The GSBA Blog

  • GSBA Scholar Lio O'Cain on Honoring Black Culture & Histories

    by GSBA Staff
    | Feb 19, 2020

    In recognizing Black History Month, GSBA is working to amplify Black voices and histories by celebrating the undeniable impact Black LGBTQ activists have had on the LGBTQ civil rights movement, shed light on the specific intersection of Black and LGBTQ identities, and continue the crucial conversation about racial injustice in Washington State. As a part of this work, several GSBA Scholars who identify as Black and LGBTQ have generously shared their stories, thoughts about intersectionality, what Black History means to them, and about what actions make for a strong allyship. 

    20190201_AmberZbitnoffPhotography_TotemStar_LIO12_0029_hiresFirst-Year GSBA Scholar Lio O'Cain (she/her) is an 18-year-old scholar born in Renton, Washington. She attends college in Mount Vernon, Iowa at Cornell College – where she is studying Child Development, Psychology, and Film. Her goal is to depict psychological, racial, sexual differences in the film industry with mainstream films that are entertaining, realistic, attainable, inclusive and overall mind-blowing.

    GSBA: What is your favorite thing about being Black and LGBTQ?

    Lio: My favorite thing about being black and LGBTQ is knowing I can be any number of things, and none of it has to define me negatively. I always have the chance to decide how being black will coach my interactions with the world and I love learning how being LGBTQ doesn't automatically mean I have it all right because I'm out about it. My favorite thing is knowing it is all still a journey, and I'm having fun. 

    Lio O'Cain 1

    GSBA: In what ways would you like to see people honor Black lives, histories, and experiences throughout the year, and not just in February?  

    Lio: It can start with simply showing up to support POC events and helping to gather other POC's. One may know to get them involved in beautiful things; we hold quite an amount of control over situations that we encounter, and it’s up to us where we take the information we learn, and what we do with it. I'd love if people supported more black stories, black films, read from more and more POC novelists, poets, and writers - and then turned people on to those same artists. Honoring black culture - I believe - takes less energy than ignoring it, because we are so here.

    GSBA: As an LGBTQ+ person of color, what are some of the behaviors and principles of a good ally which you appreciate and would like to see people do more of?

    I appreciate when allies are not looking to be praised for simply being generous, genuine, and honest human beings. Of course, it is amazing when allies are stepping out of their comfort zone to be a version of themselves that some others may not be willing to put in the work to become. There is a limit, however, to the amount of recognition that is deserved for doing what an ally should do. A good behavior I expect of an ally: always using their platform to let LGBTQ+ POC's speak for themselves, do not use their platform to speak for LGBTQ+ POC's.

    GSBA: As a Black LGBTQ+ person, what does Pride embody for you? What does this look like in your daily life?

    Pride looks a lot like fashion for me; being able to develop my style and the self I want to be on the inside through how I look and feel on the outside-- that includes all the questionable days where I don't know who I want to be, because it gives me a chance to experiment and learn who I don't want to be. Pride looks like taking a chance, being the one to take the leap, being the one to answer the questions rarely asked and letting risk be the base of all passions. 

    Thank you, Lio, for taking the time to share your perspective with us.

    February is Black History Month, and we encourage all GSBA Members to celebrate Black lives, culture, and history not only this month - but all year long. You can dine and shop intentionally by supporting the Black-owned small businesses in our community. Check out this guide by GSBA Member Intentionalist of Black-owned businesses throughout the Puget Sound, including several GSBA Members.
    GSBA Members can also take action by investing in regional organizations who work to address institutionalized racism, empower black communities, and ensure that Black histories are never forgotten. Please consider investing in GSBA community partner organizations POCAANUrban League of Metropolitan SeattleTrans Women of Color Solidarity Network, and NW African American Museum.

    The GSBA Scholarship Fund is one of the oldest and most active LGBTQ scholarship programs in the country. The scholarship program works to empower students with marginalized intersectional identities within the LGBTQ+ community and provides not only financial support for LGBTQ+ students, but a network of support, skills-based workshops, and a yearly three-day leadership immersion camp. In 2019, $500,000 was invested in 50 LGBTQ+ and allied students, 46% of whom identify as trans and/or gender diverse, and 72% who identify as students of color. This year, we are proud to invest $600,000 in 60 scholars for the GSBA Scholarship Fund's 30th year. Meet your scholars and hear their stories during the 2020 Scholars Dinner on Friday, May 15. If you are unable to join us, please consider investing in our future leaders.
  • New Seattle Labor Ordinances Take Effect: Is Your Business Up-to-Date?

    by Eli Coffin
    | Jan 07, 2020

    2020 is here - a brand new decade, ushering in opportunity for growth and change. For businesses in Seattle, this new year comes with more major changes within municipal code around labor standards. These impact all employers with one or more employee within the city of Seattle, regardless of employees’ immigration status or location of their employer.

    Seattle workers have protections around minimum wage, paid sick and safe time, fair chance employment, wage theft, and new in 2020 - commuter benefits. To get a complete training on all standards and how to implement them correctly, please feel free to reach out to to schedule an individual consult. Some major changes for all employers to look out include the following:

    • New 2020 Workplace Posters are coming! Keep an eye out in your mailbox and make sure you have an 11x17" employment poster in English and any other primary languages of employees posted in a conspicuous location. If you haven’t received your 2020 poster, let us know and we can get you what you need.
    • Small Employer minimum wage is increasing to $15.75 an hour. If you provide at least $2.25/hour towards medical benefits and/or tips, you can pay $13.50/hour. This wage will continue to increase by a cost of living every year, implemented on the first of January each year.
    • Finally, Commuter Benefits! If you have 20 or more employees, you may allow employees to make a pre-tax deduction up to the full amount allowed by federal law or subsidize all or part of the purchase price of a transit pass.
      • The Office of Labor Standards are still working on the rules and enforcement process for this ordinance. Exact details around logistics, minimum requirements, and compliance have yet to be released. However, at GSBA we know many of our members use trusted third party system, like Alice, to operate and track these kinds of pre-tax deductions. As the city rolls out more information around compliance we will keep you updated.

