In this exhibit you will find information regarding the beginnings of the first LGBTQ+ Youth Group in Central Pennsylvania, Common Roads. Starting off under the name Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Youth Association of Harrisburg (Bi-GLYAH), Common Roads has grown from its beginnings in 1993 to an established youth group within the LGBT Center of Central PA. In 2023 Common Roads celebrates its 30th Anniversary.
Founded by Adrian Revarour, a Mormon priest, Vanguard San Francisco was an independent gay youth organization from August 1965 – December 1966. It was comprised of homeless LGBTQ+ youth in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco and was the first known LGBTQ+ organization that included non-normative queer identities. They also published the Vanguard Magazine, zines that contained poems, art, and editorials that reflected the issues faced by poor LGBTQ+ youth in the Tenderloin District.
Vanguard Magazine Vol. 1 No. 8, 1967. Courtesy of GLBT Historical Society, Digital Transgender Arch
Starting as a sub-group of The Gay Liberation Front (GLF), Gay Youth of New York (GYNY) became an autonomous organization founded and funded by youth in February of 1970. The name changed to Gay & Lesbian Youth of New York (GLYNY) in 1980, and today is known as Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Youth of New York (BiGLYNY).
Gay and Lesbian Youth of New York Brochure, circa 1990. Courtesy of The Center Archives, New York,
Part of The Gay Community Service Center in Los Angeles, Gay Youth of Los Angeles was the earliest stage of the organization’s Youth Services program. It was known by this name from 1972 – 1983.
Founded in 1984 by Dr. Virginia Uribe at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, Project 10 Los Angeles was an educational support and drop-out prevention program for LGBTQ+ youth. Its main goals were to establish voluntary, peer support groups led by trained facilitators to create a safe environment for LGBTQ+ youth to discuss coming out, family relationships, harassment, and health. In 1986 the program extended to all schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and received its 501(c)(3) status, renaming itself Friends of Project 10 Inc., which allowed the program to expand its reach outside of the LAUSD. The program had a major impact on student rights and educational quality in California. Friends of Project 10 Inc. closed its doors in 2020, after the passing of Dr. Virginia Uribe in 2019.
Bi-GLYAH Logo, FAB 2000 Program. Courtesy of LGBT-021, DCA.
Founded in 1993 by Barry Loveland and Sharon Potter, Bi-GLYAH was the first designated LGBTQ+ Youth Group in the Central PA area.
Bi-GLYAH Brochure, circa 1995. Courtesy of LGBT-021, DCA.
In 1993, while serving as a phoneline volunteer and president of the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard of Harrisburg and having many conversations with LGBTQ+ youth through phone calls, Barry Loveland wanted to create a space for the LGBTQ+ youth of Central PA. Being aware that he did not want the youth group to be looked at as “recruiting” in anyway, Barry strategically looked for a straight female to be the leader. Conveniently , Barry’s co-worker at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Tom Potter, suggested his wife Sharon as that person.
Barry became the “back of house” administrator for the group, focusing on organizing and mailing information to publicize the group to school guidance counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and the general media, with Sharon Potter leading the group and other facilitators. Barry also wrote a successful grant application to fund a workshop for school personnel, with a keynote speaker from Project 10 in Los Angeles. It was held at the Friends Meeting House in Harrisburg. He received a special award at the Fall Achievement Benefit (FAB) as one of the founders of the group in celebration of its 20th anniversary in 2013.
Barry Loveland, 2007. Courtesy of Barry Loveland.
Born in Buffalo, NY but raised in Scranton, PA, Sharon Potter came to the Harrisburg area when she was offered a position to build an early intervention system for children with disabilities in Harrisburg City. While presenting at a [Pennsylvania] House [of Representatives] Education Committee meeting, she was moved by the speech of a young gay man and from his story wanted to find a way to help LGBTQ+ youth in the area.
Through her husband, Tom Potter, she connected with Barry Loveland and helped to establish Bi-GLYAH, becoming the lead facilitator for about 8 years. After her time with Bi-GLYAH, she went on to pursue her MA in Human Sexuality, received a FAB Award for her work in the LGBTQ+ community, and helped establish a scholarship fund with fellow youth group leader Melinda Eash for LGBTQ+ graduating high school seniors.
Sharon Potter (L), Tom Potter (C), & Jon Warner (R) at event, circa 1995. Courtesy of LGBT-021, DCA.
Sharon discusses coming to Harrisburg and the Education Committee meeting
From Long Beach, NJ, Melinda Eash attended Susquehanna University for undergrad and Millersville University for her MA in Clinical Psychology. Her first job was early intervention in Philadelphia, but she eventually relocated to Central PA to work for The Arc of Perry and Cumberland County (CPARC) where she became the first behavioral specialist. After CPARC, she became a Clinical Lab Assistant (CLA) for Dauphin County, where she ran staff training and behavioral programs, and opened her own psychology practice in 1989 where she worked with kids and teens.
Melinda became involved with Bi-GLYAH through a teen that she worked with who was bi-sexual. She wanted to find a place where the teen could be heard, supported, and mentored, and a friend connected her with Sharon. After working with the teen and his parents, Melinda was given permission to take him to Friday night Bi-GLYAH meetings. Through attending the meetings, she became interested in the teens and their experiences in school, and the group enjoyed having here there.
Melinda went on to serve as a facilitator for the group for around 20 years, and was there through the name change, location changes, and multiple executive directors. Today, she still works with the group, now known as Common Roads, but in a much more limited capacity.
Steve Glassman (L), Melinda Eash (C), Jon Warner (R), circa 1995. Courtesy of LGBT-021, DCA.
Melinda talks about her first experience at Bi-GLYAH
Their first meeting in 1993 was held in the lower level of Planned Parenthood in Harrisburg, PA, with seven teens attending, and the initial goal being to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth to be themselves.
After that first meeting, the group met once a month, which later changed to every other Friday, and then moved to every week because the youth stated they needed a safe space more regularly. The average age of teens was in the 17+ range, with the youngest attendee being about 15 years old, and attendance varied from six to twenty students a meeting. Initial programming included a presentation or activity, with an open discussion to follow.
Sharon wanted to create this space for the LGBTQ+ youth that filled it and wanted it to be “theirs”, so as a group they named themselves the Bi, Gay, and Lesbian Youth Association of Harrisburg (Bi-GLYAH). They met in the Planned Parenthood location until about 1996, when they moved to St. Michael’s Lutheran Church on State Street in Harrisburg, PA.
Bi-GLYAH Business Card, circa 1995. Courtesy of LGBT-021, DCA.
Sharon talking about the naming of the group and fostering a place of belonging
Programming was determined by the youth initially. Sharon and the facilitators would ask them what they wanted to talk about, and then would bring in speakers/create programs centered around those topics. Topics/Programs covered were:
They also held talent shows, participated in workshops and conferences, and attended Central PA Pride Festivals.
Bi-GLYAH Brochure, inside , circa 1995. Courtesy of LGBT-021, DCA
Sharon talking about programming
Advertising for Bi-GLYAH was a group effort from both members and facilitators. Members would leave little cards at bookstores/libraries next to books on LGBTQ+ issues to get word out about the meetings, and facilitators developed a safe house network where families would take in LGBTQ+ youth when needed.
Sharon talking about Bi-GLYAH's impact on LGBTQ+ youth