Public speaking is a common cause of fear and anxiety for a lot of people, including Jaden Rearhys, a member of the board of directors of Washington County Gay Straight Alliance Inc. But when asked to tell his story at a community event, he decided he needed to put his anxiety aside.
“The message was more important than the fear,” said Jaden.
Jaden, 35, who self-identifies as being gender fluid, was asked to speak and tell his story last November during WCGSA Inc.’s annual Transgender Day of Remembrance and Candlelight Walk. The local event was part of a national observance to memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia and to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community.
“I was so nervous beforehand because I haven’t had a lot of experience with public speaking, But I was so honored to be asked, and it turned out to be a great experience,” he said. “Just to be heard and to have people there that really care about what people in the transgender community are going through was amazing.”
Jaden said an event like the Transgender Day of Remembrance can be a somber affair. “I think a lot of people think it’s going to be like going to a funeral. It can be sad, but I wanted to speak from a place that is uplifting and provide words of support, encouragement and help people learn.”
Jaden, a native of Verona, said he moved to town three years ago to live in a residential recovery community. Since his arrival in Washington, he has been able to continue his education and currently works as a licensed massage therapist at Spa Harmony in the Winfred R. Cameron Wellness Center. Jaden said on recommendation of a therapist at the Persad Center, an organization that works closely with WCGSA Inc., he began attending the monthly 2nd Friday Night Potluck hosted by WCGSA Inc. and held at a local church. The 2nd Friday events are monthly social gatherings for members and allies of the LGBT community.
“It feels like a family dinner, and I found a community of support,” said Jaden, who admitted that the home-cooked food is a big draw for those who attend. “I am learning how to cook now,” he said with a chucklee. “But I didn’t know how to cook at all when I first starting going, and the food was always such a comfort to me.”
Jaden says although he knows that in bigger places such as Pittsburgh there might be more social services options for LGBT people, he has found community here and feels like he gets more personal attention. “I am planning on staying and living here. I am really happy here.”
Jaden credits being involved with WCGSA Inc. for helping him continue in his recovery and grow up. “Becoming a member of the board of directors of the organization is a huge thing for me, and I am grateful to be able to have a place to do work that could help bring peace to the world and build bridges between people. The support that WCGSA Inc. provides to people is so incredibly important,” he said.
Jaden said the weekly support group for LGBT teens and allies is what he feels is the most important work of the organization. It’s so important for youth to have a place to go where they feel love and acceptance, he said. “If I had a group like that when I was growing up, I probably wouldn’t have been such a loner and maybe wouldn’t have even gotten involved with drugs.”