Four Pennsylvanians Named in the Out 100 for 2017

Out Magazine has released the ‘Out 100’ since 1994, featuring individuals who the publication considers having made compelling contributions to society as out LGBTQ people. 

Every year, we highlight the Pennsylvanians who were selected.

For 2017, four Pennsylvanians — though all who were born and raised in the commonwealth but now live in New York City — have been named to the Out 100 list for 2017:

Kyle Abraham, Dancer and Choreographer (From Pittsburgh)
Jonathan Groff, Entertainer of the Year (From Lancaster)
Chris McCarthy, President of MTV (From Levittown)
Benj Pasek, Songwriter (From Lower Merion)

Kyle Abraham returns home to Pittsburgh THIS Friday and Saturday, November 10-11, for a special performance. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published this feature on Abraham and the show here. Tickets are online here through Trust Arts.

Songwriter Max Vernon and actor Nathan Lee Graham are honored in this year’s Out 100, who both performed last year at our 2016 PYC event in New York City.

Additionally, two honorees this year attended schools in Pennsylvania. Playwright Paula Vogel attended Bryn Mawr College and actor Samira Wiley attended Temple University.

Past honorees from Pennsylvania in recent years include Alison Bechdel, Lee Daniels, Edie Windsor, and Evan Wolfson.

[Pictured: Benj Pasek // Out Magazine]

At Dawn, We Rise


This has been a devastating day for many of us. The results of this election have opened floodgates of bigotry and hatred to flow through. We are now in a profound moment of global history, which will test the strength of people of conscience. Yet, as dark as the days ahead may be, we will always find the light.

Please take a moment to read our statement of action tonight. We recommit ourselves to meaningful rural LGBTQ youth empowerment and eradicating white supremacy.

While we had a beautiful evening two weeks ago opening our state LGBTQ youth advocacy center, we are now called to use our power and place for urgent action. We will share three key ways below that you can get involved to support the LGBTQ youth movement in Pennsylvania, including the opportunity for young advocates to attend our regional mobilization meetings in the coming weeks which will extend throughout our nine regions across the commonwealth.

PYC State Headquarters Opening Reception – October 25, 2016

We send our love to those who have been threatened with great harm. We will continue to be in solidarity with people of color, immigrants, indigenous people, those with disabilities, women, Muslims, Jews, and everyone who has been intimidated with violence and hatred.

PYC’s mission has always been clear: We are empowering our generation of leaders to be effective advocates in local and state government. We will continue to successfully pursue our mission and create meaningful change.

Since we established PYC in 2011, we have centered much of our work on supporting rural LGBTQ youth. There is great concern for the shifting national landscape as it relates to the safety of LGBTQ people in our rural communities, where those who harbor hatred may feel emboldened in these days ahead. We want to assure you that we are with every young rural LGBTQ Pennsylvanian, and we will rise with you.

We will be redoubling our efforts to equip young rural LGBTQ Pennsylvanians with the necessary tools to advocate in their communities for human decency and intersectional social justice. While some organizations focus primarily on flashy fundraisers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh alone, literally flying over our heartland, for years we have been in the trenches throughout rural Pennsylvania. We look forward to expanding our advocacy efforts across the largest rural population of any state in the nation.

We imagine our world where rural Pennsylvanians of conscience are fully equipped and empowered to talk with their neighbors about social justice. The status quo of dismissing rural leadership is unacceptable, certainly as we consider the impacts our rural electorate has on American democracy. Our rural communities can hold the United States together – or cement our division apart.

As people of conscience, we will persevere in going high, regardless of how low future events may try to pull us down. In the pitch black, we believe our light can shine and grow.

We have hope that those who are surrounded in hatred and violence toward our diverse communities, can be successfully met with our stronger capacity to find human decency in one another.

Indeed, we are at a scary crossroads where so much of our recent progress in human history is up to be erased.

We do not make any bones about how white supremacy has and continues to play an unfortunate role in our political systems. We reaffirm our commitment to eliminating white supremacy, racism, and xenophobia wherever it exists. We will not rest while any of us is under attack from our own government and communities.

Our commitment to transparency and accountability leads us to share with you our reflection: We recognize the longtime inadequate support for these critical, intersectional social justice efforts. In the next chapter for our nation, we must ask each other clearly: Will you help? Will you get involved? Recent national investments into Pennsylvania on LGBT issues have been sent through unaccountable politically-connected enterprises rather than community-based intersectional social justice organizations like PYC. We hope you join us in building a community movement worthy of your investment.

Governor Tom Wolf Visits PYC’s 2nd Annual PA Comes Out for Freedom Event  – October 26, 2016

Earlier this fall, we shared with you three important ways you can support LGBTQ youth advocacy in Pennsylvania. We implore you to consider getting involved today to safeguard the lives young LGBTQ Pennsylvanians.

1. Keystone Pride Alliance

For Youth and Young Advocates

Friday, November 18th
Erie-West: Allegheny College, 4-5pm
Pittsburgh and Southwestern PA: University of Pittsburgh, 7-9pm

Saturday, November 19th
North Central: Lock Haven University, 2-4pm
South Central: PYC Headquarters, 6-8pm

Sunday, November 20th
NEPA and Lehigh Valley: East Stroudsburg University, 1-3pm
Philadelphia and Delaware Valley: University of Pennsylvania, 5-7pm


2. PYC Leadership Council

For Young Pennsylvanians
  • If you are a young Pennsylvanian interested in supporting the Pennsylvania LGBTQ youth movement in a broader way, consider joining the PYC Leadership Council. Members of the council are advisors to the organization and participate in a monthly giving circle to the organization. Click here to join!


