The GSBA Blog


  • Spotlight on Bank of America‚Äôs Ally Program

    by Bank of America
    | Nov 19, 2017

    Being a diverse and inclusive company is core to Bank of America’s ability to deliver on its purpose of growing responsibly by supporting the clients, communities and employees it serves. The company has a long standing commitment to LGBT employees and members of the community, demonstrated in a variety of meaningful ways including external partnerships, corporate values, policies, benefit programs, Employee Networks and the company’s ever expanding Ally Program.

    Bank of America’s Ally Program was introduced in 2013 by its LGBT Pride Employee Network, one of 11 Employee Networks at the company. LGBT Pride and its 14,000 members worldwide are focused on helping to attract LGBT talent to the company, the career development of LGBT teammates, supporting LGBT inclusive programs, and community support. The Ally Program encourages teammates to show support for LGBT colleagues and help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance and mutual respect.

    “Our allies have a profound impact on our employees’ abilities to bring their whole selves to work,” said Kim Vu, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Business and Community Engagement and an Ally at Bank of America. With more than 60 percent of Gen-Y LGBT college graduates going back in the closet when they start their first job, and seventy-three percent of closeted LGBT workers being more likely to leave their jobs within three years, Bank of America recognizes how disruptive this can be for employees wanting to reach their full potential. “Our allies take ownership in creating a workplace environment that honors diversity, equality and inclusion so all teammates can fully engage and its part of what helps to keep us competitive.”

    In addition to supporting a variety of national and local LGBT-focused organizations such as Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Seattle Police Department Safe Place and Seattle Pride, Bank of America’s LGBT Pride hosts Ally Week—an annual internal employee event to thank and recognize members of the Ally Program, educate employees on what it means to be an ally, and offer learning sessions on being more inclusive of LGBT teammates for all employees.

    “Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender isn’t always visible,” said Micheal Bailey, Bank of America Small Business Banker and one of the leaders of the bank’s LGBT Pride Seattle chapter. “Our LGBT employees, along with those who have other hidden diversity characteristics, may feel hidden themselves and that stress and anxiety can prevent them from achieving their life and career aspirations. We want our teammates to know that Bank of America is an inclusive workplace, where everyone’s backgrounds are valued.”

    Learn more about Bank of America's commitment to Diversity & Inclusion here


  • Staff Profile: Tristen Gardner

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | Nov 18, 2017

    GardnerTristenTristen Gardner
    , Development Officer, joined the GSBA staff in September. Tristen is the primary point of contact for all donors and reaches out to individuals who are interested in investing in the GSBA Scholarship Fund. In addition, Tristen is developing a program for engagement with past scholars.

    “I used to play with the Seattle Quake Rugby team but nowadays support them off the field. I also am a huge supporter of Planned Parenthood and believe in everyone’s right to access and receive birth control and safe sex options. Currently however, when I am not working I am pursuing my Masters in Nonprofit Leadership at Seattle University.”

    Before coming to GSBA, Tristen worked with the Environmental Protection Agency as an environmental scientist. He specialized in hazardous waste cleanups and enforcement. His favorite part of that job was working with and educating at-risk communities on the perils of environmental contaminants and assisting community members in ways that they and their families can feel safe.


  • Donor Profile: Interchange Media, The Voice of Scholarship

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | Nov 18, 2017

    Michele Gomes and Jennifer Ting of Interchange Media Art Productions have created videos for the GSBA Scholarship Fund since 2013. In 2016 they became the official Voice of Scholarship.

    We caught up with Jenny and Michele between trips to film festivals to learn a little more about their story...

    “We started our business because we wanted to focus on positive storytelling,” explains Michele. “We have aligned our business model with our personal values. Our company mission is to put the eye of the camera on life sustaining values. We also contribute our success to building trusting relationships with our clients; our willingness to put in long hours, develop new skills, and invest in new technology; and networking and word of mouth referrals.”

    Jenny and Michele share may passions including protecting the environment and LGBTQ equality.

    They have produced documentaries and promotional materials for a variety of clients on subjects ranging from Ebola, to edible urban forests, to a backwoods legend who roams the Olympic peninsula barefoot. They have also created a PSA for the Tibetan community that was used to promote transgender rights and equality within the community, with the primary purpose of the video being shown to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

    Jenny has created two documentary films about the LGBTQ community. Her first film “Not Straight Forward,” about a Seattle lesbian who went on ten dates with ten different women, documents the political climate at the time. “Straight Into Gay America” is about a Lutheran pastor who traveled from Vermont to Washington D.C. in support of LGBTQ rights.

    Their award-winning documentary “Saving Sea Turtles: Preventing Extinction,” premiered on January 17, 2017, and has since been screened at festivals and IMAX theaters across the country. The film began airing on public television stations in April 2017. “It was exciting for us to be able to witness and document how New Englanders, Southerners, and people in Mexico are working together to save a critically endangered species. The film has helped people to understand the bigger picture and overall implications of what it takes to conserve a species at risk and has inspired people to volunteer and donate to marine conservation or other wildlife organizations.”

    When asked about their recent experiences traveling around the country with their film, Michele says “...we’ve witnessed that Good Will is very much alive. A great number of people care about the environment and are supporting conservation efforts all around the U.S. Actually all around the world. We have had large turnouts at screenings whether communities live by the ocean or not, so this is an indicator that many in the US are wanting to be informed about conservation and what kind of action they can take.”

    “We are very honored that Jenny and Michele, two amazing filmmakers, have become The Voice of Scholarship,” says Mark Rosén, GSBA VP of Development & External Relations. “Their work has enabled us to share our students’ stories, and the vision for the GSBA Scholarship Fund, with thousands of people at home and around the world.”

    Learn more about Michele and Jenny here.


  • Paving the Way for Non- Binary Birth Certificates

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy & Communications Manager
    | Nov 17, 2017

    This summer, Oregon became the first state to allow a non-binary “X” gender marker on IDs and driver’s licenses, followed quickly by the District of Columbia and California. Hopefully the Evergreen State will not be far behind! The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) issued a draft rule in August to add nonbinary gender options to birth certificates. People born in Washington can already request an updated birth certificate indicating a gender different than the one originally recorded, but they are limited to the options of “male” and “female”.

    “What we are trying to do is just have birth certificates align with people’s gender identity,” said department head Christie Spice in an interview with the Tacoma News Tribune.

