McGuffey School District Must Implement LGBTQ-Affirming Policies

The Day of Silence was the scariest day of the year for me when I was in high school. Those memories came back to me yesterday, when I learned that at McGuffey High School, a rural Pennsylvania high school in Washington County, students allegedly planned what amounts to an entire anti-LGBTQ Spirit Week to coincide with their Day of Silence on Wednesday. Students posted pictures of themselves on social media wearing flannel shirts on the Day of Silence and writing “Anti-Gay” on their hands. The posts indicated that the students would be wearing red on the following school day to signify their opposition to LGBTQ students, and that they had many more “anti-gay” days planned. Students at McGuffey who participated in the Day of Silence reported that they were verbally harassed, physically assaulted, and had offensive notes taped to their lockers. These students told local Channel 11 News that they are afraid to return to school.   

Organized by GLSEN, the Day of Silence is an annual event in support of LGBTQ students. Participants take a vow of silence for the school day to draw attention to issues of bullying and harassment, which effectively silence LGBTQ youth from living openly. Nationally, the Day of Silence was held on Friday, April 17, but McGuffey High School students choose to observe the event on Wednesday, April 15.

A school board meeting was held on the Thursday following McGuffey High School’s Day of Silence, and students and community members came out to share their stories and their concerns. Kathy Cameron, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Washington County Gay Straight Alliance, Inc. was present at the meeting, and reported that several students voiced their experiences on the Day of Silence to the school board members. Cameron described the school board members as being “receptive and reactive,” and stated that they “appeared to understand the gravity of the situation.”

McGuffey School District Superintendent Dr. Erica Kolat released a statement to media, saying, “Yesterday afternoon, April 16, 2015, allegations of harassment were brought to the attention of our administration. McGuffey School District, along with school police officers, continue to investigate all allegations. We will follow our Student Code of Conduct, and file legal citations, as warranted. We resolve to ensure that all children can grow and learn in a safe, supportive environment free from discrimination.”

Taking a stand against the harassment and violence which has already occurred is a good first step, but ensuring that all students grow and learn in an environment free from discrimination requires greater institutional change.

For the past three school years, McGuffey School District has reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Education that zero incidents of bullying have occurred in the district, despite the fact that the CDC has found that about 20% of students in Pennsylvania report being the targets of bullying. Additionally, the district’s nondiscrimination policy and anti-bullying policy contain no mention of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

I call upon McGuffey School District to send a clear message against discrimination by updating their nondiscrimination and anti-bullying policies to list sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected categories, accurately reporting to the Pennsylvania Department of Education incidents of bullying, and appropriately preventing and intervening in all situations of student intimidation and harassment.  

As I read the reports about McGuffey High School, I was immediately taken back to a spring day when I was in middle school, sitting in the back of the bus and trying to blend in with the infinitely cooler high school students as they conversed about the high school’s upcoming “Gay Day.” The general consensus of the group was that on the Day of Silence next week, which they called “Gay Day,” you were supposed to wear “black if you’re anti-gay, white if you’re gay, and red if you’re not gay, but you support gay people.” There was some contention over the proper color to identify oneself as bisexual. I wasn’t even in high school at the time, and no sort of event had been spoken of at the middle school, but I was terrified of drawing unwanted attention to myself or causing offense through my almost entirely black wardrobe. I marked the date on my calendar and remembered to wear a neutral blue shirt.

Matters had improved by the time I reached high school, but every year, I imagined walking into school on the Day of Silence to face an entire group of people visibly protesting my very existence. Being an openly LGBTQ or allied student could be intimidating on the other 179 days of the school year, but an entire day dedicated towards raising visibility for our issues made me feel like I had a target on my back. My high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance prepared for the Day of Silence for weeks in advance, planning our shirts, ordering bracelets, and talking about what to do if we encountered harassment or violence. During my senior year of high school, our GSA opted to create matching Day of Silence shirts in black, to represent the legacy of black shirts being used to threaten and silence our fellow LGBTQ students.

