Edite Forman(Any Pronouns)

Edite Forman(Any Pronouns), is a volunteer at Lambert House. When volunteering, they hang out at the front desk, walk around the house to chat with youth, or participate in Wednesday art night. They are also part of the Outdoor Recreation group, where they organize and lead seasonal outdoor activities, like hiking, sledding, or paddle boarding.

When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so?

I didn’t really “come out” as it were. Being below the radar (even to myself) had always been the safest route for me growing up, and this continued into adulthood. Many folks in my greater social circle, as well as Seattle in general, had been living openly and happily as LGBTQ+ for years. So, I knew I could just slide into living openly in a quiet way that I was comfy with, and that friends and acquaintances would follow my lead on it.

I, possibly weirdly, had more concerns about the LGBTQ+ community. I’d seen a lot of gatekeeping and strict expectations about what affectations and appearances got you accepted verses rejected. It looked like a different version of the cultural strictures of my upbringing and I wasn’t interested in repeating that experience with another group that claimed to love and accept me unconditionally…but didn’t. This continued pretty much up until I learned about Lambert House last year and that they actually meant inclusive and unconditional. I wanted to be part of that type of community, so started volunteering there and have been growing increasingly comfy being “out” around my fellow queer folks.

How do you ally yourself with others who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community?

In a general sense, I talk about aspects of queer life as nonchalantly as I’m able in order to normalize it for everyone, both queer and not. More specifically, I make a point to learn about friends’ and acquaintances’ identities so I can incorporate that knowledge into how I think about and speak to them.

How do you educate people about the LGBTQ+ community?

Discussion, primarily. I tend to take a more academic route, so often explain social systems and structures, and how culture shapes our perceptions of gender and orientation. I have an easier time meeting people where they are through that route. I find it helps minimize awkwardness, and lets people who genuinely want to learn know it’s ok to ask questions and seek out insights.

How do you educate people about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community?

Same as above, but I’ll pull in some examples of how various identities can combine to create additional or different challenges for people.

What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ+ youth who have questions?

http://www.lamberthouse.org/

https://www.scarleteen.com/

https://www.glsen.org/

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/dating-sex/Pages/Health-Concerns-for-Gay-and-Lesbian-Teens.aspx?fbclid=IwAR2H93ze46Hes004jmmwcTMdXEAeFiI294jmYq3BK18L2bwNx9P_w9nNb6o

https://itgetsbetter.org/

http://www.qcardproject.com/

https://www.youthallies.com/

What did you think your life was going to be like after high school?

Nothing like it turned out. During high school knowing I was queer (both in gender and orientation) wasn’t safe knowledge to have, so I simply didn’t have it. Any awareness I did have was kept very vague and subconscious. It became more conscious after I had moved to Seattle and got some distance from home.

As a teenager I thought I’d follow a very mundane work > college > work > relationship > family route. As it happens, I was never particularly interested in relationships or family, but I did really like school, so now I get to focus on grad school in the way I want to.

What tips would you have for people questioning their gender identity?

Learn about how gender operates within your culture. It’s personal, but also influenced heavily by things like language, social systems, social roles, etc… This will help you understand the ways people around you view and react to gender, as well why you may think or feel certain ways about it. It also offers you new ways to communicate and relate your experiences to the people you want to understand it. Most importantly, it will help you with questions and internal struggles.

Listen to what you’re feeling and what you feel drawn towards being. There can be a lot of focus put on looking or acting a certain way in order to be accepted as a binary gender or a non-conforming gender, but that doesn’t actually determine who you get to be. It’s your identity and you get to determine whether or not that includes aesthetic or behavioral elements. Talk the way you want to. Move and carry yourself the way you want to. Dress the way you want to. Engage in the activities you want to. Feel about and view yourself the way you want to. 

Give yourself time to figure out how you want to reconcile yourself with the world around you. Try stuff out. You’ll find what feels right.

What tips would you have for people questioning their sexual orientation?

Learning about how sexual orientation operates in your culture can be invaluable, and help you gauge what kinds of struggles you may face, and ways to deal with them.