    As we turn our calendars, button the hatches, and prep for a new year, hopefully this can give you a piece of mind you are still on track. Concerned you aren’t in compliance or need another set of eyes? Please feel free to reach out to Eli Coffin at and they are happy to answer any other questions regarding the Seattle labor requirements.  

  • Plan Your 2020 Events with GSBA Member Businesses

    by GSBA Staff
    | Dec 23, 2019

    Event Food
    2020 is just days away, and it is never too early to begin planning your 2020 events calendar. Organizing an event or a meeting for ten people requires some planning. Planning an event for 100 people takes some time and logistics to work it all out. Planning a conference for 1,000 people means you’ll need a lot of help. That’s where GSBA comes in. If you’ve ever been to a GSBA event like one of our networking mixers, a luncheon, or one of our major GSBA galas, you’ve probably wondered, ‘how do they do it?’ The answer is simple – we have a lot of help from GSBA professional member businesses to pull it off.

    Meetings, parties, conferences, and events big and small – GSBA has business members to help you with that. Locations, food, coffee, drink, AV, video production, photographers, printers, and entertainment – there’s someone in the GSBA Guide & Directory to help you out. If event planning is not your forte, that’s okay! GSBA has a slew of event and planning partners to help see you through. Bringing people together is what GSBA does. So let your fellow GSBA member businesses lend a hand as you plan your next meeting, event, or conference.


    A la Mode Pies

    Colombian Delight Bakery LLP

    Cupcake Royale & Vérité Coffee

    Daily Dozen Doughnut

    Nuflours Bakery

    Sea Wolf Bakers

    Street Treats

    Top Pot Doughnuts and Coffee

    Buses, Charter & Rental

    Starline Luxury Coaches


    Cameron Catering

    Catering Company, The

    Chef Dane Catering

    City Catering Company

    Herban Feast Catering

    Lisa Dupar Catering

    Lola's LLC

    Madres Kitchen

    Marination Catering

    Shooby Doo Catering

    Thyme Well Spent Catering

    Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering and Events, A Dsquared Company


    Broadcast Coffee Roasters

    Cherry Street Coffee House

    Fuel Coffee

    Kaladi Brothers Coffee

    Landscapes Cafe

    Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room

    Disc Jockeys

    DJ Mixx America

    Lighting the Sound Productions

    Seattle Parties

    Entertainment & Musicians

    321 FOTO | Photo Booths

    A Sensible Theatre Co.

    Animate Objects Productions

    Professional Entertainment's

    Teatro ZinZanni

    V J Music

    Event Planning/ Facilities / Meetings / Conferences

    America's Test Kitchen

    Animate Objects Productions

    Atlas Workbase

    Cascadia Emergency Management LLC

    Chaleur Creative

    Dystopian State Brewing Co

    Foundry by Herban Feast, The

    Ideas by CeCe LLC

    Kerloo Cellars

    Kiana Lodge

    Lounge by AT&T, The

    Lucky Strike Entertainment

    Manor House at Pleasant Beach Village

    Marion Oliver McCaw Hall at Seattle Center

    New Chapter Weddings & Events, LLC

    Novelty Hill-Januik Winery

    Portage Bay Café

    Sodo Park by Herban Feast

    Space Needle

    Synchronicity Events, LLC

    Task Ernie

    Washington State Convention Center

    White Horse Golf Club

    Woodland Park Zoo


    World Trade Center



    Clary Sage Studio

    Sal Floral Design

    Smashing Petals


    DIWAS Photography

    Dylan M. Austin Photography photography

    Malayka Gormally Photography and Portrait Painting

    Malcolm Smith Photography

    Mary Grace McKernan Photography

    Meryl Schenker Photography

    Naomi Ishisaka Photography and Design

    Nate Gowdy Photography

    Youth in Focus


    Consolidated Press LLC

    Copiers Northwest Inc

    Girlie Press, Inc

    PIP Marketing, Signs, Print

    Promotional Products



    Bodemer's Ballograf Seattle

    Choke Print Shop

    CoPilot Cat

    Northwest Logo Products





    Choke Print Shop


    Butler Seattle - Valet | Transportation | Tours

    InquisTours and the NW Wine & Rail Tours




    Sound Transit

    Starline Luxury Coaches

    Video Production

    BrandQuery LLC

    Elliat Creative

    InterChange Media Art Productions LLC

    Playfish Media

    ProMotion Arts


  • Look Your Best in 2020 with GSBA Creative Members

    by Eric Moss
    | Dec 16, 2019
    Marketing Photo Shoot
    With 2020 just days away, many businesses are thinking about what the new decade will bring. A new year brings new trends and new opportunities to refresh your brand, attract new customers, and update collateral to appeal to modern audiences. Whether you brand look, collateral, advertising, and swag feel is tried-and-true, or you need a complete refresh, GSBA has members across the board to help. Need a new head shot or marketing photos? Contract with one of GSBA’s phenomenal member photographers. Need to create some buzz about your business? Hire one of GSBA’s marvelous member marketers, or place an ad with GSBA, or one of our amazing member advertisers. Updating collateral? No problem! GSBA member writers, graphic designers, and printers are here to help. For videos, promotional products, and more, turn to the GSBA Guide & Directory for all of your creative needs.




