single parent trying to be who I am and raise my son and for the most part, it was pretty smooth sailing. My family was incredibly supportive which is not always the case but I was thankful. The older I got the more involved in the LGBT community, especially since my mom is also gay and has been with her partner for 25 years.

I enjoy volunteering with the LGBT Center in Harrisburg and being closely involved with The Vagina Monologues and our local poetry community as well. It’s affected me in the most positive ways; I’ve met AMAZING people and have found a new love for our community, the inclusiveness, and the family feeling of being a part of something so important and so special. I feel incredibly lucky and so blessed to be surrounded by truly talented and loving energy.

I started writing in January of 2015 after many, many attempts in prior years. I needed to find my voice and after hearing Christine Lincoln feature at an open mic on January 23rd, I was inspired and wrote my very first poem on January 24th. From there I just couldn’t seem to stop. The words were pouring out of my heart, through my pen, and onto the paper…. So much so that I started making my own journals from old books so I could keep writing and writing. With lots of encouragement and support from those around me, I put my poems into a small book and have been reading at open mics in Harrisburg and York since January and I look forward to sharing more!

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Creek Flow

That comfort in letting go
Unhook the raft
You’re going a different way
Trust in the saving
Trust in the savior
Who rescues you
From stuck rock
Allow vulnerability
Welcome failure for lessons
Unhook the raft, child.
You are safe in the
Knowing you can trust in the one saving
You from being stuck on that rock
Dislodge and move swift with the current
Let the flow of nature
Take you to the next
Obstacle. The scrape of twigs
And trees are before you
Waiting to touch you as you
Pass their rough branches
Reminding you that control
Cannot always be
Water takes you away
Creek flows to open mouths
Of quiet stream slowly meander
Waiting for the next rock
Twig
Branch
To remind you
Let go
Be comforted
You are safe
In yourself.

Make sure to catch Elena at King’s Courtyard Artist Collective, 124 E. King St. in York City on Friday, August 21st at 7pm. Its a free community event and she is sure to put on an amazing show!

And Then…Equality!

Why a second Equality Fest? The festival’s first year was an understandable celebration of the passage of Marriage Equality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Yes, Marriage Equality recently became the law of the land nationally, but since it was already the law here, what else has changed for Yorkers, really? In just the last handful of years, everything. And that’s why the continued celebration is worth bringing to the forefront. Equality Fest is a celebratory gathering of traditionally marginalized communities, many still fighting for equal rights in wages, housing, economic or educational opportunity and more. It would be easy to feel discouraged or cynical when looking at the work still to be done, when we see the struggle for unity and understanding erupting across the national headlines, but the wonderful thing about cooperation between minority or marginalized groups? Together, we become a powerful majority and a force to be reckoned with. Equality Fest brings together artists and hipsters, political activists and community organizers, independent businesses and legal, medical or other community and life resources. It reminds people that THIS is York. This is the York of 2015. This is the York of today and of the rapidly approaching future. This is the stereotype shattering, progressive and dynamic community that so many of us are blessed to call home and this is a home worth fighting for, worth organizing in and worth inviting the county, the region and the world in to see. This is TRUE Equality.

A local pin-up model and a half-Latino power poet from Reading, PA dance the bachata. A Native American drag queen does a cartwheel in the middle of the street as a thrilled crowd of African-American children children cheer from the sidelines. One of the most highly regarded fine artists of the York scene, a dynamic gay man, dabs the final bold strokes of oil paint on a live painted portrait of Janice Joplin before an admiring cluster of art lovers. This is Equality.

There were so many talented artists there. I loved the bands. I met some really friendly people who just came up to me and starting talking. It was a very fun. Peace and happiness shined around. I love the connecting with others. – Bonnie Hull-Deck

State representatives, city councilmen, the commonwealth Surgeon General and other well known political faces pose for portraits with admiring political club volunteers. Young Democrats playfully vie with Equality PA volunteers for petition signatures and the Democratic Party of York County waves a clipboard in the air showing off their 10th registered voter before getting back to work. An army of churchgoers in boldly colored t-shirts arrive with an arsenal of children’s activities and packs of skittles after morning services conclude. This is Equality.