I was incredibly fortunate to never have experienced anything like the trauma that LGBTQ and allied students from McGuffey High School have been forced to cope with. These students are facing the nightmare that kept me awake every night before the Day of Silence. Institutional change is necessary to end this blatant discrimination and hatred.

There is no easy fix to the deeply embedded problems of homophobia, transphobia, and violence in our schools, but McGuffey School District administrators, faculty, and staff have the ability to take a meaningful stand against discrimination in their district. I urge the McGuffey School District to implement policies which support LGBTQ students and to responsibly report and intervene in incidents of bullying, harassment, and violence. Solely reacting to this situation is not enough. The McGuffey School District must be proactive in changing policies and holding themselves accountable in order to prevent this bigotry from occurring again.

Body of Missing Pittsburgh Man Recovered in Ohio River

Pittsburgh Police announced at a press conference at 7:45 PM this evening that a body recovered in the Ohio River near Follansbee, West Virginia, has been identified as Andre Gray, a 34 year-old Pittsburgh man who was reported missing in October. Gray was an active member of the Pittsburgh LGBTQ community, and his disappearance has been closely monitored by community members.

Gray’s death has been ruled a homicide. Pittsburgh Police reported that a preliminary autopsy showed that Gray sufferer a gunshot wound. Because he initially went missing in Pittsburgh, the case will continue to be investigated by the Pittsburgh Homicide Unit. Police reported that they are investigating all leads, but no warrants have been issued in connection with the case, and no suspects are in custody.

Gray’s mother, Victoria Gray-Tillman, expressed relief that her son’s body was recovered, and said that her family can now have closure regarding his disappearance.

The Keystone Student Voice will continue to follow this ongoing situation and will provide additional updates shortly.

Fourth Annual PA Youth Action Conference to be Held this Weekend

The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC) will convene the 2015 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference: Cultivating New Possibilities for Rural LGBTQ Youth, at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, from February 27–28. Held since 2011, the PA Youth Action Conference has become the largest annual statewide gathering of LGBTQ youth.

The Keynote Speaker of the 2015 conference will be Mike Fleck, the first openly gay state legislator in Pennsylvania. Former State Rep. Fleck (R-81) served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 2008 to 2014. His district was comprised of parts of rural Centre, Huntingdon, and Mifflin Counties.

Alison Bechdel will address the conference on Saturday afternoon. From rural Clinton County, Alison is a world-renowned lesbian cartoonist who produced the syndicated comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” for over 20 years. She is a 2014 MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient and a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow. Her memoir “Fun Home” will debut as a musical on Broadway in New York in March 2015. Alison will speak to the conference attendees about her experiences growing up and coming out in rural Pennsylvania.

HannahThe Youth Action Conference will also feature an address by the newly named Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), Hannah Smith-Brubaker. Before joining PDA this month, she was the President of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union. Hannah and her wife operate a farm in Juniata County.

Additional speakers include: Candace Gingrich, Associate Director of Youth and Campus Engagement for the Human Rights Campaign, and sister of Newt Gingrich; Terry Mutchler, the former Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records and author of “Under this Beautiful Dome”; Dr. Michele Angello, a nationally-regarded gender and sexuality youth therapist; Dr. Karen Whitney, President of Clarion University; and, Joe Burns, Sam Deetz, and Mary Nancarrow, several of the founding members of the Pennsylvania Rural Gay Caucus – the first statewide LGBTQ organization in Pennsylvania.

Programming includes an All-Conference Training on mental health and self-care for rural LGBTQ youth, a plenary of rural Pennsylvania LGBTQ advocates, and a screening of “Out in the Silence” – the 2010 documentary on LGBTQ life in Oil City, PA – with filmmaker Joe Wilson providing remarks. There will be over a dozen cutting-edge sessions on rural issues, including on the history of the rural Pennsylvania LGBTQ movement, access to healthcare for rural LGBTQ youth, safe schools advocacy, rural organizing work, transgender youth issues, and the role of religion in the rural LGBTQ community. The third annual Keystone Banquet and Award Ceremony will be held on Saturday evening, honoring Pennsylvanians who have made a positive impact in the lives of LGBTQ young people.

