Friday, August 29, 2014

Thank you

As I sit here at my desk for the last time at PGN, I am overcome with emotions.

I’ve been someone who has always been exceptionally fortunate in the blessings I have had in life. I come from a supportive family, I have the best friends in the world, the most amazing partner in life and I have had some of the most meaningful opportunities.

The Summer of 2011, I found myself at my first Philadelphia Pride with my uncles. Although I wasn’t newly out to myself, I was newly out to the world. I had told my parents and my friends that summer as I was away working at West Chester University as a resident assistant, far enough away to hide myself from reactions. As we stood there, cheering on the various floats streaming past us, I was handed a rolled up newspaper inside of a rainbow bracelet — inside was the Pride edition of the Philadelphia Gay News. I was baffled — a newspaper just for me? For my community? What?

That night I took it home and read it cover to cover. I remember thinking, “Jesus Jen Colletta is the luckiest girl to have this job” because at the time, I was gearing up for a semester as news editor for West Chester University’s The Quad. I could have only dreamed of that opportunity while people told me it was impossible.

Fast forward to graduation in 2012 where my future was uncertain. I ended up taking a temp job at an insurance company, ready to give up on my dream when my mom, in a panic, told me to apply for the position. You see, I figured I would never get it because as embarrassing as this is, I had sent some of my student work to the former editor for freelance opportunities and when I heard nothing back, I figured I would not be a shoe-in for this position.

And then I got a call and had an interview and got another call and my life completely transformed.

The thing is, PGN changed my life. I walk out of this office more confident than ever. PGN gave me the skills and the opportunities that I was told repeatedly as an undergraduate that I would never have.

I have had the opportunities to talk with celebrities but more importantly I’ve had the chance to connect with local community leaders and legislators. This has been the most heartbreaking process of it all — saying goodbye to them as a writer. These people have filled my life with such happiness as they have conquered and stood up for those who are underrepresented.

My co-workers, though, have breathed new life into me during these past two years. I started out as a shy and awkward individual, not sure of anything and ended, still awkward but confident and resilient.

I am excited for my new opportunity at the Bethesda Project. I am blessed that this staff has decided to take a chance on me and to be honest that feels great. Through my work at PGN, I’ve latched onto several non-profit organizations, adoring their missions, their programs and their initiatives. To have a chance to work at one of the city’s finest non-profit organizations is an honor. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this new opportunity.

I am excited about a couple new endeavors I have going on, both in freelance and in voluntary form. I am really excited to be a part of some fantastic organizations and endeavors in the future.

So thank you so everyone who has made this journey fantastic.

No day but today.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunshine awards

The rules:
Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
 Share 11 random facts about yourself.
 Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
 List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
 Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

I’ve never heard of the Sunshine awards before but I was nominated by a lovely fellow journalist who I had met through the Northrop Boot Camp, Kara Newhouse. Kara is a blogger (check out her blog here) and also is an education reporter at Lancaster Online. I also found out a fun fact about her during dinner one night at the conference—she interned at the HRC in Washington, D.C.

11 random facts about me

-I used to cry every time I watched Disney’s Cinderella. I didn’t want Cinderella to leave! Now, I really can’t stand watching Disney movies (I know! The horror!)
-I play with my hair—a lot. I am not sure if it is a nervous habit or what, but it is something I just do.
-Through my job at PGN, I’ve learned a lot about my interests. Before I worked here, I forgot about the branches of government and to be honest, wasn’t super interested in what the government did. Now, you can’t stop me from talking about it.
-Also through my job, I’ve learned that one day, I hope to serve as a press representative or director for a progressive politician or a communications director for a progressive organization.
-I used to be the biggest theater nerd—now I can’t even speak in front of people without stumbling on my words.
-I was in a sorority for two semesters before I decided to quit. It was the best decision I have ever made. Not only was it draining my bank account, but my grades were going down. I still kept my close friends from it and I learned that sometimes, it is good to let things go.
-My girlfriend and I are currently looking for apartments to rent. I’ve never lived with a significant other before but when you know, you know…ya know?
-My English degree did nothing for my career. It was my valuable experience at my school’s paper that got me where I am.
-I am a proud West Chester University ram.
-I am too hard on myself sometimes when really, I have a lot to be proud of.
-I could have mac n cheese all day, every day if I could.

I nominate eleven bloggers:

The lovely Sharon L. Cooks:


Deanna Vasso: slash whatever tumblr you have.