Loved it! Was happy to see Route 30 seafood there as we love their food! Loved seeing all the different types of people, wish more were there, loved the bouncy tent for kids of all ages, I can easily see this getting bigger and bigger every year. Great weather! Glad you had a mix of indoor and outdoor activities! – Annalisa Gojmerac

National nonprofits and community organizations like N.O.W. and the Y.W.C.A. swap business cards with local urban population serving clinics doing H.I.V. testing, curious south-siders wander in and out of tiny art galleries, models meet neon art body painters, dazzlingly beautiful young women wearing shiny bruises and roller derby t-shirts skate through the crowd as a magician swallows a balloon and an enthusiastic debate erupts between Smoothie King smoothies and Rita’s Italian Ice devotees. All of this and more was the recently minted Royal Square neighborhood this past Sunday, August 2nd.

Amazing “venue”!! Perfect location, minimized traffic hindrance while providing a gorgeous community interactive back drop! Wow, what a beauty. – Ronny Gomez

A wedding expo happened inside the dazzlingly decorated, newly refurbished Bond Building which held its first wedding ever on Sunday, a gender-free group ceremony where the couples were gifted with donations from Beaver Street and Royal Square shops and congratulated by local politicians. A street festival took over the afternoon with a stage that hosted Reggae, Latin, Pop and R&B Bands mixed with female impersonators and spoken word poets. A food court served everything from seafood to Barbecue to Healthy World Cafe locally sourced artisan dishes. A fine art fair and open galleries dominated one side of the street while the other side boasted an array of information and community connections. Customers toured a pop-up marketplace for everything from hand blown-glass and tie-dye to pink and purple tasers for women and a family area had activities, games, storytellers and balloon animal makers surrounding a Tumble Bus and an Atomic Bounce House. Everything was free and open to the public and everyone there willing to brave the 90 plus degree heat was in an obvious mood for joyful cooperation.

Thank you so much to Larry D. Klinger Jr. for the photos which are used with permission. He is truly wonderful!!!

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“Sway” Your Way Into the Future!

Josue “Sway” Laboy is one of my favorite young heros. He’s courageous, kind, talented, powerfully vulnerable, committed to growth and honey, he is FABULOUS. He is also a performance artist crossing fields from poetry to drag. He is also doing an awesome event at Parliament in Royal Square on Friday, July 31st to open up Equality Fest weekend, a performance piece called “The Bedroom Sessions”. (https://www.facebook.com/events/1465323607100642/). I wanted to find out more about the debut of his new piece and also find out a bit more about this hometown hero’s story of courage and self-acceptance. Meet Sway.

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The idea has been steaming for about a couple of years now, and with everything that has happened these past few months, years, in terms of equality; it gave me the push I needed to get this out there in some way. It comes from many corners of my life and shows how, through everything, the time I spent in my bedroom was crucial. I created my own realm of possibility. A piece of that will be shared during the show. Or, rather an idea of it.

I feel as though a performance piece is a medium where nothing is defined. What you come to see, is an artistic expression of someone’s vulnerability and strength. To me, it allows a person to draw from many avenues of expression and make it their very own, whether for inventive or reinvention purposes.

For the audience, I would like them to feel as if they can embrace their sexuality. Accept the things that make them uncomfortable, and hopefully leaving with a sense of exploring those parts they keep hidden. For me, its a step into the future. I’ve been setback not only by natural occurrences but by fear itself. You never know how much fear can imbed itself into your creative process, stopping you breathless until you face it and shake the nerves that come with it.

Not a small challenge…but for Sway it’s one worth taking on. As a very young man he realized he was gay but Sway experienced an array of responses from the different schools, foster families and members of his birth family as he went through the layered process of coming out to those close to him.

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As a little kid, I loved music and would do a performance every once in a blue moon for my mom or few family members. My next door neighbors encouraged me further. While in foster care, the first family I lived with were a glorious bunch, who not only encouraged me but supported me as well. The second time I lived with them, I came out. They showed me acceptance at a greater level than when I came out to close friends, although that too was just as special.

