In Gloria’s Words

This morning the Philadelphia community gathered to say goodbye to Gloria Casarez, Director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs. Gloria passed away on Sunday after a long battle with cancer at 42 years old. Hundreds of Gloria’s family members and friends filled the Arch Street United Methodist Church for her funeral service. Powerful remarks were given by Mayor Michael Nutter, her cousin Bernadette Jervis, and close friends Casey Cook, Elizabeth Larin, and Louie A. Ortiz. Citations celebrating her lifelong commitment to community organizing against poverty, HIV/AIDS, and bigotry, were presented from the Philadelphia City Council and Philadelphia Mayor.

The service celebrated Gloria’s focus on the imperative of social justice work. Elizabeth Larin repeated a line from Gloria on strategic planning in campaigns – that “you get what your organize to take.” To highlight one theme – many of the messages shared specifically related to respecting and supporting youth leadership. Gloria had arranged for those attending her funeral to sing “Ella’s Song,” by Sweet Honey in the Rock – a moving song I listen to often. This song is dedicated to Ella Baker, who was a revolutionary civil rights organizer who worked with young people to form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In it, we sang along with the words:

“To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail, and if I can but shed some light as they carry us through the gale – The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on is when the reins are in the hands of the young, who dare to run against the storm.”

Gloria had shared similar words with me over the years in our formation of PSEC – which was created as the statewide community movement by and for LGBTQ youth activists. Gloria believed in bringing all voices to the table – especially in organizing with a base of people who are the most disenfranchised or impacted by an issue. Our activism work has been deeply influenced by Gloria and we look forward to following, as best we can, in her footsteps.

PSEC presented Gloria with the Keystone Award at the 2014 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference in February. This honor is given annually to a public official who has worked intently to advance the welfare of LGBTQ youth in Pennsylvania communities.

Moments before the award presentation, we were informed that Jaci Adams, a longtime leader in the Philadelphia trans* community, had passed away from her own long battle with cancer. Gloria and Jaci were close. In beginning the event, I talked before the banquet attendees about Jaci’s impact on the city.

Another PSEC leader saw her tearful over Jaci and gave her a hug, saying, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Gloria responded in sharing that “it’s not my loss, it’s a loss for the community.”

With Gloria’s passing, I mourn together with my community on the passing of one of our greatest leaders. We also must celebrate her legacy by pressing on toward justice – with the passion, strategy, selflessness, integrity, and power that Gloria demonstrated is possible.

Rest in power, Gloria.

Here are her transcribed remarks from the 2014 Keystone Banquet:

“Good evening everyone,

I am recovering from laryngitis right now so my voice sounds a little funny.

I was going to make my partner, the love of my life, read my prepared remarks, and I would just stand here and nod, but I did not get to prepare any remarks, because we got the news about Jaci.

It’s truly devastating. Jaci was a personal friend, professional advisor, and this loss leaves a big void. I think Jason spoke to that well, and I think that this truly, truly is a big loss for our community.

So as I was sitting here I jotted a couple things down, but I really want to dedicate tonight to honor to Jaci. Jaci was someone who, in an official capacity, as an official representative of the city of Philadelphia, worked on policy issues.

She was one of the people who we tapped when we were looking to make policy changes. She was also one of those people who knocked on our door who said “you need to make this policy change.” She had a direct hand in the shelter policy change that was made several years back, and more recently in behavioral health and intellectual disability policy change.

She was one of the people who called for the Morris Home, which is a transitional housing program, the first of its kind in the country. She was a leader in HIV and AIDS; she worked in the HIV/AIDS field for many years, and also in trans* health issues as you heard.

She literally helped train thousands of police officers in the city around how to interact with members of our community. I did those trainings with her, and she was never one to mince words. She told them how they needed to hear it.

She wasn’t exactly professional in these professional trainings, but it’s what those police officers needed to hear if they were ever going to interact with real people in real situations.

Jaci was somebody who did all of this really on her own time, and she was somebody who wasn’t thanked enough. So I want to extend very humbly today my appreciation to her and really to say thank you, Jaci, for everything you have done. She really helped make Philadelphia the great place that it is today.