    Brkthru Digital

    Encore Media Group

    Humming Inc

    Liot Design

    Advertising Agency

    BrandQuery LLC


    Headquarters Creative

    Information Design / Data Visualization

    data2insight LLC

    Vizzy Solutions + The Dirty Data Girl

    Marketing Services

    2A Consulting

    Blue Guardrail Marketing Agency

    Headquarters Creative

    Larson Marketing & Communications LLC

    Northwest Polite Society

    Porter Novelli

    RCB Communications

    Rule Seven

    Shingletown Marketing Company

    Social Driver

    Wheelhouse Digital Marketing Group



    DIWAS Photography

    Dylan M. Austin Photography photography

    Malayka Gormally Photography and Portrait Painting

    Malcolm Smith Photography

    Mary Grace McKernan Photography

    Meryl Schenker Photography

    Naomi Ishisaka Photography and Design

    Nate Gowdy Photography

    Youth in Focus


    Consolidated Press LLC

    Copiers Northwest Inc

    Girlie Press, Inc

    PIP Marketing, Signs, Print

    Promotional Products



    Bodemer's Ballograf Seattle

    Choke Print Shop

    CoPilot Cat

    Northwest Logo Products


    Public Relations / Public Affairs

    Action Mary


    Nyhus Communications LLC

    Porter Novelli

    RCB Communications

    Publications & Publishers

    GSBA Guide & Directory

    The Perspective - GSBA's Quarterly Digital Magazine

    Chinook Book

    Encore Media Group

    International Examiner

    Pacific Northwest Weddings

    Publisher, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

    Puget Sound Business Journal

    Seattle Gay News

    Seattle Lesbian, The

    Seattle Met

    Publications – Online

    GSBA Guide & Directory

    The Perspective - GSBA's Quarterly Digital Magazine

    Grist Magazine Inc

    Seattle Gay Scene



    Social Media & Online Marketing Services

    Deph Digital Media

    Social Stage, The

    Video Production

    BrandQuery LLC

    Elliat Creative

    InterChange Media Art Productions LLC

    Playfish Media

    ProMotion Arts


    Web Marketing

    GSBA Web Marketing

    Wheelhouse Digital Marketing Group

    Web Site Design

    Dancing Goat Web Design

    Logical Alternative

    Writing & Editing

    Bits & Pages

  • The Role of Businesses in the 2020 Census

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy & Government Affairs Director
    | Nov 26, 2019

    Why Should Businesses Care?

    In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will be encouraging residents to complete an online version of the Census. The decennial Census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution to accurately count the number of people living in the country in order to fairly distribute public resources (i.e. tax funds) and to redraw electoral districts of equivalent sizes at all scales of government. The law requires that everyone living in the U.S. fill out the Census. Being counted is critical – it shows the proper size of communities across the country, and helps public agencies and advocates better support their constituents and clients.

    The Census also impacts businesses across the county. Companies rely on the Census for demographic information about customers, their workforce, and the economic landscape. Public funding such as transportation, housing, education, workforce development, and other efforts that contribute to a thriving economy rely on a complete count.

    Reaching all segments of the population, especially hard-to-count groups like those with unreliable internet access,

    How Can a Small Business Be Involved?

    • Encourage employees, customers, and the general public to fill out the Census online
    • Put up signs in your business and post on your social media accounts
    • Connect with National, State, and Local partners like the Washington State Complete Count Committee, the Seattle Complete County Committee, and the Washington LGBTQ Census Coalition.
    • Become a U.S. Census Bureau Partner to get free support and materials


    ReadyNation’s Business for the 2020 Census toolkit has many of these resources and more.

    If you have any questions about how your business can help support a complete and accurate 2020 Census, please contact GSBA or ReadyNation for more details.

  • Row House Announces Grand Opening Celebration

    by GSBA Staff
    | Nov 26, 2019

    Row House West Seattle Logo

     Join GSBA in congratulating new member business Row House West Seattle on their Grand Opening, December 7, 2019 in West Seattle. Join the Row House team from 1:00 - 4:00 PM for the festivities, or take a free community class the same day at 8:00 AM OR 2:00 PM. Other activities will include a Roll and Recover Workshop with Tangelo Chiropractic & Functional Rehabilitation, raffles, samples, wine tasting with Welcome Road, and more!

    For owners Melinda Partin and Kelly McLain, fitness should be fun, effective, and accessible. Their motto for the newly opened Row House on Alaska Junction in Seattle is, “We are humble, we are kind, we leave no rower behind.”

    Row House West Seattle is a boutique fitness studio that offers 45-minute low impact, full-body, cardio workouts suitable for any age or fitness level. One of the reasons Melinda and Kelly decided to open Row House was because of the accessibility (and fun) of the rowing modality. Classes promote a team atmosphere - members can see their own efforts on machine displays -  but the main displays show the total class distance and average split time (how fast the “boat” is going). The entire class is encouraged to work together to lower split times and increase the distance. In the Row House, every person contributes to the overall success of the team.

    Row House West Seattle StaffPrior to opening Row House together, Melinda had previously owned her own marketing business, and recently was Senior Director of Marketing and Digital at UW Medicine. She wanted to get out from behind a desk and bring something to the community that promoted health and wellness. Kelly works in human resources at Amazon and between the two of them, they decided this was a business they could enjoy doing together.

    Even before opening their doors, Melinda and Kelly knew they wanted to give back to community, and one way they saw they could do that was by joining GSBA. Melinda explains, “We believe in GSBA’s mission of promoting equality and diversity in the workplace, and investing in the next generation of leaders. We are thankful to have GSBA and are proud to be members of such an amazing organization bringing so much positive impact for LGTBQ and allied businesses to our state and nation.”