When I was 14, after being out for about half a year, I had experienced a tremendous blow to my reality and quickly slipped into a depression. I moved down to Florida to live with my father, who I can out to after five months. My friends at school were kind and I rarely had issues. Two months later, I moved home with my mother during winter of ’06. We argued over difference in beliefs and acceptance. We’re much better now, as we’ve accepted each others “differences”.

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So what do you want people to know when they come and see you perform, or hear you read poetry? What would you let other young people know who are going through their own journey of self-discovery?

I would like them to know that there’s always a new day, and only you can make it better. Words exchanged can relieve many of our emotions but if we get caught up in them, we can’t face the inevitable truth. We’re all human and equal, regardless of our masculinity or femininity. Accept yourselves for who you are, as well as others, because with positive action and attention, comes miracles. You’ll be let down at times, of course. But if another is not there to lend a hand, even though there will be – give yourself the hand up that has always been there, to guide you every which way.

Equality Fest Is Coming (and the bigwigs are in total support)!!!!

Yes, I am gonna keep talking about it until it happens because I am so excited. On Sunday, August 2, 2014 from 12:00pm – 6:00pm, the 2nd annual Equality Fest inspired by the historic passage of marriage equality in Pennsylvania in 2014 and this year celebrating the passage of marriage equality nationwide, will occur in the Royal Square neighborhood of downtown York City as a street fair along the 100 block of East King Street between South Duke Street and South Queen Street (which will be closed that day). This event is free and open to the public and last year had more than 2,000 attendees.

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This year the celebration will kick off inside the newly refurbished special event venue, The Bond, where the Equality Wedding Expo will be held throughout the festival. Mayor C. Kim Bracey with open the festival, State Representatives, Kevin Schreiber and Brian Sims (of Philadelphia) will host and representatives from York City Council will present a proclamation honoring the festival as part of the gender-free group wedding between 12:00pm and 1:15pm. How awesome is that, having such supportive, bold, modern and progressive leaders in our community!

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This year we have 7 amazing couples, including attorneys, firefighters and parents, who will be either taking or renewing their vows within the Equality Fest setting. The couples will even be receiving amazing wedding gifts from local retail stores and restaurants like Cherie Anne’s, Kimman’s and The Left Bank. Not too shabby, huh?

For more information on the event, please visit our updated website with a complete list of vendors and performers at http://www.equalityfestyork.com or for daily updated information, check facebook.com/equalityfestyork.

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Equality Fest Is Coming!!!!

Yup, shameless promotion of my favorite annual event in York. I love a lot of York events, so that is saying a lot!

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On Sunday, August 2, 2014 from 12:00pm – 6:00pm, the 2nd annual Equality Fest will occur in the Royal Square neighborhood of downtown York City as a street fair along the 100 block of East King Street between South Duke Street and South Queen Street (which will be closed that day). Inspired by the historic passage of marriage equality in 2014, Equality Fest is a day long, family friendly arts, culture and community festival, focused on celebrating equality and inclusion for all residents in the City of York, regardless of race, religion, age, economic background, mental or physical ability, gender, gender expression or sexual orientation. The event will be free and open to the public. Last year more than 2,000 citizens attended the festival and this year is promising to be bigger and better than ever! The festival will feature:

The Democratic Party of York County Main Stage
The York County Young Democrats Interactive Youth & Family Area and Demonstration Stage
The Heidelberg United Church of Christ Fine Art Fair
The Bond Wedding and Event Venue’s Equality Wedding Expo (Inside the Bond Building)
The Family First Health Wellness Garden (Inside King’s Courtyard Artist Collective)
The Equality Fest Food Court
More than 50 community based retail and informational vendors or displays
and a beautiful gender free group wedding & vow renewal in the beautifully decorated Bond Building!