    GSBA joined many partner organizations to sign on to a statement authored by Gender Justice League, Legal Voice, Transgender Law Center, and other partner organization to express support for a clear, accessible process through with Washingtonians can change the gender designation on their birth certificates. There is growing recognition in other parts of the U.S. (California, DC, Oregon) and countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Nepal) that binary gender markers are insufficient as a means to accurately reflect gender and to ensure equality.

    The group is advocating for a series of principles around this rule change, including:

    • Non-discrimination:
    gender exists in many forms and no one should be preferred over the other. All people who need to change their gender designation should have access to this process with as few barriers as possible.
    • Accessibility: all people who need to change their gender designation on their birth certificate should be permitted to do so without significant expense, barriers, or arbitrary limitations.
    • Self-determination: individuals know their genders, and third parties do not need to be involved in this determination.
    • Safety and privacy: the private and identifying information provided by and for people seeking a gender marker change must be protected from public disclosure.

    As our society’s understanding of gender broadens, we hope that the categories a person could choose would recognize the spectrum of gender. The Department of Health has already expressed a desire for any alternative to “male” and “female” to be broadly and non-exclusively defined. The option least likely to exclude Washingtonians and most likely to avoid confusion would be to create an application form with a blank next to the word “Gender” where individuals can self-identify. Should the Department of Health require specific options, the group suggested that the terms “Non-Binary,” “Female,” “Male,” and “Not specified” would also be a positive step forward.

    GSBA is looking forward to advocating for laws, rules, and policies across our state that reflect the entirety of experiences from our communities.


  • Staff Profile: Meridian Mayer

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | Nov 16, 2017

    Mayer,MeridianMeridian Mayer, Sr. Membership Services Manager, joined the GSBA staff in September. Meridian works with GSBA members to ensure they make the most of their membership experience, remain a valued member of the GSBA community, and feel supported in their business efforts.

    “The consistent connecting element of my life has been remaining oriented toward equality, visibility, advocacy, and community and I am excited to contribute to this vital work as part of GSBA staff.

    When I’m not in the office, I enjoy mentoring fostered youth through the STAR Program at Amara Parenting and Adoption Services. This program is a fantastic way for me to remain connected to my adopted community and invest in youth.

    As a former Division II collegiate basketball player, I enjoy coaching and training. I’ve coached throughout Seattle and am grateful to be able to advocate for developing athletes. There’s also something to be said for a quiet, empty gym at 5am and the focus on the craft that comes with the silence.

    I’m thrilled to be part of the incredible work that GSBA does! The work is conducive to me being my best self, and I’m completely grateful for this opportunity.”

    Prior to joining GSBA, Meridian was the Sr. Manager, Membership Development &
    Premium Seating at Seattle Storm, WNBA.


  • My Member Go-To's

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | Nov 15, 2017

    Harding, Jenny"As a wedding & event planner, I have the pleasure of working with and referring a variety of highly reputable and talented GSBA member businesses to my clients. Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes: A DSquared Company and Cameron Catering are my go-to caterers, along with Lavish Roots Catering who is a newer business making big waves the past couple years. I call on Herban Feast often for their vast array of services offered at any of their gorgeous venues. Ray’s Boathouse is the perfect rehearsal dinner spot and Silver Cloud Hotel – Seattle Broadway always offers stellar service and affordable/flexible room blocks for out-of-town guests. I rely on Starline Luxury Coaches for transportation needs, Seattle Parties for top-notch DJ services, and ARIA Style for creative and classic floral décor and design. Goldmine Design and J. Rankin Jewellers provide a very unique and customized experience in choosing wedding bands. Street Treats and A La Mode Pies offer the yummiest of desserts and Fran’s Chocolates are always included in welcome gifts to out-of-town guests.

    Renaissance Seattle Hotel and Seattle Marriott Waterfront are among venues that have hosted the annual One Love Wedding Showcase and we have just chosen the King Street Ballroom & Perch as the venue for the 7th annual Showcase happening February 2018." -- Jenny Harding, Owner, New Chapter Weddings & Events

    Orion, Egan"To get the word out about events and to reach out to diverse communities within the LGBTQ sphere, I rely on the expertise and the reach of non-profits like Gay City, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, and GSBA, among others. Community partners and sponsors like Kaiser Permanente, Seattle Gay News, Seattle Gay Scene, Sound, Sound Transit, TomboyX, and Verity Credit Union remind us that we couldn’t do it by ourselves, nor would we want to." -- Egan Orion, Festival Director, Seattle PrideFest

    Williams, Craig"1st Security Bank takes good care of our financial needs, as well as providing a fantastic event space. Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes and Cupcake Royale fill that space and others with wonderful treats for our community friends. Nate Gowdy Photography helps us capture and share those memories with everyone.

    Girlie Press takes care of our printing and designing needs all year long and ZippyDogs is woof-tastic. Our out-of-town staff are treated like family at the Bacon Mansion. Thanks GSBA, for bringing us all together!" -- Craig Williams, Office Manager, Pride Foundation


  • LGBTQ-affirming Affordable Senior Housing in Capitol Hill

    by Ashwin Warrior
    | Nov 14, 2017

    Last month, Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) announced our plans to develop Seattle’s first
    LGBTQ-affirming affordable senior housing, right here in Capitol Hill. For many, the announcement of a project like this feels long overdue. The community has been
    sounding the alarm around this issue for years, and the need for affordable, LGBTQ-friendly housing is immense.

    Thanks to research from Dr. Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen with the University of Washington and Generations Aging with Pride, today we have the clearest picture yet of the unique challenges facing LGBTQ seniors. Compared to their peers, LGBTQ seniors are more likely to live in poverty, be at higher risk for illness, and have less support of children or biological family. LGBTQ seniors often find themselves isolated in traditional retirement communities, and are frequently forced back into the closet to survive.

    At a time when rising rents and rapid change threaten the neighborhood’s LGBTQ identity, projects in Capitol Hill that create a space to address these issues can’t wait.

    For Capitol Hill Housing, responding to the emergent needs of the community is an essential part of our mission. For over 40 years, we have worked to build not
    just affordable homes, but also vibrant and engaged communities. With this project, we have a unique opportunity to bring much-needed affordable housing to the neighborhood while also creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQ elders in our community to age in place.

    Our plans are to develop this new housing at the southwest corner of 14th and Union. The initial concept calls for a seven-story building with up to 66 apartments affordable to individuals 55 years or older who make less than $33,000 a year. In accordance with fair housing laws, the building will be an LGBTQ-affirming community welcoming to all seniors, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The first floor will have space for local businesses or community groups that can help further the overall community vision. As part of the project, CHH will also make upgrades to the adjacent Helen V Apartments, a building we have owned for 16 years, and which offers an affordable home for low-income seniors and individuals with permanent disabilities.

