First LGBT community celebration at Capitol

First LGBT community celebration at Capitol

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On a busy session day in the Main Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, dozens of LGBT people from rural and urban parts of the state gathered to share their stories.

The Pennsylvania Youth Congress hosted the first National Coming Out Day celebration inside the capitol building called “Pennsylvania Comes Out for Freedom.” The one-hour event took place the morning of Oct. 27.

“It was a fantastic experience,” said Jason Landau Goodman, executive director of The Pennsylvania Youth Congress.

Landau Goodman said he would like it to become an annual event.

“LGBT Pennsylvanians from all across the commonwealth were able to share their lives in the heart of state government,” he said.

As state legislators streamed in and out of the building for budget discussions, several Republicans and Democrats stopped and talked with participants.

“We’ve made many advances through making sure we’re visible and not silent,” Landau Goodman said.

He noted the aim of the event was not to push for any particular policy, like the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which would prohibit LGBT discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Rather, he said the event was meant to introduce LGBT leaders from all parts of the state to each other.

“Our main focus was to provide a platform for experiences of LGBT Pennsylvanians,” Landau Goodman said. “We can give those with power the understanding to get to those conversations about policy.”

Kai Hunter, a Dreams of Hope alum from Pittsburgh, sang the state song and an original piece called “Let Me Be Me.”

Margie Winters, the former teacher at Waldron Mercy Academy in Lower Merion Township who was fired for being married to a woman, spoke about how freeing it is to be fully out instead of partially out.

Other speakers included Braeden Lange, the middle-school lacrosse player who started the LGBT-affirming Courage Games; Deja Alvarez, a health-care advocate with Mazzoni Center; Hannah Smith-Brubaker, the state deputy secretary of agriculture; Tiffany Lawson from the Office of Asian-American Affairs in Pittsburgh; Will Koehler, president of the Greater Erie Alliance for Equality; Joanne Carroll, president of TransCentral PA in Lancaster; Kemar Jewel from The Attic Youth Center; and Rachelle Lee Smith, photographer and author of the photo-essay book, “Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus!” n

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