As Kathy explains in her story, she works in the LGBT community in many different ways, as a writer, activist and a social worker for queer youth. She’s been the writer of About.com’s Lesbian Life since 2003. We stayed with her and her beautiful pup, Olive, on our visit through Portland on the Story Tour.
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I’m Kathy Belge, I’m from Syracuse, New York but I live in Portland, Oregon now. And I’m a writer – when I was a senior in college I was a journalism major. And I had started to volunteer with the local gay and lesbian youth organization in town which had just started. Brand new. This was in the late 80’s. I just totally fell in love with the work and decided that’s what I wanted to do with my career. Didn’t want to be a journalist anymore and I wanted to work with queer youth. And I was really excited to come to this conclusion and I remember sitting down with a friend of mine and telling her this – and she said to me, “Well, you can’t do that, you can’t just work with gay kids, you know. You can work with all kids and maybe you can help some gay kids. But you can’t just do that.” This friend who told me I couldn’t do that, you know, she was a lesbian herself. I think we hold ourselves back a lot, because of the fear that – the fear, and also the ideas that we have in our head about what gay people are and what gay people aren’t. What they can be and what they can’t be, you know? I think people don’t believe that we can overcome the discrimination that is out there. Because it’s still out there. We know that right now. There’s many ways that gays are discriminated against and I think maybe people say that because they’re trying to protect you in some way from a disappointment or something. So I started volunteering for a couple of different organizations – little groups here and there and then it was a few years after I moved here that the county, Multnomah County decided to hire somebody full time to do outreach to gay and lesbian youth because they were recognized as an “at risk” population. I immediately applied for the job and got the job and I worked the job – I did the job for ten years and then again I felt it was time for me to do something different and I decided I wanted to be a writer. I was going to go back to that original journalism degree and use that. And again I got those messages of “You can’t,” you know, “You can’t just quit your job and become a writer. That’s so unrealistic, you know?” But I did it and I make my living now as a full time writer and all that experience working with queer kids has paid off. It’s given me the expertise to write on this topic. I write primarily for gay and lesbian people right now, and gay and lesbian audience. And I feel like a lot of times we’re given the message that because we’re queer, we can’t do something. I guess, my philosophy is that I think because we’re queer, we can actually do more.