The city this week named Evan L. Thornburg as the first deputy director for the Office of LGBT Affairs.
The Ursinus College graduate will report to Director of LGBT Affairs Amber Hikes, whom she will assist, support and advise about the needs of the local LGBT community. She will also serve as a liaison to the community and spearhead LGBT-focused educational initiatives among the public and city employees. The inaugural position was announced earlier this year.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled about Evan’s arrival to the Office of LGBT Affairs,” Hikes said in a statement. “A Philadelphia native, Evan is a brilliant, creative professional who is deeply passionate about the rights and lives of our thriving Philadelphia LGBTQ community. Her extensive expertise in LGBTQ training and education will be invaluable to the office’s goals and priorities moving forward.”
Most recently, Thornburg has worked as a freelance diversity consultant, leading educational workshops, presentations and trainings at local organizations and universities.
“It’s been a catch-all of spaces that needed an LGBTQ perspective,” Thornburg, 32, said. “I want to bring those experiences of educating people and doing presentations into this work, moving it into places like constructing policy and community development on a governmental scale.”
The Germantown native, who identifies as a queer woman of color, is also eager to tap into her extensive youth advocacy.
Thornburg previously served as the education specialist for the Bryson Institute at The Attic Youth Center, where she implemented summer youth programs and collaborated with community organizations. She also co-designed youth programming for the Mazzoni Center’s Trans*Health conference; built the installation for InLiquid’s Democratic National Convention exhibit, “Juvenile Injustice”; and serves as a professional-development facilitator at Philadelphia Youth Network.
Thornburg started attending The Attic as an adolescent. She was raised by two fathers, and came out herself in college.
“The Attic was the only place I could be up-front about my family, which was awesome,” she said. “That’s a lot of what started [my youth-advocacy work] as a young person. I saw how much young people needed these resources. That’s a pivotal point in your life, especially for anyone who’s in a group that’s been marginalized or left out of the conversation.”
That need for inclusion is among the lessons Thornburg said she has gleaned from her wide range of community work.
She sits on the fundraising committee of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and has volunteered for MANNA and The COLOURS Organization, among others.
“One of the things I love most about Philadelphia is how diverse and how complex the people are, number one, but also how diverse the community is,” she said. “It’s such a great spread of all kinds of folks who are represented — or not represented sometimes — so I’ve done a lot of work around thinking how to pull all those people together, as they often feel fragmented around a certain issue.”
In addition to youth advocacy, Thornburg said she is also aiming to tackle aging issues, homelessness and disability rights.
“I’m going to be looking at the complexity of the community that we have and engaging people from all different backgrounds, different groups; that will be a major piece of [the work],” she said. “I hope to spur conversation because when you can get people talking about something, you have the ability to grow that into a more purposeful action, especially around things like policy or visibility or advocacy. I want to get people in a room talking to each other in a way that’s both empathetic and engaged, and from there to get them to commit to wanting better for each other.”