The recipients are as follows:

The Altoona Award
Alison Bechdel – Beech Creek, PA
For great courage, strength, and resilience in advancing the visibility and welfare of LGBTQ youth in the commonwealth

The Keystone Award
Terry Mutchler – East Stroudsburg, PA
Presented to a legislator or government official who has demonstrated great courage, strength, and resilience in advancing the visibility and welfare of LGBTQ youth in the commonwealth

The Generations Award
The Pennsylvania Rural Gay Caucus (Accepted by Mary Nancarrow, Joe Burns, and Sam Deetz)
For Pennsylvanians who have provided significant contributions to the legacy of LGBT advocacy in the commonwealth

The Mara Keisling Leadership Award
Turner Stulting – Lewisburg, PA
Presented to a transgender youth who has completed substantial work to advocate for gender equality and inclusivity in the Keystone State

The 2015 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference is sponsored by PSEC, Juniata College, Village Acres Farm and Foodshed, the Philadelphia Gay News, and the Pennsylvania Farmers Union. Efforts to organize the conference at Juniata College have been led by their campus LGBT student organization, All Ways of Loving.

More information on the gathering, and online registration, can be found at

Shatter Every Closet Door: The Political Fallout of Rep. Mike Fleck’s Loss

Where do we go from here? The midterm election has given us more homework to do, and if we refocus, we can win.

All eyes on Rep. Mike Fleck’s re-election campaign

In understanding where they can side on LGBTQ issues, many Pennsylvania legislators have been paying close attention to the outcome of the 81st House District election. Rep. Mike Fleck, the state’s first openly gay legislator, lost his seat on Tuesday following a fiercely fought 22-month long campaign. His loss is devastating for many in his district, and thousands of LGBTQ people in Pennsylvania – particularly for rural LGBTQ youth who have lost positive representation in their government and community. Beyond the social impact, Rep. Fleck’ loss has significant political consequences as well. The outcome of this election will be sending a ripple effect throughout the commonwealth.

For a long time, there has been a widespread feeling of trepidation amongst the conservative legislators who control the General Assembly of engaging with LGBTQ issues. And so, there has been silence – even from those conservative legislators that support our causes, or those who are genuinely interested in learning more about LGBTQ issues. This lack of conversation has presented the opportunity to assess how Rep. Fleck performs in the election as their testing ground on LGBTQ issues without getting their own hands into the issues directly. If he lost, and depending by how much, that would be the measure by which they could make their future political calculations. Will supporting LGBTQ issues be worth it? If this Central Pennsylvania district cannot accept an out legislator, will they oust me if I support LGBTQ equality?

Pennsylvania legislators now have evidence to shelve LGBTQ rights

Legislators on both sides of the aisle have been looking to the 81st district to get a pulse on where middle-Pennsylvania stands. Would they embrace their longtime-adored state legislator in spite of his being out – or, would they oust him in a political subterfuge of bigotry? The latter appears to have become reality.

The Pennsylvania legislature has sustained deep-rooted silence on LGBTQ issues for decades. The status quo has been inaction for nearly 40 years since the first non-discrimination bill was introduced in 1976. When Rep. Mike Fleck came out in December 2012, he bravely helped change the discourse within the Republican majority. No longer was being gay something that could be ignored or be seen as being a complete outsider. He was and continues to be their respected colleague.

Moderate Republicans have the power: Will they use it?

Yet, as I write this, I wonder if the power of increased popular opinion toward LGBTQ rights could still help push things forward. At least for the moderate Republicans, especially in Eastern Pennsylvania, could his election serve as a shaming wake-up call toward action? Moderate GOP members who support LGBTQ equality have the votes and the power – but we do not know if they will use it. Will suburban Republicans lay themselves down on the line for us? If they do, we can win.