Mollie Welborn: Your tumblrrrr

Carol Fritz: your tumblrrr

Rebekah Balmer: Your tumblrrrr

Ginger Rae Dunbar: MAKE A BLOG

I can’t think of four more…bah.

My questions:

-What three accomplishments in your life are you the most proud of?
-What are some of your smaller goals in life?
-What’s one of your favorite questions to ask new friends or to get a conversation going?
-What did you do on your 16th birthday?
-If someone were to make a movie about your life, who would you hope would play you?
-Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
-What did you want to be when you were little?
-What is your favorite color?
-If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?
-If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go?
-Favorite food?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

To the year and many years to come

I love even numbered years. It’s a thing.

I can’t tell if it is because of my obsessiveness for things being even and neat or the fact that 2008 and 2012 turned out to be some pretty amazing years for personal accomplishment. However, 2013 has shown me up.

Every New Year, I have this ever-growing fear of what is to come, which slowly evaporates into an overwhelming feeling of positivity for the up-and-coming year. 2013 was a year to never forget. My mom turned 60 years old, I moved into my first apartment in Philadelphia, I celebrated one year with the Philadelphia Gay News and I found love again. Why would I want to leave that all behind?

Well, simple — to see my mom turn 61, to continue where I live or move some place different, to celebrate two strong years at the PGN and to celebrate one-year with my love.

I’ve learned a lot in 2013. I’ve gone through heart break, disappointments and some pretty tough times but if there is one thing that got me through this year, it was my strong will to always find the positive. Here are some of the things I learned:

-I learned to never settle for less.
-I learned that although your heart may ache for someone, if their heart doesn’t ache back, it is not worth it.
-I learned that I can be loved in the way I have always dreamed of.
-I learned to always be true with people, no matter what. Tell them your intentions and if they still don’t listen, not your problem.
-People earn second chances — they are not given.
-It is okay to be an introvert. It is fine to spend an entire weekend by yourself.
-But people may want to hang out with you, so that is why you should open your heart to people.
-Always listen to your friends—well mostly. If it weren’t for Laura or Janene, I probably wouldn’t have found my love.
-I learned that she was not the end all, be all. There was much better out there and I got it and I plan on putting a ring on it, ayyyy (not for a little while.)
-I learned that I am more passionate about trans and gender non-conforming issues, especially when they affect good friends of mine.
-I learned that someone will still love me even if I am a size 14 and still have pockets of flesh left on me.
-I’ve learned to not focus on mortality as much as I used to. It is hard when you are so obsessively scared on not being here anymore, but life is a gift worth enjoying it and obsessing over something that is not in your control will not make anything better. 
-I’ve learned that you don’t need to start over in the New Year. Every day is an opportunity to better yourself. 

So it has been real 2013 and it has been good and although I might still be a little apprehensive about 2014, there is no other direction but forward for me. To health and happiness!

Some of the roommates

My mom and I on her 60th birthday in Atlantic City, N.J.

The Pittsburgh skyline

My first Pride with PGN and I dominated the front page
Some of my best friends and I in Pittsburgh for a Halloween party

My love and I during our first Christmas

Starting the New Year with my love and my best friend

To many more cute, awkward and silly selfies.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It’s been one year and some change

By Angela Thomas

Routines—we all get into them. Mine starts out with “headline—space—Angela Thomas.” Always.

I have been working at the Philadelphia Gay News for one year now and I have my routine. I come into the office ten minutes (or admittedly ten minutes after) 9 a.m., coffee in hand, spending my time catching up on emails, sorting details of the day before I start writing at 10 a.m. For the rest of the day, I write articles on the transgender leader coming to Philly, the queer lawyer getting the award, the LGBT community center hosting an important event, the queer Latin@ group setting a positive example in the community. This is my life. I write, write, write and every day, I am inspired by the people I interview.

It’s been a year and I have grown. One year ago, I barely talked to anyone. Talking to Philadelphia Pride Presents president Franny Price was terrifying to me. I didn’t know about half the organizations around.

One year later and I slip into the office, flirting carelessly with office manager, Carol while making jokes with other staff. I talk to my editor about our favorite shows Orange is the New Black, Pretty Little Liars and Girls. I have no problem calling Franny—in fact I look forward to our calls. If I had to pick, I would say that GALAEI: A Queer Latin@ Social Justice Organization has inspired me the most. But I could name ten other organizations that have touched my life.