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Couples who wish to legally marry as part of the festival must register for a County of York marriage license and also contact equalityfestyork@gmail.com by Monday, July 20th. Participation in the marriage ceremony will be limited.
Sponsoring organizations include The Bond, Parliament, Central Voice Newspaper, The Democratic Party of York County, York County Young Democrats, Community Arts Ink, Heidelberg United Church of Christ, and Pennsylvania State Representative Kevin Schreiber.

This is going to be a wonderful event so please visit the website at http://www.equalityfestyork.com or for daily updated information, check facebook.com/equalityfestyork. I’ll see you there!

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Coming Soon to a YORK Near You…An LGBT Center!

You can’t talk LGBT ANYTHING in Central Pennsylvania without talking to Louie Marven. He is the dapper, dashing young director of the LGBT Center of Central PA. He has had dinner with the Vice President, headlined swanky fundraisers and logged more time running festival booths than any other gay man in the commonwealth, no doubt! It’s a pretty impressive resume of both accomplishment and activism for a young man who was barely in his mid-20s when he took the job. Now comfortable (but never resting!) in the work the Center has been doing since it’s official launch in 2007, Louie has overseen the successful growth of a physical space for the Center’s work in Harrisburg. What’s up next for the Center though? A York satellite center with programming specific to and serving the York area right here in our little city! Look for it in the Fall of 2015. I couldn’t wait though, I wanted to chat with Louie right now!

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What is your role with the LGBT Center. What do you do as part of your job and what types of activities do you get to do?

I’m the executive director, so I’m responsible for the overall financial and operational management of the organization. Since we are pretty small, I have the opportunity to experience work at all levels of the organization, from working with the board to set policy to facilitating our weekly youth drop in meetings. I also represent the organization publicly and through community education, which gives me the chance to help our region better understand LGBT people and our experiences. That’s something I love to do, and I feel particularly honored to be entrusted with that task.

What do you see as the Center’s role within South Central PA? How would you like to see it grow or change over the next 5 years?

I see the Center as a place for people to enter into the LGBT communities and to get social opportunities, education, and support. I think we are a place where the community can say “I wish THIS existed in our community, and I’m going to be part of creating that” and that wish can become a reality. Our women’s group is a great example of that. Over the next five years, I see us expanding our impact throughout our eight-county service area by offering programming in satellite locations away from our home base in Harrisburg.

What struggles have you had with your position there, both within the organization and within bringing the organization to the community?

Funding is certainly a struggle! We have lots of individuals who give $5, $10, $20, $50, and even $100 a month to support our work year-round. These folks provide the core of what sustains our work over the long haul. We need more people to do this! Another struggle, which I think is a good struggle, is the effort to always be honing our message and making sure that we are communicating the best, most accurate, most up-to-date, most inclusive messages about our LGBT communities when we represent our communities through education, training, and media.

I think we need to remember that we are an LGBT community movement, not a marriage movement. People who want to get married should absolutely celebrate, but we should not be tricked into thinking the work is over! I think some of the biggest issues have to do with dealing with some of our “stuff” within the community. I think it’s relatively easy to recognize when “outsiders” are hurting us, but we aren’t always that wonderful to ourselves. We need to create truly inclusive and anti-racist spaces, deal with violence within our communities, advocate for trans health care, care for our homeless youth, and make sure that our elders are treated with dignity as they age.

Do you get to have a life outside of the Center? What else are you interested in, what do you do for fun or to relax?

I’m laughing as I read this! This work happens at strange hours, so lots of my life is related to my work at the Center. Besides that, I love making a home with my partner Shaun, running along the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, and attempting a container garden in my city backyard. A dirty secret is that I have a few fantasy baseball teams. I met my partner at FAB 2009, which was our gala! So I’d say my work here has majorly impacted my dating and family life. Working here has given me a platform to meet all kinds of people, and I am especially grateful for that. I’ve met some of my best friends through their volunteer work with the Center.

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Even though you’re the big, bag, executive director, I loved to see that you still are the lead facilitator for “Common Roads”, the teen group at the Center. Is working with students a special mission for you? What’s your coming out story?

