The GSBA Blog

  • 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.

  • A Grand Gay Tour with Gaydio

    by Joey Chapman
    | Jun 06, 2019

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

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

    GSBA_GAYDIO_ELSOM 6-1-2019 (29)

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

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

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

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

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

    Listen to Emma's telling of the night here.

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

  • Stonewall Uprising of 1969: A Look Back

    by Eric Moss, GSBA
    | Jun 05, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    All photos courtesy New York Public Library

  • How Does GSBA's Policy Work Impact Our Small Business Members?

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Jun 01, 2019

    “How does GSBA’s policy work impact our small business members?”

    This is a question that I am asked every year in the course of running GSBA’s advocacy program. While GSBA’s advocacy for LGBTQ civil rights is well known, our advocacy for Washington small businesses is an equally important plank of our policy agenda. And, importantly, we do not see the two issues as mutually exclusive.

    GSBA’s mission is to combine business development, leadership, and social action to expand economic opportunities for the LGBTQ community and those who support equality for all. Protecting the civil rights of all our members is key to economic success. When GSBA lobbies to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students from bullying and harassment, we do it because we know that bullying has ripple effects throughout a person’s lifetime and directly impacts their economic wellbeing. When we support efforts to prohibit the use of prior salary history in setting an employee’s new salary, it’s because we can clearly see the generational impact of salary discrimination on women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups who frequently experience this. This directly impacts our members themselves, their families, their customers, and their community.

    We have frequently commented that there is a lack of understanding of the reality of small businesses by policymakers in the City of Seattle. That is why during the Mayoral campaign of 2017 we asked candidates to commit to creating a small business advisory council, which Mayor Jenny Durkan promptly did upon assuming office. The first council included many GSBA members who are now in a position to help influence policy at the City level and ensure that a small business perspective is part of the process.

    GSBA’s top priority in the 2019 legislative session was to establish a statewide LGBTQ Commission, to join the commissions representing the needs of minorities and women. We have been pushing for five years for this commission because we regularly see the impact of our community not being counted, or not being considered equal to other communities. The LGBTQ community has been left out of discussions and policymaking specifically because our community does not have this official voice. Creating one, therefore, will open doors for the LGBTQ community to have a place at the table when statewide economic policy – among so many other vital policy areas – is being discussed.

    Our other top priority has been passing Initiative 1000 to re-establish a form of affirmative action in Washington State, which has banned since Initiative 200 passed in 1998. This initiative directly addresses inequities in the public contracting system for women, minorities, and veterans. Numerous studies have shown the clear and direct discriminatory impact of I-200 on the use of government contractors from protected classes. As we advocate for supplier diversity programs with our corporate members, we are pushing for recognition of supplier diversity efforts at the city, county, and state levels as well.

    GSBA testified this year in favor of creating a small business bill of rights, which would require government agencies and departments to always proactively inform small businesses of their rights, duties, and deadlines during the course of any investigation. While this bill did not succeed, we will continue our advocacy in next year’s legislative session. GSBA also opposed several bills this which attacked the very foundation of independent contractors as a legitimate form of employment, including the infamous “salon bill” which received one of the largest outpourings of grassroots opposition that the Legislature has seen in years. Each of these bills was defeated in 2019.

    When we fight against the myriad efforts by our opponents to prevent LGTBQ peoples’ access to public accommodations, we aren’t just fighting for the rights of couples to buy flowers and cakes (though we are doing that as well). We are fighting for your right as a business person to receive services from other businesses. We are fighting so that you and your customers have equal access to all public facilities regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

    No matter what level of government, GSBA is committed to representing a voice for the LGBTQ community and a voice for small businesses. As one of the only chambers founded on the concepts of equality and equity, we are especially passionate for the areas in which civil rights and business intersect. We are proud to represent you, and encourage you to join us however you are able to share your voice.

  • New Member Spotlight: Solace

    by GSBA
    | May 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

  • A Sense of Pride: Meet GSBA Scholar Eren Dao

    by GSBA
    | May 13, 2019

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

    matt 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by GSBA
    | May 06, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Member Spotlight: Disability Rights Washington

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

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

    RiRTeamPhoto_Small - stacie siebrecht (2)

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

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

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

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

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

  • Scholar Spotlight: Katie Kolan

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | May 01, 2019
    Kolan - TVW Screen GrabIn a hectic 2019 legislative session, GSBA advocacy staff have frequently encountered an ebullient former Scholar in the hallways of the Legislature. While many people have negative impressions about lobbyists and their work, Katie Kolan is a champion for communities across the state. She laughs when saying, “The job I get to do is really cool! Lobbyists are not just slimy dealers lurking behind buildings, but more like idea brokers and translators between legislators and members of the public.”