I want to remind us all where we are. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Philadelphia is the greatest place to be LGBT. We are the number one ranked city in America in the most recent municipal equality index, which is an index, a ranking really, of nearly 300 cities on law and policy. So it’s not like a lot of these other rankings that are like, it’s the best yogurt in the world. It really, literally looks at all our laws and policies, what we are doing, and what we say we believe; and Philadelphia is number one.

We share that with Seattle, but, we’re number one.

I want also to say that I think this is the greatest time to be doing this work. All of you who are doing this work are participating in what I think is the greatest time to be doing this very important LGBT social justice work.

I came to doing community work through what I think was probably one of the hardest times, in HIV and AIDS, when women’s reproductive health issues were going on at the same time, and it’s really awesome to be doing this work at a time that is just so full of potential. So I want to encourage you to continue to fight, continue to push, and continue to help make your communities, as best as they can be. Even with these designations and the positive things we are doing here in Philadelphia, we’re not there yet; we still have a lot to do.

We have had these policies on the books since 1982. We [then] officially added sexual orientation as a protected status and that’s 32 years ago. It took us another 20 years before we added gender identity protections to that same law. Now I say that knowing very clearly that we are in Pennsylvania, where neither are protected, right? So all of our efforts need to go towards ensuring that Pennsylvania can be what Philadelphia was 30 years ago. Twelve years ago. So these things are all very important to the lives of people who live around the state, around the country.

Just in the time that I’ve worked for government, which has been since 2008, when Mayor Nutter came on, we’ve had the chance to work on some really great things. The mayor has been completely supportive of anything we wanted to do. Kathy, who is one of the other honorees, was one of the very first people I met with back when I started the job. One of the things she talked about was trans* inclusive health benefits, and the need for these things. And you know, government moves really slow, and so really, it takes four years before there is collective consciousness and a council member is willing to stand up and say, “Hey, let’s do this.”

But, you know, we did that. I want to acknowledge Councilman Goy—how about that, Councilman Goy, promotion? Chris Goy, who works in Councilman Kenney’s office, who was a point person for us, and really helped steer that bill.

In addition to all of that, and our mandate, really, everyone needs to be at the table.

I come out of community organizing, and you don’t win the righteous wins unless you have all the voices at the table. So in anything that we’re doing, it’s really important to have many voices at the table, the people who are with you, the people who aren’t with you yet, and the people who are going to help you get where you need to go. So that is something I am encouraging you to do that as well; you want to have the naysayers as well as the yes people at your table. You need everybody.

I’ll say one more thing about the Mayor and then I’m going to wrap it up. The Mayor is a longtime supporter of all these issues, he’s part of the national coalition of mayors, that he is the chairperson of, that is working on marriage equality issues, that is obviously something that has earned his significant support. He is also working and doing anything he can do to advance non-discrimination bills that will come through the state legislature, that’s an issue that is very important to the mayor, personally.

Just one final thing, you know, I did a lot of trainings with Jaci and one of the things that—she didn’t mince words. One of the things she would say frequently, we trained cadets, so they were rookie cops, these were going to be cops that would be thrown out on the streets first, not the ones that were going to be sitting in a police office, and she felt very strongly that people needed to hear it real. And so she would say “You see me, and you might see me as a bitch, but I’m a bitch for justice, so if you’re gonna call me a bitch, call me a bitch—for justice.” And that very much was how Jaci was, so I encourage you all to do the same. Be smart and unwavering, and keep your focus.

I want to thank you for acknowledging my work and the work of the City of Philadelphia. Thank you all for being here, and thank you all for committing to learning, and thank you all for recognizing me.

At the end of the day, and I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, at the end of the day, a big part of what we do is about love. When I first started my work in activism and organizing I used to say, “I’m angry, I’m fired up,” and I was, but I was also approaching this work from a standpoint of love. At the end of the day, we all want to be loved, so I want to say a special thank you to my love, Tricia Dressel, for supporting me and doing this work all the time, so thank you all very much.”