In high school and college I was involved in faith communities that were not necessarily of the open and affirming variety. I didn’t even let my mind “go there” in terms of thinking of myself as having a queer identity. I went to Messiah College, and despite a mostly positive experience I just didn’t feel like that would be a safe place to come out. Somewhere over the course of my college tenure I simply decided that I’d come out after I graduated. After that, it’s pretty non-dramatic! But I do feel like my entire life as the director of the LGBT Center is an ongoing coming out story.”

Louie with the Common Roads students on a night I visited to do a presentation about marriage equality.
Louie with the Common Roads students on a night I visited to do a presentation about marriage equality.

National Marriage Equality…What Next?

Yessssssssss! President Obama and Vice President Biden racing down a classically arched walkway, rainbow flags galloping freely upon freedom’s breeze. Passion’s still golden glow in the eyes of an elderly couple with more than 50 years together under their belts as they clutch gnarled fingers around a newly minted marriage license. Here in York I was at a “suit and tie” conference at a prestigious local college and the lunchtime keynote halted buzzing Tweeters amidst a sea of rainbow soaked Facebook notifications to lead the room in a rousing cheer. At a lunch meeting the next day the (straight!) woman I was talking to about it couldn’t stop the welling tears of joy and she spoke in emotional but still strident tones about her pride being an American in 2015. I admit, I might have been a little mushy myself. I might have even played Obama singing Amazing Grace on YouTube 2 or 3 or 50 times whispering “That’s MY president and my Supreme Court and my country! Halleluia!” to myself. It’s been a few days now though. The initial adrenaline rush has been reabsorbed into fatigued muscles that have been fighting for marriage equality on a national level for a generation. We have a moment to lay our heads against the crumbling monument of Stonewall and just…breathe. Then we ask ourselves the inevitable…what next?

My response would be it affects me only in spirit of hope that we are more accepted and have more rights now because of it. It does not affect my condition of wedding, have no likely proposals headed my way still. Over 30 million people worldwide, according to the news, used the Facebook [rainbow] profile pic filter. That is a great realization of acceptance and love by and for our community. It makes me happy that my married friends can now move wherever they want in the nation, and have the same rights. I know that as time goes on the controversy will settle and we will also gain non-discrimination rights. – James Sawor

I think that for Pennsylvania officially it’s one step closer, however in a few larger cities health care and job security still does not exist. So it’s a good positive step towards rolling conversation towards true equality. Also some state reps are still completely clueless as to what exactly the argument may be. It’s not about the church, it’s about social and human rights and being acknowledge under law, more than anything. – Susan Brown

Even our “straight but not narrow” allies are weighing in, many more than ever before, to show and share their support of equality for EVERYONE.

[There is] still a lot of work to do….the LGBTQ community still need the anti-discrimination laws put in place so that you can’t get fired, evicted, etc for being your authentic selves. – Keri Leamen

In fact, although many LGBT activists and community members like Elena Damrauer are still basking in the sunshine of a new day –

I am excited to know that if and when I decide to marry a partner worthy of the rest of my life I can love anywhere and it’s recognized. It’s amazing all around. I never ever thought I would be alive to see this… And I’m thankful I am! – Elena Damrauer

it is just as likely that the supportive, excited, and joy-filled celebrants won’t be personally affected by marriage equality at all. The Ally community is vocally and excitedly on board. So why the widespread and cross orientation excitement?

I think it contributes to a sense of national pride for me. We, as Americans have an international reputation for being loud, obnoxious and egocentric. I get that and generally concur. I am proud of this accomplishment and see it as social evolution for us. – Nancy Yaeger

As Mickie Singer couldn’t help literally singing out…

Birds in the sky, you know how I feel…. It’s a new day, it’s a new life for me!

Yes, we still have a LOT of work to do with transgender awareness and activism, with LGBT healthcare and with discrimination laws. We still need to ban conversion therapy and do sensitivity training in schools and childcare and community centers and with law enforcement. We still need reconciling churches and adoption reform. But for today, just for today… I’m feeeeeeling good.

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