A Pride Month Welcome from Preston

Dear PYC Friends,

Happy Pride Month!

Pride season is personal to each of us; it recognizes the urgency of our activism today while celebrating the beauty, strength, and love within ourselves and our journeys.

I grew up in Lancaster County, in green hills and small towns steeped in the sweet smell of cow manure. Being a young non-binary trans person in a conservative and extremely evangelical Christian household, coming into my own was a traumatic, yet liberating process that found me fleeing to family in York County. It was there, as a senior at Dallastown Area High School, that I first became involved with PYC.

The federal government was rescinding trans-inclusive Title IX guidelines. In response to this, PYC and Dr. Rachel Levine hosted a roundtable discussion at PYC’s state headquarters with transgender youth from every part of the state. Days before, my boyfriend had been physically dragged out of the boys’ restroom by a school administrator. It was a very scary time for trans students, and many of my friends had spent those days of terror in tears.

A number of other LGBTQ students at my school wanted to participate in the roundtable but couldn’t go because of their parents or for safety reasons. I was able to get permission, and so I felt I had to go – not only for myself, but so I could bring the concerns of my peers who were unable to be there into the room. I learned that day that young people did not have to wait helplessly for adults to act. We could take action to protect ourselves and our community through advocacy and education, on our own terms.

This sentiment solidified as truth for me in 2017, when there was an effort to strip healthcare coverage for transgender youth under the Children’s Health Insurance Program. I hadn’t even graduated high school yet, but since I was once a child who only had insurance through CHIP, I jumped in full throttle at any opportunity to help. I ended up being in the center of the scramble to educate legislators. I spoke about my experiences as a trans youth and the necessity of gender-related healthcare. I saw what a successful lobbying effort entailed, and the power we hold within our communities to shift hearts and minds. We turned the political conversation that was being had about us in the backrooms of our state Capitol on its head when we met face to face with the people discussing our fates and made our voices heard. We not only stopped that effort in its tracks; we garnered a base of support in the legislature in unexpected corners for years to come.

Throughout 2018, I helped plan and facilitate our Youth Action Conference, where over 100 key young LGBTQ Pennsylvania leaders from every corner of the commonwealth gathered to partake in advanced leadership training and community building. I then got to speak at dozens of conferences across the state about the landscape of LGBTQ issues and youth advocacy – that we are not just tokens or photo props, but active forces for change.

We work every day with those in power to successfully pass local laws, school policies, administrative policies through our state government, and advance numerous other efforts at the state level. Gaining access to these tables has not been easy – many times we have had to build our own table. Now in 2021, it’s time to invite even more of us to pull up as many chairs as possible.

For several years now, the youth corps of our work is in PYC Advocates – an innovative platform for our base of young leaders from every region of Pennsylvania, from the Laurel Highlands to NEPA. By providing advanced advocacy training at retreats and ongoing mentorship, PYC Advocates are able to receive the needed support and resources for their local initiatives. They are able to be passed along all the tools and lessons we have gathered over the years, which helps ensure that young LGBTQ Pennsylvanians are leading the charge and never ignored when it comes to issues impacting our lives.

When I was in school, it was about keeping us out of bathrooms and locker rooms, labeling our very presence a threat and invasion of privacy. For students today, it is about extinguishing the agency of trans youth by barring them from playing sports and receiving medical care. The attacks on young trans Pennsylvanians have not succeeded, but they have grown more vicious. Now, more than ever, we need resources to continue beating back these oppressive bills.

One way you can help, right now, is to make a donation so we can sustain PYC Advocates for the next year. This work requires a significant amount of time, effort, and money, all while being done by young Pennsylvanians who volunteer their blood, sweat, and tears on top of school and work. We are strong, but we operate with limited resources. Please help us grow and strengthen our movement together. We need to raise $5,000 this June in order to continue PYC Advocates into the 2021-2022 year, which we cannot do without your support. You may give securely online by clicking here.

As the PYC community enters this new chapter, I will do everything in my power to ensure our mission of empowering young LGBTQ people to advocate for each other and their communities continues to be realized.

Please reach out anytime with your thoughts, ideas, or questions by email at pheldibridle [@] payouthcongress.org.


Preston Heldibridle
Executive Director
Pennsylvania Youth Congress





PS: As the world begins to emerge again through the pandemic, we are seeing more in-person and online Pride festivities come back! As we do every year, PYC will plan to participate in every festival in the commonwealth. Please only attend events as is safe and comfortable for you. Many will continue to require the wearing of masks and social distancing. Whether online or in the town square, we look forward to celebrating the Pride season ahead with you!

See you this weekend in Gettysburg, Pittsburgh, and Stroudsburg!