    This is the outline, but we need the community to help us fill it in. In September, we hosted a gathering at Gay City to convene the community around this issue.

    Our work to engage the community is just beginning, and our efforts to incorporate the voices, stories, hopes, and aspirations of LGBTQ elders across our city will be ongoing.

    So far, we’ve been honored to have the counsel of over a dozen leaders from community organizations and government entities to help start articulating what LGBTQ-affirming senior housing in Seattle could look like. Bailey-Boushay House, City of Seattle, Entre Hermanos, Gay City, Generations Aging with Pride, King County HIV/AIDS Planning Council, LGBTQ Allyship, Lifelong, POCAAN, Seattle Counseling Services, Seattle Foundation and Virginia Mason Hospital have all helped us look at how to leverage design, social programs and health interventions in the building to support aging LGBTQ community members. In this regard, we are not starting from scratch, and can look to successful projects like 55 Laguna in San Francisco or the Town Hall Apartments in Chicago for inspiration.

    If all goes well, we hope to be able to begin construction in late 2018 and open in 2020. In the meantime, we hope this project will be a catalyst for conversation and greater action throughout the city.

    We are mindful that this is just one small, albeit important, step in a larger movement to address the needs of LGBTQ elders in our community.

    We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks and months. To be receive email updates on the project or to get more involved, please contact Ashwin Warrior.


  • Louise Chernin Appointed Member of Durkan Transition Committee

    by Kamaria Hightower, Communications Director, Mayor-Elect Jenny A. Durkan Transition Team
    | Nov 13, 2017

    Seattle Mayor-elect Jenny A. Durkan unveiled her full transition committee, a diverse and inclusive group of more than 60 community leaders and experts. The committee includes housing and homelessness advocates, social justice activists, transportation advocates, environmentalists, labor, and business leaders.

    "Our transition team reflects the best of Seattle. To solve our affordability, housing, and homelessness crisis, we need urgent action and innovative ideas. These community leaders and policy experts from all parts of Seattle will develop key achievable policy recommendations to make differences not just in the short term, but which help build a progressive, innovative and inclusive city for the next generation," said Mayor-elect Jenny Durkan.

    The transition committee will further develop short-term policy solutions focused on housing, homelessness, affordability, and many others. The committee will coalesce with final recommendations around the following: Environment and Transportation; Education, Economic Opportunity, Jobs and Innovation; Social Justice, Equity, and Healthy Communities; Good Government; Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Reform; and Affordability, Displacement, Housing and Homelessness.

    "We are facing unprecedented challenges as a city, and we want to have a myriad of voices at the table to ensure we are making decisions that will have the most impact and provide immediate relief within our communities,” Durkan concluded. Every member themselves will be reaching out to bring an even greater range of ideas to the table.

    Last week, Durkan selected former Deputy Secretary of the US Department of HUD and King County Executive Ron Sims, Transportation Choices Coalition Executive Director, Shefali Ranganathan, and Plymouth Housing Executive Director Paul Lambros as Co-Chairs of her transition committee.

    Transition Committee Members:
    Adrian Z. Diaz, Lieutenant, Seattle Police Department
    Angela Stowell, United Way, Campaign Co-Chair and Co-Founder of Stowell Restaurants
    Anne Lee, TeamChild, Executive Director
    Asha Mohamed, Women’s Advocacy Center, Co-Founder
    Behnaz Nelson, PTE Local 17, Executive Director
    Bill Hallerman, Catholic Community Services of King County, Agency Director
    Brianna Ishihara, Community Member
    Caleb Banta-Green, University of Washington, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, Principal Research Scientist
    Charlene Strong, Washington State Human Rights Commission, Chair
    Charles Royer, Former Mayor of Seattle
    Cherry Cayabyab, Community Activist
    Colleen Echohawk, Chief Seattle Club, Executive Director
    Dave Gering, Manufacturing Industrial Council, Executive Director
    Dave Stewart, Vulcan, Executive Vice President and General Counsel
    David Della, Former Seattle City Councilmember
    David Rolf, SEIU 775, President
    Diane Sosne, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, President
    Eileen Sullivan, Amazon, Senior Manager, U.S. State Public Policy
    Eileen V. Quigley, Clean Energy Transition, Director
    Emilio Garza, The Washington Bus, Executive Director
    Ezra Teshome, Community Leader
    Gordon McHenry, Jr., Solid Ground, President & CEO
    Helen Howell, Building Changes, Executive Director
    Jan Drago, Former Seattle City Councilmember
    Jerry Everard, Capitol Hill and Belltown Business Owner
    Jordan Royer, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, VP for External Affairs, Manufacturing Industrial Council Board Member, and Washington CeaseFire Board Member
    Jorge L. Barón, NW Immigrant Rights Project, Executive Director
    Juan Cotto, El Centro de la Raza, President of the Board, and Board Member of Sound Mental Health
    Kathleen Taylor, ACLU - Washington, Executive Director
    Lauren McGowan, United Way, Sr. Director, Ending Homelessness & Poverty
    The Honorable Leonard Forsman, The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, President and Suquamish Tribe, Chair
    Leonard Smith, Teamsters 117, Director of Organizing & Strategic Campaigns
    Linda Di Lello Morton, GSBA, Board Member, and Terra Plata, Owner
    Lisa Daugaard, Public Defender Association, Director
    Louise Chernin, Greater Seattle Business Association, President & CEO
    Lt. Kenny Stuart, Seattle Fire Fighters Union, IAFF Local 27, President
    Marcos Martinez, Casa Latina, Executive Director
    Mariko Lockhart, National Coordinator, 100,000 Opportunities Initiative - Demonstration Cities, The Aspen Institute's Forum for Community Solutions
    Martha Kongsgaard, Kongsgaard-Goldman Foundation, President
    Marty Hartman, Mary’s Place, Executive Director
    Mary Jean Ryan, Community Center for Education Results, Executive Director
    Maud Daudon, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, President & CEO
    Mohamed Sheikh Hassan, East African Community Leader
    Monisha Harrell, Equal Rights Washington, Chair
    Monty Anderson, Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council, Executive Secretary
    Nicole Grant, M. L. King County Labor Council, Executive Secretary Treasurer
    Norm Rice, Former Mayor of Seattle
    Ollie Garrett, Tabor 100, President
    Patrice Thomas, Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Strategist
    Paul Lambros, Plymouth Housing, Executive Director
    Riall Johnson, De-Escalate Washington, Campaign Manager
    Ron Sims, Former King County Executive and Former Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Roxana Norouzi, OneAmerica, Deputy Director
    Ruthann Kurose, Community Leader
    Ryan Calo, University of Washington School of Law, Lane Powell and D. Wayne Gittinger Associate Professor, Shefali Ranganathan
    Transportation Choices Coalition, Executive Director
    Sheila Edwards Lange, Ph.D, Seattle Central College, President
    Stephan Blanford, Education Researcher
    Taylor Hoang, Ethnic Business Coalition, Executive Director
    Thatcher Bailey, Seattle Parks Foundation, President and CEO
    Trish Millines Dziko, TAF, Executive Director