    Originally from northwest Washington, Katie left home when she was 15 as her father was dying. “This really launched me into maturity earlier than I was ready for. I knew I had to get to school, get an education, get a degree, But I didn’t have the money to do it. I had no financial support from my family, which was bankrupt from medical bills.” When she got into the University of Washington, Katie immediately had to find near-full time work to pay for her schooling and living expenses. “GSBA saved my life – I would not have been able to do it without the financial support of the Scholarship Fund. Because it was so much more than just the money – it gave me such a huge boost of confidence, a boost forward. It launched me into the work I’m doing currently.”

    While at UW, Katie’s goal was to become a lawyer to do class action civil rights cases. In the meantime, she noticed that there was no formal structure for LGBTQ students to gather and form community on campus. She and a number of classmates worked with the administration to create the Q Center, a student-run LGBTQ resource center (and recipient of the 2014 GSBA Voice for Social Justice Award). At the same time, Katie was nominated and confirmed as a member of the City of Seattle LGBTQ Commission, where she was responsible for ensuring that our community’s needs and concerns were heard at the municipal level. Relentless activism for the LGBTQ community and disability rights community prepared her for who she is today: “It is vitally important to figure out how to move the LGBTQ and allied community toward a certain policy goal. And that process is relevant everywhere!”

    Graduating in 2005 with a degree in Law, Society and Justice and a minor in Disability Studies, Katie then moved on to law school as planned at Golden Gate University. But once she got there, she began to reevaluate her plans. “I realized the world is a big place, and queer work is important, but the concepts touch everything else too. Grassroots advocacy work done in the LGBTQ world translates really well into the rest of the policy world.” Her interests began to shift toward health and medical ethics, end-of-life care, and access to healthcare.

    Directly out of law school, Katie worked for a State Senator in Olympia. As she continued to evolve how she thought of her career, she realized that her dream of being a class action attorney meant that she could be working a full decade from the conception of a case to seeing results. That, as a new attorney, she was unlikely to get near the exciting civil rights work that inspired her in the first place. She realized that “at the State Legislature you can have massive systemic change in a relatively short period of time. To track that work through the courts can take so much longer. You can watch a collective idea take root. It’s helpful to understand the legal process, but really you just have to be present and feel gumption and commitment to the idea.” 

    On her new path, Katie chased down work with the Washington Medical Association because of their progressive end-of-life policies, where she has been working on their government and regulatory affairs team. And yes, that includes a healthy dose of lobbying in Olympia. “The job is incredibly fun and incredibly humbling – to have a part in developing good policy ideas and stopping bad ones (always in the eye of the beholder)… it is always different and often exciting and fast-paced.” Additionally, while lobbying can seem like an elite industry and inaccessible to the public, Katie says that in reality the truth is “that a lobbyist is anyone who can help translate ideas into good policy.” She adds “Often the best lobbyists are constituents – normal humans who are care about a particular issues enough to talk to their legislator about it… there is no substitute for grassroots advocacy, and a professional lobbyist can help guide that work.”

    Over the years, she has seen the medical community take a greater interest in LGBTQ issues, which she calls a boon for the organization. She adds, “It is a privilege to shape state policy regarding LGBTQ issues and healthcare, and makes me feel proud to do this work. I take all the work I do on behalf of medicine seriously, but to translate it to something personal is really cool. And it’s more than just cool for some of the people for whom this work is being done– it’s a matter of life and death sometimes.” Katie says that she is especially proud of working to pass a bill requiring people to be 21+ to buy tobacco products, which is about to be signed into law by Governor Inslee after 5 years of hard work.

    “Had GSBA not supported and encouraged and validated me, or given a sense of the right thing to do at the outset, I don’t think I would have had confidence and logistically speaking couldn’t have graduated and moved on to next thing. If I had been so far in debt, I wouldn’t have been able to go to law school. Launching from law school, all those skills emboldened me and helped me be effective with state medical association and whatever I go forward to do.”

  • 2019 GSBA Legislative Successes

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

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


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


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


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


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

  • Sharing successes with Spanish NGOs

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

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

    Our visitors included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by GSBA
    | Apr 01, 2019

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

    1) All-Gender Everything

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

    2) Clarify Your Policies

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

    3) HR Support & Confidentiality

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

    4) Allow for Self-Identification

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

    5) Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

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

    6) Be An Ally

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

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

    Need a Hand?

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