Youth Honored at Rainbow Awards Gala

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Rainbow Alliance held their third annual Rainbow Awards Gala on April 21 at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Wilkes-Barre. The event was attended by local students and youth leaders, as well as members of the LGBTQ community in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Liz Randol, a leading candidate for Mayor of Scranton, was in attendance.  Honorees included the True Colors Alliance, and three students involved with the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, including University of Scranton student, Carolyn Pandolfo, the President of Scranton Local #1, and Wilkes-Barre Local #4 leaders, Anthony Melf and Daniel Simpson of Kings College.

True Colors Alliance received the Outstanding Program Award. True Colors Alliance is a youth organization through United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania which provides a safe space for LGBTQ youth. The students in True Colors Alliance work to end bullying in their community and create safe spaces within their schools. They have created three anti-bullying PSA videos, including an “It Gets Better” video.

Carolyn Pandolfo

Carolyn Pandolfo
President – Scranton Local #1


Carolyn Pandolfo, whom the Keystone Student Voice highlighted as one of 13 Women for 2013, received the Outstanding Student Leader award. Carolyn is a student member of the NEPA Rainbow Alliance’s board. Anthony Melf and Daniel Simpson of Kings College, who also received Outstanding Student Leader awards, were recognized for their leadership in the LGBTQ student group at Kings College, Student Allies for Equality. Anthony and Daniel have served as the organization’s first Presidents, and have helped grow the organization from a support group to an active campus service organization which hosts events and advocates in the community.

The NEPA Rainbow Alliance is an advocacy organization which runs and supports programs for LGBTQ people within Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Photo: ShadowCatcher, Ltd. Photography

Pennsylvania Young Women Leaders: 13 for 2013 —— (Part Three)

For Women’s History Month 2013, we are celebrating young women leadership in the Pennsylvania LGBTQ community. The KSV editorial staff have selected 13 young women who have become trailblazers for LGBTQ youth in our state for this three-part series. The youth selected provide deeply valued strength, resilience, and courage across our Pennsylvania community – who will surely continue to make headlines in the advocacy they lead. Last year, for the first time, we selected 12 women in 2012 who shine on as our key adult women LGBTQ community leaders. Thank you to all of the courageous young women leaders throughout the Keystone State who help lead our communities to be better places for all people. Click here to visit Part 1 of this series. Click here to visit Part 2 of this series.




Paige Riddle (Mount Wolf, PA)
Lebanon Valley College ’16, (Freedom Rings)

Paige Riddle is an active member of the LGBTQ community at Lebanon Valley College. Paige is originally from Mount Wolf, PA where she was the President of the Northeastern High School GSA in York County. She helps to connect Lebanon Valley College’s LGBTQ group, Freedom Rings, with the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. She was a lead speaker in the Lebanon Valley Freedom March against hate in the Fall semester of 2012. She has been a guest speaker in classes on LGBTQ issues, and works with Social Justice efforts on campus.

Paige hopes to continue to be heavily involved with her campus community in her following years at Lebanon Valley College.



Shayne Kitty Foster (Pittsburgh, PA)
Art Institute of Pittsburgh ’15, Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh

Originally from Erie, PA, Shayne Kitty Foster is a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and a regular volunteer at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Pittsburgh. She recommends that other young women who want to become involved in their community start by volunteering. “It’s something that doesn’t take up too much time if you’re busy, and usually places need a lot of help,” says Shayne. She became involved at the GLCC after attending youth night at the center, and started volunteering soon after. She now helps run the reception desk.





Megan Kuntz (DuBois, PA)
Penn State Behrend (Erie) ’13, President of Trigon

Megan Kuntz is the President of Penn State Erie’s LGBTQ organization, Trigon. She is originally from DuBois in Northern Pennsylvania. Trigon runs many events over the course of the year at Penn State Erie, including bringing LGBTQ and Feminist speakers to campus, facilitating cultural and performing arts events on campus, and showing LGBTQ focused films. Megan recently helped bring award-winning slam poet and LGBTQ activist, Andrea Gibson, to Penn State Erie.







