March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect upon and honor women. Do you have role models and “sheroes” in the LGBTQ community? Sheroes are the She Heroes in your life, in the state, in our nation, and in the world.

We conducted a telephone and email survey of members of our Baltimore community to tally information on what characteristics were considered necessary to be a shero, who are the commonly named sheroes by our community, and what words of wisdom can our sheroes give us. Here are the results:

Characteristics of Sheroes
Kind, confident, sincere, has integrity, fair, courageous, intelligent, values others, strong-willed, respectful of all people, dependable, “walks the walk,” dedicated, passionate, committed to people, pursues field of study or career, and makes a change in society.

Main Nature of a Shero
An independent thinker no matter what the norm or power, true to herself, and stands up to advocate for truth, equality, and the rights of others.

Commonly Identified Sheroes
Mother, grandmother, aunt, teacher, nun, lawyer, activist, writer, mentor, friend and both nationally and internationally known women.

Some respondents named many sheroes, whereas several individuals had no role models, either because they felt they were beyond the age of need or that all potential role models were imperfect and, therefore, not worthy of being selected.

Another common thread in selecting sheroes was based upon their courage to announce their gender identity or sexual orientation. As one respondent said so beautifully: “All trans women who are out and active are my sheroes. A hero to me stands up for the downtrodden, even in the face of their own hardship. In this misogynistic world, it takes a lot of fortitude to be a trans woman, and to be proud of it and endure the hatred that some people show us.”

Famous Sheroes
Rachel Maddow, a lesbian, and Lady Gaga, an intersex woman, were examples of women who told the public who they are. Rachel Maddow is a high profile news commentator and author who never has hidden her sexuality or tried to act less intelligent than she is. Lady GaGa was identified as a singer and performer who publically expresses who she is and what she does. She doesn’t care what people think of her because she knows what she wants to be and what she wants in life.

Local Sheroes
We interviewed seven women and their words of wisdom and insight into their lives are presented. Detailed biographies can be found online.

Mary Washington

2nd-term Maryland Delegate 43
African American Lesbian

“It is still kind of strange to hear the ‘shero’ word applied to me. I try to just be myself, work hard and try never to deny who I am. I think this encourages others to be encouraged to be who they are.

I have not consciously patterned my life after any one person. I respect my parents who raised six kids and instilled in me a sense of responsibility and always encouraged everything we wanted to do, encouraged us to be involved, intellectually curious and to develop our own personal accomplishments.

It may sound corny, but I want to make the world a better place and be seen as a person who values other people. I just want to make things better, do no harm, if I cannot improve the situation. Because I am African American, a lesbian, and a woman, I have a different take on the world, but I am always all three. The rights of one group are not preferred over another. I cannot see the world through the lens of one group, need a multiple lens, nothing is clear cut.

If all communities and progressives could always work together, we would be the majority and could change the world. I look forward for all working together.

The more we LGBT can also identify with other issues than LGBT, the sooner this will be possible. For example, I want to be married, but I should also be interested in other issues, such as, health care for children, and comparable wages.”

Rev. Mother Meredith Moise

Old Catholic Priest
Creating Change 2012 Co-Chair
Baltimore Black Pride Vice Chair
Afro Latina Lesbian

“I believe people see me working for a better community….really trying to help people. That has been my passion for most of my life, and it translates in my vocation and my secular work.

My goal in life is to be a peacemaker, working for peace within and in community. I have been called to this work by Spirit. Spirit took a little Black Panamanian girl from Queens and told her to spread the Good News: that the love of the Holy Spirit is for all living beings and that Spirit resides inside all that lives! I am very clear that it is by the grace and mercy of the Holy Spirit that I am what I am. I give thanks to that Spirit and to the spirits of my parents, god parents, and grandparents, all my ancestors of the light who pray for me daily and guide me in this work for peace!”

Jenna Fischetti

TransMaryland.org Founder
GLCCB Group Facilitator
Caucasian Transgender Woman

“I have been a facilitator of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland’s (GLCCB) Gender Identity Group since 2006. It is a peer-led group for gender non-conforming persons. I have been sober for six years. In both areas of my life, it was necessary for me to seek integrity. For me, the moment I integrate the inner and the outer, I produce integrity. The processes for sobriety and for gender authenticity require that I take the actions (outer) so that I may live the truth (inner).

