The GSBA Blog


  • GSBA Goes to Israel

    by Eric Moss
    | Jul 12, 2019
     
     
    GSBA at Tel Aviv Pride

    GSBA traveled to Israel with A Wider Bridge (AWB) on their 2019 Pride Leadership Mission to Israel. A Wider Bridge is an LGBTQ organization that brings US LGBTQ and allies together with Israeli Jews, Palestinians Israeli’s, Ethiopian Jews; Jews from throughout the Middle East and those from the Arab community, both Christian and Muslim, for the purpose of getting to know each other and learn more about the complex issues faced by each peoples. Actually, the mission of AWB is “Equality for Israel and Equality in Israel”. GSBA and AWB have an ongoing relationship, and have stayed in touch about issues that affect the LGBTQ and Jewish communities of both Washington State and Israel. GSBA President & CEO Louise Chernin, Director of Communications Eric Moss, and GSBA family member Mary Klein joined 27 other delegates from across the US for eight days packed with meetings, tours, and cultural exchange between the Israel and Washington LGBTQ communities.

    Joining our cohort were 30 people from across the country who gathered to learn more about Israel and the Middle East. Our group, included members of our trans community and LGBTQ people of color, as well as allies of color, young and older activists, elected officials, and grassroots organizers, people from the faith community, skeptics and nonbelievers. The experience was truly unique, powerful, and educational. While we can’t possibly recap every small, yet incredible moment we experienced in Israel, we find it important to share with the GSBA community a few notable highlights from our trip and how these experiences may compare or differ from life in the US.

    A BALANCED VIEWPOINT

    Throughout our travels and meetings, AWB was intentional, to the best of their ability, in providing a balanced point of view on each topic we were presented. For each Israeli point of view, there was a Palestinian, Syrian, Arab, Ethiopian, or Egyptian counterpoint presented. With every speaker, we were free to ask questions and open a dialogue about current issues, and to question openly the information we were presented. We had many difficult conversations with our speakers, some of which were uncomfortable, but all of them focusing on one or more opposing views on the same topic.

    THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT AND THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY

    On our first full day in the country, we hit the ground running with morning meetings at the Tel Aviv LGBTQ Center. We met Idan Roll, a Member of the Knesset (Israel’s Parlament or House of Representatives); Chen Arieli, Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv; and Or Keshet, an LGBTQ community lobbyist for The Aguda – LGBTQ Task Force. The last election in Israel brought a record number of five open LGBTQ Members of Knesset, as well as the first openly LGBTQ minister to serve in the prime minister’s cabinet. Later we would visit the Supreme Court of Israel, sit in a courtroom, and learn about the Israeli judicial system. At the Supreme Court, we heard from fellow IGLTA member and tour operator Russell Lord of Travel With Russ, about his experience as a plaintiff in the legal battle that brought about the recognition of LGBTQ marriages performed in other countries to Israel.

    Political parties and the political processes in Israel are different from those in the US. In Israel, everything is much more complex, and we learned that this was a common theme for many issues across the country. For many Israelis it is possible to hold multiple truths at once within their political identities. For example, it is possible to be deeply pro-LGBTQ, conservatively religious, and also for the expansion of equality for all. For any number of complex issues across the country, Israelis tend to isolate their stance on each topic individually, not lumping everything together into one party’s view or one belief system.

    ISRAELI COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS

    GSBA and Israel LGBTQ Community LeadersWe heard from a panel of some LGBTQ leaders in Israel. The panel included Liana Meirom, Vice President of Israeli Gay Youth (IGY), a youth movement to bring full LGBTQ equality to Israel; Chen Shmilo, CEO if the Israeli AIDS Task Force; Shachar Grembek, founder of LGBTech who works with Israel’s largest businesses to create support and equity for the LGBT+ community in the workforce; Tamar Yahel, CEO of Hoshen, Israel’s outward LGBTQ education and training organization; and Ella Amest of Ma’avarim, a trans community resource to support, empower, and advocate for the Israeli trans community. In a breakout session after the panel, Louise and Eric sat with Shachar Grembek to learn more about the work and relationships within LGBTech, their LGBTQ business organization, and how they work with major corporations in Israel to institute policy changes that expand and protect LGBTQ equality in the workplace.

    Unlike in the US, there isn’t a strong culture of philanthropy in Israel. NGOs (nonprofits) that are formed and officially recognized are government funded. This creates competition for resources, and means that the NGOs must fight each budget cycle to receive the same level, or more funding than the cycle before. Each organization fills a specific need in the LGBTQ community and they work independently on their missions with few staff and a legion of volunteers. Many of the LGBTQ organizations work closely with (on somewhat of a coalition basis) a group called the The Aguda, which translates to “The Association.” The Aguda is Israel’s LGBTQ Task Force and provides legal resources, reporting of LGBTQ violence, the LGBT Refugee Project, advocacy work, and provides businesses with the “Pride Tag” to indicate their support of the LGBTQ community. Across Israel, and even in the government, the LGBTQ community isn’t referred to by an acronym but instead, if you are an active member of the LGBTQ community, you are part of “The Proud Community.”

    THE CONFLICTS BETWEEN ISRAEL, PALESTINE, AND THE ARAB NATIONS

    A Wider Bridge organized speakers from many points of view surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict, and others from organizations who are working together to ease tensions and build relationships across borders. We met with Yigal Elhanan and Rawan Bashart from Sadaka Reut, a movement that brings together Palestinian and Jewish students who share a vision of a better future for both countries. Yigal shared with us about how despite losing grandparent in the Holocaust and his younger sister in a suicide bombing, he still believes peace is possible. Rawan told her story about growing up in a segregated society where she had never met a Jewish person until she was an adult. The two shared some of the long-standing struggles both populations have in understanding the “other.” Yigal and Rawan believe that a key to solving these conflicts comes from educating  youth about both cultures and building relationships across borders at a young age.

    They describe their mission, “As Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel, and as activists, we feel that it is our responsibility to correct the current reality. Our work is based on our sense of belonging to our people, and on the belief that partnership, solidarity and a joint struggle are the only way to secure real change and build a more just and egalitarian society.”

    Again, the speakers emphasized how there is no “easy fix” to healing the trauma of thousands of years of fighting and the generationally ingrained discomfort for the “other side.” These issues are deep and complex, and over time working with the youth, there’s at least hope for future good-faith discussions.

    Louise and Mary at Golan Heights   UN Checkpoint with Syria

    We traveled in Jeeps within feet of the Syrian border past the UN border-crossing checkpoint in the Golan Heights, where we met with someone from the Druze community, a religious minority group, and shared lunch in an abandoned and crumbling Syrian army barracks building. Later on our trip, we would end up in the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank, downtown in the city of Ramallah where we visited the Al-Amari Refugee Camp. In addition, while in the Palestinian Territories, we heard from respected Palestinian pollster Dr. Khalil Shikaki, from the Palestinian Center for Policy & Research, who presented his research in partnership with Israeli pollsters to gage the public openness to peaceful solutions to the conflict and “best case” outcomes. We heard from Abdallah Hamarsheh, CEO of Zimam, another grassroots organization in Palestine which works with the youth by “Bringing together thousands of Palestinians from across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, Zimam is building a society united through respect, peace and democracy.”

    While in the West Bank, we also met with leaders from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) who gave us a specific Palestinian point-of-view on the origin of the conflict, the issues that promulgate the conflict, and what they think is a viable solution to end the conflict. The conflicts with Israel from its neighboring populations, by all presenters, was again described as “complex.”

    YAD VASHEM AND LGBTQ PEOPLE IN THE HOLOCAUST

    Our group spent time at Yad VaShem, Israel’s National Holocaust Museum, where our guide Alice Marcu, a lesbian Romanian Jew who’s family were victims in the Holocaust, customized our visit to call special attention to the specific struggles of LGBTQ people in that time, and shared stories of LGBTQ victims. We learned about the story of German Jewish athlete Fredy Hirsch who after he was arrested under the suspicion of homosexuality, was placed in concentration camps and worked to improve - at least temporarily - the lives of children in Auschwitz. Later in his imprisonment, he was open about his sexuality and ultimately took his own life rather than see the children he sought to care for murdered by the Nazis when they ended the children’s programs. We also learned of Willem Arondeus, an openly-gay Dutch man who destroyed public records to keep the Gestapo from identifying Dutch Jews. He was eventually captured and executed for his crimes, uttering his final words, “Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards.”