Rhiannon Millard (Bangor, PA)
East Stroudsburg University ’14, President of PRIDE

Rhiannon Millard is the President of East Stroudsburg University’s LGBTQ organization, People Respecting Individuality and Diversity in Education, or PRIDE. Rhiannon is originally from Bangor, Pennsylvania. During her time as President, PRIDE hosted the band Fun at a campus concert in November, during the band’s Reverb Campus Consciousness Tour. She is the first female president of the organization in at least four years.


Pennsylvania Young Women Leaders: 13 for 2013 —— (Part Two)

For Women’s History Month 2013, we are celebrating young women leadership in the Pennsylvania LGBTQ community. The KSV editorial staff have selected 13 young women who have become trailblazers for LGBTQ youth in our state for this three-part series. The youth selected  provide deeply valued strength, resilience, and courage across our Pennsylvania community – who will surely continue to make headlines in the advocacy they lead. Last year, for the first time, we selected 12 women in 2012 who shine on as our key adult women LGBTQ community leaders. Thank you to all of the courageous young women leaders throughout the Keystone State who help lead our communities to be better places for all people. Click here to visit Part 1 of this series.

Christina Zappa (Aliquippa, PA)
Gannon University ’15, LIFE

Christina Zappa is a member of Gannon University LIFE, the school’s LGBTQ community organization. Next year, Christina has expressed interest in taking over the position of public relations director, which she is heavily involved with now. Christina works to make LIFE more visible on campus and throughout the Erie community. Christina is involved with organizing the university’s Day of Silence event and their LIFE week, which educates the campus on LGBTQ issues. Christina is also a member of the mental health organization Active Minds, which she has helped partner with LIFE to bring speakers about mental illness and depression to campus for Day of Silence events. She is a sister of Alpha Sigma Tau, and is working with her sorority to join in an “It Gets Better” video in conjunction with LIFE.

Christina’s advice for young women who want to become involved with the LGBTQ community is to “keep your eyes and ears open,” and to be open to meeting all types of people. “There are several people who are a part of our community who are straight, and you wouldn’t automatically know that they’re part of LIFE.”


Nichole Mahoney (Bethel Park, PA)
University of Pittsburgh ’14, PSEC Director of Operations

Nichole Mahoney is a student at University of Pittsburgh, and the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition’s Director of Operations. She became involved in PSEC while completing an internship at The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh for her social work program. Her supervisor recommended that she attend the 2012 Creating Change conference along with PSEC, where she became connected with the coalition. As the Director of Operations, Nichole works with larger community organizations in Western Pennsylvania, such as PFLAG, GLSEN, PERSAD, and others. She additionally manages the organization’s staff and internal functions, oversees official publications, and represents PSEC at community and advocacy events. Nichole strives to professionally represent PSEC in a way that galvanizes others in importance of the organization and the common goals of Pennsylvania LGBTQ youth.

She advises girls who want to become involved within the LGBTQ community to get started by volunteering and looking for your closest LGBTQ community center. “The LGBTQ community is everywhere. Even if you volunteer with a shelter, you will end up working with the LGBTQ community.”


Carolyn Pandolfo (Dunmore, PA)
University of Scranton ’13, Scranton Inclusion President and Scranton Local #1 President

Carolyn Pandolfo is a senior at University of Scranton and has served as the President of the university’s LGBTQ group, Scranton Inclusion, for two years. Carolyn is also a Board Member of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Rainbow Alliance and a recipient of their 2013 Rainbow Award for an outstanding youth leader. As president of Scranton Inclusion, Carolyn helps plan meetings for the LGBTQ community at Scranton, and organize educational events on LGBTQ issues for the campus. The club provides resources and information for students and faculty. They emphasize the importance of education and ally behavior. Carolyn is also the President of Scranton Local #1, an affiliate organization of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, where she works in forming internal policy and executing advocacy projects. Through PSEC she connects Scranton Local #1 students with LGBTQ campus organizations at other schools. As a key leader in developing PSEC’s Northeastern PA Region for nearly two years, she helps students become engaging and contributing leaders in the larger NEPA LGBTQ community. As she graduates this spring, she is committed to further supporting a new generation of LGBTQ youth advocates in NEPA.

Carolyn advises young women going into university to not be afraid to join LGBTQ groups, and to become involved within your own comfort level.