3. Keystone Partners

For All Friends of Pennsylvania
  • Supporting LGBTQ youth leadership with a monthly donation will allow us to sustain and grow our operations. For a monthly gift starting at $10, you can join our donor circle as a Keystone Partner. You’ll get special insider updates on PYC activities and agenda. Click here to become a Keystone Partner!


PYC Constitutional Convention in Harrisburg August 6, 2011

The most powerful words that come to our mind are given to us from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Constitution that was drafted in 1960, which we adapted into the founding documents of PYC in 2011:

“Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear, love transforms hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hope ends despair. Peace dominates war; faith reconciles doubt. Mutual regards cancels enmity. Justice for all overcomes injustice. The redemptive community supersedes systems of gross social immorality.

Love is the central motif of nonviolence. Love is the force by which God binds man to himself and man to man. Such love goes to the extreme; it remains loving and forgiving even during hostility. It matches the capacity of evil to inflict suffering with an even more enduring capacity to absorb evil, all the while persisting in love.

By appealing to conscience and standing on the moral nature of human existence, nonviolence nurtures the atmosphere in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities.”

PYC State Leaders Meeting at Bloomsburg – November 5, 2016

There are many, many advances in LGBTQ civil rights that are threatened to be taken away. The spirit of the current administration has been embracing of LGBTQ people – and that is expected to disappear. Fear is on the minds of countless LGBTQ people throughout our nation.

Though we may be scared for our future, we are also fully ready to push back and fight for justice and freedom. This fear is not just because we happen to be LGBTQ, but that many of us live at the intersection of being LGBTQ and a person of color, a woman, a person with a disability, immigrant, Muslim, Jewish, and other marginalized identities, who have been targeted for harm. We fear for our nation not just on social issues, but on our economy, environment, and education system.

The arc of the moral universe certainly bends toward justice, no matter in times when the arc has been made longer.

Today is the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or night of broken glass, which was a massive program across Nazi Germany which resulted in mass destruction of Jewish homes, synagogues, business, and hundreds of murders. This morning, several Swastikas were found emblazoned on buildings in Philadelphia. This is our reality, yet we can work to change it.

We understand this is a very difficult time for many of us. Please know, you are absolutely worth fighting for. Please call any of the hotlines below if you want to talk with someone.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 (online chat available)
Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860

We ask all allies and accomplices in this work to contact us at anytime if we can be helpful to you. Please let us know where and when to be there, and we will be with you as we can.

You may reach out to us anytime. I can personally be contacted by email at, and our phone number is 717-743-1035.

We can – and must – work together to ensure violence and hatred do not harden our nation and commonwealth. This is possible when we all get involved, mobilize, and take action.

Thank you for your continued leadership and support. We are counting on your help to ensure we not only survive, but realize the light ahead and thrive.

  Yours Always,

  Jason Landau Goodman
  Executive Director

Eight Pennsylvanians Named in the Out 100 for 2015

Out Magazine has released the ‘Out 100’ since 1994, featuring individuals who the publication considers having made compelling contributions to society as out LGBTQ people.

This year, eight Pennsylvanians – those born or who live in the commonwealth – have been named to the Out 100 list for 2015:

Alison Bechdel and The Fun Home Family (Beech Creek)
Lee Daniels, Filmmaker, Actor, and Director (Philadelphia)
Adam Joseph, Meteorologist (Philadelphia)
Chip Kidd, Author and Graphic Designer (Reading)
Andy Mientus, Actor (Ross Township)
Hari Nef, Model (Philadelphia)
The Legends: Edie Windsor (Philadelphia) and
Evan Wolfson (Pittsburgh),  Marriage Equality Advocates

[Pictured: Adam Joseph]

Four Pennsylvanians Honored in the 2015 Trans 100

The 2015 Trans 100 honorees were announced on Sunday, March 29th, at the annual live celebration in Chicago. The Trans 100 celebrates the work of 100 influential transgender activists and advocates from across the country. The event was hosted this year by Chicago trans activists Precious Davis and Myles Brady, with Keynote Speeches from GLAAD Senior Media Strategist, Tiq Milan, and film director Lana Wachowski. Violinist Tona Brown, Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, and rapper Rocco Katastrophe performed.

Four Pennsylvania leaders in the trans community were honored this year:


Trans 100 - Copy (2) ——————– Turner Stulting
Lewisburg, PA
Turner is a trans youth activist, President of Bucknell University Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and the Assistant Director of Common Ground, a student-led diversity immersion retreat. Turner has worked in various capacities with the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. Ze served as State Operations Co-Chair of the 2014 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference: Igniting a Pennsylvania Youth Movement for Trans* Justice and Freedom, the 2014 Convener of the PSEC Coordinating Committee, and the 2014 Summer Policy Fellow. Last May, Turner interned with the Triangle Project, an LGBT rights organization in Cape Town, South Africa, assisting with the monitoring of hate crimes that LGBT people experienced in the Western Cape.Turner was the recipient of the 2015 Mara Keisling Leadership Award from the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. Ze is currently beginning research on the implications of socioeconomic class difference on transgender college students.
Trans 100 - Copy ———————- Samantha Jo-Dato
Philadelphia, PA
Samantha is the Coordinator of the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, one of the largest transgender conferences in the world. Samantha has served as a Committee Member for the annual Philadelphia Trans March and worked to launch the Mazzoni Center’s Trans Wellness Project in 2013.
Trans 100 - Copy (4)———————- Dr. Rachel Levine
Middletown, PA
Dr. Levine is the acting Physician General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the highest ranking openly transgender public official in Pennsylvania history. Prior to her appointment, she served as chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Trans 100 - Copy (3)———————- Jayden HC Sampson
Norristown, PA
Jayden is an organizer of the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. He serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors for Gender Reel, a coast-to-coast film and performing arts festival highlighting the experiences and identities of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. Jayden previously served on the Board of Directors of the Attic Youth Center and the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia. He first came to Pennsylvania to practice law as a Public Defender.