    Row House You Are Capable Of Amazing Things - Melinda PartinRow House has built equality into their business by keeping diversity and accessibility in mind. Melinda describes their incorporation of values, “Row House provides an opportunity for all ages, genders, and fitness levels to come together in a community-minded environment and work together to achieve personal fitness goals. Being able to offer a workout that can challenge and improve the health of the fittest of the fit, to the person coming back from injury, to health concerns, or the couch – regardless of age, provides a level of equality often overlooked in the fitness industry. Every 'body' is celebrated here."

    Check out their website at www.therowhouse/location/west-seattle, call 206-397-8828, or email to sign up for a free trial class. GSBA members can join as an Unlimited Member or 8x Monthly Member and receive a 20% discount.

  • Shop Small, Shop the Hill this Holiday Season

    by Christina Arrington, Business Development Manager - Capitol Hill Specialist
    | Nov 26, 2019

    Small businesses are the backbone of local economies and the bedrock of strong communities. Investing locally is one of the best ways to strengthen a neighborhood, and holiday shopping is no different. Join us on November 30th to celebrate Small Business Saturday as we support the retailers and restaurants run by those among us.

    small biz saturdayAmerican Express founded Small Business Saturday in 2010 as a way to highlight the value of small businesses in America, and more importantly to find tangible means of supporting their growth. Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday specifically encourages consumers to patronize small and/or local businesses. The initiative seems to be working; 1 in 6 U.S. consumers say they’re aware of the shopping holiday, and 80% of them intend to shop at independent retailers that day.

    Supporting small business makes a big impact. When only 50% of small businesses survive the five-year mark, purchasing your goods and gifts from the shop down the street could be the difference between a small business staying open or closing its doors.

    More than 99% of all businesses in the U.S. are small enterprises, and they employbuy local 47.5% of the American workforce. Brick-and-mortar shops – and the folks who work them – have a cultural impact. They are the cornerstones of our communities, the threads that create vibrant and unique connections. Our neighborhoods would not be the same without them.

    The financial benefits of shopping small are clear. One of the greatest impacts of Small Business Saturday is that it encourages shopping local year-round. As American Express notes, 96% of consumers who reported shopping on Small Business Saturday said they felt more inclined to shop small throughout the year. And for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 stays within the local economy. Compare that to the $43 that large businesses reinvest. Where does that extra $25 go? Let’s keep it local.

    If you’re a local entrepreuner, there are plenty of ways you can leverage Small Business Saturday. What works for one may not work for another, so research your industry, talk to your peers, get a sense of what other businesses are trying… and then decide what works for you.

    Check out these 21 Simple Ideas for a Successful Small Business Saturday by Entrepreneur Magazine. Suggestions include everything from offering incentives to extending hours. Don’t try to compete with the “big dogs” if you can help it, but do try to celebrate other small businesses! Use this as an opportunity to think strategically for the entire year.

    However you get involved, promote it appropriately. Many businesses find success implementing a targeted email marketing strategy, and social media provides another direct way to engage with potential customers. Use the hashtags #SmallBizSat #ShopSmall and #SmallBusinessSaturday to increase your exposure and tap into existing conversations.

    shop smallInterested in supporting local small businesses but unsure where to begin? This holiday season, support our LGBTQ and allied member businesses in the Business Resource Guide & Directory. Equality is good business!

    In concert with Capitol Hill Seattle (CHS), this year the Capitol Hill Business Alliance (CHBA) will also continue the tradition of supporting local entrepreneurs via the popular neighborhood campaign Shop Small, Shop the Hill.

    Local artist Rachel Quast designed the winning poster, which will be seen in storefronts across Capitol Hill throughout 2020. It’s an eye-catching visual reminder of the importance of supporting our local economy – not just for this holiday, but all year long.

    Got a hot promotion this holiday shopping season?
    The Shop the Hill page on Facebook features the goods from our local businesses. If you’re a merchant in Capitol Hill, it’s free to add your Shop the Hill promotions via Facebook directly, while conscious consumers should follow the page for new deals, events, and promotions.

  • Paul Paladino on Attending UW Foster School of Business's Minority Business Executive Program

    by GSBA
    | Nov 20, 2019

    This September, principal and co-founder of GSBA member business Paladino & Co. Paul Paladino attended University of Washington Foster School of Business’s Minority Business Executive Program (MBEP), after being selected by GSBA to participate in the course.

    The five-day intensive course was created over ten years ago to accelerate the growth of diverse suppliers to leading corporations by combining lectures, panels, interactive simulations, team exercises and more to provide minority business leaders with skills to advance their business. Graduates of the program average more than 10% of business revenue growth compared to their competition. Nearly 20 years ago, Paul co-founded Paladino & Co., a Seattle-based sustainability consulting firm which specializes in assisting architects, developers, corporations, and those in the public sector with cutting costs and improving functionality through sustainable design.

    After completing the program, we caught up with Paul to hear about how the course has benifitted Paladino & Co.

    GSBA: What did you enjoy about the program?

    Paul: “(The program) provided a comprehensive curriculum which covered a host of business disciplines – all relevant to any business owner. (This included) finance, marketing, negotiations, communication, organizational change, and leadership. The format varied from lectures by the professors, to in-class discussions of advance readings, panel sessions with MBEP program alums, and challenging team exercises.

    In addition to feeding us well throughout the day, I especially appreciated the social events hosted by the program: a happy hour, an offsite casual dinner, and a graduation dinner. These events gave us all a chance to get to know each other.”

    GSBA: Did you have a chance to get to know your professors and peers?