    CULTURAL FOOD AND SPEAKERS

    Dinners throughout the tour were hosted by notable and celebrated Israeli chefs, many of whom were members of the LGBTQ community themselves, while more guests and speakers shared their stories. We heard from a queer soldier in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF); ate Shabbat dinner with Zehorit Sorek, a lesbian Orthodox Rabbi; heard from Yiscah Smith, a trans Jewish educator, author, and Jerusalem community leader; listened to Oref Erez, the first known transgender officer in the IDF, and CEO of Jerusalem Open House (JOH), the country’s oldest LGBTQ Community Center; and met Liel Messele, who shared her experience as a second-generation Ethiopian Jew living in Israel. Food from across the country was fresh and abundant everywhere we ate. We enjoyed salads and the famous Israeli egg dish shakshuka for breakfast, more salads and the freshest falafel for lunch. By the evening, we tucked into dishes of grilled chicken, lamb, beef and eggplant - and you guessed it - more salads for dinner. Every meal came with hummus and tahini as the go-to condiment. One stop in the north of Golan Heights WineryIsrael took us to the only winery in the country certified to make both kosher and non-kosher wines in the same facility. Israel’s landscape makes it an ideal place to grow citrus and wine grapes, and the country’s wine industry has grown to be recognized around the world.

    On our final day in Israel, we heard from Tal Becker, an author, Guggenheim Prize winner, and Principal Deputy Legal Adviser at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He spoke about his experience as a peace negotiator between Israel and Palestine, explained the flaws in Zero-Sum Logic, and about what may be next for the peace process. He explained, “What you do in foreign policy is to try and make life better for more people, more of the time.”

    Tal helped us frame our experiences, observations, and conversations of the week with the underlying context, “it is very complex.” From his experience, the cultural lens of a typical American is that we tend to look at a problem, identify what we see as the cause, and think we can fix it. Many also tend to believe that every problem has a current known solution and that if we just work harder, we can solve the problem. When addressing the question, “Will there be peace?,”  Tal told us the hope lies not in a plans or negotiations currently taking place, but that these talks haven’t stopped yet, and they have not exhausted all options. The hope is somewhere in, “the permanent possibility of the presently unimaginable.” As long as all parties believe the right compromise just hasn’t been discovered, there’s still hope for a resolution.

    We left Israel with more questions than answers. We left Israel with a somewhat better understanding of how ancient, complex, and how deeply the conflict and victimhood is tied to the region’s sense of identity. We left Israel having heard from the government, military, community, and citizens across the country, and understood their stories and their truths just a little bit better. We left Israel inspired by the people doing the hard work for equality there, as well as by our fellow delegates doing the work back here at home. Israel is a progressive country and a conservative religious country at the same time. Activists and community leaders have moved the needle for full LGBTQ equality in Israel, but they still have a long way to go. After meeting the folks on the ground doing the hard work day in, day out, we also left Israel with hope that the fight will continue, and they will eventually succeed.

    Equality for LGBTQ folks in Israel is a win for LGBTQ folks in the United States, and vice versa. As the worldwide LGBTQ community grows closer together and we become more connected through the internet, the media, and travel, we have to recognize that there isn’t much of a difference between LGBTQ communities of Tel Aviv, New York, Seattle, Spokane, or London. We are all one “Proud Community.”

    If you would like to hear more about GSBA’s travel to Israel, our experiences with the LGBTQ community there, or how you may be eligible to go on your own trip with A Wider Bridge, please join us for some wine and snacks at GSBA Headquarters on Wednesday, 8/21/2019 from 5:00 - 6:30 PM, by registering HERE.

     
  • Beyond Rainbows & Parades: Honor Pride Year-Round

    by Matt Landers & Eli Coffin, GSBA
    | Jun 20, 2019

    June is upon us and the world is awash in rainbow flags, swag, and merch. The yearly debates about the corporatization of Pride versus wider celebration and acceptance of the community are back in full swing. We love seeing all parts of our society – including businesses small and large – celebrating their employees and the LGBTQ community at large. But for that support to be meaningful, there has to be more than just a rainbow decal and a contingent in the major Pride parades.

    Improve Spaces for LGBTQ Customers & Employees

    Pride_Parade_2016-107Pride is about embracing people as their full selves, and this is a relevant idea for more than just LGBTQ people. Provide the space – mentally and physically – for people to identify themselves outside of categories that you might be familiar with. Before marching in a parade, check your internal policies. Are your processes and facilities set up for all genders and for nonbinary people? Does your workplace allow for employees to designate their pronouns and do you have clear policies for how to respect their use? Does your healthcare policy fully include the needs of transgender people? To be meaningful, businesses must do more than talk about inclusion, but instead do the work to support their employees and their complete identities.

    Amplify Support for the LGBTQ Community

    Once June 30 has passed, how are you continuing your support for the other elevenIMG_0734-2 months of the year? Find a cause that is important to you and your employees – Washington has more than 200 nonprofit organizations dedicated to serving the LGBTQ community. There is definitely one that supports whichever angle of the community you are most passionate about, and we guarantee that they would love to build a stronger relationship over the rest of the year. What is your workplace doing to elevate the voices of the community itself beyond just a rainbow sticker?

    Refine Your Message

    IMG_9110Take a look at your  marketing materials and see if they reflect the groups you currently serve and the groups you want to serve. If your LGBTQ marketing consists solely of one image of shirtless muscular cisgender men, you aren't going to be very successful in speaking to the wider community. Does your work avoid practices that make certain groups feel unwelcome or unable to access your spaces?

    LGBTQ consumers (and their many allies!) are incredibly loyal when a company is authentic and reflects them in its images – and conversely they can tell when a campaign just uses generic images and only engages with the community on a superficial basis.

    GSBA wishes everyone a very happy Pride Month. Take the time to celebrate the community and be with one another. Go to Pride events and be visible. Demand the rights that we are still denied in too many spaces around the country and world. Be open to learning about other people, in whatever form that may be. Come July 1, take the lessons of Pride and apply them to your everyday life for the rest of the year. Your community and your customers will thank you.
  • Stonewall Anniversary: A Time to Come to Terms With Trauma

    by Patrick C. Evans, Sound
    | Jun 06, 2019

    The following is a guest blog written by Patrick C. Evans, who serves on the GSBA’s Corporate Advisory Board. He is President & CEO of Sound, one of the largest providers of behavioral health services in the region. Sound helps thousands in the community through quality mental health and addiction treatment services. To learn more, visit www.sound.health.

    1409.10-30_w Patrick Evans-webAs we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, it is important to reflect on the LGBTQ community’s ongoing struggles and need to heal.

    Studies show that decades of sustained and unrelenting adversity, stigma and social exclusion have had incremental and destructive impact on the community’s emotional, physical and mental health. A range of life experiences – from subtle micro-aggressions to hate crimes -- contribute to a traumatic response, or even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among members of the community.

    According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGBTQ individuals are nearly three times more likely than the rest of the community to experience depression or anxiety disorders. LGBTQ individuals often are at higher risk for suicide, have significantly higher rates of substance abuse and experience greater disparities in accessing appropriate care.

    The Stonewall uprising 50 years ago stirred the LGBTQ community’s dormant ferocity to assert itself against oppression, paving the way for a communal culture of advocacy and social activism. We have remained resilient through countless historic and modern-day struggles such as the AIDS crisis, marginalizing social and public policies, increasingly aggressive hate crimes, mass shootings and civil inequality. Nevertheless, these events still have had a lasting and detrimental impact on the LGBTQ community.

    Today, we must continue to apply the very same vision, energy and commitment to taking care of ourselves – working as passionately to address the collective thread of trauma and post-traumatic stress that understandably persists in our community. These traumas are now so “normalized,” so much a part of life, that we do not often think of them in concrete terms. Though the traumas are a quiet constant, we must self-advocate, we must find ways to support one another and we must seek ways to heal.

    It starts with the recognition that emotional and mental well-being is an essential and vital part of asserting ourselves against deeply rooted cultural trauma.  Seeking support -- whether it is through connecting with family or friends, or seeking help through mental health and addiction treatment professionals – is key to self-advocacy and critical to taking on normalized traumas.

    If there is any time to focus on our emotional, mental and physical well-being and liberate ourselves from the weight of trauma, the 50th anniversary of Stonewall is an apt inspiration. As one of the most significant events leading to the contemporary and ongoing fight for LGBTQ rights, Stonewall can inspire another revolution of self-help and care. There is little doubt that Stonewall’s anniversary marks that it is time to come to terms with our trauma, and embrace support and healing.

  • A Grand Gay Tour with Gaydio

    by Joey Chapman
    | Jun 06, 2019

    What better way to lead into a full month of Pride, then to spend time giving a grand gay tour of Seattle to Emma Goswell and Ellen Orchard of Gaydio, the world's largest LGBTQ radio station. Emma and Ellen traveled to Seattle and Seattle NorthCountry to find out what there is to see and do as an LGBTQ visitor.