  • EQUALUX: Meet Our Celebrity Chefs

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | Nov 09, 2017

    FIRST COURSE

    ELIZ_ SHEENASheena Eliz, Anar and Mbar
    Sheena is a Washington state native with a deep appreciation for plants and herbs and a love of nature and working with local and indigenous ingredients. She recently joined the Mamnoon restaurant group, making healthy, Middle Eastern-inspired food. “I enjoy nourishing and connecting with people through shared meals, and I hope to continuously provide intimate and memorable experiences through food and beverage.”




    SECOND COURSE
    Nakajima_ Shota

    Shota Nakajima
    , Adana
    Chef Shota began his culinary journey at the age of sixteen, working for an acclaimed sushi restaurant in his hometown of Seattle. At the age of eighteen, Nakajima moved to Osaka, Japan to learn about the art of Japanese cuisine. While there, Nakajima had the opportunity to work for Michelin Star-rated Chef Yasuhiko Sakamoto. As one would expect, this experience changed Chef Shota’s perspective on cooking. Since returning to Seattle, it has been Nakajima’s dream to convey Chef Sakamoto’s approach to hospitality and Japanese cuisine in the United States.

    THIRD COURSE / ENTRÉE

    Murphy_TamaraTamara Murphy, Terra Plata, James Beard Award 
    In 2009, the Seattle PI named Chef Tamara Murphy one of five entertainment and culture icons to watch, and cited that she “… has been a Seattle cooking star for nearly two decades, but now she's moving beyond traditional restaurants into wild and vibrant collaborations.” This much honored and always inventive James Beard award-winner, and one of Food & Wine’s picks for Ten Best New Chefs in America, is doing just that as a restaurant owner and as author of TENDER: farmers, cooks, eaters. A force in the national culinary community, regionally, she has created events such as An Incredible Feast –The Good Farmer Fund and Burning Beast. In 2012, she opened Terra Plata on Capitol Hill to widespread acclaim.

    DESSERT

    Mackie_ LeslieLeslie Mackie, Macrina Bakery & Cafe
    Leslie picked up her kitchen skills at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, but baking was her true love. She was soon creating pastry for acclaimed chefs Lydia Shire and Susan Regis at Biba in Boston. While working as a restaurant consultant in Los Angeles, she found herself more and more interested in bread, drawn by the combination of science and intuition required when baking. She was among the first wave of Americans experimenting with recipes from European master bakers and a long, slow fermentation process. Mackie re-discovered the craft's traditional, almost spiritual importance.

    Leslie was head baker at Seattle's Grand Central Bakery, then in 1993 she opened her own place, Macrina. Leslie's recipes reach well beyond Seattle, from her appearances on Julia Child's "Baking with Julia" television series to features on many Food Network shows. Leslie received a 1999 outstanding contributor award and several nominations for the Outstanding Pastry Chef Award from the James Beard Foundation. Leslie has written two cookbooks: Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook and More from Macrina. She is an active member in Les Dames d'Escoffier and currently serves on the board of the Bread Bakers Guild of America.


  • GSBA Hosts Statewide LGBTQ Advocacy Meeting

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy & Communications Manager
    | Nov 09, 2017

    Statewide LGBTQ Advocacy MeetingGSBA hosted nearly 30 LGBTQ organizations and groups from Washington State and five members of our LGBTQ legislative caucus to discuss the upcoming 2018 legislative session. With the State Senate flipping control to the Democrats, the community anticipates a much more productive session in 2018, with hopes of passing longstanding priorities such as banning conversion therapy and passing the Uniform Parentage Act to better protect and support LGBTQ families. Other topics discussed by the group included healthcare access for transgender people, supporting LGBTQ seniors and homeless youth, economic development, aligning statewide standards with the End AIDS Washington goals, and fighting back any further attempts to roll back or weaken Washington’s anti-discrimination laws.

    We are proud to have a strong network of LGBTQ advocacy organizations, individuals, and allies in all corners of the Evergreen State. Thank you to our LGBTQ legislative caucus members: Rep. Beth Doglio, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, Rep. Christine Kilduff, Sen. Marko Liias, Rep. Nicole Macri, Rep. Joan McBride, and Sen. Jamie Pedersen.


  • Small businesses speak out against anti-LGBTQ discrimination

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy & Communications Manager
    | Nov 09, 2017
     
    Small business leaders across the country understand that being open to the public means being open to everyone. We don’t shut our doors to people or discriminate against them because of what they look like, where they’re from, who they are, or who they love.
     
    But opponents of LGBTQ equality are increasingly attempting to establish a “License to Discriminate” in state laws, at the federal level, and in the courts– and they’re often pushing this discrimination in the name of supposedly protecting small business owners.
     
    This will be the case on December 5, when the U.S. Supreme Court will consider Masterpiece Cakeshop, a case of a bakery that denied service to a same-sex couple because they are gay – and in the lead-up to the case, we must come together to assert the importance of equality.
      
    Are you a small business owner who supports LGBTQ equality? If so, please add your name to the growing list of small business leaders speaking out against anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Just click here.
     
    Your business name and city will be listed on Freedom for All Americans’ website along with hundreds of other small businesses and organizations who support nondiscrimination policies and oppose efforts to undermine or exempt businesses from LGBTQ-inclusive policies. Freedom for All Americans is the national campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people nationwide, and has been a vital partner of GSBA in our work with Washington Won't Discriminate.
     
    Small business owners are the backbone of our communities – communities where all people should be respected and no one should be denied service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And now more than ever, we need small business leaders to stand up and declare their support for LGBTQ non-discrimination protections.
     