    Paul: “The students were a highly-engaged and driven group of about 27 current and aspiring business owners from all types of industries, mostly services and some providers of goods. The faculty were all distinguished experts in their disciplines, very smart and engaging, with true passions for their respective field. (They were) well-prepared and all had a great sense of humor.”

    GSBA: How will what you learned help you and Paladino & Co.?

    Paul: “I took away useful information and insight from all the sections. I particularly enjoyed the leadership section. I learned valuable take-away lessons, (such as how) we are more willing to do autopsies on failures and we’re too quick to be seduced by our success. Best-in-class performers are not seduced by their success, (but) they’re always asking how they can do better. We must study the successes with the same rigor we study problems.

    Also, on developing a highly-engaged workforce, I discovered that high performance leads to satisfaction, and not the other way around. We have to help our people perform better, because when we help people to succeed, you give them genuine satisfaction.”

    Alongside Paul, fellow GSBA Member Nat Stratton-Clarke of Café Flora and Floret was also selected to partake in the program. GSBA Members who’d like to attend the program must be LGBTBE Certified. Program tuition is covered by corporate sponsors.

    MBEP prioritizes business owners from marginalized backgrounds, including people of color, LGBTQ community members, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and other minority groups. Applications for the 2020 session are due by May 1.

  • Stand in Solidarity on this 20th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance

    by GSBA
    | Nov 19, 2019

    Twenty-one years ago, Rita Hester, a Black trans woman, was killed in an act of hate in her Boston apartment. As the one-year anniversary of her death approached, activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith organized a vigil in San Francisco’s Castro District on Nov. 20, 1999, to honor Rita’s life and others who had been killed in acts of anti-trans violence.

    EthanParker-TDOR-1024x613Today, on the 20th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, we honor the 22 transgender lives which have been lost to hate in 2019 alone - and these are just those that we know of. Like Rita Hester, many of the people who were killed this year, were also transgender women of color. Transgender Day of Remembrance arrives at the end of National Transgender Awareness Week, a week created to heighten these critical issues and the experiences of transgender and gender-diverse people. While visibility of transgender people has certainly increased over the past few years in our arts, media, politics - and the LGBTQ community itself - this epidemic of violence against trans people and the silencing of these experiences remains.

    We at GSBA understand that these deeply intersectional issues do not exist in a vacuum. We understand that many of our institutions today are upheld by systems that exclude and silence trans experiences, allow for prejudice and discrimination, and have inadequate structures for holding this bias and hate accountable. This systematic oppression works as a pillar from which transphobic and racist rhetoric and violence stem. We can all do more and we must do more now.

    You can play a role in disarming anti-trans hate and establishing equality for transgender and gender-diverse people in both your professional and personal lives. First, having a basic understanding of gender and transgender identity, as well as how gender intersects with race and other identities, is a great starting point to becoming an ally. Next, our community partners Gender Diversity and Ingersoll Gender Center also offer comprehensive trainings for individuals and businesses, which we strongly encourage all GSBA members to utilize. These trainings can help you understand what barriers transgender and gender-diverse professionals might experience at work and how you can take steps to eliminate them. You can also use our Transparent Inclusion at Work checklist to help guide you along this process. Wherever you are in this process, remember that GSBA is here to help you become the best ally you can be.

    Finally, the Puget Sound is home to several organizations which empower and support our transgender and gender-diverse community members, such as Ingersoll Gender Center, Gender Diversity, TRANSform Washington, UTOPIA Seattle, Gay CityTrans Women of Color Solidarity Network, and Gender Justice League. On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we hope you’ll honor those impacted by anti-trans violence, systems, and rhetoric by considering investing in the work of these incredible organizations.

    In remembrance and solidarity,

    GSBA Staff

    Artwork by Ethan Parker, Forward Together

  • Member Candidate Profile: Joe McDermott

    by Joe McDermott, King County Councilmember, Dist 8
    | Oct 31, 2019
    GSBA has invited all of its members who are running for office to provide a statement to share with the rest of the membership. We are posting the statements as we receive them. GSBA does not endorse candidates, but we are happy to let those candidates who are part of our organization introduce themselves to the rest of our membership. Don't forget to vote and mail in your ballots before Tuesday, November 5!

    Dear fellow GSBA members,

    I am so proud to be a member of this community. When I came out at the age of 30 in 1997, it was a real concern that it would be an obstacle to my passion to serve in public office. I was fortunate to have the unconditional love of my parents and family and friends -- and when I ran for the State Legislature, I was able to be an advocate for our community at a time when we had very few of our own in elected office. In the State Legislature I made it a priority to advocate for the whole LGBTQ+ community. I led on adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to our anti-discrimination laws, introduced and paased legislation to include transgender people in our hate crimes statute, set the stage for marriage equality, and stood next to the Governor when she signed marriage equality into law.

    In 2010 I was elected the first openly gay member of the King County Council, and it has been my immense honor to work on your behalf every day! Here are some of the things I’ve done during the past few years:

    • I secured $15 million for expanding homeless shelters and passed legislation dedicating $660 million in lodging taxes to build affordable housing.
    • I authored and passed the Gun Safety Action Plan, which requires gun owners to securely store firearms and ammunition, and requires the Sheriff’s Office to destroy forfeited weapons. The Plan aims to reduce suicides, accidental deaths, and the prevalence of guns in our communities.
    • I fought back against Trump’s anti-immigrant policies by enacting the Immigrant & Refugee Fund. The Fund has provided hundreds of immigrants with legal advice and representation to protect families from being separated by deportation.
    • I led the effort to deliver more Rapid Ride buses to Delridge and Burien, and am pushing Metro and Sound Transit to prioritize equitable fares and fare enforcement, and, as a Sound Transit Board Member, am fighting for a Light Rail tunnel into West Seattle.