    GSBA_GAYDIO_ELSOM 6-1-2019 (1)After our UK guests arrived at SeaTac, we met Emma and Ellen for a post-flight meal at GSBA member business Poquitos, where Emma had what she declared to be “the best fish tacos of her life.” Amy Burdick, GSBA Sr. Business Relationship Manager along with Patti Denny Manager, Tourism Development from Port of Seattle joined in on this "welcome to Capitol Hill" dinner, where we reviewed a very busy itinerary for the days ahead. Poquitos is a hot-spot to hit for either dinner or happy hour this summer, especially seated in the atrium where the misters keep summer temps perfectly regulated while you enjoy chips and salsa.

    GSBA_GAYDIO_ELSOM 6-1-2019 (29)

    On Saturday night, as all of Seattle rang in June pride, we met up at Elsom Cellars in SoDo for a taste of their signature Washington State wines. We were joined by by Alyssa Bleifuss (aka The Pie Lady) and owner and winemaker Jody Elsom for sips and conversation, along with special guest, A Sensible Theatre Co. Founder, Paul Flanagan. Although we were there for a little over an hour, our gracious hosts treated us like royalty. Some of the best wine I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy, paired with plates of fruit pies, all while being kissed by the Seattle sunset. If you are looking for a patio this summer to enjoy wine and good company, this is the establishment to check out! 

    GSBA_GAYDIO_ELYSIAN 6-1-2019 (1)During our time on the Elsom patio, Emma and Ellen had the opportunity to connect with GSBA Deputy Director, Mark Rosén, to learn more of the workings of Washington State’s LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce. Before we hurried away, we were reminded by Jody about how best to enjoy wine, “Just drink it!”

    After our happy hour rendezvous, we decided to show Emma and Ellen Seattle's own gayborhood and settled down for dinner at the newly remodeled Elysian Brewing on E. Pike St., where the Elysian crew treated our group with their own pride swag and tastes of their signature pride ale. Elysian Brewing's Capitol Hill team welcomed our crew with open arms and a tasty dinner. Emma had the chance to connect with Elysian Brewing Assistant General Manager Kelsie Graves and our fabulously attentive waiter Bronson, to learn more about their renovated, open-concept brewery, located in the queer-heart of Capitol Hill. If beer and burgers are for you, make your way over the freshly painted Cap Hill rainbow crosswalks, and kickback in this hip bar and restaurant.

    To top off the evening, we had to get in on Queer Bar's Queer/Burlesque - a nightGSBA_GAYDIO_QUEERBAR 6-1-2019 (2) celebrating the art of the tease - queer style, featuring a rotating cast of special guest performers from all around the Puget Sound, where owner Joey Burgess spoiled our team with VIP treatment and champagne. This is the queer Seattle scene, not only during Seattle pride weekend, but year round. Queer/Burlesque is hosted by the Mermaid Queen of Burlesque, LUCY LIPS and Seattle's Singing Strip Sensation, JOEL DOMENICO, on the first Saturday of each month.

    Overall, you can say we had a great night with our new friends from across the pond.  Thank you to all of those that joined us and to our generous GSBA members who helped make this LGBTQ tour possible.

    Listen to Emma's telling of the night here.

    Hear more about Gaydio's visit, featuring GSBA members Renaissance Seattle Hotel, Port of Seattle, Pike Place Market, Starbucks, indi chocolate, Honest Biscuits, Holland America Lines, Butler Seattle, Snohomish County Tourism Bureau, Ivar's Restaurants, and The Boeing Company

  • Stonewall Uprising of 1969: A Look Back

    by Eric Moss, GSBA
    | Jun 05, 2019

    stonewallThe LGBTQ movement has never had a neat and clean “origin story.” Our past has been attacked to the point of near erasure over the years, and what is left is often some combination of faded memories, a hand-me-down oral history, or complete fabrication. LGBTQ folks have historically been apprehensive to share their stories, especially in a world so hostile to those who were openly out at the time. It also doesn’t help that our community experienced great losses throughout our community in the 80s and 90s, taking many of those who lived through and experienced the early days of the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement. Many argue that Stonewall wasn’t the beginning of the movement, but really just the breaking point, a culmination of repetitive discrimination spanning decades prior.

    Arguments are made about who threw the first brick or bottle, who broke the police stonewall_2 barricade, or who organized the remaining days of protests and riots. The very people in attendance can’t explain the events exactly as they unfolded, how it escalated so abruptly, or why it happened on that exact night. Some credit revolutionary trans activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera for the uprising, although neither took credit and both denied later in life of initiating any kind of response to the police that fateful night. Some credit Craig Rodwell, owner of the neighborhood Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, for alerting the media and keeping their interest by calling in updates. Some even credit the funeral of performing legend and LGBTQ icon Judy Garland’s funeral occurring the day before as a catalyst. While none of these are definitively the root of the Stonewall Uprising, all of them, to some extent may have played a part. The spark that ignited the rioting and protests to follow may never really be known.

    Here are some of the facts as we have come to understand them about the Stonewall Inn, and the Stonewall Uprising that are considered the impetus to the following gay liberation movement, and what shaped the LGBTQ civil rights movement we know today. Even these histories listed below can be debated on some level.

    • The Stonewall Inn was a small bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. The neighborhood was home to those on the fringe of mainstream society, which included many LGBTQ people. The Stonewall Inn was owned by the mafia.

    • Police, fire marshalls, health inspectors, and other government officials routinely made rounds to establishments known to be frequented by LGBTQ people. Government officials would often extort the business owners, managers, and patrons for cash payments in exchange for no arrests or not closing the place down. Some officials weren’t interested in extortion, but instead would arrest or write citations. The Stonewall Inn was no exception to this rule.

    • The cultural narrative of civil liberties, including LGBTQ communities, were slightly shifting. Anti-Vietnam War activism, the civil rights movement, and a general rebellion against mainstream culture (counter-culture) opened doors to talk about more progressive topics like civil rights and equality.

    • Like so many times before, the New York City Police entered the Stonewall Inn in the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969. Selectively enforcing statutes, nine policemen arrested employees of the bar, as well as customers for not wearing gender-conforming clothing, and physically harassed other patrons.

    • This was the third raid similar to this in an short period of time.

    • Police were loading the arrested people from the bar into vehicles as a small crowd formed. The people in this crowd were those who had been cleared from the bar along with individuals from the neighborhood.

    • Self-identifying as a black, biracial, butch lesbian, and Drag King, Stormé DeLarverie was struggling against the officers who were trying to arrest her. As they tried to flee, officers hit them in the head with their baton. DeLarverie hit the officer back with a fist, and shouted to the gathering crowd to “do something.”

    • More of the crowd began fighting back against the police, and the officers retreated inside of the now empty Stonewall Inn, barricaded themselves in, and called for backup.

    • The barricades were breached several times by the now much larger crowd which began to riot in the streets, and the Stonewall Inn was set ablaze.

    • Police backup arrived, somewhat cleared the crowd, and then put out the fire.

    • Over the following five days, more organized riots and protests persisted. These protests were covered by major media outlets, which brought national attention to many of the names and faces we now recognize as members of Stonewall Uprising’s frontlines. These activists continued to fight for LGBTQ and intersectional civil rights for decades.

    • The Stonewall Inn closed after the fire. It was renovated and reopened in 1990.

    • In 1993, the Stonewall Inn became the first landmark in New York City to be officially recognized for its importance in LGBTQ history. June of 2016, a National Monument in Christopher Park was dedicated to the movement, and New York State designated the Stonewall Inn as a State Historic Site.

    stonewall_3We may never really know exactly what happened that hot summer night in 1969. We may never know who threw the first punch, especially because the ones who were credited denied being the first. One thing that we do know is the past 50 years have seen progress, movement, and a more concerted fight for LGBTQ equality - and for a large part, we owe that to LGBTQ folks who risked arrest, injury, or maybe even death to take a stand against discrimination at Stonewall Inn.

    For more information about The Stonewall Uprising and other LGBTQ history, you can visit the archives at the Stonewall National Museum & Archives at stonewall-museum.org.

    All photos courtesy New York Public Library


  • New Member Spotlight: Solace

    by GSBA
    | May 23, 2019

    While gaps in resources still continue to cause roadblocks for trans-identified folks who undergo social and physical transitions, new GSBA member business Solace seeks to fill the void with a transition-tracking mobile app.

    SolaceHome“We are profoundly excited to share Solace with the public. For anyone going through transition, this application will hopefully make the process significantly easier since all of the necessary, accurate information will be centralized in one place,” said Robbi Katherine Anthony, Executive Director of Solace. “Right now people are resorting to forums full of anecdotal experiences regarding transition, which can contain a lot of inaccurate and inconsistent information.”

    Based out of Spokane, Solace is a project of QWELL Community Foundation, a fund of Austin Community Foundation which is a 501(c)3 public charity. While the app is still in development, Solace has turned to crowdfunding to help aid in its completion and public debut when the app will be available for free on both iOS and Android devices.

    “Our goal is to use technology to augment that phase ‘it gets better’ into ‘how it gets better,’” says Anthony. The app is expected the launch and be available to the public within six to eight weeks.