    Inclusion and diversity are critical to a thriving economy and a dynamic workforce – and efforts to undermine or exempt businesses from LGBTQ-inclusive policies are bad for business and bad for the community.
     
    That’s why small business leaders are uniting against anti-LGBTQ discrimination. If you own a small business and are ready to take a stand, add your name to support LGBTQ equality and oppose these “License to Discriminate” proposals here.
     

  • EQUALUX: Call for Volunteers

    by Travis Mears, Director of Development & Scholarship Programs
    | Nov 07, 2017

    Equalux volunteers 600x337As we approach our 21st Annual EQUALUX: The TASTE of GSBA gala, it's becoming clearer by the day that this will be our biggest event EVER.

    It's amazing to see how dedicated our community is to supporting our future leaders through the GSBA Scholarship Fund. Now, more than ever, it is critical for our community to come together to continue moving the needle on social change.

    With over 900+ attendees, EQUALUX will be an event to remember and we need YOUR help! We rely heavily on volunteers throughout the evening to help make this event a success. Due to the size of this years' gala, we need more volunteers that ever before. We are currently looking for support with the following roles:

    - Setup
    - Bid Spotters
    - Bid Assistants
    - Bid Helpers
    - Clean Up

    VOLUNTEERS: CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!

    We hope you will be able to give GSBA scholars the gift of time on November 18th! Training will be provided and you'll be able to enjoy plenty of food and snacks, as well as get to experience all the luxurious fun of attending EQUALUX, while you volunteer! We thank you in advance for your help, we can't do this without you!

    With sincerest thanks,

    Travis Mears
    Director of Development & Scholarship Programs



  • Business & Humanitarian Awards Keynote Speaker

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | Nov 06, 2017

    Jennifer Brown (print)-1Jennifer Brown
    is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker and diversity and inclusion expert. She is the founder, president and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting, LLC (JBC), and is a passionate social equality advocate committed to helping leaders foster healthier and therefore more productive workplace cultures in which every employee is Welcomed, Valued, Respected, and Heard, ultimately driving innovation and business results. Informed by more than a decade consulting to Fortune 500 companies, her #1 best-selling book entitled Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change creates a compelling case for leadership to embrace the opportunity that diversity represents, for their own growth and for the success of their organizations, while simultaneously empowering advocates at all levels to find their voice and be a driving force in creating more enlightened organizations that resonate in a fast-changing world.

    As a successful LGBT entrepreneur, Brown is a highly sought-after expert source on workplace diversity and inclusion and the future of work, speaking with authority on changing demographics, specific communities of identity including women, people of color, LGBT individuals, generations like Millennials, and the role of male leaders in change efforts.

    Brown has been named Woman of the Year by Pace University, Social Entrepreneur of the year by the NYC National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), a finalist for the Wells Fargo Business Owner of the Year Award, a finalist for Ernst & Young’s Winning Women Program, one of the Top 40 Outstanding Women by Stonewall Community Foundation, and NYC Controller Bill Thompson’s LGBT Business Owner of the Year.

    Learn more about Jennifer and JBC here.


  • EQUALUX: Meet the Musicians

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | Oct 26, 2017

    EQUALUX_ArnaldoArnaldo! Drag Chanteuse started as a soloist with the Seattle Men’s Chorus and has performed with SMC in some of the major concert halls in the U.S., Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. In 1995, Arnaldo! started a group called Cabaret Q where the “drag chanteuse” persona began. In 1999, Arnaldo! began his solo cabaret shows in Seattle’s Capitol Hill and has since performed his one person cabaret in Portland, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Puerto Vallarta, New York, and Manila. Arnaldo! has also collaborated with various directors, choreographers and songwriters in the Seattle area. In 2005, he completed the Cabaret Summer Conference Workshop at Yale University. In 2006, a group of cabaret performers spearheaded by Arnaldo! started the Pacific Northwest Cabaret Association and continues to organize “March is Cabaret Month” featuring local and visiting artists. 2007 marked Arnaldo!’s New York cabaret debut and in 2008, Arnaldo! was honored with a New York Backstage Bistro Award. 2014 was Arnaldo!'s Manila debut where he received "Most Innovative Concert Artist" in Manila by Gawad Musika. In 2016, Arnaldo! was presented by The Filipino Community of Seattle with a Lifetime Achievement Award for promoting culture and the arts.
     
    EQUALUX_Cascade“Cascade Cascade” is a new solo project by Seattle musician, Carly Calbero. Performing songs she co-wrote with her wife and former bandmate, Nika Wascher, Calbero mixes her rhythmic, percussive playing style with bold, passionate vocals. She is often compared to indie/folk musicians Tracy Chapman and Brandi Carlile.

    With a national tour and multiple West Coast tours under her belt, Carly has been featured in Seattle Metropolitan and Rolling Stone for her live performances as a busker at Pike Place Market. As “Cascade Cascade” she is currently recording her first full-length album, “The Science of Pride.”

    Christina Brewer
    Christina, a singer/songwriter and former GSBA scholar, has always been fond of the stage. At the age of 2 1/2, she held her first solo performance in front of a large crowd. From there, she flourished on the stage, becoming a vocalist and musical theater actress. Christina graduated with honors from Stadium High School and then, as a first generation college student (along with the help of GSBA and the Pride Foundation), attended and graduated with honors from both Tacoma Community College and Seattle University with a Bachelor Degree in Psychology. Eight years ago, after some time away from musical theater, Christina decided to give it another run and auditioned for a small show at local college, where she met stage manager and film writer/director, Serena Berry. They were married five years later, just before the birth of their wonderful son, Ezekiel. Christina is currently the owner of Washington Wedding and Event Design. When she’s not doing weddings and events, she’s making music. Christina is fueled by her passion for jazz, neo-soul, rhythm and blues, gospel music, and new thought spirituality. She is currently working on raising funds to help produce her first CD. Holding music and creativity to the core of her soul. Christina says, "If there is one thing that I have learned, it is the truth that when music is the language of your soul, it cannot be turned off!"
     
    Diverse Harmony
    was founded in Seattle in 2002 as the nation’s first queer-straight alliance youth chorus. Over its thirteen seasons, the chorus has grown to nearly 60 members, and have brought performances to communities throughout Seattle. The chorus has also performed tours to Denver, Chicago, Montreal, Miami, and Portland. Diverse Harmony is a member of GALA Choruses (the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses) and is considered a leading youth chorus among its membership due to our longevity and large membership.
     