Attraction and libido are not the same thing. Neither are romantic and sexual attraction. Being of a particular orientation doesn’t mean you have to behave in any particular way. Listen to yourself and go with what feels comfy. You know you best.

How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?

Honestly, friends with shared experiences, or who have dealt with a form of dehumanization. They know how good it feels to just be allowed to exist as you are, so are like the comfy pajama pants of the friend world.

What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ representation?

Rainbow color coding.

What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community?

That we continue to wear away all vestiges of gatekeeping from our community. Exclusion being something nearly all of us know intimately, we’ve experienced the kind of pain we’re inflicting on others when we keep them out. We are responsible for ending that cycle and making sure our community is open to everyone.

That we keep using our experiences to build bridges and acting as agents of change for anyone who’s faced dehumanization because of who they innately are.

Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ+ teens of today?

A culture is simultaneously upheld and created by the people in it. It’s yours. Make it what you want it to be.

Elan Robinson(They/Them)

Elan Robinson (they/them/theirs) is a bisexual, nonbinary person from Mendocino, California. They’ve been living in Seattle since 2014. As the Event & Donor Relations Coordinator at Pride Foundation, they plan events, craft communications, and support fundraising efforts. Outside of work, they draw, write zines, take care of their veranda garden, and volunteer with LGBTQ+ youth. 

When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so?
I think there’s this narrative about “coming out” that it’s sitting down and having a serious conversation with someone, but to be honest I don’t really remember the first time I came out or who it was to. I definitely had conversations with friends about not feeling particularly dedicated to dating people of one gender or another throughout my life, especially in my early 20s when I by chance found myself in a friend group where almost everyone was bi. Even then, I didn’t say, “I’m bisexual” out loud for the first time until I was 26 years old—and it was still just to a few people. I had moved to Seattle about a year prior, so being in a metro area for the first time ever, and surrounded by more out, visible community made the decision feel a lot safer than it would have earlier in my life. Maybe even bigger than that, though, was that I finally got introduced to the idea that I didn’t need to have “proof” (i.e. experience dating a range of genders) that I was bisexual in order to identify as bi or queer. I’d only ever dated cis men, and at that point I’d been married to a man for about a year. I hadn’t even heard the word “nonbinary” yet. I was afraid of taking up space or resources in LGBTQ+ community that weren’t mine to claim. Learning that those feelings of invalidity and invisibility are extremely common for bi and pan people, that I wasn’t alone, and that my identity is innate to me and isn’t dependent on who I’m in relationship with, made a huge difference. 


How do you ally yourself with others who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community?
Shortly after I came out, I was looking for a way to feel connected to in-person community and ended up signing up to volunteer with Lambert House, Seattle’s LGBTQ+ youth community center. I’ve now been volunteering there for four years and can’t imagine my life without it. I feel deeply privileged to bear witness to the experiences of the queer and trans youth who come to the house; their resilience, their care for one another, and their joy. What’s more, watching the youth and adult volunteers interacting has given me a deep appreciation for just how important intergenerational LGBTQ+ spaces are. I am anxious, depressed and struggle a lot with executive dysfunction, so I was worried when I started there that I wouldn’t be outgoing enough, or wouldn’t have enough relevant life experience to be a good role model, but I’ve found that the opposite is true–those difficulties with mental health in particular have been a point of connection with a number of youth. I’m grateful for that space for us to be in allyship with one another across generations and experiences. 

Another thing I’ve been involved in this last year that I’d like to share has been work with the LGBTQ+ Immigrant & Refugee Coalition. It’s a group of people from a wide range of organizations, mostly in King and Pierce Counties, who are working to build a network of community support for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in this area. When asylum seekers arrive at the border seeking safety, many are held in detention centers, sometimes for months, to await a court date. Immigration detention centers are inhumane for everyone, but they are especially unsafe for trans people. Our coalition advocates for the release of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers from detention and helps to match them with host homes who can provide safe housing, support and connection to local community. As part of the host recruiting team, I do initial intake calls with families who express interest in offering up a space to a guest, and I’ve helped in the past with organizing community events to bring together hosts, guests and coalition members. I think I would have assumed that I couldn’t help out with this kind of thing because I don’t speak Spanish or have any deep knowledge of immigration or asylum, but that’s not the case. My contributions are small, but I’m grateful to have this kind of opportunity to be a part of the work, and to welcome my queer and trans siblings into this community. 


