Chelsey Wright uses any pronouns, but would say most folks use they/them pronouns since they with being non-binary. The currently work for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility in WA state as their Office & Administrative Specialist. It’s a fancy title that really means is that they manage all the day-to-day operations for the organization. Alliance for Gun Responsibility is an organization is focused on ending the gun violence crisis in our community and working to promote a culture of gun ownership that balances rights with responsibilities.
When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so?
I came out when I was 13 years old. I was going on a youth group trip with my church to Mammoth for a retreat. Previous to this trip I had tried to come out to my parent’s (who are very liberal and very open), but they didn’t believe me at the time. So, when I was on this trip, I remember being in my sleeping bag and then just blurting out “I’m gay.” I was very lucky and know that this isn’t the case for many kids who are coming out. I was surrounded by friends who had become family. I spent my entire youth/teenage years with these people and they all made me feel safe and continued to welcome me with open arms. I’m still in touch with some of them today.
How do you ally yourself with others who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community?
Things in the community have changed a lot and since I moved from California to the Seattle area, I have noticed that I had a lot of learning to do. When I first got here, it was important for me to figure out where the LGBTQ+ community was, where they were hanging out, the organizations that were supporting the community, etc. From there, I knew I really wanted to volunteer. I looked into Youth Programs that supported the community to see if there might be an opportunity. I found Lambert House and have been very grateful for the friendships that I have made and the impact that I know they are having on the youth.
How do you educate people about the LGBTQ+ community?
For me, I think the best way I can educate folks is to just be myself and be open to any and all questions that might come my way. Prior to working for the Alliance, I worked with an organization that had no LGBTQ+ representation – I was the only worker that classified themselves as such. I got asked a lot of questions from: what does nonbinary mean? Are drag queens and transgender folks the same? What does it mean to use pronouns? These are just some examples and I really tried my best to be as patient as possible, but I will say that I think society needs to do their own research so they know about the community.
How do you educate people about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community?
I try to educate people on what I have to go through as a Asian woman, lesbian – but identifying as non-binary….it’s a lot to take in! I think I educate folks more about what non-binary means more than anything else and how I ‘fit’ into the LGBTQ community. The community has changed so much over the years that I think it’s hard for people who aren’t a part of the community to understand. I do this by being open to questions and presenting myself as a person who is available for people to approach.
What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ+ youth who have questions?
Definitely check out what Lambert House is doing. They have a lot of resources for youth. Another local option would be checking out Gay City on Capital Hill. Outside of there I always suggest reaching out to the local LGBTQ+ center in your area – which I know can be hard to access for some youth that live far away from a center, but they usually have fairly extensive websites that most youth have access to. I always recommend HRC (Human Rights Campaign) centers across the US for more information/resources.
Instagram handles for Resources: @hrcseattle, @gaycity, @seattlelgbtq, @lamberthouse
What did you think your life was going to be like after high school?
In all honesty, I thought I was going to be a professional basketball player or be heading to the Olympics for track & field. My whole life as a teen revolved around these 2 sports and I was given a scholarship to a small private college to pursue track & field. I ended up dropping out of the in-person college and decided to take all online courses. It was a better fit for me to be able to work full-time and go to school. I ended up attending my local community college where I was able to test out a lot of different subjects before deciding what I wanted to major in. It was a good fit for me and it really allowed me to work on administrative skills while also working in some fields that I am passionate about, such as working as a one-on-one aide in special education, coaching high school track & field, and working full time in the adult sports office.
What tips would you have for people questioning their gender identity?
It really took me a long time to feel comfortable in my body. I didn’t have all the language when I was coming out that there is now. Here are a few suggestions:
It’s OK to experiment with clothing – it took me a long time to find what made me feel comfortable. Clothing is an expression of who we are – if you don’t feel comfortable in the clothes you’re wearing, try something new.
Find a support group that aligns with what you might be feeling – Lambert House offers many different support groups throughout the week for folks to ask questions and to help navigate this landscape
Have open communication with your family – if you feel comfortable and it’s safe to do so! Allowing them to understand your process will allow them to be better allies for you
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Figure out what you like and don’t like while being true to yourself.
What tips would you have for people questioning their sexual orientation?
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take the time you need in figuring out what your likes and dislikes.
How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?
This was really hard for me. Here are a few things that helped me along the way:
Create the community that you need – one that will allow you to be surrounded by people that have your back and will affirm who you are
Learn to control the reality of yourself and do your best not to allow anyone to define who you are.
Build a stand alone spirit by having a healthy inner dialogue – You got this. You’re a strong and resilient person
What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ representation?
I think my favorite piece of LGBTQ+ representation will always be the story of Harvey Milk. However, I love the changing landscape and the rise of our Trans Brothers and Sisters. Seeing representation of our trans community in TV shows and movies (Laverne Cox, Elliot Fletcher and Alex Davis to name a few) is amazing for our community. I love that the next generation is providing a new representation that is all their own and it’s beautiful how open and free they are with their sexuality, gender identity, and willingness to just be themselves when the environment is safe.
What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community?
I would like to see more equality and open dialogue between the different generations of pioneers. That we can come together to appreciate the integral work that our elders have done for us and the stepping stones they have provided us to continue our work toward a larger picture of equality in our world. The new generation is providing a renewed sense of pride and are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community by providing a new language for us to identify ourselves. I also hope that we will continue to help each other cross over the finish line together and that each generation serves the one before and after it.
Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ+ teens of today?
Be gentle and kind to your elders who pioneered for the rights you have today and more importantly – Be gentle with yourself.