    In addition to performing, Diverse Harmony serves as a safe space for singers age 13 to 22 who identify as queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and allied. Weekly rehearsals have become a home base for many youth where they can feel respected and accepted, and have fun making music together.
     
    EQUALUX_ContrerasV. Contreras is a vocalist and songwriter whose distinct alternative soul sound has landed her song “Feelin’ That” on Top 40 and Hot AC Radio while being recognized in the International Songwriting Contest. 

    She has studied opera, rock, pop and jazz with renowned vocal coaches including Lis Lewis (Rihanna, Demi Lovato) and Maestro David Kyle (Liza Minnelli, Ann and Nancy Wilson, and Lane Staley.) V has been a featured vocalist with Seattle Rock Orchestra, in McDonalds commercials, and performed the National Anthem for Seahawks', Sounders', Mariners', and Sonics' games. She just released a single entitled "Like It's Yesterday" and has a new album featuring her compositions dropping in 2018. The album is produced by Martin Feveyear (Brandi Carlile, Duff McKagan's Loaded) and features string and horn arrangements by Andrew Joslyn (Macklemore).
     
    V. has shared the stage and worked with Duff McKagan, Collective Soul, Morrissey, and has worked with such industry greats as Randy Jackson (American Idol),  Ryan Hadlock (Lumineers, Vance Joy), and Steve Dorff (Grammy-nominated songwriter)

    Victor Janusz has worked regularly at Salty’s On Alki (12 Years, Resident "Weekend Brunch Pianist") Columbia Tower Club, Canlis (seven New Year’s Eve Galas), Aqua/El Gaucho, the Fairmont, to name a few. His one-man show about a 'life at the keys' titled "HANDS SOLO: Pianoman" (directed by Lori Larsen) debuted at NYC's the Duplex and sold out its two-week engagements at ACT Theatre, Palm Springs' Arthur Newman Theatre, and at Yale University Cabaret. His VJ BAND has headlined at many venues including Highway 99 Blues Club, Tulas, the Royal Room, Tulalip Casino, Alki Ballroom (Salty’s), and Boeing Museum of Flight. Victor has been a Special Guest alongside such musical acts as Harry Shearer & Judith Owen Band, Julia Fordham, Duffy Bishop Band at Teatro Zinzanni, Billy Joe Huels, and El Vez.
     
    TEQUALUX_Mongehere are moments in a performance where an artist gets lost. Where they just let go, allowing themselves to be vulnerable and to feel across the depth and breadth of their being. It is in that state where Whitney Mongé lives and creates. Whitney learned to capture the power of authenticity while honing her skills as a street performer. With or without elevation of a stage, each part of her performance, from the passion of her powerful, smoky voice to the intensity of a whispered lyric, draws listeners into an embrace within each truthful moment of song. Whitney was raised with rhythm and blues in her blood, but while growing up in the Pacific Northwest, her music was heavily influenced by the rock scene of the '90s coining her own genre, Alternative Soul. Having been featured in the award winning Find Your Way: a Busker’s Documentary (2014), and releasing a pair of critically acclaimed albums, Whitney has poured herself into a new project. Her upcoming album, "Stone," captures her evolution as a performer and songwriter in a powerful way, laying bare the wonderment and restlessness of a gifted artist’s search for their place, their voice and for a sense of belonging.


  • GSBA opposes head tax

    by Louise Chernin, GSBA President & CEO
    | Oct 19, 2017

    This letter was sent to the Seattle City Council responding to the proposal to add a head tax on Seattle jobs.


    Honorable members of the Seattle City Council,

    Late last week several Seattle City Councilmembers proposed a revival of the head tax. GSBA has a long and proud history of supporting truly progressive taxation as well as the idea that everyone needs to contribute their fair share so that our society can pay for our priorities.

    Assertions that businesses have both caused all the problems around Seattle’s growth as well as that they have not contributed financially to the City’s budget are patently untrue. This is at least the fifth proposal to directly increase taxes on businesses just in the last year, after: 1) the increase in business license fees to fund additional SPD officers, 2) another increase of the B&O tax, 3) the Seattle soda tax, and 4) the Seattle income tax (which actually does tax small businesses). Moreover, Seattle’s many municipal labor standards have caused cumulative increases in cost of doing business for Seattle businesses of all sizes. Following our membership, GSBA has supported several of these as common-sense proposals for all Seattleites and opposed others as unnecessary or poorly drafted attacks on small businesses. This cumulative effect, made even worse by fast-rising commercial rents, is wearing heavily on our small business community. Further, the growth of businesses both directly and indirectly contributes to raising the amounts collected by the City.

    Additionally, while other cities and states are forward thinking and doing their best to encourage and incentivize additional hiring, the City of Seattle is taking a backwards approach by penalizing businesses every time a business hires an additional employee. We want the City to encourage businesses of all sizes to hire people, not create a disincentive. While we appreciate the attempt to exempt small businesses from this proposal, the threshold does not show a proper understanding of the workings of many small businesses in Seattle. Gross revenues are not reflective of profit margins and, thus, actual wealth. According to the initial numbers proposed by Councilmembers O’Brien and Harris-Talley, to raise $24 million/year at an estimated rate of $100/year (Publicola) would mean that about 240,000 employees jobs would be taxed – nearly half of all jobs in Seattle (DSA). Like the income tax this summer, what is being pushed as a tax on only the wealthiest is in fact much broader than the Council seems to want to admit. After years of attempts to institute a universal tax on jobs in Seattle, as well as repeated claims that business is responsible for all that ails Seattle, our members also have little to no faith that the City Council will keep the initial threshold at $5 million in gross revenue once a head tax is implemented.

    GSBA and its members are committed to be a constructive and positive partner for the future of our City. We want to find ways to pay for our priorities. However, we are disappointed that the City Council is repeatedly determined to rush through attacks on small business that contribute to a fast-rising cost of doing business in Seattle. We hope, as several City Councilmembers stated during their committee hearings, that the City Council will honestly engage in good-faith discussions with the entirety of the business community about what this proposal means.

    Sincerely,

    Louise Chernin, GSBA President & CEO


  • Become GSBA Scholarship Volunteer!

    by Travis Mears, Director of Development & Scholarship Programs
    | Oct 18, 2017

    scholarship interview day 2017It is that time of year again! Students are busily applying for scholarships and we are preparing for interviews. Being a scholarship interviewer is a powerful experience, and we hope that you will be able to join us this year as we award over $350,000 to our future LGBTQ and allied leaders.