  • A Sense of Pride: Meet GSBA Scholar Eren Dao

    by GSBA
    | May 13, 2019

    IMG-1023On a cold December day in 2014, Eren Dao got lost in downtown Seattle. Then just 17, the nursing student had just relocated to the Pacific Northwest from Vietnam, didn’t speak English, and wasn’t prepared for the change of climate.

    “I got so lost and I was freezing,” Eren said. “I ran from Pike St. all the way to King Street Station because I didn’t have a jacket and it was so cold. Looking back, I remember thinking ‘Okay, this is not at all like a vacation.’”

    With this abrupt awakening, Eren realized that living and learning in the states as a college student would be a lot more challenging than he had expected, and he turned his life on to overdrive.

    “At that moment, I realized I had to grow up so much faster. I had to learn how to make better choices in my life to see things through,” he said.

    Eren then enrolled in classes at South Seattle College where he finished his general undergraduate requirements by taking an astounding 20 – 25 credits per quarter and began studying radiation therapy, an interest sparked by what he saw while working with Agent Orange victims in Vietnam.

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    “In my high school years, I used to go and volunteer at a shelter for Agent Orange victims. Most of them were pediatric patients and seeing them struggle had a huge impact on me. I still remember, to this day, the guidelines for caring for those patients weren’t strictly regulated like they are here,” he said. “I would see caregivers strapping children to beds so they wouldn’t scratch themselves because they were in so much pain. It was really heart-breaking. I wanted to help them and comfort them, and so that got me into radiation therapy.”

     

    But as Eren got deeper into his studies, he soon began to realize how another route in medicine might allow him to have a greater impact.

    “When I started volunteering for medical centers, I would see people in the oncology units struggling with pain, and I started to think differently,” he said. “I thought it was more important for me to be with (those patients) at those moments, help get them through it, and provide them comfort. It’s amazing to see people recover.”

    So Eren changed his course to study nursing and after a brief period at Bellevue College, is now in the middle of the registered nursing program at Highland College, where he expects to graduate after five more quarters.

    This year, Eren will receive his fourth GSBA scholarship, thanks to the GSBA Four-Year Guarantee. Ever since receiving his first GSBA scholarship, Eren has been heavily involved with the GSBA community, attending chamber events and extending a hand to first-year scholars. This past month, he welcomed scholarship applicants as a volunteer on Scholarship Interview Day at City University, and fondly remembers the day he received an invitation to interview for the scholarship.

    matt 4

    “When I received that phone-call, it was the first time in my life that I felt like I had accomplished something really big. I felt like maybe all of my hard work finally meant something,” he said.

    On his big day to interview, Eren remembers sitting next to a four-year scholar who was nearing their degree completion in bioengineering when GSBA Deputy Director Mark Rosén began talking with the two students about their studies.

    “I was like, ‘Whoa, this other guy is really smart.’ Then Mark started talking to me and I was like, ‘Well, I’m studying radiation therapy right now, but I’m not sure about it.’ But then I really started thinking about what I actually want to do. For me, I concentrate on the people around me and how I can impact them, even if it’s just one by one. Maybe I’m not building a rocket, but I can still help people I come across.”

    Even though this week’s Scholars Dinner is Eren’s final dinner as a scholar, he looks forward to his future with the GSBA Scholarship Fund as an alum.

    “I feel like the more time I spend with GSBA, my personality becomes stronger. I have a sense of pride now in being a gay man because of GSBA,” he said. “Once I graduate, I want to be able to talk to new scholars. I want to be able to tell them, ‘You can do it. It’s terrifying to put yourself out there, but you can make it.’ That future with GSBA really inspires me.”

    Join us as we celebrate Eren and 49 other LGBTQ and allied students during the 2019 GSBA Scholars Dinner this Friday, May 17.

    Help scholars like Eren live out their dreams by investing in the GSBA Scholarship Fund today.
  • GSBA Scholar Mei'lani Eyre on Where Advocacy & App Development Intersect

    by GSBA
    | May 06, 2019

    Last August, over 40 GSBA Scholars boarded a ferry to Bainbridge Island and met at IslandWood learning center for GSBA’s second annual Leadership Academy Immersion Weekend. Among them, was first-year GSBA Scholar and Cascadia College student Mei’lani Eyre.

    20180518-IMG_0014Even though they had achieved their Associates of Applied Sciences degree earlier last year, Mei’lani always struggled with a bit of imposter syndrome when it came to their academic accolades.

    “GSBA really helped me with knowing my worth,” said Mei’lani. “Whenever I’ve gotten some sort of recognition in the past, I would feel like, ‘You don’t deserve it. You’re a fraud and it’s just a matter of time before they find out.”

    Then, Mei’lani spent time with their fellow GSBA scholars.

    “When I got to the retreat, all that really started to dissipate,” they said. “There was so much acknowledgement from other students and they helped me understand that I did deserve it all. There have been similar academic groups I’ve been in where people aren’t very supportive of each other and try to tear each other down. But (with GSBA) it was really nice to see this perfect fit where everyone is actually happy for your success and doesn’t see you as a competitor.” 

    Mei’lani’s accomplishments as a student extend far beyond being a GSBA scholar. As a running-start student, Mei’lani carried several different STEM-based internships, including working as an Education Intern and Curriculum Development Intern with Code.org, a Cloud and Enterprise Intern with Microsoft, various roles with the King County Library System, and also a campus ambassador with GLAAD.

    Currently, Mei’lani is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Applied Sciences in Mobile Application Development and works two jobs, one as a program coordinator for the Mobile Application Department at Cascadia and another as a design lead at UW Bothell’s Digital Future Lab. This summer, Mei’lani will intern with GitHub as a Student Programs intern. After they graduate in June of 2020, Mei’lani plans to pursue a career in computer science education.meilani_1

    “A lot of the experiences I’ve had have been very relevant to (computer science education),” said Mei’lani. “Even now with being a program coordinator at my school, I’m often thinking about what will be the most beneficial for student learning. One of the things I’m really excited about by working with GitHub, is I’m going to be working with schools that are often overlooked because they might not be as prestigious. It’s not enough to just say to students, ‘Well we have those resources available for kids who want them.’ You have to make sure you’re doing outreach to specifically under-represented groups and that you’re getting our youth the skills they need in order to succeed in the world and get better jobs.”

    For Mei’lani, they see many intersectionalities between computer science education and social justice. As a queer person of color in the tech industry, they hope that they can use their voice to encourage other students from marginalized backgrounds to explore careers in STEM, as well as to advocate for companies to hire talent from under-represented communities, and for schools to work towards achieving greater equity within the tech field.

    DSC_0002“(Being in this field) can definitely be pretty lonely,” they said. “There’s definitely times where I feel very alienated. I was already kind of used to that from having grown up in a pretty white area and often being the only person of color in the room. But even more so, when you’re female-presenting, there are often a lot of assumptions made about you.”

    While Mei’lani’s coworkers in the Digital Future Lab respect their pronouns and immediately correct themselves if they accidentally misgender them, Mei’lani is still working on asserting themselves in other spaces.

    “I haven’t gotten that comfortable yet at school. I’m still getting used to advocating for myself and who I am,” they said.

    The 2019 GSBA Scholar’s Dinner on Friday, May 17 will be Mei’lani’s final dinner as a scholar before graduating next spring. After achieving their bachelor’s degree, Mei’lani would eventually like to return to school to study librarian sciences. They expect to return as a volunteer and supporter of the GSBA Scholarship in following years.

    “I’m really looking forward to supporting the next scholars that come through, because I know how much this has meant to me and that it’s going to mean just as much for someone else,” they said. “I want to be a connection for anyone in the scholarship program in tech specifically. I’m really excited about being on the other end of things where I’m supporting students.”

    Join GSBA as we celebrate Mei’lani and their 49 fellow GSBA Scholars during the 2019 GSBA Scholar’s Dinner on Friday, May 17 at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott.

  • Member Spotlight: Disability Rights Washington

    by Stacie Siebrecht, DRW Director of Strategic Partnerships
    | May 06, 2019

    Disability Rights Washington (DRW), is a private non-profit headquartered in Seattle and the designated Protection & Advocacy Agency (P&A) which serves the more than 940,000 people with disabilities in Washington State. DRW is the only organization that solely advocates for people with all disabilities, including physical, sensory, intellectual, developmental, learning, psychiatric disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic illness.

    RiRTeamPhoto_Small - stacie siebrecht (2)

    The organization first began in 1972 when founders Katie Dolan and Janet Taggert launched Troubleshooters for the Handicapped – the first name of the organization. Before this, the two had previously founded the Northwest Center, which operated as a school for children with disabilities whose needs were not being met by the public school system.

    Today, DRW works directly with Washingtonians living with disabilities by offering training to help people advocate for themselves and understand individual rights, investigating abuse, neglect and rights violations, ensuring self-determination in personal and financial decisions, educating the public about disability issues, and much more.