    I’d like to continue this work. For my re-election campaign I’m proud to have the endorsements of The Stranger and The Seattle Times, as well as labor unions and progressive organizations across our region, including: King County Democrats, MLK Labor Council, Washington Conservation Voters, and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

    Most importantly, I’d like to have your endorsement. Please feel free to reach out to me any time! My email is

    With PRIDE, 


    Joe McDermott

    King County Councilmember, District 8

  • Meet GSBA's Office Administrator, Gabriel Neuman

    | Oct 16, 2019
    IMG_7562Earlier this month, GSBA welcomed Gabriel Neuman (they/them) to the team as the chamber's Office Administrator. 

    Gabriel attended Seattle University where they studied Political Science and Public Affairs. While in college, they began volunteering for the International Foster Care Alliance, where they trained social workers and child welfare officials on the correct use of pronouns and other needs of LGBTQ youth. Now as a part-time evening student at the Seattle University School of Law, Gabriel has provided volunteer legal work with GSBA community partner Lavender Rights Project. From their history in these areas, Gabriel has developed a passion for LGBTQ advocacy and representation.

    “I thrilled to have joined the GSBA team! When it came to my career, I was looking for an organization that is passionate about investing in our local community and lifting up the voices of its LGBTQ members," Gabe said. "In this position, I hope to reflect GSBA’s communal spirit to create positive change in a community that has helped shape who I am today.”

    Gabriel grew up in Poulsbo, just west of Seattle, and has lived in the city for six years. While they love the Pacific Northwest, they are always planning their next travel adventure, usually to attend a concert in a new city. When they’re not at work you can find them studying for class, perusing a local record store, or planning their next concert outing.

  • Meet Christina Arrington, Your Capitol Hill Specialist

    | Oct 10, 2019

    IMG_7544As GSBA's newly hired Business Development Manager - Capitol Hill Specialist, Christina Arrington (she/her) focuses her efforts on growing the engagement, development, and advocacy opportunities available to Capitol Hill's businesses and nonprofits through the Capitol Hill Business Alliance (CHBA), Capitol Hill's neighborhood chamber. She’s excited to join the GSBA’s ongoing efforts to support and strengthen the economic vitality of the local business community.

    Originally hailing from Southern Oregon, Christina attended Santa Clara University for her undergraduate degree where she studied Political Science and Gender Studies. She then received her Master’s in Women’s Studies (with an emphasis in queer theory) from San Diego State University. During that time Christina co-directed the National LGBT Conference for Jesuit Universities at SCU, helped establish a Safe Zones program at SDSU, and coordinated educational panels and drag shows.

    After graduate school, Christina embarked on a two-year travel adventure that entailed exploring the U.S. in a motorhome, housesitting through Europe, and slow-traveling in Southeast Asia. In addition to working remotely for a web development consultancy, she also developed (and ultimately sold) a travel blog documenting her experiences.

    In 2013, Christina settled in Seattle and began working at Solid Ground in the fundraising department, managing the nonprofit's events and sponsorships. It was there she discovered the work of GSBA, and began volunteering at and attending GSBA's Womxn on Top and Young Professional with Pride events. Following her role at Solid Ground, Christina set out on the path of self-employment by founding a small business focused on brand storytelling and strategic content creation.

    With professional expertise in operations, advocacy, and marketing, Christina is eager to bring her myriad skills to the table as she works to fulfill the GSBA mission and support Seattle's liveliest neighborhood through the CHBA. As a former Capitol Hill resident, Christina feels a strong connection to the neighborhood and remains invested in the vibrancy of this community. She believes cities and neighborhoods develop their own unique personalities, and is grateful Capitol Hill has maintained its character even as the area has experienced substantial transformation.

    Christina’s non-work passions include mycology, helping her rescue puppy adjust to the world, and building relationships with her cadre of wonderful niblings (nieces and nephews).

  • Vote: APPROVE 1-1000/R-88 and NO on I-976

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy & Government Relations Director
    | Oct 09, 2019
    WA Fairness Logo

    One of GSBA’s top advocacy priorities for many years has been to increase opportunities for minority and underrepresented businesses to compete for public contracts. One of the principle targets of that work was to undo the harmful effects of Initiative 200, which was passed in 1998. I-200 made Washington one of only two states to explicitly ban outreach to historically marginalized communities to help determine outcomes in public education, contracting, and employment.

    In 2019, GSBA supported Initiative 1000, an important policy that will restore fairness for small business owners, veterans, woman, and people of color seeking to succeed in public employment, contracting, and university admissions – without the use of caps or quotas. 

    GSBA strongly supports the effort to APPROVE I-1000 / R-88, along with a strong coalition of other business organizations, labor, and civic leaders. We urge our membership to vote APPROVE under Referendum 88 on their ballots to retain I-1000 as the law.I-1000 successfully passed the Washington State Legislature and was signed by Governor Inslee, however it is being challenged on the November 2019 ballot under Referendum 88.

    According to Washington’s Office of Women and Minority Business Enterprises, since the passage of I-200, state spending with certified minority and woman-owned businesses has dropped from 10% to 3%, resulting in a devastating $3.8 billion, 20-year loss of revenue. Diversity in our public university and college populations has declined statewide as well.