    This year, we are expecting to utilize approximately 100 volunteers to support the interview and selection process for some of tomorrow's leaders. We will also need Team Facilitators, who guide the interview teams through the selection-making process. If you are interested in interviewing or facilitating this year, please complete the 2018 GSBA Scholarship Volunteer Information Form and be sure to save the dates below on your calendar.

    The required dates to volunteer as an Interviewer for the 2018 scholarship interview cycle are:

    Tuesday, January 30, 2018, 5:30 PM-7:30 PM
    Facilitator Orientation (Facilitators Only)

    Thursday, February 1, 2018, 5:30 PM-8:00 PM
    Interviewer Orientation

    Saturday, March 3, 2018, 9:00 AM-1:00 PM
    Selection Day

    Saturday, April 7, 2018, 9:00 AM-4:00 PM
    Interview Day

    Although not required, please save the date for The GSBA Scholars Dinner at the Waterfront Marriott on Friday, May 18, 2018 at 5:30 PM.

    Since the application has not yet closed, it is hard to know just how many interviewers we will need. You will receive confirmation regarding your participation during the week of January 15th. Due to a very high volume of interested volunteers, all reviewers, interviewers, and selection team members will be chosen at the discretion of the GSBA Staff.

    Here's to another rewarding scholarship cycle!


  • More than $700K in scholarships for LGBTQ students

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | Oct 13, 2017

    2017-GSBA-Scholars_600x337_blog-thumbnailThe GSBA Scholarship Fund and Pride Foundation announce that their scholarship application opened, October 11, on National Coming Out Day.

    Both organizations provide scholarships for LGBTQ and ally students of any age from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Washington. This support is for students pursuing any kind of post-secondary education -- including community college, public or private colleges and universities, trade schools and apprenticeships, or certificate programs.

    The GSBA Scholarship Fund awards educational scholarships to students who exhibit leadership potential, demonstrate strong academic abilities, and are actively involved in school and community organizations. GSBA Scholars represent a diverse group of students who have dreams of making our community and the world a better place, and each of them possesses the skills, talents, and dedication to make those dreams a reality.

    There are over fifty different types of scholarships, but  only one web-based application for students to complete here.

    Deadline for completion is Friday, January 12, 2018 at 5:00pm PST.


  • Face to Face with Port Commission Candidates

    by Anthony Derrick, Public Policy Task Force member
    | Oct 09, 2017

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    [Part I of the series looking at Seattle City Council candidates can be found here]

    For the second race of the morning, candidates for Port Commissioner John Creighton and Ryan Calkins had a frank conversation with GSBA members about the challenges facing the port. As before, candidates started by laying out their previous support of the LGBTQ community [video]. During Creighton’s previous term as a commissioner, the Port began tracking LGBT business relationships for the first time, and extended employee health plans to cover domestic partnerships. Calkins, on the other hand, spoke about his personal relationships with LGBTQ leaders like Zach Silk and Brady Walkinshaw.

    The first question posed to them was by Elise: As the most important economic engine in our region, what is the biggest challenge facing the port, and what will we do about it [video]? Creighton argued that the biggest issue is the growth of the airport. As a major transportation hub and economic player, an expanding airport is a good sign for the region, but how does it remain a good neighbor to the community while growing within its space? For Calkins, the biggest issue facing the port is the consolidation of major shipping lines and production. Seattle is facing pressure from many other seaports along the west coast, and we need to make sure that the port’s 60,000+ jobs are preserved.

    The next two questions from Steven and Gunnar focused on inclusion at the port, both for POC and LGBTQ people [video]. Addressing what the port is doing now and could do better, Creighton emphasized existing initiatives present in the port like hiring goals, creating pipelines for youth and people of color, and pushing the port to do more business with LGBTQ organizations and small businesses.

    Calkins argued that the port needs a more welcoming public face, including advertising the port as a safe harbor for people who don’t “fit the mold.” As examples, he suggested making the port a sanctuary for immigrants and refugees, and making sure that there are gender-neutral bathrooms at the ports. In order to create a more inclusive environment, he said, it is important to recognize the systemic obstacles POC and LGBTQ people face.

    Gladys Gillis and Roger Nyhus asked about the Port's history with tracking LGBTQ and minority small business contracts and the resulting data collected [video]. Commissioner Creighton said that though the Port of Seattle has been tracking LGBTQ inclusion since about 2013, that the data shows that they can do better. He asserted that the Port is working on outreach, in part with GSBA, to better reach the small business community. He stated that 90% of businesses awarded contracts in the recent round of bids at Sea-Tac went to small businesses and that I-200 would not be a limitation for doing even more work with small minority businesses. Calkins advocated for a more streamlined process to lower barriers to entry for small businesses. He also wants to push for greater transparency at the Port of Seattle.


     

  • Face to Face with City Council Candidates

    by Anthony Derrick, Public Policy Task Force member
    | Oct 09, 2017
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    [Part II of this series looking at Port of Seattle candidates can be found here]

    This past Friday, several candidates for public office in Seattle came face to face with GSBA members to discuss their positions and policies. Facilitated by Roger Nyhus, panelists Steven Sawyer (POCAAN), Gladys Gillis (Starline Luxury Coaches), Beto Yarce (Ventures), Gunner Scott (Pride Foundation), and Elise Lindborg (ZippyDogs) led the conversation with insightful questions about the candidates’ commitment to equality, opportunity and LGBT rights in Seattle.

    Candidates for Seattle City Council positions 8 and 9 (Lorena González was unable to attend at the last minute) led off the morning with a question that would be asked of all candidates: What have you done to personally advance LGBT equality throughout your life? [Video] John Grant touted his time working on the Decline to sign campaign, and was sure to reinforce the importance of elected officials standing with the trans community. Teresa Mosqueda’s work in building broad coalitions around worker’s rights and healthcare – both of which have a disproportionate impact on LGBTQ people. For her part, Murakami said she has been “personally supportive of gay rights,” and served on the South Seattle Crime Prevention Unit, where she worked on the Danny Vega case and advocated for recognizing it as a bias crime.