    DRW recognizes diversity, equality, and inclusion in its many intersectional forms within the lives of people who identify with disability, as well as marginalized groups who’ve often been under-represented in the disability rights movement. As a part of their efforts to partner with organizations who share these values, DRW is building a new vendor list. GSBA community members can help build this list by completing this survey.

    DRW works towards a society where all people are treated with equality, dignity, and respect for their expressed choices, and who have equal opportunities to participate in a society where abilities, rather than disabilities, are recognized. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 19% of Americans have a disability, yet the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is twice as high as those without disabilities. For DRW, “equality is good business,” means a creating a work environment where all people of diverse backgrounds are valued for their lived experience, which benefits employee communities and offers the business insight to better serve all potential clients and consumers.

    Join DRW for its Rooted In Rights Film Festival at Town Hall on Tuesday, May 7 at 7:30 PM

  • 2019 GSBA Legislative Successes

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy Manager
    | May 01, 2019

    GSBA is proud of the important victories we achieved in advancing our priorities during the 2019 Washington Legislative Session that ended on Sunday. GSBA members, Board, and staff have been in Olympia every week of the session advocating for issues of importance to our members and to our communities. Some of our biggest victories this year include:

     

    • Establishing a statewide LGBTQ Commission | GSBA has been the lead organization for 5 years on this effort to reduce inequities for LGBTQ people. Having an official and recognized voice for our community opens doors to inclusion for LGBTQ people where we have often been left out. It provides an important resource for state departments and agencies to ensure they are addressing the needs of our community. The Commission will be comprised of 15 community members appointed by the Governor and 4 non-voting legislative members. The composition of the Commission is intended to reflect the full diversity of the LGBTQ community across Washington.
    • Passing Initiative 1000 | Over 400,000 Washingtonians signed an Initiative to the Legislature to end the restrictive rules established by I-200, the 1998 initiative that led to a significant decrease in opportunities for women and minorities in employment, education, and public contracting. I-1000 opens the way to fairer treatment for minorities and women in our state. GSBA is proud to stand with the organizations and activists who have worked for more than 20 years toward this goal! [Crosscut]
    • Preventing harassment and bullying of transgender students in our schools | GSBA was able to share the experiences of many of our Scholars and how this law would have supported them [Whibey News-Times]
    • Eliminating barriers to reproductive healthcare for transgender people and undocumented immigrants | The House of Representatives removed provisions around undocumented immigrants. This part, which GSBA strongly supports, was successfully funded in the budget even though it is not in statute. [Rewire]
    • Modernizing Washington's Vital Records laws to better reflect the LGBTQ community, including nonbinary gender identities.
    • Updating Washington’s Hate Crimes laws, including higher fines for committing one and officially changing the language from “malicious harassment” to “hate crime.” [Spokesman-Review]
    • Prohibiting the use of prior wage or salary history to set pay, ensuring fair wages for communities that often experience wage discrimination, including LGBTQ people.
    • Supporting the De-Escalate WA Coalition by increasing police accountability in deadly shootings with de-escalation training and other reforms. [MyNorthwest]

     

    GSBA lobbied against a number of poorly written bills that attacked legitimate independent contractors and would have threatened thousands of small businesses across the state.

     

    There were a number of bills GSBA supported which did not make it through the Legislative process in 2019. We look forward to working with our many partners next year on issues like banning the use of gay/trans-panic defenses, removing exclusions for transgender people in mental health parity laws, and creating a small business bill of rights.

     

    If you would like to get involved or learn more about GSBA’s advocacy work throughout the year, please contact us. Our upcoming online Policy Roundtable event on Monday, May 20 will feature a recap and discussion of all the LGBTQ-related bills that were introduced in 2019.


  • Sharing successes with Spanish NGOs

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy Manager
    | Apr 09, 2019

    Spain IVLP VisitorsContinuing a longstanding partnership with the World Affairs Council of Seattle and the International Visitors Leadership Program through the U.S. Department of State, GSBA hosted a group of five Spanish LGBTQ nonprofit leaders to share our experiences. GSBA shared our history as a business organization focused on business, community, advocacy, and philanthropy and the evolution of our chamber and the GSBA Scholarship Fund. Our guests shared their work from around Spain, and we had discussions about building philanthropy among the business community and how to strengthen community organizations. And, of course, community arguments about Pride are universal!

    Our visitors included:

    Alega (Kiara Brambilla Domínguez, President)
    The Association of Lesbians, Gays, Transexuals, and Bisexuals of Cantabria works to fight for and secure rights for the LGBTQ community in the northern Spanish autonomous community of Cantabria.

    Extremadura Entiende (Sisi Cáceres Rojo, President)
    This lay, nonpartisan, feminist organization in the region of Extremadura is an association of lesbians, bisexual women, and trans people. They were created to give visibility and give voice to women, largely silenced and systematically ignored in their culture. They have a particular focus on sharing the experiences of both rural and urban women.

    FELGTB - State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Trans, and Bisexuals (Jenifer Rebollo, Manager)
    FELGTB is an organization that coordinates and connects the LGBTQ movement in Spain. It is a project of more than 54 LGBTQ associations of all types. The three pillars of FELGTB include the demand for legal equality and social respect for sexual diversity, raise awareness and be visible in the community (including Pride celebrations), and training activists in member associations.

    Amlega (Rafael Robles Reina, President)
    The LGBTQ association of Melilla, a small Spanish enclave on the north coast of Africa, works to bring together their community. They host Orgullo del Norte de Africa, the only Pride celebration in North Africa.

    Lambda Valencia (Marina Valiente Fernández, Manager)
    Based in the Valencian Community, Lambda fights against discrimination and social marginalization of LGBTQ people and fights for legal equality for all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender expression. They aim to development within the LGBTQ community social participation, an inclusive culture, and community health.



  • Transparent Inclusion at Work: How to Build a Safer Workplace

    by GSBA
    | Apr 01, 2019

    Want to be a more welcoming and inclusive business or organization, but don't know where to start? We've put together a list of simple tips to help everyone feel more included and supported in the workplace, especially our transgender, gender-diverse, and entire LGBTQ+ community members.

    1) All-Gender Everything

    all-gender signA great place to start is by changing all gendered pronouns (he or she) to gender-neutral pronouns (they or them) across your workplace's internal and external language and communications. You should also change any mention of gender (ex: pregnant women) is changed to be more gender-inclusive (ex: pregnant people and/or employees). Make sure this gender-inclusive language is in every aspect of your business.
    Checklist: 
    - Do you have all-gender bathrooms?
    - Do you have an all-gender dress code?
    - Do you have all-gender employee policies?

    2) Clarify Your Policies

    Define who you protect under your harassment and discrimination policies. When you're clear about who your "no-tolerance policy" actually includes, you're setting a tone for inclusion.
    Checklist:
    - Do you offer cultural competency training?
    - Does your staff know where to report harassment?

    3) HR Support & Confidentiality

    People's identities may be private and legally protected information. Create systemsOffice-29-512 where identities are on a need-to-know basis and self-identification is optional.

    4) Allow for Self-Identification

    Giving folks space for self-identification is important: provide a place for employees to opt-in to sharing their pronouns. This way, everyone will be able to use correct pronouns without assuming gender or identity.
    Checklist:
    - Do you have a spot for pronouns on name tags, email signatures, phone trees, and staff directories?
    - Do you allow preferred names to be listed everywhere except where legal names are legally required?
    - Do your job applications ask for a preferred name?

    5) Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

    Create an environment which authentically attracts diverse talent.
    Checklist:
    - Do you make it a priority that your employee healthcare policy include coverage for transition related healthcare?
    - Have you invested in systems that incorporate multiple genders, not just the binary (male and female)?
    - Have you created and maintained a Gender Transition Guide for your business, including points of contact, timelines, and training?

    6) Be An Ally

    Support-GLSENBecoming an ally is your own responsibility. No marginalized community is responsible for your education. There are many trans people who are open and want to talk about their identity, although not all people who identify as trans are, and there are many experts willing to share their knowledge. Listen to these voices instead of forcing people who don't want to talk about their identity to have that unnecessary burden. 

    *One easy way to show you're an ally: If you make a mistake, apologize, change your actions, and move on. Real allies don't make the conversation about themselves, which is what dwelling on a mistake can do.

    Need a Hand?

    GSBA is here to help you build a safer workplace. Email us if you would like some guidance in implementing trans-inclusive policies and practices. 