In a small way, Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin), from suburban Harrisburg, balked at this divide last month and put the LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes bill up for a committee vote. He openly pushed back at members of his own party in the House Judiciary Committee during the meeting, when Rep. Brian Ellis (R-Butler) among others, called for him to table the bill. It ultimately passed 19-4.

The tides are changing in the popular support of LGBTQ equality, especially in moderate areas. Outside of Rep. Fleck’s race, it seems that not one other elected official lost because of their support for LGBTQ equality. This is a major development from just a few years ago when a position on marriage equality could cost someone their election.

We will have to look to the new House and Senate leadership for answers

While there are shifting attitudes with moderate Republican and Democrats in suburban regions, the widening margin of the social conservatives’ majority presents a serious blockade against significant progress.

It will take more than half the Republicans in each chamber, likely over two-thirds, to be fully supportive of an LGBTQ-related issue for it to move. While we could have the necessary number of votes to move a non-discrimination bill without a majority of the GOP members, the Republican leadership has not provided evidence it would be willing to fracture its caucus over our issues – as they have for the transportation bill or liquor privatization.

The Republicans will continue a strong rein in both legislative chambers. We do not yet know if it will be led by rural, more socially conservative Republicans, or the more suburban, moderate members. Even a mix of the two could provide progress for us.

Over the next month, political battles will wage behind the scenes for leadership positions within the General Assembly. Should the moderates secure control in key roles and committees, we can have hope. If not, we will have another two years of gridlock on LGBTQ equality issues.

Specifically, if we have key moderate allies in both the House Speaker and House Majority Leader, then we could actually see HB 300 assigned to a committee with a favorable chair and NOT the State Government Committee with Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) – and actually have it be put up for a vote on the House floor.

Money is where the heart is

One of our strongest indicators of this progress is within the many Republican House members who gave to Rep. Fleck’s campaign. An extremely diverse network of conservative Republicans came to his support. It would be one thing for a sitting legislator, running for re-election themselves, to say they support their friend Mike Fleck. It is quite another to give their money to his re-election campaign. The following Republicans gave to Rep. Fleck’s campaign over the past several months:

Rep. Ron Miller (R-York) $5,000
Rep. Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks) $3,000
Rep. Jim Marshall (R-Beaver) $1,000
Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware) $1,000
Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) $1,000
Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) $500
Rep. Frank Farry (R-Bucks) $500
Rep. Mark Mustio (R-Allegheny) $500
Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) $500
Rep. Martin Causer (R-Bradford) $250
Rep. Tom Murt (R-Montgomery) $250
Rep. Kathy Watson (R-Bucks) $250
Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) [through Good Jobs PA PAC] +$20,000
*Other legislators have given through their associated Political Action Committees

Will Governor Tom Wolf make deals to advance LGBTQ rights?

Another factor for us in the 2015-2016 session will be Governor-elect Tom Wolf. He ran on a pro-LGBTQ rights platform. However, in the partisan world we live in, he will be faced with a legislature that is not set out to work with him. If he can develop meaningful relationships with the legislative leaders, he could help us press for victories. Only time can tell.

It is my greatest hope that Rep. Fleck’s loss will not be a cautionary tale against supporting LGBTQ people. I am upset in thinking how many have viewed this race as a referendum on being out in rural Pennsylvania. I would rather us understand this in the spirit of Harvey Milk. If Rep. Mike Fleck should lose re-election, let that loss shatter every closet door.

We have had enough. If rural LGBTQ Pennsylvanians rise up – and if LGBTQ advocates in our cities reach out across the divide to help – there is nothing our community cannot accomplish. This work to nudge the movable middle of Republicans into becoming true LGBTQ allies is possible, but it will take serious commitment from us all.