The 2014 Trans 100 honored four Pennsylvania leaders as well: A. Dionne Stallworth (Philadelphia), Charlene Arcila (Philadelphia), Shay(den) Gonzalez (Philadelphia), and Michael David Battle (Pittsburgh).

The inaugural Trans 100 list in 2013 honored five Pennsylvanians (those from Pennsylvania, and those currently residents): Allsyon Robinson (Jermyn), Che Gossett (Philadelphia), Jenny Boylan (Valley Forge), Mara Keisling (Harrisburg), and Van Nguyen (Philadelphia).


I was heartbroken when I heard the recent news about Leelah Alcorn and Andi Woodhouse. These are only two of many similar, painful stories of attempted and completed suicides within the transgender community. As a transgender individual, I want better for our community. I want better for us–I want us to feel loved and supported by our friends, families, neighbors, classmates, and colleagues.

There has always been immense stigma surrounding being transgender in the United States. People such as Leelah and Andi show how such pain can affect someone’s life in a deep, personal–and many times overwhelming–way. Many individuals within the transgender community, especially transgender youth, struggle with their mental health. Many of us feel alone and hopeless in a world that we find too often tries to hurt, degrade, and break transgender individuals. Despite the hatred we often face, we must remind ourselves that we can persevere and overcome this hatred and mistreatment.

In her suicide note, Leelah made a clear point of wanting better for her community. “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something.” We can do better. We need to do better. Not only for Leelah so that her wishes are not in vain–but for ourselves and for transgender individuals everywhere.

In response to Leelah’s suicide, ‪#‎RealLiveTransAdult‬ has emerged. I love that there are countless people out there who want to show transgender youth that life can be wonderful. It can be extremely inspirational to see older transgender people thriving and living fulfilling lives. It shows that finding happiness as who you are–whoever you may be–is not impossible. ‪#‎RealLiveTransAdult is one way to prove that to the transgender community. While a hashtag is not going to fix everything, it is making a point to the transgender community. It is making the point that you are not alone. That you are never alone. That life is worth living.

HashHowever, I am a #‎RealLiveTransYouth‬. I have overcome mental illness numerous times and found happiness and joy in my life. True, life may not always be perfect, but I have found friends and a support system that make the rough patches worth it. In my experience, the biggest hurdle I faced while healing from my mental illnesses was first deciding that I wanted to get better. Once I made that decision, the healing process took time and work but the effort I put it was one of the greatest choices I have ever made because of the rewards that came with it. There is no easy remedy for mental illness, but you can get better. If you are a young trans person who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or any kind of mental illness, please reach out for help.

I love you. So many people love you. We care about you, and we want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy.

Our thoughts go out to Andi’s and Leelah’s loved ones, and to everyone and anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide.

If you are struggling or are in a crisis, please reach out for help. Below is a list of resources that can provide support.


National Crisis Hotlines

Trans Lifelife: 877-565-8860
The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255


For Facebook + Twitter Profile Pictures

The 2014 ‘Trans 100’ Celebrates Pennsylvania Leaders

On Sunday, March 30th, the 2014 Trans 100 was reveled at a celebration event in Chicago. The Trans 100 is a list to honor living transgender community leaders. For the second year, Pennsylvania leaders were featured among the cohort.

Before the first honorees were named, Jen Richards, a Co-Director of the Trans 100, said to the audience:

“I want to remind everyone that this is not a ‘top 100,’ this is not a ‘best of.’

100 is meant to be a sampling of what our community has to offer. It’s just a glimpse.

We choose 100, because if we get up to 100, that is just a way of saying we have countless people in this community doing incredible work. It is specifically curated so that we have everyone represented, so that no trans person who thinks they are alone, who thinks that they are not trans, or that they are not trans enough, or that they are doing the wrong thing, can look at this list and see something of themselves in it and feel that they are a part of this community.”

The 2014 Trans 100 includes the following Pennsylvanians.


Photo: PSEC

Charlene Arcila
(Philadelphia) Co-Founder of the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, longtime trans rights advocate [2014 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference Plenary Speaker]


Photo: Philadelphia Gay News

A. Dionne Stallworth
Founding member of Gender PAC, longtime advocate on housing and mental health issues


Photo: Garden of Peace Project

Michael David Battle
Founder and Director of the Garden of Peace Project


Photo: Studio34Yoga

Shay(den) Gonzalez
(Philadelphia) Director of Program Development at the Safe Spaces Project, former Youth of Color Coordinator at the National Youth Advocacy Coalition

Also among this year’s honorees are Alison Gill, the current Government Affairs Director of the Trevor Project, who was a featured speaker at the 2011 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference; and Sarah McBride, Special Assistant on LGBT Issues at the Center for American Progress, who was a plenary speaker last month at the 2014 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference.

The 2013 Trans 100 featured the following Pennsylvanians.

Allyson Robinson (Jermyn)   Former Executive Director of OutServe-SLDN
[2014 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference Keynote Speaker]
Che Gossett (Philadelphia)  Author and AIDS activist, Program Assistant at the Leeway Foundation
Jenny Boylan (Valley Forge)   GLAAD Board Member, New York Times bestselling author
Mara Keisling (Harrisburg)
Founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality
[2011 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference Keynote Speaker]
Van Nguyen (Philadelphia) Steering Committee member of hotpot!
[2014 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference Plenary Speaker]

The keynote speakers for this year’s event were Laverne Cox and Kye Allums. Laverne spoke last Tuesday at the University of Pennsylvania, while Kye traveled directly from Bethlehem, PA, to Chicago after speaking at this year’s Lehigh Valley LGBTQIA Intercollegiate Conference. Kye will speak twice this week at the West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

The 2014 Trans 100 event can be viewed online here.