  • For Us, By Us - Keegan Samaniego on Reclaiming the Narrative: Transgender Day of Visibility

    by GSBA
    | Mar 28, 2019

    Keegan Samaniego became a GSBA Scholar the spring of 2017 just before they were set to graduate from Marysville Getchell High School. With an early start to college, Keegan achieved a General Associates of Arts and Sciences degree the same year from Everett Community College and then transferred to Portland’s Reed College, where they will receive a GSBA scholarship for every year they attend for up to four years, because of the GSBA Four-Year Guarantee.

    keegan_2019At Reed, Keegan studies music and social sciences, with a particular focus in music history and ethnomusicology (the study of the music across cultures), and is a member a newly formed all-trans punk band. Although the band is still unnamed, they write their own music about queer experiences and social action, play house-shows across Portland, and are keen on the name, “Make-Out with Your Friends.”

    “I really love writing, thinking, and talking about music and music theory,” said Keegan. “It’s a really cool thing to study. I really love the music department here.”

    Aside from their studies, Keegan is a heavily involved student activist. The second-year student has partaken in efforts to encourage Reed College to divest from fossil fuels and also volunteers for advocacy work regarding the prison industrial complex. Most recently, Keegan received a summer fellowship through Reed College, funding their work to collect and publish the stories of intersex people. Beginning early this June, Keegan will travel via train to major cities across the US and record oral histories from people who identify as intersex.

    “A lot of the narratives that exist out there are not controlled by intersex people. Intersex activism kind of came to a head in the 90’s, so it’s kind of recent that this has become a little more mainstream,” they said. “I just want to be a part of taking back that narrative. I don’t want non-intersex people to tell me about what it’s like to be intersex. I want to hear these things from intersex people. I want to be able to help [them] tell these stories in their own words.”keegan (5)

    For Keegan, who identifies as queer, non-binary, and intersex, visibility is wrapped up in privilege – the privilege of being in an environment where you are safe to be your full, authentic self.

    “Visibility is really hard and tied up with so much stigma and so many taboos. The fundamental core of who I am, is considered unacceptable in this society. Being able to be out and proud is something that I worked really hard to be able to do, and I still work on to this day – so there’s a lot of power in that. Because regardless of those taboos, I’m still here," they said.

    While non-binary identity still falls underneath a trans umbrella, being non-binary is different from other forms of trans-identity where someone might align more with male or female-identity, Keegan explains.

    keegan (4)“I have to do a certain amount of emotional labor with pretty much every person I meet. People will always try to place me into some kind of cisgender category,” they said. “When I tell people that I’m non-binary and that my gender isn’t reflected on any spectrum that people are used to, a lot of people just can’t compute it. [When I came out] there was a lot of teaching and patience with the people around me, because I had to explain to people that when they called me by a pronoun that wasn’t ‘they/them’ it was harming me.”

    Even though the stories and experiences of non-binary people are historically not as well-known as other trans narratives, Keegan finds empowerment in educating the wider LGBTQ community about non-binary identity and is unapologetically themselves.

    “I want people to understand that I’m not confused. I’m not making this up. It’s not a joke, it’s not a phase, it’s not something that’s going to change,” they said. “I’m real, I exist. I don’t really need someone to understand me to be valid. I will still continue to exist in the way I do regardless of how people want me to be.”

    After graduation, Keegan would like to continue making music, as well as their work of collecting histories of the intersex community, and slowly but surely, dismantling the gender-binary.

    “Number one, I think people can start noticing the things that they apply gender to,” they said. “I think people should recognize where in their life they use gender and where they even use their gender as a form of power.”056A8664

    GSBA community members can follow Keegan’s fellowship work by following The Intersex History Project on Facebook and Instagram, and can continue to support Keegan as well as their fellow future LGBTQ+ leaders by investing in the GSBA Scholarship Fund.

    Ingersoll Gender Center offers a “Trans 101” and general trans competency training for anyone who would like to better understand non-binary identity and trans experiences. Employers can also utilize Ingersoll’s workplace trainings as guidance for implementing inclusive practices.

    Including GSBA and Ingersoll Gender Center, eight local organizations have come together to form the Transgender Economic Empowerment Coalition (TEEC), a group working to survey and address systematic disparities among trans and gender-diverse people living and working in King County. The TEEC currently has two active surveys to help guide their scope of practice, including a survey for employers about trans-inclusive policies and a survey for trans and gender-diverse people living in King County about their experiences.
  • Cafe Flora's Nat Stratton-Clarke on Building an Inclusive Workplace: Transgender Day of Visibility

    by GSBA
    | Mar 22, 2019

    In September of 2008, Nat Stratton-Clarke had already been working as the Café Flora’s general manager for two years when he took over its ownership. A month into owning a restaurant for the first time, the economy shifted and he found himself fighting to keep the vibrant, daylight-filled Madison Valley hot-spot afloat.

    Over ten years later, Café Flora survived the recession and remains as one of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in the country. Celebrated for its locally-sourced menu, full bar, and bustling weekend brunch, the café is also the workplace of several employees who’ve remained on staff ever since Nat took over as owner.

    IMG_7828“For me, what we do here is about serving great food which happens to be vegetarian or vegan,” said Nat. “It’s such a great sign when a [non-vegetarian] person leaves and they loved everything they had, they’re full, and then they might end up being some of our biggest fans - because they’re like, ‘Wait a minute – I never knew I could eat a meal without meat that’s delicious, filling, looks beautiful, and tasted great.’ I would say, the majority of our guests are not vegetarian. They’re just people who love our food.”

    For 29 years, Café Flora has stocked its kitchen with produce from local, small organic farms and other small businesses. Currently, the café fills its menu by working with 18 different farms year-round. Its bar features craft beer and wines from across Washington and Oregon, as well as spirits from regional small-batch distilleries.

    Nat supported himself through college by peeling potatoes and washing dishes, but he had his eyes set on a legal career in social justice. As he got closer to applying to law school, he realized how a career in the kitchen could be equally as impactful, by connecting communities through food and leading by example.

    “One of the reasons why I do what I do is to not only help Café Flora, but to also talk to other restaurant owners and businesses about what it means to create a safe work environment for everyone to come to work and do their job, but also feel safe, and like they can bring their whole selves to work,” said Nat. 

    As an openly transgender man, Nat’s personal experiences have allowed him unique insight to build a safer and more affirming space for both his employees and customers. “As somebody who’s white and presents as male, I have a lot of privilege in that. I choose to share my story, but that doesn’t mean that other people have to. It’s not necessarily safe for everyone,” he said. “Because I employ myself, nobody can fire me for being trans. If somebody doesn’t want to eat here because I’m trans, fine. Then don’t. If you have a problem with one of my employees and their pronouns or gender-presentation, that’s okay. But I’m going to stand behind my staff 100 percent. I’m going to protect their ability to come to work as their authentic selves every day, because so many trans people don’t get that and don’t feel comfortable or safe at work.”

    Employees of Café Flora always have their pronouns listed next to their names on staff lists. The café’s employment application also has a section for prospective employees to list their preferred name next to their legal one, so new team-members are referred to by their authentic names starting on their first day on the job, and the cafe’s dress code is not gender-specific.cafe-flora 

    “As a business owner, it’s your job to create a supportive work environment for everyone. There’s a lot business owners can do to create (inclusive policies) so their employees who have marginalized identities don’t have to do that work of educating people,” said Nat.

    With having a diverse workplace, Nat also speaks with his managers about the personal questions employees might tend to ask each other about their identities, including gender. He empowers his managers to walk employees through sensitive questions employees might have, rather than leave it to coworkers to educate each other about their own identities, and in turn, feel obligated to divulge personal details.

    Nat chooses to be out because he believes being visible as a successful entrepreneur who’s trans, will not only help empower his employees who identify as transgender or gender-diverse, but open doors to conversations about the nuances of identity and privilege in business.

    “There a lot of little things that people often wouldn’t think of. Like applying for a business loan, it will pull your entire credit history and every name change you’ve ever had,” said Nat. “So I’ve been in a bank, looking for a loan, and somebody’s pulling up my credit history and saying, ‘This is so strange, do you have a sister?’ So I’m having to sit in a bank branch and come out to somebody, which has nothing to do with how I run business.”

    photos_left_1
    Even though Nat chooses to be out as trans, his expertise still lies within the service industry, not the nuances of gender-identity. “Sometimes, I’ll be in a conversation with someone about something totally food-related, and then they shift gears and want to talk about me being trans,” he said. “I’m only an expert on my personal experience – that’s all I can speak to. I’m not going to go around and do trans-sensitivity trainings. Some of the best trainings I’ve had have been led by people who aren’t trans and there are so many great trainings here in Seattle people can use.”

    Currently, Nat is focused on what he does best: food. With the changing season, he’s excited for a change-up in Café Flora’s menu. “Right now, it’s exciting to start to see nettles, fiddlehead ferns, asparagus, and rhubarb. I love a root vegetable just as much as the next person, but it’s nice to have that transition into spring,” he said. “We’re lucky to live in a region that has some of the best produce in the world.” 