The next steps for the Pennsylvania LGBTQ equality movement

The future of the LGBTQ justice movement rests in the hands of rural and suburban Pennsylvania legislators. No passionate speech by a progressive legislator in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh will deliver us LGBTQ equality. Will our broader community roll up our sleeves to work with our LGBTQ family in the Pennsylvania heartland, or will our metronormative movement infrastructure remain nested in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia? We must develop the capacity of our rural and suburban conservatives to love and affirm LGBTQ people in their communities in order for us to break down the barriers which prevent critical progress.

Rep. Fleck and Fiona

Rep. Mike Fleck and Fiona Grugan (Villanova ’13), a constituent, at the 2013 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference at the University of Pittsburgh
(February 2, 2013)

I am proud that the 2015 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference will be focused on “Cultivating New Possibilities for Rural LGBTQ Youth.” In providing a positive platform for rural LGBTQ youth leaders to be resilient in taking action out in the silence, our movement will take a major step forward toward a fully realized dream of social justice for all.

A substantial movement of rural and suburban LGBTQ people, allies, and legislators, will be necessary in the session ahead for our community to win – and we can do it.


The featured image for this post is Rep. Mike Fleck with PSEC leaders and Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria) at Johnstown Pride 2013 (Faith Elmes (PSEC Assistant Convener + IUP ’15), Rep. Mike Fleck, Mike Campbell (PSEC Delegate + IUP ’13), and Sen. John Wozniak)

What Mike Fleck’s Loss Means to Me















When I first heard the news that Representative Mike Fleck lost his seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, I felt a profound sense of defeat that went beyond just losing an election. The outcome of this election represents a loss for the people of the 81st District, and a major loss for one of the most underrepresented and disenfranchised groups of people in Pennsylvania: rural LGBT youth.

I grew up in Shippensburg, a small town that sits on the border of Franklin and Cumberland counties. I spent my teenage years questioning my sexuality and taking my first steps in LGBT activism. My school district was generally affirming, and my parents were always accepting of how I chose to express myself. But, I never for a minute considered sticking around in Shippensburg, or anywhere even close. I wanted to get out at the first chance I had. I even kept a list of cities: Toronto, New York, and Philadelphia. As far as I was concerned, there was no place for me in rural Pennsylvania. I never saw a positive example of an LGBT person in a rural area. If you heard anything about an LGBT person nearby, you could be certain it was bad news. The first positive message I ever received about a rural LGBT person was when I learned that Rep. Fleck had come out as a gay man in December of 2012.

Representation matters, especially representation in government, for two big reasons. The first reason is pretty obvious; an LGBT person in government is more likely to support measures that help improve the lives of LGBT people. Beyond just policy though, local politicians are respected members of their community. Having a gay man in a position of respect within a rural area is groundbreaking. LGBT people in rural communities are not told that they matter. Their identities are not celebrated or affirmed. They lack access to services, to community, to almost every resource that an urban LGBT person has. Having just one openly gay rural politician in Pennsylvania was a huge step forward.

Rep. Fleck’s loss in the 2014 election is a sign that it is not yet acceptable to be an out gay man in rural Pennsylvania. It is a huge blow to the state of Pennsylvania, where you can be fired for having a picture of your legally recognized same-sex wedding on your desk at work. It sends the message that no matter how hard you work on behalf of your community, the majority of your neighbors will not consider you fit to represent them.

Victoria in Huntingdon

Victoria Martin in Huntingdon, PA (November 4, 2014)

Rep. Fleck lost this election because he is an out gay man. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who would tell you otherwise, but the facts are hard to ignore. When I see a candidate who ran for three terms with no opposition, who has years of experience in leadership, who was endorsed by a former governor, small business associations, education associations, and the National Rifle Association, and then I see that candidate lose to a county treasurer who couldn’t bother to turn in his paperwork for the primary election on time, I see a race that was motivated by bigotry, not reason.

This is a huge setback for the LGBT equality movement in rural Pennsylvania, but that certainly doesn’t mean that this is the final chapter. Far from it. Rep. Fleck’s loss is a sign that we have significant work left to be done in Pennsylvania. While Philadelphia is ranked as the most LGBT friendly city in the country, just outside the city a person can lose their home, their job, and their dignity for being open and honest about their identity.