Picture courtesy of Amelia Lee Zhi Yi

Maria Aghazarian (Havertown, PA)
Bryn Mawr College ’13, LGBTQ Student Coordinator and Former Rainbow Alliance Co-Head

Maria Aghazarian is a student at Bryn Mawr College, and the LGBTQ Student Coordinator of the school’s Multicultural Center. During her time at Bryn Mawr, Maria has served as co-head of the school’s Rainbow Alliance group during her sophomore and junior year, and was one of the founding members of Spectra, a student group which facilitates discussion on gender and sexuality across the campus community.

While co-head of Rainbow Alliance, Maria worked to expand the organization’s activities, which lead to the school becoming a member of PSEC. She planned weekly meetings and helped organize the group’s largest events: an OUT week in the Fall semester, and the Day of Silence during the Spring. As of July 2012, Maria has been the the LGBTQ Student Coordinator of the Pensby Center, Bryn Mawr’s multicultural center. In this position, she met bi-weekly during the summer and fall semester with a working group of students and staff, which led to the creation of the group Spectra. Maria says Spectra’s goal is, “to support Bryn Mawr College’s LGBTQ+ community, and to facilitate discussions and events about gender and sexuality that include everyone.”

Maria advises young women who want to become involved in LGBTQ activism and advocacy to join your schools GSA, or to work to form one if your school doesn’t have one. “Find your allies, whether that’s teachers and staff within the school, parents, or people involved in local GLSEN or PFLAG chapters… Even if it doesn’t feel like you can effect change now, with growth and support (and some confidence, and knowing your legal rights) you can even revisit your middle school or high school later. Later might mean during college, or after.”

Pennsylvania Young Women Leaders: 13 for 2013 —— (Part One)

For Women’s History Month 2013, we are celebrating young women leadership in the Pennsylvania LGBTQ community. The KSV editorial staff have selected 13 young women who have become trailblazers for LGBTQ youth in our state for this three-part series. The youth selected  provide deeply valued strength, resilience, and courage across our Pennsylvania community – who will surely continue to make headlines in the advocacy they lead. Last year, for the first time, we selected 12 women in 2012 who shine on as our key adult women LGBTQ community leaders. Thank you to all of the courageous young women leaders throughout the Keystone State who help lead our communities to be better places for all people.





Sipho Ndlovu (Annville, PA)
Messiah College ’13, LGBTQ Student Leader

Sipho Ndlovu, a senior at Messiah from Lebanon County, has spent her college career as a student advocate for change. Upon coming to Messiah, Sipho saw the need for a more intentional LGBTQ community to develop within the campus community. Her friend Isaiah Thomas began efforts to bring the community at Messiah together and to work with the school’s leadership to create change in policy regarding LGBTQ issues. After he transferred to a different school following significant anti-gay harassment, Sipho took up the cause of strengthening the LGBTQ community and working with Messiah College’s administration to make the campus more LGBTQ friendly. She helps connect fellow queer students with an unofficial group for LGBTQ members of the Messiah community.

Currently at Messiah College, due to a policy called the Community Covenant, official LGBTQ groups cannot be created. Without a formal group, the community at Messiah is unable to reserve a meeting room, which would provide a safe space for students without having to find members’ private apartments to gather in.

Sipho would like to see Messiah become more LGBTQ friendly. “Faculty should not have to feel that their jobs are in jeopardy because they call themselves allies.” She hopes that the unofficial group of LGBTQ students will have a safe space on campus to meet in the future.

Sipho advises young women who are working towards a greater LGBTQ presence on campus to start where their college is at, and work towards your goals from there. “Start with people you know, and what you know and then do your research.” She stresses the importance of being organized, conducting yourself in a mature fashion, and “having all your ducks in a row,” when approaching administration and others about creating change in your community. Sipho also advises student leaders to make sure your organization is sustainable, with multiple leadership roles, training, and recruiting to ensure that it will last beyond your time at the school. “Don’t let your organization die off.”

