Coming out as LGBT can be a scary proposition, even to supportive parents. But for too many LGBT youth, coming out results in being cut off emotionally and financially by disapproving family.
That’s where the Point Foundation can help. It’s an organization that provides financial support, mentoring, leadership training and hope to students who have been marginalized based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Scholarship recipients aren’t all rejected by family; the Foundation also supports LGBT students with leadership potential. Its annual D.C. reception is Thursday from 6-8:30 p.m. in the Equality Center at the Human Rights Campaign (1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.).
There are six Point scholars studying in the D.C. area. Two of this year’s scholars are Kelsey Phipps and Joe Goldman, who both say they’re thrilled to be recipients. They’ll join a recent, but highly elite, LGBT academic tradition.
In 2002, Bruce Lindstrom, Carl Strickland and a few of their friends funded the first seven Point Scholars according to the organization’s website.
Lindstrom had been rejected by his family when he came out.
“I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to other LGBT youth,” he said in a statement.
Since then, the Point Foundation has been featured in many mainstream publications, including Time, The New York Times and The Boston Globe and its scholars have been guests on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
A Los Angeles native, Goldman, who is studying political communication at George Washington University, came out to his family almost eight years ago.
To quote a popular phrase, Goldman says it gets better, especially after high school.
“It’s OK to be nervous … to be afraid, that’s natural, I was too,” Goldman says. The anxiety existed even though he was pretty sure his family would react positively.
“Don’t prevent yourself from being out with your friends just because you’re afraid of what your family will think,” he says.
After coming out, Goldman helped bring his high school’s gay/straight alliance, which had been started in the ‘90s, back to life. At the end of his freshman year, Goldman organized a marriage equality rally that was attended by about 200 high school students.
He interned at the Natural Resources Defense Council, pursuing an interest in curbing climate change. Goldman wants to be a lobbyist for solar energy.
Goldman also interned at Equality California, The Trevor Project, California League of Conservation Voters, and the offices of state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, Councilman Bill Rosendahl and Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Goldman later worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. He started out staffing “high-dollar” fundraisers in Hollywood and then worked his way up into her scheduling office.
“Hillary Clinton’s campaign changed my life. It completely transformed how I view politics and how the world works,” Goldman said. “It’s crazy for me to think about the fact … how I knew where she was practically every minute of the day.”
After Clinton lost the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Goldman joined Obama’s campaign. He says Clinton’s loss may have been one of the best things to happen to him because of what he learned from the experience.
“A lot of young people who supported Obama, they don’t know what it’s like to lose a campaign yet,” Goldman says. “And I think if you want to do anything in politics, you have to know what it’s like to feel that.”
Phipps, who is studying public interest law at Georgetown University Law Center, also did some work on the campaign trail.
During her time as a Fulbright Scholar in Ireland, she campaigned for a woman running for Senate.
“That was a really unique experience. It was a small campaign, run out of a kitchen,” Phipps says. “Ultimately, she didn’t end up winning, she came in fourth.”
Phipps grew up in a military family in Bothell, Wash., that was dedicated to public service.
She came out to her family in the ‘90s, before even Ellen DeGeneres. She had a girlfriend in high school, but they did not go to prom.
“The world has changed since I came out,” Phipps says. “I’d say come out early, often and wherever you can. It changes your life.”
She began her academic career at Scripps College. Phipps was involved in civil rights organizing. She served as student body president and helped develop a diversity awareness curriculum.
Phipps also organized a march against Proposition 22, a law in California that restricted marriages to only those between opposite-sex couples.
Due to her work and achievements at Scripps, Phipps was selected as a Truman Scholar and interned with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
After her time in Ireland, Phipps went on to work with Sen. Edward Kennedy’s staff. Through that work, she was named the first female co-chair of the Senate’s LGBT staff caucus.
“[Working with Kennedy’s staff] was a dream come true,” Phipps says. “I came to Washington to work on the Hill.”
In the Senate, she focused on legislation to provide greater access to services for individuals with HIV/AIDS, mental illness, substance use disorders and brain injuries.
She has also worked with GLAAD in Boston.
Both were excited when they found out they had been chosen as Point Scholars.
“I was very honored, relieved and excited,” Phipps says. “I knew it came with a scholarship, but I didn’t know what else.”
The organization’s selection committee weighs all aspects of a person’s application. Marginalization, financial need, academic achievement, personal merit, leadership, professional experiences, future and personal goals are all taken into consideration.
“Point is something I really wanted to be, not because of dire need, but because I knew Point … is a culmination of the young elite in the LGBT community,” Goldman says. “I’m thankful for everything Point has done for me.”
Goldman, a former student clerk at the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice, recently wrapped an internship at the Raben Group, a local public affairs firm, and plans to attend law school after graduation.
Phipps hopes to remain active in progressive politics and public policy and begin a career in civil rights law. She will be clerking for lesbian Superior Court of the District of Columbia Associate Judge Marisa J. Demeo.
Tickets to the D.C. reception are $75 and can be purchased at pointfoundation.org/dc.
For more information on the Point Foundation and other scholars, visit pointfoundation.org.