I am tired of rural LGBT people suffering. I want to see rural LGBT people thriving. I want to see rural communities where diversity is embraced and differences are celebrated. I want to see the end the stigma of being an LGBT person in a rural area, and I want to see the end of the idea that you can only live an authentic life as an LGBT person in a city.

I am proud to be a queer rural Pennsylvanian. I am proud to be a supporter of Mike Fleck. I am ready to continue this fight for equality, and I am ready to work even harder to change bigoted attitudes and to empower rural young and LGBT people. I am looking forward to a future where every LGBT person can live a life of dignity, in any part of the country. The road ahead is a long one, and there will be more setbacks and challenges, but we will win. Today is the perfect time to start.

PA House Judiciary Committee Advances Hate Crimes Bill

Moments ago, the House Judiciary Committee voted on HB 177 , the LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The bill was reported out of committee in a 19-4 vote. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170) introduced the bill and it will now move directly to the full House. The Speaker of the House has not made any indication if he will run the bill this session. There are only five more scheduled legislative voting days this year.

The legislation also adds protections based on ancestry, and for people with mental or physical disabilities. Additionally, the bill grants protections on the basis of actual or perceived identities.

This is only the second time an LGBT rights bill has been up for a legislative committee vote in 12 years. HB 300 was reported out of the House State Government Committee in 2010 under then-Committee Chair Rep. Babette Josephs (D-182).

An LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill was introduced by Rep. Linda Cohen (R-148) and passed in 2002, but was struck down in 2008 due to a Pennsylvania constitutional rule. There were concerns expressed by some representatives about the scope of hate crimes legislation, but many showed resounding support this afternoon.

Rep. Vanessa Brown (D-190) expressed how important it is to “step up and take action.” Rep. Madeline Dean (D-153) made several pointed comments throughout the meeting. She remarked that these crimes are “so insidious, [they are] against what this commonwealth should be about…but for the hate of these people, these crimes would not take place. We must get at the root nature of these crimes.”

Several of the legislators who voted against the bill spoke out about not feeling that they had enough time to prepare for an informed vote. House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Ron Marsico (R-105) pushed back in affirming that all members have had ample time to review the bill over the weekend. HB 177, which has been introduced four times in the House since 2008, was placed on the committee’s voting calendar on Friday.

Here is a breakdown of the vote:

Voted in Favor of HB 177: Marsico, Delozier, Grell, Hackett, O’Neill, Regan, Stephens, Toepel, Toohil, Caltagirone, Barbin, Brown, Bradford, Costa, Dean, Kula, Neuman, Sabatina, White

Voted Against HB 177: Cutler, Ellis, Rock (proxy), Saccone

PSEC leaders communicated with several of the committee members leading up to the meeting, urging them to vote in favor of the bill. PSEC leaders were present at the committee meeting, sitting with Rep. Brendan Boyle as the bill was called up.

The Keystone Student Voice will report on updates as to how the hate crimes legislation continues to advance in the Pennsylvania legislature.

PSEC thanks Rep. Brendan Boyle for his strong commitment to moving this critical legislation forward in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

PA Senator Jim Ferlo Comes Out as Gay at Hate Crimes Legislation Rally

As dozens of state legislators and community advocates rallied this morning in the State Capitol for LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation, Pennsylvania State Senator Jim Ferlo (D-38) came out as an openly gay man. He is the prime sponsor of SB 42, the leading hate crimes legislation in the State Senate, and cited he was coming out at this moment to take a stand against brutal anti-LGBT violence. Sen. Ferlo is concluding his third term in the State Senate representing part of Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties, and is retiring from the legislature this fall.

Sen. Ferlo is the first member of the Pennsylvania State Senate to identify openly as gay. He joins State Rep. Mike Fleck (R-81) who came out as gay in December 2012, and Rep. Brian Sims (D-182) ran as an out candidate and assumed office in January 2013.