Moreover, I am humbled when I am approached by peers and those outside the select recovery or transgender communities who use words like “courageous,” “inspiring,” “brave.” I suspect I never gave those words a second thought before. It is because the words they use describe actions I took based on my faith in God, in my Creator. Simply put, it was because of a Power far greater than I.

The men and women in my life who were overtaken by societal expectations of their gender, forced to deny their own truth, helped me by allowing me to be of service to them. It is most assuredly in giving that I have received. If anyone ever believes I’m a shero, it is because they see the actions of countless others helping me along the Way.

Our bodies, our minds, our gender are the diversities we utilize to touch and help each other. My experiences help you, and your experiences help me. The end game is to awaken the Spirit in all of us to practice love and tolerance of others.”

Melissa Thomas

Youth of the Rainbow Co-Founder
African American Lesbian

“It is my goal to always conduct myself according to the way I was reared. In our family we believe that it takes a village to raise a child, and, just because many of my loved ones have moved on from this life, I have and will never forget the many lessons that make me so much of who I am. I did not pattern myself after one person. However, I have many family members, as well my love for history, and I believe that from my history there are many great examples to use in order to help guide me when making many decisions in my life. Many people paid a very high price in order for me to have the freedoms that I enjoy and I owe them the respect of living better.

If we are not helpers of one another then why are we here? My relationship with God as well as my family being around, so many of them give me reason to continue to strive to change the world, for the better. I want my children to be able to choose to be whatever they want without having to answer ‘why’ to everyone they meet.

I want to see Youth of the Rainbow grow to be an organization whose goal is to assist our LGBTQ teens in social interactions without the negative.

Together we can make the unexpected, unrealistic, and meaningful differences.”

Sharr’on S. Robinson

Youth of the Rainbow Co-Founder
African American Lesbian

“I believe others see me as a ‘shero’ because I’m a natural born leader. I am strong-willed, confident and self-assured. I’m giving and health conscious. I believe in the Bible.

There is no one I have patterned myself after. My philosophy is to do it the best that I can the first time, so I don’t have to do it a second time. There are two driving forces for me: The first and foremost is my relationship with God; the second is Melissa, my partner. I want to be a microbiologist, M.D., PHD and work in a laboratory. I am not a people person. I like to work in the background; am interested in fighting germs, viruses, and improving the environment for people. Now we are preparing young people to become responsible, preparing them for jobs when they come along. We work with other companies to set the Youth of the Rainbow up with job training, resume building, and flea market workshops.”

Maggie McIntosh

Maryland Delegate District 43 since 1992
Caucasian Lesbian

“It pleases me that I am considered a role model. I am deeply touched that people have suggested that I am a shero. Both as a teacher in public schools and a legislator I have tried to be someone who will listen and be honest. I have tried to have integrity and be a person who doesn’t compromise my principles.
I patterned myself after my two mothers. My biological mother, passed away from cancer, was one of the few women who was a professional when others did not work outside the home. She taught me to respect diversity, race, culture; she never cheated anyone, and was a very kind person. From my adopted mother, I inherited my desire to be a social justice activist; I think from both mothers I developed an interest in government and politics.

I am going to have a significant birthday this year. It has made me reflect upon the journey my life has taken, personally, professionally, and spiritually. Today I am at peace with myself and am looking forward to new beginnings with the woman I love. What could be better than to pass Marriage Equality in the legislature and begin my life with Diane Stollenwerk? The answer is ‘nothing.'”

Paulette Young

GLCCB’s First President
African American Lesbian

“I suppose I’ve been identified as a role model and leader because of my having leadership qualities to lead the GLBT community in the early days of the movement during the 1970s. I wanted the gay community to have a strong foundation and that was letting the community at large know that we were there and that we demanded rights as everyone else.

There were three women in my life who were my role models: my mother, grandmother, and maternal aunt. These three African-American women taught me that I could accomplish anything I tried. They commanded respect and were intelligent and hardworking women.

My philosophy is basically to harm no one and I am driven by a desire to right wrongs and to ensure that those who are disenfranchised have their say. I’m currently retired after 40-plus years of work. Now I’m writing the book about the movement which I have wanted to do for a very long time.

I would like to tell these girls and women to keep fighting, keep at it, no matter what happens, no matter what they come up against. Never take ‘no’ for an answer.”

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