20 InQueeries: Beth Brooker

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Beth Brooker, center, is one of the housing managers at ACCESS AIDS Care

I’ve only recently come to know Beth a little better, mainly due to her work with ACCESS AIDS Care. In a recent discussion about her work in ACCESS’s housing department, I asked her if it was sometimes discouraging to see that level of need still in our community. 

She replied, “I love my job. It has it’s moments, but all in all, I really feel like I’m making a difference with clients who live every day with HIV and AIDS.”

And there you have it. This is what front line care is all about. And Beth indeed makes a difference every day.

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Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Bristol, PA outside of Philadelphia. My parents moved us kids to North Carolina when we were still very young, so NC is home. I grew up in Salisbury, NC.

How long have you lived in Hampton Roads?
10 years

What do you do 9-5?
I work for ACCESS AIDS Care in Norfolk in the housing department. For people living with HIV, research shows that lack of stable housing is strongly linked to inadequate HIV health care, avoidable hospitalizations and emergency room visits, and early death. I work with local landlords and property management companies to ensure individuals have safe, decent, and sanitary places to call home so they can concentrate on improving their health.

How long have you been out, and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out at age 40, 11 years ago. Although out to my close group of friends since college, I never felt comfortable letting family, co-workers, and other friends know who I really was. Something happened at age 40 that made me realize that it is not up to me to control other’s reactions to how I lived my life. If they had a problem with it, it was on them…not me. It was a liberating feeling!

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Beth Brooker

The toughest person to tell was my mom. My mother was a good, southern Baptist woman and she did not believe in homosexuality. The conversation was hard and our relationship suffered in the beginning. As time went on, we worked to a place of understanding.

Who is your LGBT hero?
Robin Johnston McGehee! Robin was one of the organizers for the 2010 National Equality March on Washington DC. She is from Mississippi, but currently lives with her wife and 2 kids in California. Robin is a national gay rights advocate and has been recognized on the local, state and national levels for activism. I saw her speak at the March and was empowered more than ever to fight for full federal equality. I am thankful to call her friend.

What was the most memorable LGBTQ moment in your lifetime?
The National March on Washington in 2010. It was so empowering to stand with so many others from the LGBT community on the lawn of the Capitol. There was so much love and energy as we stood in solidarity for equal rights. That, to me, was the beginning of the movement turning around. The 6 years after the March have been full of one great historical break through after another.

On what do you insist?
Full federal equality. Despite widespread belief to the contrary, no federal law explicitly protects LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. I am tired of piece meal equality, we need a sweeping law that incorporates everything.

What was your last social media post?
About a very cool, long slide built into a mountain in Kandersteg, Switzerland that I want t ride!

If you could give yourself at age 16 one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do you. All the worry and agonizing over what others were thinking or saying is not healthy. Not to mention, people for the most part, don’t give a shit. Live your life the way you want and do it well!

Do you have any suggestions for local LGBTQ movement leaders?
Embrace everyone. We need real leaders in this community to step up and work to make the way a little less painful for those that come after us.

What is the best part about the Hampton Roads LGBTQ community?
We are a very diverse community. It is great to see the young people living their truth so freely.

What is one thing you would change about Hampton Roads?
The damn traffic. We need light rail all throughout Hampton Roads…now!

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
The stereotype that I hate the most is that if you are LGBT, you can’t be a Christian. I believe in God and know that He loves me. Being LGBT does not mean you are going to hell. Judging people for being LGBT, now that will get to there!

What non-LGBTQ issue do you feel most passionate about?
Women’s rights are near and dear! The struggles include ensuring equal economic opportunities, educational equity, and an end to gender-based violence. One in four homeless

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