Sen. Ferlo has been a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights legislation. He has consistently backed every piece of LGBT equality legislation in the senate, including being one of only three co-sponsors of the first marriage equality bill, introduced by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17), in 2009. He has introduced the LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill for the past four consecutive legislative sessions.

Pennsylvania had adopted an LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes law in 2002, but it was struck down by the PA Supreme Court in 2008 due to a procedural rule.

More information will be posted shortly. Check back here for more coverage soon.

Major Investment to be Made in the Pennsylvania LGBTQ Youth Movement

The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition is pleased to announce that it has been selected as a recipient of the 2014 Queer Youth Fund, a $100,000 grant from the Liberty Hill Foundation which supports youth-led LGBTQ development and empowerment.

PSEC is the first organization in Pennsylvania to receive this honor in the grant’s 12-year history. The Queer Youth Fund will dramatically increase PSEC’s capacity as youth activists throughout the commonwealth. PSEC will use the support of the Queer Youth Fund to further its mission of securing safer schools and communities for all youth in Pennsylvania, and to promote youth-led advocacy efforts.

Over 50 organizations throughout the nation applied for the final year of the Queer Youth Fund. PSEC submitted a letter of intent in October 2013 and was selected as a semi-finalist in February 2014. The coalition was notified it was a finalist in May, and following, the Queer Youth Fund sent representatives meet PSEC state leaders for a site visit in Pittsburgh this past June. The full Queer Youth Fund committee made their final decision in Los Angeles at the end of July and informed PSEC of their decision on August 20th. Previous grantees include the Boston Area Gay and Lesbian Youth (BAGLY) and the New York City-based FIERCE.

PSEC will stagger the grant equally over four years to ensure the basic funding for essential outreach and advocacy. The Queer Youth Fund will fund three critical parts of PSEC:

    1. General operations for the Bayard Rustin House.
      The future headquarters for PSEC will be located in Harrisburg directly across the street from the State Capitol. The Queer Youth Fund will support the utilities for the building and primary operation costs.
    2. Increase access to statewide LGBTQ youth leadership opportunities.
      PSEC has long recognized that the ability to afford the time and financial costs of attending regional + state meetings is an insurmountable barrier for some youth. These leadership opportunities are critical to the development of strong advocates. The coalition will now be able to provide stipends for leaders that will allow all young leaders to participate and be fully activated in the statewide LGBTQ youth movement.
    3. Develop the long-term financial sustainability of PSEC.
      The Queer Youth Fund will power PSEC’s leadership through crafting a strong long-term fundraising plan. This work will allow PSEC’s operations to be sustained and grow.

Since forming in April 2011, PSEC has operated on conservative budgets which have been almost entirely secured through private donations. The Queer Youth Fund will be a ‘gateway grant’ for the coalition which will help open new doors for future significant investments that will fully power the Pennsylvania LGBTQ youth movement in the future.

Youth Leaders Move into Site of Future Bayard Rustin House

This afternoon, Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition staff signed a lease to move into the first floor of the property that will eventually become the Bayard Rustin House: Pennsylvania’s Youth Action Center. The house is located on Walnut Street directly across the street from the State Capitol.

PSEC launched the Time to Rise Campaign on May 29th with an initial goal to raise $30,000 by June 30th. During the month of June, youth leaders reached out to family and friends for financial support. Staff also scheduled an information session for the Pennsylvania LGBT Equality Caucus and the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus for June 26th to brief legislators on the groundbreaking project. Unfortunately, the session was postponed due to last minute scheduling of caucus meetings during the hectic budget season.

PSEC Executive Director Jason Landau Goodman commented on the continuing fundraising efforts, “we are fully optimistic that our relationships with community stakeholders will allow us to secure the goal to open the center.”

This headquarters for the Pennsylvania LGBTQ advocacy community will provide a centralized home for young activists to design and advance policies that promote a more affirming commonwealth. Specifically, The Bayard Rustin House will increase our capacity to win on issues regarding non-discrimination, hate crimes, transgender rights, homeless youth, and foster care by allowing young advocates direct access to lawmakers and community stakeholders.

