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My name is Melanie Orpen. And I guess what I wanted to share was, I feel like for me sometimes I struggle with the word I want to use, whether it’s queer or gay or lesbian, but whatever word I choose to use to identify myself, I feel like it’s a gift. And that gift for me has been a sense of exploring my identity in a way I feel that I would not have done if I didn’t have this realization that this is who I deeply am. And that journey has effected the things I have done with my life.
An example of that for me was, having this really amazing opportunity where I was working to get involved with an international non-profit. The one I ended up working for was called “What’s Your Tree” and they were looking for someone to start their entire process here in Philadelphia and be their regional leader. So I got to learn how to start a brand new non-profit organizational presence and to recruit members for a community leadership training program and then to teach the program and facilitate it. And through that I got such a clear sense that communication is important to me and education is important to me, inspiration and empowerment are important to me. And I began to think about the ways that film plays a significant role in that. And then I decided, as that organization restructured and moved out of Philly, to just go for it and be involved in film myself and work on independent films or projects which have social consciousness or continue my interest in social justice and activism by starting actions here in the city to support GLBTQI rights and issues around equality.
So I feel like leadership has really been what I’ve come to as a result of my experiences. And I have such a sense of gratitude for that because it all started with really having to question who I am. And that’s been really powerful. One of the things that I feel that I’ve done as a result of this introspection is really thought about what it means to be myself, a person, and be authentic. How do we want to live each day and what do I want to do and how do I want to spend my time on the planet? Because being in service has always been really important to me, and what did that service look like?