The featured image in this article is a collage from the Trans 100 of 2013. At time of this posting, the Trans 100 has not released official media for this year’s list, but is expected to do so shortly. The image will be then updated for 2014.

Why the Victory Fund Kept Mike Fleck in the Closet

This week marks the one year anniversary of PA State Representative Mike Fleck (R-81) coming out as openly gay. His courage, strength, and grace while coming out and being out have had a profound impact on countless Pennsylvanians, rural youth, and people around the world. However, Rep. Fleck was ready to come out much earlier than December 2012.

In the December 6th issue of the Philadelphia Gay News,
Rep. Fleck shares publicly for the first time that the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund instructed him to stay in the closet when he reached out to them. The Victory Fund is the premier national organization dedicated to electing out LGBT people to public office. As a young Pennsylvanian and President of a rural GSA, I find their treatment of Rep. Fleck highly problematic and indicative of a larger framework
that separates the LGBT political elite from local leaders who happen to be LGBT.

Coming out is a very personal process. Above all else, it is important that the person who is doing so maintain control of how events unfold. Rep. Fleck’s long journey of understanding who he is took several years. By the spring of 2012, he was ready to come out. His close political advisors, including former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, encouraged him to come out before the summer. However, a friend of Rep. Fleck’s suggested he reach out to the Victory Fund for their strategic counsel.


Rep. Brian Sims Speaks at a Victory Fund Event (Credit: Out Smart Houston)

The Victory Fund had a very strong incentive to keep him closeted until 2013, or to delay his coming out as much as possible. One of their campaign board members, Mr. Brian Sims, was running on the explicit platform of being the first openly gay state legislator in Pennsylvania. There is a clear conflict of interest on the Victory Fund’s behalf: If Rep. Fleck, a highly popular third term legislator, were to come out before 2013, he would be “taking away the title” from Mr. Sims. Not only would this hurt his personal ego, but also bruise the fundraising power of the Victory Fund on Mr. Sims’ behalf. Through his position, Mr. Sims has regularly stumped for the Victory Fund at private fundraisers, and once told Houston’s Out Smart, “I am an absolute junkie for the Victory Fund”.

If Mr. Sims secured the full title of “first openly gay legislator in PA,” the organization would have amplified media presence after “their guy” won. The Victory Fund could claim credit for prevailing in what they call on their website, a “Horizon State.” But, if Rep. Fleck came out before the election, they would lose recognition for supporting the first openly gay legislator in Pennsylvania.

To this day, Rep. Sims presents a media image as though he were the first openly gay legislator in the state, and is still regularly mischaracterized in the media as such (1-4).  Not coming out to gain some
historic title, Rep. Fleck is humble and has never publicly asserted a need to correct them.

The Victory Fund played Rep. Fleck. He finally broke under the pressure and came out on his own terms on December 1, 2012 through the Hungtindon Daily News. Upon coming out, Rep. Fleck received nasty attacks from Mr. Sims’ supporters for ‘stealing his crown.’ On PoliticsPA, one Sims’ supporter wrote that “[Rep. Fleck is] swooping in and stealing all his thunder [which] reeks of opportunism and some cowardice…way to hedge your bets then take advantage.” All because he made a personal decision stop following the problematic advice of just ‘waiting’. At the time, Rep. Fleck most likely had no idea or did not care who Mr. Sims even was.

So why would an experienced national organization dedicated to electing LGBT people to public office tell a legislator to stay in the closet? Their reasoning with Rep. Fleck was likely regarding the nature of his conservative district and not wanting him to “risk” his seat. Rep. Fleck was re-elected twice with 100% of the vote and was already expected to sail to victory again without any formal challenger. The primary election already happened in April, so the only way to challenge Rep. Fleck would have been in the form of a write-in candidacy. In a rural district against a well-liked incumbent, the amount of resources needed to run a successful write-in campaign in only a few months would likely be cost-prohibitive. In asking for him to wait until after the election, it opened the door to some of his constituents thinking that he was ‘deceiving them’ until after election day. Did the Victory Fund plan on asking him to stay in the closet through 2013?

web_header_DCThe Victory Fund’s base of supporters is largely built from cocktail parties and black-tie events which speak to the non-profit industrial complex. To survive in difficult economic times, when many LGBT organizations have shuttered, the organization may be drawn toward tactics of self-preservation over maintaining the integrity of their mission.

Their matrix for endorsements and providing financial support is not based primarily on the importance of a race, but rather if they are guaranteed or near-guaranteed to win. It seems they want to keep their ratio of winners high, which can allow them to share a high rate of success with their donors. They tout on their website: “In fact, more than 350 openly LGBT candidates ran for office in 2010, but just 164 earned Victory’s endorsement. And 65% of those individuals went on to win their election.”  This strategy is successful, as the Movement Advancement Project found the Victory Fund, along with several other national LGBT organizations, increased their profits by 17% in 2012. They have little reason to support grassroots candidates who would not return the Victory Fund’s investment by drawing wealthy crowds to their cocktail fundraisers, as would someone from within their inner circle.


