As a child, I remember a particular class discussion about what we wanted to be when we grew up. At the tender age of six, each of us had an opportunity to say what our dream job was. While everyone went around and said they wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, firefighter, or teacher, I said I wanted to be a counselor. I’m not even sure if I realized what that meant at the time, but as it turned out, that’s currently what I’m trying to accomplish 17 years later.
As time passed, I started to have a strong interest in LGBT causes and community after I met and made friends with people who were openly gay. I quickly learned about organizations like OutReach and groups for youth such as Teens Like Us. Though I supported the LGBT community as an ally, I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. It wasn’t until I was 21 that I finally recognized my sexual orientation as a gay female.
Part of the reason I never felt I was in the right place was because I was in a relationship with a man for over six years. Once I finally realized that I was living a double life, I admitted to myself that this was not the life I wanted to live anymore. I came out to myself, and the very next day everyone knew. I told my mother, my friends, and even my co-workers all within a 24-hour period. There was doubt from others that it was simply a “phase,” but now that has faded. I have been with my girlfriend, Heather, for over two years. I am much happier than I have ever been. Overall, this recognition quickly became the basis for the merging of my desire to be a counselor and my passion for LGBT issues.
After high school, I went to MATC in the Human Services program. Midway through the program, I set up an internship interview at OutReach. I had to do an internship at a non-profit organization, and I decided that I would do it at OutReach. I had never even set foot in the organization before I made up my mind that I wanted to devote a year of my life to being there.
I met with Harry Straetz, Outreach Program Director. He was very excited about getting me on board and encouraged me to check out some of the groups that were offered before I officially started. I had the summer break to rest and finally come to terms with my own sexuality. I officially came out May 4, 2009—three months before my internship started with OutReach.
My time at OutReach not only helped me understand what my future in this field of non-profit organizations would be like, but it was one of the most supportive environments I have ever been in. I have my wonderful co-supervisors, Harry Straetz and Josh Bartz, to thank for that. I’d like to thank them both for being there for me not only as my co-supervisors, but as my friends, too. After my internship with OutReach ended last spring, Josh Bartz approached me about joining the Board of Directors. The difference was, this time I wasn’t taking orders—I was helping make decisions.
Currently, I am working on educating teachers and working with publishers about using proper, positive terminology for the LGBT community. I am still heavily involved with OutThere, an 18ish to 24ish youth group. I enjoy working with the Speakers Bureau and various other programmatic committees within OutReach.
After graduation this month from MATC, I plan to continue my education and become a Marriage and Family counselor helping to foster all relationships. I know my journey is just beginning, but I can’t wait to see where it takes me.