    Ingersoll Gender Center offers a variety of comprehensive trainings employers can utilize to better understand trans and gender-diverse identity and how to implement inclusive practices. Including GSBA and Ingersoll Gender Center, eight local organizations have come together to form the Transgender Economic Empowerment Coalition (TEEC), a group working to survey and address systematic disparities among trans and gender-diverse people living and working in King County. The TEEC currently has two active surveys to help guide their scope of practice, including a survey for employers about trans-inclusive policies and a survey for trans and gender-diverse people living in King County about their experiences.

  • 2019 Legislative Update: Advancing Your Agenda

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy Manager
    | Mar 08, 2019

    It has been a busy winter for GSBA's advocacy team. The board, Policy Council, GSBA members, and staff have been working hard to advance our agenda at the local, state, and federal levels. We want to share with you the progress we are making, the victories we have already achieved, and the issues where your support can get us across the line.

    PROGRESS IN THE LEGISLATURE

    • Establishing the LGBTQ Commission - PASSED THE SENATE! GSBA has led the effort to create a recognized and official voice for our community in Olympia, and we were excited that the bill received a strong bipartisan vote in the Senate last week! As one of the few protected classes without a commission, LGBTQ people are left out of government programs, data gathering, and policymaking arenas. Please contact your Representatives and urge them to support HB 2065 / E2SSB 5356 as it moves to the House for consideration!
    • Supporting anti-bullying efforts for trans students - PASSED THE SENATE! Requires public schools to develop a policy and procedure that prohibits harassment, intimidation, and bullying, and a model policy for transgender students. This bill did not make it out of the Legislature last year, and we still need support to be heard by our Representatives. (SB 5689)
    • Strengthening hate crimes laws - PASSED THE HOUSE! Waiting for a floor vote in the Senate, this bill explicitly adds gender identity and expression, expands language on religious bias crimes, and officially re-names "malicious harassment" as "hate crimes". (HB 1732 / SB 5850)
    • Preventing salary history from being used to determine future salary - Waiting for a floor vote in the House, this would prevent past salary from being a determinant of salary in a future job, preventing a major cause of wage disparities for women and minority communities. (HB 1696)
    • Passing a small business bill of rights - GSBA testified in favor of this effort to protect small businesses out of committee. (HB 2093)
    • Banning gay- and trans-panic defenses - Prevent affirmative defenses based on the discovery, knowledge, or potential disclosure of a victim's gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Waiting for a floor vote in the House (HB 1687)
    • Supporting reproductive healthcare access for trans and nonbinary people and immigrants - PASSED THE SENATE! (SB 5602)
    • Modernizing laws around HIV/AIDS - (HB 1551)
    • Updating the Vital Statistics act to include our community - PASSED THE SENATE! (SB 5332)
    • Defending independent contractors - Several bills this session have threatened the existence of various forms of independent contractors. GSBA has defended the legitimacy of business owners who operate as independent contractors, while also supporting clarifications to regulation that help businesses properly classify their employees and contractors. (HB 1515, SB 5513, SB 5326)
    • Initiative 1000 - we are waiting for this initiative to the Legislature to be scheduled for a hearing. I-1000 would re-establish affirmative action in Washington State and work for greater diversity in public education, hiring, and contracting.
    • De-Escalate Washington / Initiative 940 - PASSED INTO LAW! The amendments to voter-approved I-940 were quickly approved by both chambers of the Legislature and have already been signed by the Governor!
    To learn more about each of these bill, click here and enter the bill number.
    To find your legislators and contact them about any of these issues, click here. GSBA urges you to be clear, respectful, and to thank legislators who support our issues.

    A BUSINESS VOICE FOR EQUALITY IN THE COURTS

    GSBA regularly signs on to amicus briefs in court cases involving our community. In the last two weeks GSBA has been proud to add our name to a pair of friend-of-the-court briefs:

    • Arlene's Flowers: GSBA joins several small businesses, corporations, and business associations in urging the Washington State Supreme Court not to carve out an exception to the Washington Law Against Discrimination that would allow an employee of a business to refuse service to someone based on their personal beliefs. Read the press release
      Thank you to GSBA members Amazon, Brooks Sports Inc, Elliott Bay Book Co, Expedia, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, EDA of Skagit County, and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce for joining us.
    • GSBA joined the ADL and numerous nonprofit organizations in a brief supporting the Dallas, OR school district’s policy permitting transgender students to access the restroom and locker rooms consistent with their gender identities. This policy was challenged by a group similar to those who led the I-1515 and I-1552 campaigns that we opposed a few years ago. GSBA strongly supports the right of all people to access the facilities that fit their identity.
    • Welcome Joey Chapman to the GSBA Family!

      by GSBA
      | Mar 01, 2019

      Earlier this year, GSBA welcomed Joey Chapman to the team as its Membership Development Manager. In his new role, Joey will help cultivate and grow GSBA’s membership across the Pacific Northwest, build community relationships, and strengthen the organization’s impact.

      joeyA longtime friend of the chamber, Joey served as a liaison to GSBA for over ten years through his previous positions with the 5th Avenue Theatre and Encore Media Group. Joey achieved his Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts at Western Washington University and has remained involved in the arts ever since. While he has years of experience managing sales in the arts industry, he’s also overseen sales in travel and tourism, health, media, and sponsorship. From his history in these areas, Joey has built a fierce dedication to customer service and relationship building, and is especially excited to broaden GSBA’s reach through LGBTQ travel and hospitality.

      Joey grew up just north of Seattle in Mukilteo and now lives in Seattle with his husband of nearly 15 years. He’s been a stage performer for almost 30 years and frequently takes to the stage at his home theatre at Bainbridge Performing Arts, and is in the theatre’s upcoming production of Mamma Mia. He also serves on the board of GSBA member production company A Sensible Theatre Co., is a dedicated fan of GSBA members Sounders FC, and always sports his rainbow scarf at every match he attends.

    • Member Spotlight: Butler Seattle

      by GSBA
      | Mar 01, 2019

      Butler Seattle is a valet, transportation and event service founded in 1994 by two brothers, Jeremy and Stuart Butler. The Butler’s worked together as valets at an iconic Seattle seafood restaurant to pay their way through college. The restaurant was tired of managing the Valet portion of their business so Jeremy and Stuart decided to bid for the work and they won!  The Butler’s have a deep connection to Seattle, and to what makes the Pacific Northwest such a special place. The brothers were born and raised in the region and have a passion to share the best of the PNW with locals and visitors alike.

      After finishing their education, Jeremy and Stuart decided to grow their business to become an all-encompassing transportation, valet service for private events, event planning resources, and personalized Woodinville wine tours. The Butlers are dedicated to being the HUB for unforgettable experiences in the Pacific Northwest.

      wlzM6sb8Qv+qD+HODD9%AA_thumb_21c - Julie CampbellJulie Campbell, Sales Manager for Butler Seattle describes the approach of the Butler brothers. “They are passionate in building community to influence travel and tourism throughout the Pacific Northwest and tailor each customer’s experience to their own unique wants and needs”, say Campbell. She gives an example of a recent guest from Texas, where the Butler Seattle team approached it as “Southern Hospitality, in a Pacific Northwest style.”

      Butler Seattle became a GSBA member in 2012 after finding that the GSBA mission greatly aligned with their own, especially with their support of marriage equality. Butler Seattle has always been honored to be a part of couples’ special days, whether the couple is of the same gender or not. For Butler Seattle, ‘Equality is Good Business’ means being a company that their families, employees, and customers can be proud of. For them, it means doing their best to support everyone they meet and do business with. “We work to not just meet our guests expectations, but to always exceed them”, says Campbell.

      Butler Weddings http://butlerweddings.com/ is Butler’s vendor hub, which gathers the best of the region’s event planning resources all in one place. Weddings in Woodinville is our showcase wedding event weddingsinwoodinville.com. More information about Butler’s transportation & Valet services can be found at www.butlerseattle.com.

    • Meet Barry Faught: GSBA's 2018 Board Chair's Award Recipient

      by GSBA
      | Feb 22, 2019

      During last night’s program of Justice for All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner, GSBA Member Barry Faught had no idea he was in for one of the evening's recognitions: the Board Chair’s Award, which recognizes an individual who serves the GSBA community behind the scenes.

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      As Immediate Past Board Chair Drew Ness took to the stage and delivered his remarks about a nationally-recognized coffee aficionado who equipped the GSBA office with professional-grade brewing equipment, the shocked owner of Broadcast Coffee Roasters was met by tumultuous applause by the GSBA community and a standing ovation from his surprised staff.

      Hailing from Boise, Idaho, Barry fell in love with Seattle’s food scene during weekend-trips to the Pacific Northwest. After he relocated to Seattle, Barry opened Broadcast’s first location at Yesler Way and 20th Ave. in 2008. Today, Broadcast spans across the city at three different locations, including shops on Roosevelt Way and 65th Ave. and Jackson St. and 24th Ave., where the company roasts its signature coffee.