Sarah Hendry (Camp Hill, PA)
University of Pennsylvania ’14, Queer Ladies at Penn (QLP) and J-Bagel

Sarah Hendry, of Camp Hill PA, is an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. In her freshman year, Sarah became involved with the Lambda Alliance, the university’s main LGBTQ group. Sarah saw that most of the LGBTQ groups were dominated by men and felt that there needed to be a larger presence of queer women on campus. As a result, she and two friends (get names) got together and started an unofficial group for queer women, called Queer Ladies at Penn. Through a private Facebook page to prevent outings, they created a network to allow queer women to meet up, make friends, and reach out to others on campus. In the past year, Queer Ladies at Penn has taken off as a formal group, and received funding from the university. Recently, the group has held programming on queer women and body perception.

Sarah is also a member and former Treasurer of J-Bagel, the Jewish LGBTQ community organization at the University of Pennsylvania. J-Bagel works to bring speakers to campus and educate the campus on Jewish LGBTQ issues, as well as host regular social gatherings and shabbat dinners with queer Jewish students and allies.

Sarah advises young women in the LGBTQ community to seek out like minded individuals to help work towards your goals, but to also pay attention to diversity and other identities within your community. “There are always going to be people interested in the same things as you, and who have the same values as you. Try to find people who might be different from you to get different perspectives, and a broader view of the community.”

Faith Elmes (Landisburg, PA)
Indiana University of Pennsylvania ’15, Pride Alliance Programing Chair and PSEC Assistant Convener

Faith Elmes, of Landisburg, PA, is a sophomore at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the Assistant Convener of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. During her freshman year at IUP, Faith became involved in the IUP Pride organization and was elected to the executive board of the group in the second semester of her freshman year. Pride’s former representative to PSEC no longer served on the executive board, and Faith felt it was important for someone to step up to the role.

Due to her close proximity to Harrisburg, Faith was able to attend many political events with PSEC over her summer break. She was elected Assistant Convener of the organization during the fall semester of 2012. As the Assistant Convener, Faith contacts member organizations’ of PSEC and keeps them informed and involved with PSEC activities. She also works with school representatives to train them in advocacy and activism.

Faith advises young women involved with LGBTQ advocacy and activism to not be intimidated by the importance of the work they are doing. “It can be intimidating to be around a bunch of guys in suits, but you’re supposed to be there. Have confidence that what you have to say is important.”


Shannon Fields (Shippensburg, PA)
Shippensburg Area Senior High School ’14, GSA President

Shannon Fields is a junior at Shippensburg Area Senior High School in Franklin County, where she serves as the President of the GSA. South Central Pennsylvania has been on the front lines of social change in the past few months, with the recent approval of neighboring Big Spring High School’s GSA group and the fight to form a GSA in Chambersburg High School after the school board voted against forming one.

Shannon was elected President during the end of her Sophomore year, following the resignation of the group’s serving President. She became involved with the GSA as a Freshman and took on the role of Secretary in her Sophomore year. In the Summer of 2012, a friend of her’s who attended Big Spring High School reached out to Shannon and asked her to attend the school board meeting where the GSA would be voted upon. Shannon attended without intending to speak, but felt compelled to do so when she heard other speakers making negative and untruthful comments about the Day of Silence.

Shannon’s advice for other young women looking to be involved in LGBTQ advocacy and activism is to understand that at times, it will be hard, and you will deal with ignorance and prejudice, but to keep pushing forward. “Sometimes it feels like taking two steps forward and one step back, but as long as we keep making those two steps forward, we’re going to have equality,” says Shannon. She encourages students in schools without GSA’s or other LGBTQ groups to take the steps to establish one, and to involve yourself in community events as much as you can.

Openly Lesbian Judge Nominated in Pennsylvania

President Barack Obama nominated  Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro to serve on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania this afternoon. If her nomination is confirmed, she will be the first openly lesbian Hispanic woman to serve in the federal court system. Judge Quiñones Alejandro has presided for the past 11 years on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Judge Quiñones Alejandro is a native of Puerto Rico, where she attended college and law school. She moved to Pennsylvania upon her graduation. Her legal career in Philadelphia began in 1975 as an attorney for Community Legal Services, where she helped defend low income residents. She later served as an attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs and as an advisor for the Department of Health and Human Services. In 1980 she became an arbitrator for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, before her appointment as a judge in 1991.