I’ve interviewed people that other journalists could only dream of. I’ve heard stories that had me in tears or had me smiling.

The truth is my life turned around in a complete circle. May 2012, I was trying on my cap and gown and imagining myself working at PGN, my best friend, Rae, working at the Philadelphia Inquirer. I imagined myself moving into an apartment in Philadelphia surrounded by amazing friends.

It came true.

September 17, I was hired as a staff writer for PGN, Rae went on to work as a staff writer for The Daily Local and I moved into an apartment in West Philly this summer with some amazing new friends. My life has come full circle. Who would have thought? Not this girl.

I’ve definitely come into my own—grown more comfortable in my skin and in my community in which I write about. I’ve learned that not everything is gay or straight, male or female. There is a beautiful grey area looking for recognition.

I’ve learned to take the phrase “you’re lucky” with a grain of salt. This wasn’t luck; this was hard work and dedication. This was a journey that took blood, sweat and tears to create. Luck didn’t hand me this experience on a silver platter. I had to work for it.

I always say this—dreams do come true. ‘The field of journalism is impossible’ they said to us. We proved them wrong. This year isn’t just about me and my one-year. This is about Rae, who works for The Daily Local. This is about Deanna, who was an assistant sports producer for and now works as an assistant advertising coordinator. This is about Laura who works as an editorial assistant for a publishing company in Philadelphia. This is about Rebekah who is in grad school to be the next best queer outreach staff. This is about Carol, who just got a job in human resources and proves every day that life is beautiful.

This is to more years writing about a community that I would be nothing without. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

The fears—they keep you from living

For a long time, I considered myself the “traveling” woman—someone who wanted to explore the world. I work as a journalist in Philadelphia and as much as I love this city, I have always yearned to discover new places, even if only for a weekend.

Then it happened. A few days ago, my friend Sarah told me she bought a plane ticket to Spain. I was beyond jealous—she could afford to travel and she had no fear. She was going alone and I wished I had her courage to do so. I wish I could travel. So what is holding me back?

My fears.

Yesterday my editor asked if I had ever been to Canada. I have always wanted to travel to Toronto, Cananda. Next year, the city will host World Pride and journalists from various LGBTQ publications were asked to preview the city, write a review and have their lodging, food and air travel paid for. So what is holding this wannabe traveler back?

One word: air travel

I have never flown. I don’t even have a passport. Everywhere I have traveled in the states has been drivable and the thought of flying for the first time to another country, to a strange city by myself just terrifies me. So how can I be afraid of flying when I have never done so? I am not really sure when this fear started, but it progressively began when my life started to become exponentially better and then I realized what my fear truly is.

I am afraid of death

And it is because I love life so much.

The thought of not being on this earth anymore makes my skin crawl. I am a firm believer that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade and that is what I have done and it has made my life miraculous. I love everything about life—I love the people who are in my life, I love my job, I love my city, I love my environment and I love everything I am blessed with and the thought of it slipping away from me or me slipping away from it just devastates me.

But it is more than the fear of death for me,  it is the fear of not having control. Let’s face it, when I am behind the wheel of my car, I have control of what I do, not necessarily what everyone else does, but I still have an ounce of control and the same goes for many different situations. Flying is pretty much letting other people take the wheel for me and that is something I struggle with on a daily basis.

But I am also a firm believer that sometimes, you just have to take risks, you have to enjoy the ride and you have to live life for those who truly cannot live their own. Fears keep you form accomplishing what you want.

So maybe one day I will be like Sarah, a confident young woman traveling on my own with no fear. For now, I will continue my life on the ground and maybe, just maybe, I will find that individual who will take my fears away, who will comfort me and maybe then, I will find a traveling friend.

Because this is one journalist who truly does want to see the world.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Oh, okay cupid—there are ‘plenty of fish’ for a potential ‘match’—see what I did there?

By Angela Thomas

I think one of the most frustrating things to do is get back into the “dating world.”

There is nothing more terrifying, more self-deprecating and NOTHING that makes your confidence go down more than jumping back into the cesspool of dating.

And not to tug on the “MyLifeIsWorseThanYours” rope, but for the LGBTQ-identified folks, it can be even worse.

