qnotes continues profiling young LGBT leaders in our April 12, 2013, print edition cover story, “Out for Change: Young LGBT Professionals Making a Difference.” Each day, we’ll publish an in-depth profile. Today, we feature Rebecca Chapin of the LGBT Center of Raleigh.
Hometown: Ronkonkoma, NY
Currently: Working as a hardware testing engineer. Board member and program director, LGBT Center of Raleigh.
Alma Mater: University of Hartford
Would you describe yourself chiefly as an activist, advocate, student, entrepreneur, professional or something else? Why?
I would describe myself as an advocate because I speak out for a community that has no voice. Through support and social groups I engage the trans community and use what I learn to effect change within the greater Raleigh/Durham area.
Which LGBT/progressive causes are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about supporting and empowering the trans community. I seek to educate and provide resources for those within the community as well as support positive legislation and education outside of the community.
What inspired you to become involved in the LGBT/progressive community?
When I came out I had no central resource, simply a hodge-podge of reclusive support groups and online resources. I want the Raleigh/Durham area to be the most trans progressive area in the state. At the very least, create a safe welcoming space where individuals can explore the concepts of gender identity without persecution or misinformation.
How does your passion for LGBT/progressive issues play a role in your work or education? Are there any intersections between your professional/educational career and LGBT/progressive causes or organizations?
Sadly in this economy and political climate, I make efforts to keep my professional and advocacy work separate. There are currently no protections in this state for gender identity and thus makes it high risk to attempt to combine the two worlds.
What do you believe is the most important issue currently facing the LGBT/progressive community in North Carolina? In the nation/world?
Just as any minority group the LGBT community faces a lot of negative stereotypes and misinformation that limits us and individuals and as a community. Even though we have made great strides in the last several years these are the issues that plague our youth, and young adults causing them to live in hiding, get ejected from their homes and bullied in school and work. Even today in a world that is steadily making room for acceptance, we need to fight for our basic rights as citizens and as individuals to live with love and acceptance.
How has your experience as a member of the LGBT community shaped your experiences in work or in school?
As stated above it is high risk to live as an out trans person. Fear of job loss, persecution, discrimination and abandonment all plague the average trans individual. I try to use my position as a soap box to speak up for those who are afraid, reach out for those who cannot, and live as out as possible so that those who follow can do the same. If anything it has made me cautious of who I align myself with and more to the point what companies I apply to.
Do you feel North Carolina is a progressive, friendly and welcoming place (e.g., business, educational, social, religious or political climates)? How could these climates be best improved?
I think that North Carolina in general has a long way to go in understanding and welcoming the transgender/gender nonconforming population. We are often forgotten in the advances of the LGB community and generally misunderstood by both the gay and straight communities. The local government could do so much more in way of sensitivity training for public servants, doctors/nurses and general public. There are countless missed opportunities to make public spaces and documentation more gender neutral/friendly. The entire state is lacking in competent and trained mental health providers for gender nonconforming individuals. In short areas like Charlotte, Asheville and Raleigh have made great strides for the LGB population but I believe we have a long way to go to make the same advances for the T community.