You’re originally from Illinois. How did you end up in Hampton Roads?
It’s been a journey. I moved from Dallas to Norfolk in the summer of 2019 to continue my career in corporate retail at DollarTree, Inc. I had lived in Dallas for four years working at JC Penney Inc. It was quite a change leaving Texas, but Hampton Roads has welcomed me with open arms.
My career has always been a focus in my life. Helping customers I will never meet in person has been a life changing experience for me, and I’m blessed to be a part of it all. I believe at the end of the day, we need to live life helping as many people as we can. We are one big family and my retail career has helped me see that. It’s what led me here and has helped shape my leadership style thru and thru.
Being new to the area, how did you first find out about Hampton Roads Pride?
I had reservations about moving here. Dallas was so welcoming and had multiple events, bars and restaurants, parades and festivals. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure there anything similar here. But once I got here, I found out I was wrong. The community here is active, alive, working hard and making moves. The number of organizations here making change is astounding.
I bowled with Stonewall Sports, enjoyed shopping in Ghent and downtown Norfolk, and made plenty of good friends and memories at the bars and restaurants. I discovered Hampton Roads Pride and Pridefest while looking for events to meet people out, and eventually I became a part of their team.
What was your first impression of Pridefest?
Pridefest was my very first LGBTQ+ experience here. I moved here Memorial Day weekend, and a few weeks later it was Pridefest. I wandered around the festival all by myself, not having made any formal connections yet.
It was an exciting thing to see not just organizations but businesses, banks, shops, theaters, and both local and national representation present. It was my first taste of what being LGBTQ+ in Hampton Roads meant, and I was thrilled. It was different than Texas, but in a good way. I was excited for my future here.
As Hampton Roads’ Pride president, tell us about your vision for the organization moving forward?
There are quite a few. We have seen great success in having events year round, and we can’t let off the gas now. Our part to play is to ensure pride is seen in Hampton Roads throughout the year, and we hold events in all Seven Cities. We also need to ensure we grow our community and build leaders of tomorrow.
I’m a strong believer that a true leader never calls themself a leader. They are called a leader by others. One major goal of mine is to ensure we continue to seek out new members who want to serve and possibly take on leadership roles with Pride.
We also need to address our younger generations Z and Alpha, who are more out and proud than any generations past. We also need to continue to focus on the queer family of the future. There are more LGBTQ+ households in America than ever. Are we hosting events for LGBTQ+ families of all kinds? Are we talking about marriage, adoption, IVF Are we inclusive of families of color, refugee families, families with disabilities?
It’s a large task, but the future is bright, and we need to ensure we are serving all segments of the community.
This interview originally appeared in thr January 2023 edition of Outlife757 Magazine.