PA Rep. Candidate Fern Kaufman

Under these parameters, Harvey Milk would not get support from the Victory Fund even if he tried – at least not during his first attempts running for City Supervisor. However, those elections were necessary to get his name out there and eventually win. There are countless examples of important campaigns to elect LGBT people that fell outside the mainstream political community. In a special election earlier this year, Equality Pennsylvania declined to support out Republican Bryan Tate for an open seat in York County in order to endorse now-Rep. Kevin Schreiber, a Democrat. In 2008 and 2010, out lesbian Fern Kaufman ran for state representative against an incumbent Republican in Chester County. She became the earliest serious contender to take the title of first LGBT person in the Pennsylvania legislature – in 2008 she secured 48% of the vote. Advocates would like to think that since she was running in a Philadelphia suburb, the larger LGBT community and the Victory Fund would have been at her side. But they were not, and she slammed them in the Philadelphia Gay News after her loss in 2010:

“I actually had to fight with my own community for this. I don’t know if I can take on another uphill battle when my community was not there for me,” she said. “That’s a harsh statement to make, but they weren’t. It was sporadic, and I had to fight for them to pay attention but, by and large, they did not. It’s one thing to say, ‘We really support you,’ and slap me on the back and say, ‘Go, girl, you’re great.’ That’s great, but I need people who are actually willing to put rubber to the road because this isn’t something that can be done alone. I don’t know if I have that fight in me again to go back to the community and try to get them to actually show up.”

“Our community needs to take stock of what’s really important to them, and I hope, if nothing else, this election will open up a greater conversation about politics in our country and our community.”

Conversely, many LGBT New Yorkers saw City Council President Christine Quinn’s recently failed bid for Mayor as a victory.  They believed she had become corrupt and sold out the queer community in numerous instances, including by supporting the Stop and Frisk program. The Washington Blade reported that:

Quinn_Ward Morrison-Metro Weekly

New York Mayoral Candidate Christine Quinn Speaks at a Victory Fund Event (Credit: Metro Weekly)

“The national LGBT groups Human Rights Campaign and Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund contributed thousands of dollars to her campaign and dispatched volunteers and field organizers to help in locations throughout the city.

Victory Fund President and CEO Chuck Wolfe issued a statement Tuesday night noting that eight of its 10 endorsed candidates in New York races, including City Council candidates, won their races in the New York primary.”

The Victory Fund, and other LGBT political elite organizations, have an incentive to perpetuate a culture that keeps them close to elected officials in power, who can raise them funds and keep their message relevant. Of the 21 board members listed on their website, 14 are older white cis-men. When LGBT political communities are led by individuals from privileged classes, they are likely to be also designing an agenda for their own needs.

So, what is the value in analyzing Rep. Fleck’s experience with the Victory Fund? In writing this, I asked myself: is it worthwhile to provide constructive criticism of a national LGBT organization so publicly? I believe it is critical for us to recognize this behavior when it occurs because there are serious implications for the integrity and purpose of the LGBT movement. In this system, LGBT dollars have and will continue to go to privileged gay leaders entering politics who come from the inner circles of organizations such as the Victory Fund or HRC. It seems the Victory Fund may have lost their sight of their mission when telling our state’s first openly gay state representative to sit down. It was never their place to make that call. We must challenge these institutions and hold LGBT political leaders accountable so we may promote a movement that fights for the justice of all people.


Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown Speaks to the Press After House Floor Debacle (Credit: Philadelphia Inquirer)

In the end, while both Rep. Fleck and Rep. Sims were elected, what has happened? It seems rather misguided to have quelled Rep. Fleck in coming out while over-promoting Rep. Sims given evidence of their effectiveness in the legislature. Rep. Sims has not made any earth-shattering progress on LGBT issues in the House. He staged a debacle with Rep. Daryl Metcalfe on the House floor over DOMA in June, and has held several inflated press conferences. It would have been common knowledge to all legislators that members of the majority party have the power to silence any legislator in the minority from speaking about a controversial issue during a unanimous consent forum. He was present in session on February 13, when several black legislators were silenced when they went to speak about Black History Month on the House floor. Likewise, marriage equality bills have been introduced six times before he and Rep. McCarter did so, without fanfare. In contrast, Rep. Fleck used his resources to gain the acceptance of a majority of his Republican colleagues – and foster strong relationships with major political players so our GOP majority state government can start to move forward on equality issues.

On the heels of the 35th anniversary of Harvey Milk’s assassination, I think it is important to remember that he once called out:

“It’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power… it’s about the “us’s” out there. I have never considered myself a candidate. I have always considered myself part of a movement. I think that there’s a distinction between those who use the movement and those who are part of the movement.”

Harvey Milk, Fern Kaufman, and Rep. Fleck are among a select breed of out leaders who have refused to be bought or sold by the LGBT political elite. Perhaps this is why wealthy LGBT organizations have been making calculated decisions for decades such as the one to stall Rep. Fleck coming out.

PA Rep. Mike Fleck and PA House Majority Leader Mike Turzai

Rep. Mike Fleck and PA House Majority Leader Mike Turzai

If the LGBT political establishment keeps themselves limited to investing only in their golden boys of the Horizon States, there will never be a true win. Rep. Fleck was clear in his interview that he “didn’t want to be some big poster boy for gay rights,” but rather focus on being a successful legislator, and by virtue of being out, help the movement. The red states, as well as Pennsylvania, will not all of the sudden become LGBT safe havens. We must rally with all out legislators, including conservatives, who may be outside the established LGBT community.

When the larger LGBT community can break down the barriers between the grassroots and establishment communities, we will have secured the truest victory: the building of a world where everyone is provided respect, dignity, and equality.