How do you educate people about the LGBTQ+ community? 

I don’t think anyone in our communities has a duty to educate anyone about their own identity or experience; there are plenty of resources and stories already out there for a person, school, or workplace that wants to practice better allyship. That being said, for myself personally, I find that I often do have the patience and emotional energy to have those conversations, and when the opportunity presents itself in one-on-one conversation I tend to want to engage. I believe that personal experiences and stories can be powerful education tools, so long as (and I think this is especially important for me to remember as a white able-bodied person) I don’t present my experience as being universal. It’s often easier for me to share those stories with people I don’t know that well or don’t have a relationship with. Maybe that’s because of the context—if I’m having a conversation with someone at a BBQ about trans issues, for example, it’s usually because they’ve asked me a question and have expressed some interest in learning. When it comes to having those same kinds of conversations with my family, though, things can get emotionally charged pretty quickly. In those situations, I like to share a book, an article, or even a movie or an invitation to an event where appropriate—something that can serve as a jumping-off point for a bigger conversation without going directly for the deeply personal. 


How do you educate people about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community?
I think I’m still very much educating myself about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community, and I expect to be doing that for the rest of my life. I read a lot—books, articles, and even just on social media—by authors with identities I don’t share, for my own learning and so that I can share and amplify those voices to the other people in my life who I have these talks with. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of assuming that, as a person with one marginalized identity, I’m given some special insight or empathy into other people’s experiences as well, but that’s just not true. I identify as trans, but even within that one letter of the acronym there is such a wide breadth of experience. I want to be the best ally I can for my Black, Indigenous, POC, immigrant, and trans femme siblings, and that means putting in the work. 

Outside of queer/trans spaces, I often find myself in the position of being the first non-binary person that someone has ever (knowingly) met. Again, when I have the patience and energy for those conversations I don’t mind engaging questions, but I’m conscious of the fact that, as a white, masculine-leaning millenial, I am in a lot of ways the kind of non-binary person that white cisgender people in this country and in this moment are most familiar with. I think it’s my responsibility in those conversations to draw attention to the fact that non-binary gender is not something new, and to encourage others to seek out the voices of Black & Indigenous People of Color to deepen their understanding. I hope that I’m able to help steer potential allies toward resources that center those voices. 


What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ+ youth who have questions?
If you have access to something like this in your area, in-person community is such an amazing resource. Finding a group of peers to talk with, laugh with, and take this journey with can be really healing and powerful. If you’re getting ready to have a conversation with parents or other important cis/straight people in your life, another helpful resource is PFLAG—they’re a group for LGBTQ+ parents, friends and allies to learn and support one another. As for books, I recently picked up a copy of Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression by Iris Gottlieb; it’s fun, colorful, and very readable, and it covers a huge range of topics related to gender, from pronouns, to dysphoria, to residential schools and their role in the erasure of two-spirit identities, to police violence against black men. I got a lot out of reading it, and so did my parents!


What did you think your life was going to be like after high school?
I’ve never been good at envisioning my own future. Part of that is just my anxiety, but I also think that I saw so few versions of adulthood around me that appealed to me. Around the time I graduated from high school, my dreams were to become an international journalist, or work with the Peace Corps, or a naturalist for a remote National Park. In retrospect, I think I gravitated toward possibilities that would take me away. Then there was the fact that, when I imagined myself as an old person, I always had a long beard and a moustache. I used to play this off as a joke to my friends, but inside my stomach would twist with a discomfort and sadness I couldn’t really understand. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be a man, but I didn’t especially want to be a woman, either. I didn’t know what that meant, and I definitely couldn’t imagine where a person who felt that way might fit in the world.  

Now I realize that the feelings of having no vision of your future is a pretty common experience for a lot of queer and trans folks. I talk to youth a lot who feel that way. I still don’t have it all figured out, but I’m glad to know that high school me wasn’t alone. 