    Approving I-1000/R-88 would being the process of reversing the inequitable trends resulting from I-200. More economic opportunities would be afforded to veterans, small business owners, women, and people of color through public employment and contracting. The student body of Washington’s universities would begin to better reflect the state as a whole. And, finally, the passage of I-1000/R-88 sends a critical message about how our shared values and beliefs should be codified into state law. We can take tangible, collective action to level the playing field for working families with the most urgent unmet needs, and we should strive to make Washington a place where someone’s race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or other status isn’t a generational determinant of their ability to thrive or share equitably in the prosperity afforded to our region.

    Please vote APPROVE on Initiative 1000 / Referendum 88 this November.

    Learn more about the WA Fairness Campaign.


    VOTE NO ON I-976

    No976GSBA strongly endorses a NO vote on Initiative 976.

    The idea of $30 car tabs sounds appealing, but the cost will be too much for our state. All parts of Washington are growing, and some of the biggest frustrations are around commute times and transportation, which will all get significantly worse if I-976 passes this November. I-976 threatens road, rail, and public transportation projects that connect millions of people to jobs, education, health care, and each other every year throughout Washington State.

    By repealing critical transportation funding, I-976 cripples our ability to fix dangerous highways, retrofit bridges and overpasses, expand light rail, maintain ferries, build voter-approved projects, improve freight corridors, and invest in the Washington State Patrol. Even if you don’t ride public transit yourself, you will be impacted by experiencing higher traffic and worsening infrastructure. I-976 specifically targets funds that pay for special services for seniors, veterans, children, and the disables. The initiative threatens to cut critical, voter-approved transit services across the state.

    Join GBSA and a strong coalition of business, labor, tribes, cities, and civic leaders in opposing Tim Eyman’s I-976. For any small business trying to get product to or from their location, for any employee who commutes to work, for any customer who is trying to get to a store, it is imperative to vote NO on I-976.

    Learn more about the No on 976 Campaign.



  • Make Your Mark on Capitol Hill

    by GSBA Staff
    | Oct 08, 2019

    Open Contest for Local Artists & Creatives

    GSBA-CapHillChamberAd-FacebookEventCover-1920x1080-01bWe are looking for fun, creative designs that represent the look and feel of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and will complement the storefront windows in the variety of diverse businesses located in the district. This contest is open to everyone. This is an opportunity to showcase your creativity and skills in hundreds of stores across the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and contribute to the success of local small business.

    The U.S. Small Business Administration celebrates Small Business Saturday each year on the last Saturday in November. To celebrate and promote small businesses year-round, Capitol Hill businesses hang posters in their storefronts encouraging folks to “Shop Small, Shop the Hill.” GSBA, Washington State’s LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce, through their program Capitol Hill Business Alliance (CHBA), are continuing this tradition by holding an open contest for the annual “Shop Small, Shop the Hill” poster design.

    • 11 inches x 17 inches
    • 1/8 inch bleed on all sides
    • CMYK
    • 300 dpi
    • PDF

    Must include:
    • CHBA logo (Logo can be found here:
    • Both phrases, “Shop Small” and “Shop the Hill”
    • Artist may include their logo or brand on bottom of poster

    The winner will receive:
    • 1 year GSBA membership* ($495+)
    • 2 Tickets to the GSBA Annual Meeting and Holiday Luncheon, December 11, 2019 ($350)
    • 1 Year placement of small web ad on* ($2,100)
    • Member spotlight in one weekly e-blast to distribution of 9,600+ active emails ($200)
    • Bragging rights as the “Shop the Hill” poster designer (Priceless)

    DEADLINE: All submissions must be sent to by 11:59pm November 10, 2019. Selections will be made by November 13 and the winner will be announced November 15.

    *Membership and advertising contingent on eligibility criteria. Contact with any membership and advertising criteria questions.

  • Queer the Census

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Oct 02, 2019
    With so much discussion of the thankfully now-abandoned “citizenship question” in the news recently, it should be no surprise that 2020 Census is fast approaching.

    IMG_3047The decennial Census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution to accurately count the number of people living in the country in order to fairly distribute public resources (i.e. tax funds) and to redraw electoral districts of equivalent sizes at all scales of government. The law requires that everyone living in the U.S. fill out the Census. Being counted is critical – it shows the proper size of communities across the country, and helps public agencies and advocates better support their constituents and clients. There are only 10 questions on the Census, and eight additional questions for each person living in that household.

    GSBA is actively working with many partners to ensure that our communities are counted. GSBA sits on the Washington State Complete Count Committee, the Seattle Complete Count Committee, and the King County LGBTQ Census Coalition. There will be outreach to and education for small businesses around the state later in the year on how they can help raise awareness and answer questions.

    Why should LGBTQ people care about the Census?

    As the National LGBTQ Task Force explains, “Although the goal of the Census is toIMG_2835 count everyone living in the U.S., certain populations are inevitably undercounted. Transgender and queer people, LGB people, people of color, immigrants, people who are experiencing homelessness, renters, people living in rural areas, people with low incomes, single-parent households, people with limited English proficiency, and young children are overwhelmingly undercounted in the Census. To ensure fair access to democracy and social services funding, it is important for our community to be accurately counted in the 2020 Census.”

    The 2010 Census was the first time that any LGBTQ people were able to be included in Census data, but that was only for same-sex married couples. For 2020, data on unmarried same-sex couples who reside together will also be captured. This still leaves out many sides of our community, including bisexual, transgender, and gender-diverse people, as well as LGBTQ people not in the specific types of relationships enumerated on the form. While the Census may not yet accurately capture the relationships in your household, it is important that every person in your household be counted. LGBTQ people exist within all other different populations that are routinely undercounted and underserved, and it is critical for us to be counted in 2020.


    Important Points to Remember about the Census:

    • The Census is confidential and no data on individuals can be shared with anyone for 72 years

    • The Census respects how you self-identify (they do not cross-check with other federal forms)

    • If you do not fill out the Census form by late April 2020, an enumerator will be sent to your house to collect a response from you in-person. To avoid this, fill out your Census survey early.