1. Philebrity: Q&A: Rep. Brian Sims, PA’s First Openly Gay Legislator, On The Day That DOMA Died (June 26, 2013)
2. We’re not done yet. What’s next in the fight for LGBT rights (September 16, 2013)
Rep. Sims opens his opinion piece for The Guardian with:
“As the first openly gay representative in Pennsylvania, I’m confident civil rights for all will win despite more legal challenges.”
3. Your State Rep Brian Sims Visits Erie (November 2, 2013)
4. Campus Pride Speakers Bureau Profile: Brian Sims
Post Photo Credit: The New York Times

Rep. Dent Urges Speaker Boehner to Run ENDA

On Tuesday, US Rep. Charles Dent (R-15) joined several House members in sending a letter to Speaker John Boehner urging him to schedule a vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA). Four other Republican members and five Democratic members signed the letter.

The fifth-term House member from the Lehigh Valley is a well known centrist in the Republican party who has consistently called for measures that provide dignity and fairness to LGBT people. Speaker Boehner has made repeated public statements that he will not run ENDA.

In the letter, Rep. Dent joins in writing “An innate sense of fairness compels our country to rise above all forms of workplace discrimination…Job discrimination against any American creates an uneven playing field that runs contrary to the basic notion of equality and our economic efficiency.” The full letter is below.

Rep. Dent is a co-sponsor of ENDA as well as the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA). SSIA is an critical anti-bullying bill, that has been introduced in both chambers for the past several legislative sessions that includes an enumeration of protections. The legislation guarantees access to safe schools policies to all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Additionally, he was one of only two Republicans to sign onto the Uniting American Families Act, an LGBT immigration equality bill. The legislation has since been antiquated because of the Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned DOMA in June.

ENDA passed the United States Senate last month in a 64-32 vote. Pennsylvania’s US Sen. Pat Toomey (R) was a key supporter in both the cloture and final votes in favor the legislation. He was one of only ten Republicans to vote for the measure.

Rep. Dent represents Lehigh County and parts of Berks, Dauphin, Lebanon, and Northampton Counties. His predecessor as US Representative for the 15th Pennsylvania district is Sen. Pat Toomey, who was in the position from 1999 to 2005.

Rep. Dent has served in both the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and State Senate. He is a graduate of Allen High School, Penn State University for his undergraduate degree, and Lehigh University for a Masters in Public Administration.

Photo: The Associated Press

Equality Federation Throws Out Youth Leadership from State Meeting; Youth Fight for Dignity in National Equality Movement

As the national equality movement advances with historic progress, critical questions remain about how our community’s leadership will develop a national strategic plan that reflects the voices of all LGBT people.

As the Convener of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, the nation’s first entirely youth-led statewide LGBT organization, I have recently seen our leaders experience incredible discrimination and harassment from fellow advocates because of our age. Far too many of our community stakeholders believe youth are underqualified for high level discourse on pressing issues, and that we are an uncontrollable constituency that would be ineffective in creating change.

I have always maintained that unyielding love toward others, even those who would seek to do us harm within our own community, will shine through in the end. At the helm of our organization, I have always directed myself and others to focus on the important work ahead, rather than responding to the hurtful words and actions of others.

While there are only a few youth-led LGBT groups in the United States, we are all fighting for respect and a seat at the community table. We do this while fighting for progress in the larger struggle toward justice. Sadly, in a world without the National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC), which disbanded in 2011, national organizations seem to have found it convenient to completely dismiss the youth voice, rather than to work toward our inclusion.

HarrisburgWe are not an insignificant organization in the equality movement. Our organization represents the grassroots power of thousands of young Pennsylvanians. PSEC has crafted a safe schools bill which has garnered the most co-sponsors of an LGBT inclusive piece of legislation in state history.

Last Thursday, our Executive Director Jason Landau Goodman, was invited by a Central Pennsylvania community leader to a listening session by the Equality Federation in Harrisburg regarding a statewide strategic plan. He gladly accepted to listen and offer contributions to the conversation. As an Executive Director of an established statewide LGBT organization we assumed there would be a seat at the table for us.

Within moments after he arrived to the meeting, Ted Martin, the Executive Director of Equality Pennsylvania, left the room with Roey Thorpe, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Equality Federation. A few minutes later, they came back in and Roey approached Jason and asked to talk in the hallway. She claimed this was an “invitation-only meeting” and that he must immediately leave the premises. However, an invitation to the meeting explicitly asked guests to welcome any leaders they saw fit. I was absolutely shocked to learn of this unprofessional behavior when he called me as he left SEIU Pennsylvania’s office.

Sadly, this is not unusual behavior from LGBT organizations. For years, there has been a culture of discriminatory attitudes within the supposedly “safe space” of LGBT groups. The voices of trans people, people of color, and youth are rarely heard at the table of LGBT organizers. If they are lucky, perhaps they will get a physical seat. However, it is not uncommon for marginalized groups to be literally forced out of the room. This is unacceptable.

Truitt BannerSince contacting Equality Federation Executive Director Rebecca Isaacs and Ted Martin, there has been no acknowledgement of this behavior. We have asked to talk with Issacs on the phone three times with no response. Instead, she only sent us one, non-responsive email and cast blame to our Executive Director instructing that he “take on the constructive leadership role you so desire” in order to work with the Equality Federation. How can we assume a “constructive leadership role” within an organization which literally closes their door to us?

The integrity of the movement is fractured when adult leaders fail to stand up for our emerging voices. While many community leaders have supported youth-led work, there are still Executive Directors who make the decision not to intervene in support when youth fight for their voice to be heard. Getting involved to help youth struggling against community barriers has been seen as politically inconvenient for some adult leaders. However, this is not congressional electoral politics – this is the treatment of youth by adult leaders, and this needs to stop.