What tips would you have for people questioning their gender identity?
Trust your gut about what you want. It’s okay to try things out, like a new name, new pronouns, or new clothes. If you’re nervous about it, sometimes it’s nice to test out something new selectively, like with a trusted friend, or with a group setting if you have one that you feel comfortable in. When I started thinking I might like it if people used they/them pronouns, I tried it at Lambert House first, then with my good friends, then on Facebook, and then finally started talking with the other folks in my life–like my coworkers and my parents. That’s what works for me, but I feel like my partner usually takes the opposite approach; when they decide on something, they go all in. That’s ok too! And if you don’t want to do any of those things, that’s also okay. There aren’t just two (or even just three or four or five) ways to do gender. 

What tips would you have for people questioning their sexual orientation?
I’m still not sure I really understand my own, so I’m not sure if I’m in a position to give tips! But I will say that the words you choose to use for yourself are totally up to you. Labels can be a shortcut to finding our people, but they’re also often imperfect or lacking nuance. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for choosing the label that feels best to you now. 


How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?
In comparison to when I was in school, I have a lot more control now over who I spend my time around. Especially now that my day job is at an LGBTQ+ organization, I find that I’m surrounded by positivity and support for most of my waking hours, a privilege I try not to take for granted. But the things that help me stay resilient are spending time in trans community.


What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ representation?
I’m a big fan of zines and comics. Recently I’ve really enjoyed Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki. Also, when I’m feeling down and need a positive pick-me-up, I rewatch Yuri!!! on Ice; I really appreciate the mental health-related aspects of the story, but I also like that the creators made an intentional decision not to make the queerness of the two main characters an issue. It’s nice to just watch them get to know each other and how to better support one another without everyone around them freaking out about two men in love. 


What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community?
I’m working on allowing myself to dream about the future, but sometimes it’s still hard for me. That said, my hope for the future is for an LGBTQ+ community that is intergenerational, where our queer and trans elders are still here in community with us and not taken from the world too early, where queer and trans youth have safe homes and safe spaces to connect with one another. I hope that the kind of radical care for one another I’ve seen in queer and trans spaces keeps growing and expanding. I look forward to the day when the vocabulary we’re using now sounds hopelessly outdated and un-nuanced because we have even more words for communicate or many ways of being in the world. 

Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ+ teens of today?

Find a way to connect with your peers. Surround yourself with people who support you in exploring your truth. Also, learn about your history. Whether it’s through historical accounts, or a memoir, or a collection of essays from the 1980s, I feel more deeply rooted when I’m reminded of all of the leaders and events that came before this. Finally, know that you have this community behind you, and that you are loved.

Haven Wilvich(She/Her, They/Them)

Haven Wilvich is a Nonbinary Transgender Woman, a gender blogger, an activist focused on Trans Healthcare Disparities, and a Project Coordinator at Fred Hutch in the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. She is a founder and co-leader of an Employee Resource Group called Fred Hutch Rainbow Employees for Equity (FHREE) for LGBTQ+ employees and staff who want to learn more about active allyship. The group focuses on changing institutional practices to be visibly inclusive of our community and empower staff to change their own teams and work practices. In the HVTN, she works with clinical sites around the world on the operations of finding an effective HIV vaccine. 

When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so? 

Coming out took a very long time for me. I grew up in a very isolated conservative Christian community and didn’t have any words to describe my experience of gender. In college I started to find queer community but I still didn’t have exposure to nonbinary people and didn’t feel like I quite fit the mold of a transgender woman because I still thought that I needed to “pass” in order to be trans. I got married in college to the first person who ever showed interest in me, in large part because I thought that no one could love me for who I really was. And because I was in a relationship that appeared straight, I didn’t bother to continue exploring my sexuality. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I began to realize that my gender and sexuality could be expressed more authentically. And it was really meeting other nonbinary people and finding role models such as Jacob Tobia and Alok Vaid Menon that gave me the examples I needed to come out to myself. But when I came out to my spouse at the time, she reacted very poorly and wanted me to stay closeted. That was the last straw in a relationship that had never been healthy so I eventually left and came out publicly 8 months later. 

