Volunteer Spotlight: Stephanie
Today’s spotlight is Stephanie, a front desk volunteer. Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Stephanie and I use the pronouns she, her, hers even though I have struggled my entire life to fit in any box. I grew up in Asia and came to the US twenty years ago to pursue a degree in special education. I have lived in three continents and been in the US on and off for almost half my life now.
I first stumbled upon the Pacific Center about a year ago while searching online for help and to learn more about transgenderism. Over half a year prior to that, I had fallen in love with a beautiful woman who struggled with her transition and had become increasingly depressed. Not only was she the first woman I have ever been in love with, I quickly realized, to my embarrassment, that what little knowledge I had of the LGBTQ community did not extend beyond the L and the G.
I remember the first time I attended the Partners of Trans* group… I sobbed almost the entire time and could barely speak. I felt such a relief to be able to come out of hiding, to talk about the person I love for the very first time, and to briefly let go of all the pain I had been carrying alone in secret. It was there that Morgan, one of the group facilitators, helped me realize that even though I was trying to support the person I love, I needed help for myself, too.
Sadly, my heart is broken and I no longer attend group but I am forever grateful to the Pacific Center for giving me a safe place to be myself and to love the one I love. I made a few friends I still keep in touch with and I continue to be an ally to both trans* folks and their partners.
Thanks for sharing that with us. Peer groups are a really powerful resource, and we’re so glad to hear about ways in which they’ve helped our community. So, how long have you been working with Pacific Center in a volunteer capacity?
I have been volunteering at the Pacific Center for almost a year now and am thankful for the opportunity to give back. I was very shy and nervous in the beginning but feel more confident now that I have had more experience and gotten to know some people. While I cannot commit to a regular shift due to trips out of the country to visit family during long school breaks, I am thrilled that I have found my little niche as a substitute front desk volunteer. As an educator, I can often fill an open 4 PM shift if I do not have meetings after school. Since this little vagabond does not have family or many friends here, I have been able to fill shifts around Halloween and Thanksgiving, too.
I like greeting visitors at the Pacific Center and helping them feel welcomed. As someone who unfortunately knows one too many Asians who are racist, homophobic and/or transphobic, I strive to be the little light that outshines the darkness in that community.
To the world, I am just a cisgender straight female. Having faced discrimination and harassment in the past as a non-US citizen on a temporary visa, I have learned to be careful and not make too many waves. At the Pacific Center, I feel safe to be the question mark I am and I try to spread that positive feeling to everyone I encounter there.
And we love having you! Who inspires you and your work?
The many LGBTQ folks who stand up for who they are against all odds and give hope to the younger generation that they, too, can be who they are and love who they love. And the many partners who love and support their significant others through their often grueling journey to be their authentic selves. I, too, have learned that love is about the hearts, not the parts.
Are there any particular LGBTQ or social justice issues that are closest to your heart?
I have been a longtime advocate for children with special needs and now, LGBTQ kids, too. Even though I love living in the Bay Area and feel it is home, my days in the US are numbered. When I have to return to Asia, it is my hope to open my heart and my humble home to children who have been disowned by their families because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I once read a story about a youth in my birth country who was sleeping in malls and 24-hour fast food joints because she was thrown out by her parents for being transgender. I want to make a difference no matter where I end up.
Ghandi once said, “The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”
And finally, let’s end on a lighter note: what are your favorite hobbies or things to do in the Bay Area?
I used to be an avid rock climber but as friends moved on, I have been doing a lot less of that. I love the diversity of the Bay Area: people, food and everything in between! I enjoy my work with children, doing yoga, spending time in the big outdoors, watching (mostly college) sports and traveling.
Thank you so much, Stephanie! And for our readers – let’s try to do a few small acts of kindness this week of our own, after Stephanie’s example. She’s being a great agent for change just by being herself.
If you’re a volunteer who would like to be featured on the blog, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook at InQueery News.