This weekend was amazing.

About a week ago, I was approached by a friend of mine about putting together a community rally in response to the results of the Presidential election. He was very clear- he didn’t want a protest or a march. He wanted a rally to show our diversity, and to show our community that there is support, and that we will stand against acts of hate, and intolerance, like what we’ve seen across our nation.

So we rallied on Saturday. Speakers included Assemblyman Harry Bronson, Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle, community leaders like Thomas Warfield, Kevin and Monica from PittsFORWARD and CURB, Charlsey Bickett, executive director of Mary’s Place, and others. As I’ve said quite often since the mass shooting in Orlando, I’ll always be grateful and encouraged when people come together to find strength and hope.

But Saturday evening, for about an hour and a half, I was able to experience something I’ve never experienced. I was able to see a friend come out, and be herself in front of family and friends.

About a year or so ago, I met an individual through a best friend of mine. This person’s gender expression was male, and until I knew differently, I used male pronouns. Even after this person was comfortable enough to share with me that she is transgender, she still preferred to be addressed by the name she was given at birth- for safety and security reasons. I made sure to ask when we were out together; I wanted her to be comfortable.

About a week or so ago, I received her coming out party invitation via email.

 

Well, Saturday evening, she had her coming out party. I arrived just a few minutes after it started, and saw a small group. She came up to me, and we hugged tightly and we talked for a bit before she moved on to greet friends and family. Before I left, 25-30 or more people, including her brother, had gathered in support. I hope she felt all the love for her that was in the room.

I won’t share her name, as she still enjoys her anonymity. She and I have shared a few tears, as she told me about the discrimination she’s faced in her workplace. I’ve watched her tweet despair, and hope. She’s tweeted about her worries and fears, and about her coming out plan.

So, here’s to her. Here’s to her infectious smile, great sense of humor, realistically hopeful outlook, kind and caring spirit.

I’m incredibly grateful to have shared these moments with her, and while we know this world can be most unkind when a person is most genuine to themselves and those around them, I want her to know that we are here for her. Not just in the good times, but in the moments she needs lifting up.

Together, we rise.