The date of the official opening for the Bayard Rustin House has yet to be determined, however, PSEC Coordinating Committee Convener, Turner Stulting, speculates that there will be a formal launching event to coincide with the new legislative session in January 2015.

In the mean time, the house will be used as a central location for Time to Rise fundraising campaign work and internal leadership planning. Fundraising is projected to extend the length of the 2014 year as leaders work to secure enough funds to buy the three-story property.

From the Time to Rise campaign website: The Bayard Rustin House will be specifically used as the central location to plan regional and state campaigns, hold statewide leadership meetings, facilitate advanced advocacy trainings, host community programs, and be the overall bustling headquarters of the Pennsylvania LGBTQ youth justice movement.

Announcing the Time to Rise Campaign



Announcing the Time to Rise Campaign
Establishing the Center for LGBTQ Pennsylvania

Click Here for Campaign Website


Our recent win of marriage equality in Pennsylvania is wonderful, but does not in the least mean our work is done. LGBTQ people across the commonwealth continue to experience desperate circumstances of discrimination, poverty, and violence, especially queer and trans youth.

And that is why three years ago young LGBTQ advocates banded together to form the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. PSEC has become a fierce advocate by and for LGBTQ youth in our state – uniting thousands of young activists for social justice. Specifically we have championed the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act which has become the most co-sponsored safe schools bill in state history with over 100 legislators in support. The LGBTQ youth movement in Pennsylvania has never been stronger.

However, the LGBTQ equality movement in PA is stalled for future success without a formal headquarters in Harrisburg to provide critically needed working space. As students we are losing precious time and resources with repeated treks to Harrisburg from our homes on campuses across the state. Our key advocates need to have a base of operations. The Bayard Rustin House: Pennsylvania’s Youth Action Center will provide a centralized home for effective young activists to design and advance policies that will promote a more affirming commonwealth.


The time is now for us to make a serious investment in the LGBTQ movement of Pennsylvania. A headquarters will allow us to increase our capacity and win on issues such as non-discrimination, hate crimes, transgender rights, homeless youth, and foster care.

The Pennsylvania Youth Action Center will allow advocates direct access to lawmakers and community stakeholders. Other movements with influence in our state government have a substantial headquarters next to the Capitol. Every meaningful movement has a home.

This is why we are asking our closest allies, you, our friends and family, to ensure the Bayard Rustin House becomes a reality.
With your support, tangible change for young LGBTQ Pennsylvanians will be realized.

We need to raise an initial $30,000 for the center’s down payment. Every contribution is critically important to opening our doors. This will not happen without your help.

You can help ensure LGBTQ youth are authentically represented in Harrisburg. We know firsthand the hardships facing young Pennsylvanians. PSEC has already made sure LGBTQ youth are no longer invisible in state policy work. Investing in the Bayard Rustin House now will allow us to further develop innovative solutions to our most pressing challenges.

At the heart of every successful social justice movement is a thriving core of young activists dedicated to change. We have the activists. Help us make that change.

The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition

The Bayard Rustin House will be used for the following purposes:


  • Campaign planning amongst regional and state young LGBTQ advocates
  • Private strategic planning meetings for executive youth leaders
  • Space to facilitate trainings for rising leaders, professional development for current advocates
  • Meeting space with key state stakeholders
  • Accommodations for PSEC advocates to stay overnight while coming to Harrisburg for meetings with legislators and government officials.
  • Space for meetings with legislators and community
  • Office space for headquartering the organization and movement
  • Open space for established LGBTQ community organizations to have key meetings for free, as community support continues
  • Space for the physical archives of the statewide LGBTQ movement – basement. Log it before it before history before important details are forgotten
  • Space for PSEC events and programs in Harrisburg – for fundraising, education, and community engagement[/checklist]

The Future Bayard Rustin House