    • The Trump administration’s proposed citizenship question was denied by the Supreme Court, and the President abandoned his efforts to add it. Census forms have already gone to print without the citizenship question.

    • Being counted means being heard. It means having our needs met.

  • GSBA President & CEO Louise Chernin Reflects on Barbara Bailey Way

    by Louise Chernin
    | Aug 08, 2019
    IMG_20190806_170953_1-2Barbara Bailey was an icon in this city. She was a proud lesbian, owner of the small and independent Bailey Coy Books, and a political activist. She was fiercely opinionated, passionate about LGBTQ rights and social justice, and loved her community, as well as a good time. Last Tuesday, I had the honor to join Barbara's family, Mayor Jenny Durkan, and fellow community leaders to witness as Barbara Bailey Way was unveiled near Capitol Hill Station.
    Our newly unveiled Barbara Bailey Way is a remarkable intersection where past meets future. How wonderful will it be to step off the Light Rail and amble down the AIDS Memorial Pathway, rich with history and inspiration? Then, to stop at the Capitol Hill Farmer's Market to pick up lunch and sit at Cal Anderson Park, named for our first LGBTQ State Legislator? I know for me, every time I glance up at the Barbara Bailey Way street sign, I will smile and wonder, "What would Barbara think?"
    For equality,
  • Who Will Manage Your Healthcare If You Can't?

    by By Steve Gunn, Financial Advisor, Wells Fargo Advisors
    | Jul 26, 2019
    steve gunn

    If you’re not able to advocate for your own healthcare wishes due to an illness or injury, how can you be sure you get the care you want? If you become hospitalized or enter a long-term care facility, how can you be sure your loved ones have visitation rights, regardless of relationship or sexual orientation?

    These questions are particularly important for LGBT couples if you’re not married.

    Having a healthcare power of attorney, living will, and visitation directive can make for smoother sailing for you and your loved ones.

    Healthcare power of attorney

    Also known as a healthcare proxy, this document identifies the person (known as your agent) designated to make healthcare decisions for you if you can’t. Having this document can be particularly helpful if your chosen agent is not your legal spouse.

    As you create your healthcare power of attorney, discuss your wishes with whomever you choose, so he or she has solid direction to rely on for potential decision-making. You might also want to let other friends and family know the individual you’ve chosen as an agent so they will be less likely to question that person’s authority to make decisions later.

    It’s actually a good idea to name multiple agents too. For instance, if you and your partner name each other as agents, but you are both involved in a car accident, you both will need to have a backup, or successor agent, listed.

    If you’re transgender, you may want to include instructions that healthcare providers respect your gender identity as well. While any provider receiving federal funding is required to do this, having it in writing makes it easier for your agent to advocate for you.

    Living will

    A living will provides information on the types of life-sustaining measures you do (or don’t) want taken on your behalf. This could include instructions related to resuscitation, feeding or breathing tubes, and pain medication.

    Having a legal document provides direction not only for healthcare providers but also for your loved ones. It can help them make difficult decisions at a difficult time—and may help settle any disputes that might arise if someone questions your wishes.

    It’s a good idea to let friends and family know your preferences. This can soften potential stress and also gives you an opportunity to discuss your choices with anyone who may raise objections.

    Visitation directive

    According to federal law, no hospital or long-term care facility can deny your wishes regarding who can visit you, if their decision is based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That doesn’t mean your loved ones will never face resistance though. To ward off that possibility, your attorney can draft a visitation directive that puts in writing who can visit you. The directive can also include your instructions regarding who you do not wish to visit you, whether it’s an individual or a group of people.

    There’s more

    While these documents are perhaps the most important—and you might call the healthcare power of attorney and living will essential—there are others you might want to consider.

    For instance, you can create a document regarding who has authority to give burial instructions on your behalf. Your state’s laws will define what documentation is appropriate in your state.

    You should also be sure to identify in writing who can request and receive medical information about you from your healthcare providers. This direction is related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and may require a separate release or may be included in one of your other healthcare documents.

    To make sure your bases are covered, talk with an estate planning attorney about the documents you need in your state. But don’t stop there. Review your documents on a regular basis and update them as needed. Keeping your documents current can help ensure you stay in control of your health and your wishes, no matter what life brings your way.

    You should take it with you

    It’s not enough to simply have healthcare documents. You also need to make sure they’re easily accessible if they’re needed. Many experts recommend you carry copies of your healthcare and durable powers of attorney, living will, and any marriage/civil union/domestic partnership certification when you travel.

    If you’re not keen on packing all of that paperwork, consider storing a digital form on your mobile device or a memory stick. At the very least, bring copies along if you’re traveling outside your home state or to foreign countries. You may also want to provide your agents, your primary care physician, and nearby hospitals with copies. And make sure your loved ones know where to find the documents, just in case.

    Wells Fargo Advisors is not a legal or tax advisor. You should consult with your attorney, accountant, and/or estate planner before taking any action.

    Source: “Protecting Your Health Care Wishes,” Lambda Legal,, accessed Aug. 11, 2015.

    This article was written by Wells Fargo Advisors and provided courtesy of Steve Gunn, Financial Advisor, in Seattle, WA at (206) 344-6664,

    Investments in securities and insurance products are: NOT FDIC-INSURED/NOT BANK-GUARANTEED/MAY LOSE VALUE

    Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, Member SIPC, a registered broker-dealer and non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.

    © 2019 Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC. All rights reserved.

  • 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.


    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.


    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.


    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.”


    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.”


    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.”


    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

    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.