She was recommended for federal service by both Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R). Senator Toomey praised Judge Quiñones Alejandro’s involvement within the Pennsylvania community, saying in a statement, “In her 21 years on the bench, Nitza Quiñones Alejandro has presided over many cases incorporating different facets of the law. In addition to her extensive experience in the courtroom, she has also remained active in her community through her work with schools and mentoring summer law interns.” The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition has written to the Senators to commend them for their support of Judge Quiñones Alejandro, and working towards a federal bench which better represents the constituents it serves.

President Obama has nominated eight openly gay judges for federal service over his first term, including Judge William L. Thomas, a graduate of Washington and Jefferson College in Washington County, PA  and Temple University Law School in Philadelphia, earlier this month.

Former Pittsburgh Pirates Owner Comes Out

Fresh out of the closet locker room! The recent coming out of former Pittsburgh Pirates owner and CEO (from 1996-2007), Kevin McClatchy, shines light on a multi-faceted anti-LGBTQ culture in professional American athletics. McClatchy, who reveals his sexuality today in the New York Times, claims that he was dissuaded from coming out while he was still working in the world of sports by the homophobic attitudes of his colleagues. In an interesting turn of events, McClatchy met his current partner through their mutual friend—a staff member of former US Senator of Pennsylvania and presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Santorum, a notable opponent of marriage equality, is presumably as surprised as we are.


While great strides are being made in LGBTQ visibility in the media, politics, and business – even in the military – we still see professional athletics as lagging behind. In 2012, the athletic community has a better chance to lead on the respect and acceptance of LGBT folks than ever. In 1975, David Kopay of the NFL became the first major league athlete to publicly disclose his sexuality. Since Kopay, very few major league athletes have come out as LGBTQ. Both Kopay and McClatchy have expressed that the culture of athletics is largely not LGBTQ friendly. In one extremely troubling incident in 1985, an offensive lineman for the University of Pittsburgh attempted suicide after having sexual urges for another man.


Hopefully, McClathy’s recent coming out will encourage more figures in the world of professional sports – both players and their corporate leaders – to come out themselves, and open up an opportunity for dialogue about ending the deep seeded homophobic attitudes prevalent in sports culture. Anyways, isn’t a locker room just one big shared closet?


Further Reading:

This post is by Victoria Martin, West Chester University ’15.

Gov. Ridge Supports Gay Tolerance

Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, of Allegheny County, spoke at the Federal Enforcement Security Foundation awards gala Tuesday night in New York City.  Following his tenure as the first Director of the Department of Homeland Security, Gov. Ridge continues significant involvement in politics and homeland security advocacy.

During the award event, Gov. Ridge stated the following remarks (via The Wall Street Journal Blog):

“I think, as a party, we sometimes come across as very judgmental and very self-righteous, and that doesn’t play well to a lot of people,” he said. “Not just on political grounds, but in terms of the culture. We accept diversity in many different ways, and we need to be more clear about that and careful to express that.”

In particular, Ridge urged a more expansive approach to what he termed “the gay community,” noting that increased familiarity with gay people tends to lead to less judgmental politics. “I think that’s the right way to be,” he said. “Younger Americans on both sides of the aisle are saying, ‘Live and let live.’ ”

Asked about same-sex marriage, Ridge said he had no particular point of view. “It’s one of those situations where I’d leave it up to the state.”

KSV Launched!

Today, April 12, 2012, we are officially launching The Keystone Student Voice! This online news blog will have the latest breaking information from across the state and nation as it relates to the PA LGBTQ youth community. All content will be written and posted by Pennsylvania LGBTQA youth and updated regularly. If you are interested in being a contributor, please contact Keystone Student Voice’s Executive Editor, Brandon Baker, at The Keystone Student Voice is an independent outlet sponsored by the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, PA’s statewide LGBTQ youth organization.