We are asking that these organizations take action for inclusion. The first step would be to apologize for last Thursday’s incident. In the same way a professional colleague would expect an apology, as equals, we too expect an apology. While their egos may not permit them to issue a statement, there is still a pressing need for a pledge to do better – to not dismiss marginalized voices from the table – and a new precedent of taking youth voices, among other groups, seriously.

carolynSilencing youth voices from within social justice movements is far from new. Youth advocates in the Suffrage and Civil Rights movements faced significant marginalization by established leaders. In the struggle to build their power, young leaders formed organizations such as the National Woman’s Party and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The bold actions they designed and executed complemented their adult counterparts and has been credited in supporting major legislative victories.

While youth leaders throughout history have risen up to claim responsibility for their part in their struggles – and perhaps defied establishment leaders along the way – their positive impact on strengthening those movements was proven invaluable.

Sadly, the LGBT community appears to be years away from full and mutual respect within the movement’s leadership. When discriminatory behavior is commonplace, a serious look inward must be taken before we can forge ahead. True progress will not be made until we treat all of our members with dignity.

Young leaders can be innovative and forward thinking. As has been proven throughout history, youth are free to move an agenda with our own independent agency. We are not just the leaders of tomorrow – we are the leaders of today.


Kevin McKeon is the Convener of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition Coordinating Committee. Originally from Bucks County, Kevin is a rising Senior at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. At PCT he serves as the President of The Alliance. As the elected Convener of the Coordinating Committee, Kevin oversees all operations of PSEC.

Below is the email exchange between the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition and the Equality Federation.

UPDATE: At the time Equality Federation sent their first email on Friday evening, no Equality Federation staff had reached out to PSEC. Since then, staff have reached out to PSEC about a statewide strategic plan, but have not addressed through multiple emails and appeals to talk on the phone about last Thursday.

NOTE: We have redacted names from the invitation email.

From: Jason Goodman
Date: Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 4:17 PM
Subject: From Pennsylvania LGBTQ Youth
To: Rebecca Isaacs
Cc: Jace Woodrum, Michael Brunelle, Kevin McKeon, Faith Elmes, Victor Galli

Dear Rebecca,

I hope this email finds you well. This was a truly historic week with the Supreme Court, but we certainly have plenty work ahead of us at the state level.

I am writing to you regarding a meeting yesterday morning facilitated by the Equality Federation in Harrisburg, PA. We appreciate your time in reading this letter and addressing our concerns.

First, we want to thank the Equality Federation for taking the time to send staff to Pennsylvania and take into consideration the leaders who are on the ground for a statewide strategy.

I was invited to this community stakeholder meeting by a fellow leader from Lancaster. He had attended the same meeting on Wednesday in Philadelphia and mentioned to the facilitators how important it would be to have Pennsylvania youth voices at the table. I accepted his invitation to join the meeting in my capacity as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC). I did not know at the time that these meetings were intended to be “invitation-only.”

Upon arriving at 9:00am, I was happy to see our community partners at the table from several organizations, such as the LGBT Center of Central PA and Marriage Equality for PA. Shortly after I arrived, I noticed Ted Martin, the Executive Director of Equality Pennsylvania, asking Roey Thorpe, Equality Federation’s Director of Strategic Projects, to talk outside the meeting room at SEIU Pennsylvania. Moments later, the two came back in the room and Roey asked to speak with me outside. Our conversation was very brief, but she told me directly that this was an invitation only meeting, that she would be happy to connect at a later date, and asked me to leave immediately. I had not said or done anything when I arrived besides saying hello to our community partners.

In response, I only asked two questions to her. First, that if she understood that I was representing PSEC as Pennsylvania’s leading voice for LGBTQ youth, and that PSEC had previously started an application for Equality Federation membership. She said yes. I then asked that in requesting me to leave if she realized that there would be no youth voice (just as there was no trans voice) at this meeting. She said she understood. I then came back into the room to collect my portfolio and wish our partners a good meeting. Those in the meeting were not briefed on my departure and so it was not discussed during the meeting.

I do not believe that I was asked to leave solely because this was an invite-only event. An email invitation for the meeting included a call to extend the welcome to leaders not directly sent an email. That email is below. There were participants in attendance who were not related to any organization. We know of at least one individual from Embrace Lancaster who was not formally invited – but was allowed to stay. One participant has alleged that that Equality Federation staff made negative comments regarding my age following the meeting. With this context, we are left to assume direct prejudice against PSEC was responsible for asking our youth presence to be removed from the meeting.

PSEC represents thousands of young Pennsylvanians with over 50 student organizations and dozens of LGBT youth organizations. We have been present for several years across the state – from Erie and Scranton and every region between. Legislation that we have drafted and are currently advocating for in Harrisburg has the most co-sponsors in state history to include LGBT protections. We have a lobbyist and offices across the state. As you may remember in May 2012 you saw our board meeting in progress at the William Way Community Center with over 40 youth. We not an insignificant group in Pennsylvania. As the Executive Director, I am tasked to represent youth voices in the legislature and at the table during community meetings.

We are saddened by Equality Pennsylvania’s behavior and see it as reflecting poorly on our state. We reached out to Ted Martin for an explanation yesterday and have not heard back from him in the past twenty-four hours.

Worse, however, is that an Equality Federation staff member has condoned and participated in these unprofessional actions. Asking the Executive Director of PSEC, the first youth-led statewide LGBT organization in the nation, to leave the community table, reflects some of the very worst behavior in our community.

Community support of youth voices, trans voices, or people of color voices should be embraced and respected to build a stronger community. At the start of the meeting this morning, none of those voices were present.