How do you ally yourself with others who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community?

I actively remind myself every day that even though I may understand a small slice of what it means to be queer and transgender, my experience comes from other intersections of my life. Because I am white and have some financial privilege, I can never fully understand the challenges that queer or trans people of color face or the experience of living in poverty. I try to live and work in a way that creates space for those experiences to be centered and expressed because only when we all work together can we truly be liberated. 

How do you educate people about the LGBTQ+ community? 

In my personal life I have been writing about my transition and experiences of gender for almost 5 years now. I share very publicly about my journey in hopes that other trans people can have examples that I didn’t have until later in life and so that cisgender friends can learn empathy for paths like mine. 

In my professional work, I advise on policies at Fred Hutch and actively create education opportunities for staff to grow in their cultural competency from an intersectional lens. 

How do you educate people about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community?

Rather than trying to speak on behalf of people in more marginalized communities, I try to share their work and boost their voices directly. There are so many resources for self-publishing and visibility on the internet and I try to read as much as I can and make that work visible to others. I also help lead discussions that build empathy and focus on experiences of communities of color. 

What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ+ youth who have questions? 

There are so many amazing resources in Seattle and online it’s hard to know where to start! 

For inclusive anatomy and sex advice, I recommend Scarleteen

For amazing articles about gender and intersectionality, I recommend Everyday Feminism

For advice about exploring gender, check out Conversations with a Gender Therapist

For advice on Nonbinary identity and transition, check out Genderqueer.me

For in person support, visit Lambert House

What did you think your life was going to be like after high school? 

By the end of High School I had pretty much resigned myself to living a boring life of keeping my head down and ignoring my gender and sexuality questions. I wish that I had the resources and support at that time to become my best self instead of waiting until my late 20s. So don’t waste your time! Seek the people in your life who can help you be authentic and happy. 

What tips would you have for people questioning their gender identity? 

There are so many different ways to express your gender! You don’t have to have dysphoria or dissatisfaction with your body to be trans or nonbinary. Find the things that give you euphoria and let them lead you to authenticity. And then find the words that feel right to describe your experience. It’s ok if those words change or if it only feels right for a time. Most of us are constantly evolving and growing and our labels and identity do too. If you feel sure that you don’t want a particular type of puberty or you think you want to transition medically, it is ok to insist that a doctor put you on puberty blockers. I wish I had been able to do that as a teen because it would make everything so much easier now. Puberty blockers aren’t permanent so you can change your mind later. But you are also the expert on your own body and experience so don’t let anyone else ever tell you what to do with it. Seattle Children’s has an amazing Gender Clinic where you can get help and support. 

What tips would you have for people questioning their sexual orientation? 

It is ok to explore and mess around while you’re trying to figure yourself out. Just because a word feels right now doesn’t mean you need to use it forever. And remember Bisexual/Pansexual people absolutely belong in the queer community, no matter who they are in relationship. You don’t stop being queer just because your relationship is being read as “straight.” 

How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?

Fill your life with people who support you for who you are and give you affirmations about your journey. And as much as possible, try to minimize your time with people who want you to fit into a particular box, even if that box is “gay.” You should have the right and the support to figure out who you are and having a fan club to cheer you on helps weather the harsher world around you. Also, avoid the comments section on the internet. Haters gonna hate but there are plenty of people who are on your side out there.  

What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ representation?

I love the poetry of nonbinary writer Alok Vaid Menon, particularly their book “Femme in Public.” Steven Universe is also my happy place. 

What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community?

I hope that even the people who want “assimilation” and to fit in to the status quo culture can learn to see that we need radical change if all of us are going to fit in. The world isn’t going to become a better place until we stop treating cisgender and heterosexual as the sole definition of “normal.” 

Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ+ teens of today?

Don’t settle for a relationship where someone expects you to be a certain way. You deserve people who love you unconditionally for who you are and who you are growing to become. Because you will keep changing for a long time hopefully and you need both friends and partners who will support you along that path.