Pennsylvania Women: 12 for 2012 – Part Two

As we wrap up Women’s History Month 2012, we are reminded to celebrate women in the LGBTQ community today and all throughout the year. PSEC youth have selected 12 women in Pennsylvania who are making it better for LGBTQ youth in our state for this two-part series. Thank you to all of the courageous women below to have made our communities better places for all people! Check out Part One here.

Olivia Benson (Pittsburgh)
Director of Youth Policy for the City of Pittsburgh

As the Director of Youth Policy for the City of Pittsburgh, Olivia is a rock star ally to LGBTQ young people. A young person herself, Olivia is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and a Western PA native. She has made a mission of her office to develop meaningful support from the City Government and the Pittsburgh Mayor’s office for LGBTQ youth. By facilitating working groups and city commissions, she has helped critically elevate the discourse around LGBTQ issues and concerns regarding all youth in the city. Pittsburgh youth are truly lucky to have her!




Sue Rankin (State College)
Professor at Penn State University – University Park

Dr. Sue Rankin is regarded as one of the preeminent scholars in the nation on school climate for LGBTQ students. As a professor at Penn State University – University Park, her groundbreaking research has been published in numerous academic journals. She published the 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT Students which was the first national study to investigate campus climate for LGBTQ students. She is also a co-author of a groundbreaking book: “The Lives of Transgender People.” She was a founding member of the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals and the Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition. In addition to being a researcher and scholar, she is a mentor and a friend to the many students she works with at Penn State.



Susan Haugh (Pittsburgh)
Founder and Artistic Director of Dreams of Hope

Susan has been a pillar in the Pittsburgh LGBTQ community for nearly two decades. She is the founder and director of Dreams of Hope (DOH), a Pittsburgh-based LGBTQ and allied youth performance arts ensemble. In addition to DOH, Susan served as the first chair of Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl’s LGBT Advisory Council. Susan taught music in the Pittsburgh Public Schools for six years and, in 1995, she helped establish Pittsburgh’s Renaissance City Women’s Choir. In 2005, she conducted a special chorus at Equality Forum in Philadelphia. Dreams of Hope regularly performs across the region, and most recently with the Washington DC Gay Men’s Chorus. DOH is regarded as one of the most professional LGBTQ youth performing arts organizations in the country. We appreciate all of Susan’s work with DOH – which has directly supported and inspired so many young people to be truly proud of their identities.

Mara Keisling (Harrisburg)
Founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality

Mara is known as one of the most influential and effective leaders in the national LGBTQ equality movement. As the founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality she has been one of the key leaders in the United States to advance transgender equality. Mara has made it a clear part of NCTE’s agenda to improve conditions for transgender young people through outreach, collaboration, and education. Born in Scranton and raised in Harrisburg, she boldly identifies as Pennsylvanian. She has held pivotal roles in LGBTQ advocacy organizations in Pennsylvania, including being a co-chair of the PA Gender Rights Coalition, a board member of the Central PA LGBT Community Center Coalition, and on the steering committee of the Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition. She was the Keystone Speaker for PSEC’s first Youth Action Conference at the University of Pennsylvania in October 2011. Mara routinely returns to Pennsylvania to motivate young leaders and for this we love her dearly!

Ebony Davis (Erie)
Member of the Erie County Human Relations Commission

Ebony is a newly appointed member of the Erie County Human Relations Commission. While a student at Mercyhurst College and raising her children in Erie, she serves on the board of this governmental agency which is responsible for adjudicating cases which include discrimination complaints on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Erie County is the third most populous county in the state. She is involved with numerous LGBTQ community groups including LBT Women of Erie and Erie Pride. We are thankful for Ebony’s leadership in Erie!

Susan Smith (Wilkes-Barre)
Former President of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Rainbow Alliance

As President of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Rainbow Alliance Board from 2006-2011, Susan helped oversee major transformations for the regional LGBTQ community. With her leadership, staff and board members helped the NEPA Rainbow Alliance to be a dynamic community institution. The organization continues to grow to the current needs of the NEPA LGBTQ community. Last summer, the NEPA Rainbow Alliance Safe Zone Project was formed which will launch the first LGBTQ youth support group in the region. She is a warm and compassionate leader who we are continually excited to work with!