    The first question from the panelists came from Steven Sawyer.  Seattle has reached a critical benchmark with the 90-90-90 strategy - that 90% of those living with HIV are diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed are on antiretrovirals, and 90% of those on antiretrovirals will have viral suppression. While we have achieved that benchmark, the 10% remaining are predominantly men of color, particularly African American men. The CDC estimates that fully half of African American gay men and a quarter of Latino gay men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes. Sawyer as what each of the candidates would do as a Councilmember to best address this epidemic. [Video]

    Grant’s answer focused on collaboration – engaging and partnering with KCPH and other organizations that have trusted and tested relationships in this community, and supporting them with the funding and outreach they would need. Mosqueda brought up her background in public health, and her work creating a safety net in the Healthy Seattle Plan. Mosqueda also outlined her intention to work with schools to expand preventative education and broaden in-school health programs. Murakami’s answer focused on the necessary change in dynamic within POC communities – in particular calling out black churches for not accepting gay men in their congregations. In addition to expanding health services, she also argued that changing the culture would be necessary because people who feel shame about their condition are less likely to seek treatment.

    Next, Gladys Gillis asked about dealing with the growing disenfranchisement of business owners in Seattle, who increasingly don’t feel like they have a seat at the table. [Video]

    All three candidates mentioned the need for relieving the burdens on small businesses, including rent stabilization for commercial properties, and encouraging more communication between small businesses and the city. Grant expressed the need to enable small businesses to remain in their neighborhoods and continue serving as cultural anchors. He also suggested a portable benefit system for small business employees that the city would manage. Mosqueda highlighted her existing commitment to small businesses as an advocate for minimum wage and sick leave laws, but made sure to mention that those battles were won through collaboration with small businesses. She proposed giving small businesses additional capital to get through the first few years, and suggested we should review the way the city awards small business licenses. Murakami’s focus was on filling empty commercial spaces by pressuring landlords to lower rents to more sustainable levels. She also encouraged a focus on industrial jobs and outreach into South Seattle business districts.

    Beto Yarce posed a more existential question for the candidates: at what point does a small business become a big business, and therefore a “bad guy?” [Video]

    Grant one again reinforced the importance of small businesses as neighborhood anchors and destinations, but he struggled to answer the question directly. Without giving specifics, Grant nevertheless maintained that there is a tipping point between big and small business, and that if a business is large enough that they put a strain on Seattle’s infrastructure, it may be time to look at charging them higher B&O taxes.

    Seizing on her opponent’s lack of specifics, Mosqueda took the opportunity to call out Grant’s lack of a concrete plan. She emphasized that big and small businesses in Seattle must work together to create a city that works for everyone, and to do so we need to hold larger businesses accountable to paying their fair share.

    The only one to directly answer the question with a number, Murakami said that business with more than 500 employees are considered big business. Even still, she noted that at about 150 employees, there is a shift - but that it doesn’t necessarily make them the bad guy. “It’s more about the flow of money,” she said. Is it staying at the top, or does it go back into the business to pay for employee growth and opportunity?

    The last question from Gunner Scott posed to the city council candidates asked about the formation of paid positions in city hall to specifically address the concerns of LGBTQ people in Seattle. [Video]

    Both Murakami and Mosqueda answered yes unequivocally, while Grant pivoted to housing. He did say he would be a strong proponent of creating an office for LGBTQ affairs, but was more focused on enforcing existing laws and working with offices already in place. While Mosqueda did say that she supports an office of LGBTQ affairs, we need to make sure that we’re working within existing offices to be responsive to the community and make sure LGBTQ people are represented in all parts of government. Murakami brought up a friend of hers who is a senior living with HIV, and insisted that the city’s office of Civil Rights needs to listen to people like him to make sure that they are following through on issues that are impacting these communities.

     


  • Featured Scholar: Maksym Dedushko

    by Maksym Dedushko, 2016 RHR Foundation Scholar, 2014 Future Ribbons Scholar, 2012 Scholar
    | Sep 28, 2017

    maksym dedushko 300width scholarI WAS BORN AND RAISED IN CHERNIHIV, a northern city in Ukraine. Growing up poor, my parents place the utmost importance on studying hard as they see getting an education as the only way out of the situation in which they are living – getting by without enough money for basic necessities for a family of four. Studying did pay off as I was able to enter (and win) a competition for a U.S.-sponsored cultural exchange program that provides Ukrainian students an opportunity to study in a U.S. high school and to live with an American host family for one academic year. While attending high school in the U.S., I realized that I wanted to continue to pursue my education here. I was also fearful of going back to Ukraine, where mandatory conscription was awaiting me in a country that is hostile to LGBTQ people. With the help of my family, my host family and friends, a pro bono attorney, and organizations like Seattle Education Access and GSBA, I was able to stay and to begin the long immigration process while pursuing my education here.

    Since my arrival in this country, I graduated from Garfield High School, got an Associate of Arts degree from Seattle Central College, and a Bachelors of Science in Molecular Biology and Chemistry with Honors and a Master of Science in Chemistry from the University of Washington.

    Right now I am entering my fourth (out of five) year of the Ph.D. program in Biological and Inorganic Chemistry at U.W.

    I made my second trip to Ukraine on July 5th of this year, a few days after I passed my Ph.D. candidacy examination. I made this trip as a naturalized U.S. citizen and without fear of being conscripted into military. I wanted to see my family and my homeland, especially after the huge changes that Ukraine has undergone from the pro-Western Maidan Revolution of 2014 to the annexation of Crimea and the Russia-backed military conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

    I am still not out to my family back in Ukraine because of society’s intolerant views of LGBTQ people. So when I was back in Ukraine I had to turn my “straight face” back on. I find it regrettable that I cannot share a big part of my life experience in Seattle, like who I date, what kinds of volunteering I do or the community involvement that my close friends and I are engaged in to make life for LGBTQ people in Seattle better and more prosperous. My parents know that GSBA awarded me with scholarships that have allowed me to graduate from a prestigious U.S. school (UW) and are amazed and grateful for the organization that has helped me turn my life around, but they still don’t know that part of the GSBA mission is to empower local LGBTQ youth to be successful leaders. I still sometimes feel torn between two realities of my life in that sense.

    Going back to Ukraine made me more aware of the fortune and privilege I’ve been given by the Seattle LGBTQ community in contrast to gay people in Ukraine that, for the most part, hide their identity and significant others from society, friends, and family. It’s always an overwhelming experience of enormous gratitude and enormous sadness. I do hope that Ukraine will turn a tide towards a more accepting society which will respect and celebrate everyone’s differences and work towards uplifting each other.
    Now that I am back in Seattle, I am focused on finishing my Doctorate in the next two years. I’m already thinking about my long term plans, as I will be trying to make connections to find a full time position as a researcher in Seattle. I want to spend my life in Seattle, which I consider to be my home, and finding a fulfilling career in Seattle is my dream and the next big step.