After getting out of a one-year relationship four months ago, I decided recently to get back into the “game.” Because of my schedule, I rarely have time to see the parents I live with, let a lone go out and meet someone, so at the advice of one of my friends, I decided to try online dating.

This is exactly what it is like. You’ve got your more feminine girls and you’ve got your more butch girls and you’ve got everyone in between. You enter into this world and they all look at you (aka your profile), stare for a bit and then leave with no word.

My experiences thus far have been…interesting to say the least? I had a girl brag about her drunk driving experience. I’ve had women intrigued by my ever-so-glamorous job and I’ve been played for a fool already (and it has only been two weeks).

Online dating can be intimidating because you essentially put yourself out there to either be rejected or ignored. Don’t get me wrong, good experiences can be had on these sites, but now more than ever, they are filled with individuals who are just looking for friends or random hookups.

Online dating can also set you up for failure—like for instance—my first experience or date for that matter. Girl sends message to me, girl and I talk, girl and I go on date, girl and I seem to hit it off, girl seems to really like me, girl becomes shady, girls says she is dating someone else, thing ends. That is the best way I can describe it.

However, I have also had great experiences so far. I have met a few people who seem to have the same interests as me and who seem to be fairly awesome individuals, but my experience is not what I thought it would be. For one thing, some of the people on this site are people I’ve A) Either interviewed or B) Work within the community I write about.

There is also the issue of body image. It may seem silly, but for someone who is desperately trying to get back into shape and eat clean, all the girls on this site are either athletic or thin. On some of their profiles, they make it very apparent that whoever contacts them better already be within their weight/height requirements. It makes a girl want to go back into the “fitness closet” and stay there until some “real” results come along. I understand the idea of wanting someone who is living a healthy life, but what about those who are well on their way?

And finally, online dating has a stigma. Already, I am nervous to post this blog link on my Twitter. People seem to consider online dating as something for individuals who are not assertive or for losers. My parents think online dating is for predators. I even cringe at the thought of saying “We met online,” but why is that? In a generation where we do everything online, why is it so weird to meet someone online? As long as you are not meeting in some creepy, dark alleyway, online dating can be extremely successful.

So, what are your opinions/experiences on online dating? 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

St. Lucia and Ellie Goulding-best side salad ever

By Angela Thomas

Opening acts to me are like side salads to Italian dinners-I can take ‘em and I can leave ‘em. (nice analogy, har har)

However, St. Lucia proved me wrong to the point where I didn’t want them to leave the stage.

St. Lucia. Photo credit: Angela Thomas

On Jan. 25, British pop-singer, Ellie Goulding, came to the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. I’ve been a huge fan of Goulding since my WCUR days when her first album was on the shelves on WCU’s radio station.

After standing in the snow for a mere hour and a half, fans rushed in the building, eager to get front row seats while my friends and I opted for the “21+” section where we ultimately had the best seats in the house.

I am normally impatient with opening acts. I just want them to get over with. However, when St. Lucia came on stage and started to play their first song, it was a jaw-dropping, holy shit experience. I don’t think I have ever seen a group of fans dance so hard in my life. I think the best way to describe their sound is ethereal, ’80s-like but not in the “ohmyGAWD this is like sooooooooooo 80s” kind of way.

Side note: Check them out on Itunes and I highly recommend “We Got It Wrong”, “Closer Than This”, “All Eyes On You” and the sickest beat you will ever hear, “September.”

Get ready for your mind to be BLOWN.

Anyways, after fan-girling over St. Lucia, our girl Ellie came on (ya know…after 20 minutes)
That moment when every lesbian's heart exploded

And let me tell you…

I am still recovering from the show.

Ellie Goulding gives her fans the ultimate satisfaction of attending the best-concert-known-to-EVERYONE feeling.
Meaningful eye contact moment #3 ladies and gents (and everyone in between)

The thing about Goulding is that she writes songs about heart-break, about disappointment, about hopes and dreams and everyone can relate to that. Everyone has had their heart broken by someone or something and everyone has had hopes for their future.

And the other thing about Goulding is that when she performs, she relives the pain over-and-over again and you can see it in her face and her fans are right there with her, every step of the way. We are reliving our own memories and we are relating our experiences to her songs.
Girl knows how to play her drums

Also, Goulding has dance moves that could make the straightest girl turn gay and the gayest man turn straight.

So cheers to you Ellie, for making me lose my voice, making my legs wobbly and putting on the best concert I have seen in a long time.