I arrived in good faith to listen and offer contributions as the leader of an established statewide LGBT organization, but was summarily dismissed by the Equality Federation. With the shared goal of civil rights for LGBT people in Pennsylvania, a meaningful listening session with community leaders should have welcomed a diversity of stakeholders. There should have been an assumption that participants would be professional and would not have been disruptive or unprepared for high level discourse on strategic planning for our state, regardless of age.

In this process, the Equality Federation has effectively silenced the thousands of youth voices we represent. This also sets a dangerous precedent that national organizations have the agency to reject the presence of youth voices in the future.

Thank you for letting us share our concerns. All we ask for is an apology, and a pledge to do better. That in future conversations about our state you would invite us, and with other states you would embrace connecting with authentic youth voices to be at the table.

While we understand that you personally were not at this meeting, we sincerely hope that you will take swift action to remedy the behavior by the staff within your organization. If we do not hear from you in the next twenty-hours, then we think the LGBT community and press would deserve to know that youth voices in Pennsylvania are not valued by the Equality Federation. For obvious reasons, that is not an avenue we desire to pursue since we hope instead to have a productive conclusion to this incident.

We write to you in the spirit of collaboration and the basic integrity of Equality Federation’s values. I look forward to connecting with you soon.

Jason Landau Goodman

Jason Landau Goodman
Executive Director
The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition
Pittsburgh – Harrisburg – Philadelphia

From: A.S.
Sent: Monday, June 24, 2013 5:20 PM
To: R.V.; A.L.; P.E.; M.B.; D.C.
Cc: Roey Thorpe
Subject: Getting your help with PA

Hi —————————,

Just a quick update that Roey and I had a terrific site visit in Ohio last week (shout out to Andy for his participation). We won’t have a similar site visit in PA for a number of months but Ted Martin, the ED at Equality Pennsylvania, has organized meetings for us to attend with various leaders this week to talk about their state’s nondiscrimination campaign. When he just shared the list, I noticed some gaps in terms of faith leaders.

Part of this process is to see where those gaps are and begin to fill them, but I thought it would great if we could do a last minute (and it is truly last minute and a long shot) reach out to any key players you know in either Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg or Allentown.

Below are Ted’s lists. If you have anyone who you feel comfortable enough to reach out to to join with such short notice, please do (or give me their contact info and I will happily reach out). And because it is short notice, we can follow up with other folks by phone later if we need to. Many thanks! -A.S.


From: Rebecca Isaacs
Date: Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 6:36 PM
Subject: Re: From Pennsylvania LGBTQ Youth
To: Jason Goodman
Cc: Jace Woodrum, Michael Brunelle, Kevin McKeon, Faith Elmes, Victor Galli

Hi Jason,

I understand that both Equality Federation and Equality Pennsylvania staff have reached out to you about your concerns. I hope that you will respond to them. I agree that collaboration and cooperation are key to moving our work forward and hope that you can work this out. Just a suggestion, but I don’t think that threats about 24 hour responses are very oriented toward problem solving or collaboration and seem to obviate the collaborative tone you seem to want. There are so many opportunities in this work to make alliances and show rather than say that you want to work collaboratively. I know that this has been an issue for you in the past and I urge you to take on the constructive leadership role you so desire. All of us at Equality Federation want to work with you in that way and look forward to it.


Rebecca Isaacs
Executive Director
Equality Federation/
Equality Federation Institute

From: Jason Goodman
Date: Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 7:38 PM
Subject: Re: From Pennsylvania LGBTQ Youth
To: Rebecca Isaacs
Cc: Jace Woodrum, Michael Brunelle, Kevin McKeon, Faith Elmes, Victor Galli

Dear Rebecca,

Thank you for your quick response and feedback.

We absolutely value your suggestions in moving forward.

Our goal is to identify solutions in order to achieve progress.

To this end, I would like to have a phone conversation with you as soon as possible.

I am available anytime this evening and anytime over the next couple days. If you could identify a time to chat, that would be great. My cell phone number is ###-###-####.

I look forward to being in touch shortly.


DOMA and Proposition 8 Struck Down by SCOTUS

Today is a historic day for the LGBT equality movement. The Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s adoption of Proposition 8 were unconstitutional citing the Equal Protection Clause. Both of these rulings establish heightened scrutiny on sexual orientation discrimination.

Here is the decision of the United States v. Edie Windsor. An explanation in plain english from SCOTUS Blog on this case can be found here. Fun fact: Edie Windsor is a proud graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia.

Here is the decision of Hollingsworth v. Perry. An explanation in plain english from SCOTUS Blog on this case can be found here.

We have been closely monitoring Twitter and Facebook for the reactions of our state legislators. So far, all but one have been positive.

KSV staff will update this post as lawmakers let us know how they feel about today’s decisions.

CaseyStatement from US Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)

“The Supreme Court made the right decision in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) this morning.

As a U.S. Senator representing Pennsylvania, I have read many letters written to me by LGBT Pennsylvanians and their families who want nothing more than equal rights under the law.  These letters included deeply personal statements from people across our Commonwealth and had a substantial impact on my decision to support marriage equality.

I believe the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA was a critical step in strengthening equal rights for all.”

PittsStatement from US Representative Joe Pitts (R-16)

“I cannot disagree more with today’s Supreme Court decision. Congress was well within its rights to define marriage on the federal level as it has been construed for thousands of years. The people of California voted in a fair and free referendum to protect traditional marriage. In both of these cases, the people acted through the democratic process to define marriage as between one man and one woman and now see their decision invalidated by the court.

I believe this will have negative consequences for children, who are best raised by a mother and a father. We redefine marriage at the expense of strong families, the essential building block of our society.”

Here are the positive tweets




Here are the negative tweets

[Re-tweet by PA Rep. Bryan Cutler]Cutler