      “You come into our stores and they’re bright, because Seattle is so dark. We kind of wanted to give people an airy feeling of some lightness,” said Barry. “But also, our baristas are super nice. You can ask us questions, we’re not going to talk to you like, ‘Why don’t you know the difference between a mocha and a cappuccino?’ We’re going to be nice to you. We’re here to educate if you want to learn.”

      As a lifelong coffee-lover, it was chilly customer service experiences in coffeehouses from which Barry built Broadcast’s foundation of community and kindness.  

      “I would visit coffee shops and I didn’t know much about coffee at the time. So whenever I would ask questions about drinks, I would get met with resistance and some cold reactions,” said Barry. “It kind of made me feel really dumb. I just thought that there has to be a better way. There has to be a coffee company in Seattle that’s more customer-focused and serves really good coffee. I just couldn’t really find one.”

      So he made that coffee company himself, starting with making his own roasts and hiring great people.

      “When we hire people, we don’t look at all the skills they have at making drinks,” said Barry. “We look for the skills they have in providing good customer service. Because you can teach people how to make drinks, but you can't teach people how to be a people kind of person. That’s something that you just have.”

      IMG_6924 Of those drinks, Broadcast’s famous Sparkle Pony and Disco Pony have received national attention. This past fall, Buzzfeed’s food channel Tasty featured the Disco Pony - espresso with sparkling water, half-and-half, vanilla syrup, and lemon zest – in its feature, “Six Coffee Shops to Check Out the Next Time You’re In Seattle.”

      As his company has grown, so have Barry’s community contributions. Broadcast became a GSBA member in 2012, and Barry supports Lambda Legal, Pratt Fine Arts Center and the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic, among other nonprofits and community organizations.

      “I can go on and on about how awesome GSBA is. I’ve been introduced to so many business leaders in Seattle, and I’ve gotten coaching advice and was able to meet the bank that I bank with now, who’ve helped finance my expansion,” said Barry. “Plus (GSBA) gives me the opportunity to find out where else I could be doing good.”

      Thanks to Barry, meetings and workshops at the GSBA office always have freshly brewed Broadcast Coffee for attendees, as well as a large set of branded diner mugs.

      "Of course I want to give back to the community, but I just feel like it’s the right thing to do," said Barry. “That’s why I really got into this business. I love coffee, but I love working with people more. Coffee was the whole conduit of getting to work with everybody.”

      GSBA thanks Barry for his incredibly generous contributions to GSBA and his ongoing work across community organizations.

    • Meet Justice Mary Yu & Her Commitment to Justice For All

      by GSBA
      | Feb 21, 2019

      Growing up in Chicago’s Southside to immigrant parents, Justice Mary Yu could have never imagined her future would entail serving on the Washington State Supreme Court.

      Schenker_Yu_Mary_Justice_3final“Some kids might dream about it all their lives, but given how I grew up and where I grew up, that just wasn’t really within my vision,” said Justice Yu. “My parents were very simple, in terms of our life. They knew that education was important, but they never dreamed that their kids would go to college.”

      Justice Yu has excelled far beyond her childhood dreams, with a passion for advancing justice carrying her throughout a long and successful career in law. Justice Yu began her tenure in the Pacific Northwest as deputy chief of staff to King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng in 1999. A year later, then Governor Gary Locke appointed Justice Yu as a judge of the King County Superior Court. After 14 years of presiding over various civil, juvenile, and criminal cases, Justice Yu was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2014 by Governor Jay Inslee.

      Her appointment signaled a watershed moment as the first Latina, Asian, and LGBTQ-identified justice took her place on the court. She was then elected by the public in 2014, again in 2016, and remains just as strong of an advocate for justice as ever.

      “For me, the justice system is an avenue that ensures everyone has the opportunity to be heard – no matter how small or how large the issue is. Our system guarantees everyone due process, equal protection, and the right to be heard,” said Justice Yu. “So when I look at what system or institution in our society has the best opportunity to ensure justice for all, it’s the court system. It’s the only place that can treat individuals as individuals and (can) secure rights which belong to each one of us.”
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      When she’s not hearing cases, Justice Yu serves as a co-chair on the Supreme Court’s Minority and Justice Commission, is the chair of the Board for Judicial Administration’s Public Trust and Confidence Committee, and also teaches at Seattle University School of Law.

      However, one of Justice Yu’s most well-known roles has been as the officiant of one of the first same-sex marriages in Washington after the passage of Referendum 74 in 2012.

      “Presiding over the first same-sex marriage was probably one of the most magical moments in my whole career,” said Justice Yu. “It’s sort of a double-edged sword, because I’m not persuaded that civil rights ought to be put up for a vote. But the fact is, the people of Washington decided to recognize that we did have the right to marry the person that we loved. My staff came to me and said, ‘Look judge, this is the day that the law is effective and why should people have to wait one more minute? Let’s do the first marriage at midnight, and then we’ll finish at 12:01?’ The more that we thought about it, the more we thought, ‘Let’s just keep going. Let’s just do it at 12:00 and just keep going until the next morning,’ which is what we did. It was extraordinary to witness people coming together and finally be able to profess their love for one another, and to have the state recognize it.”

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      While marriage equality is now law across the United States, Justice Yu encourages all Washington state residents to remain aware of potential threats to civil rights.

      “I think that no matter what, we need to be vigilant,” said Justice Yu. “I think we’ve got to pay attention, especially in the areas of housing and healthcare. I worry very much that there’s still a license to discriminate against members of our community. So I would say that people need to be engaged in a civic manner, politically, and (also) to be visible at every point. I know that visibility sometimes invites bullying, and yet at the same time, what I would like everybody to do is to make sure that we’re visible and that people know that we’re present, we care, and this matters.”

      Join us tonight as we give special recognition for Justice Yu’s commitment to justice and equality during Justice For All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott: http://bit.ly/2Rzxo3i

    • Meet Stephen Black: GSBA Corporate Leader of the Year

      by GSBA
      | Feb 20, 2019

      When Stephen Black first came into his position with Washington’s largest credit union, BECU, he found himself searching for ways for the member-owned organization to build bridges across the communities of the Pacific Northwest.

      Schenker_Black_Stephen 001_final“It was uncommon at that time to get involved with LGBTQ community organizations and pride parades – no one had ever considered that,” said Stephen. “But I felt completely at ease representing our gay and lesbian members, and putting ourselves front and center at the pride parade. I can’t tell you the level of support we received (from doing that). It went all the way to the top from the board (at BECU) to people who called us up in tears, saying ‘my son saw your billboard and said that was the first time he felt represented there.’”

      Stephen, GSBA’s Corporate Leader of the Year, began his career at BECU in 2006. Ever since, the credit union’s membership growth and asset size have increased by 300 percent, with a current membership of over 1.1 million members. In his role as Vice President of Marketing, Stephen is the “head ambassador” for the BECU brand.

      “It’s my responsibility to communicate what BECU is, what we stand for, and to really educate the public as to the differences (in services) we offer and how we’re able to fulfill the needs they have,” said Stephen. “We also educate people about financial health, as well as spread our roots through the community, and find opportunities to fulfill our mission there. BECU is a member-owned not-for-profit cooperative. It’s a lot of words, but what it means is that the members of BECU are a collective of owners. They are the top consideration for every decision that we make. So when you see us out in the community getting involved, it’s really for the benefit of our members to celebrate them.”

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      As part of his position, Stephen coordinates the credit union’s June celebrations of Pride, including event sponsorships, campaigns, swag, and the company’s parade presence. This past June, BECU passed out free crimson capes emblazoned with the slogan “Free to Be” to Seattle PrideFest attendees. With BECU now having a presence at Seattle Pride for a decade, Stephen has helped steer the credit union to make a regional impact at Pride celebrations across the state including Tacoma, Burien, and Spokane.

      Stephen remembers when he first arrived in Seattle in the late 1990’s and coming across the GSBA Guide & Directory for the first time.

      “Finding that guide book when I was a young person on Capitol Hill, seeing the businesses who were either a part of or supportive of the community was a big deal,” he said. “I still have the same dentist, I still use a lot of the same businesses.”

      IMG_7489While Stephen has worked with GSBA several times over the years, he also contributes to other nonprofits in the area such as Three Dollar Bill Cinema and Human Rights Campaign Seattle, and served as a board member for Lifelong AIDS Alliance for several years. But what makes him most excited about his current community involvement projects, is seeing young members of BECU’s staff take up the “Pride parade mantle” and turn out for the credit union’s Pride events.

      “I’ve sort of been the catalyst to get that started, but I know that once I leave, I’m going to leave BECU in amazing hands to propel us into the future,” he said. “It’s super gratifying and that’s what I feel is most special about winning this award.”

      Join us in honoring Stephen during Justice For All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Thursday, Feb 21 at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott: http://bit.ly/2Rzxo3i