Melwood Board Member Shares What PRIDE Means to Him
June 24, 2021
As an adult, I’ve discovered that every person is an individual and each person should be allowed to be – and celebrated for – exactly who they are. To say it simply, my life has been one evolution into another as I’ve come to discover exactly who I am.
I was born female but remember as a child asking my father if it were possible for me to be a boy. His response involved something along the lines of going through surgery which was terrifying to me as an 8-year-old who had undergone surgery before. I didn’t pursue the matter further and just convinced myself that I was a tomboy, a female who had more male characteristics. However, throughout my life I kept thinking something was missing.
At the same time – but completely unrelated – I also remember wondering why I seemed to behave differently from other children, why nothing made sense to me about other people, why other kids seemed to “get” something that I didn’t. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with high functioning autism when I was 15 that I had an answer to that missing puzzle piece to my life.
As I grew older, I struggled in college and was recommended to Melwood by the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services. At first, I was skeptical if Melwood’s Professional Development Training program would teach me anything new, but I’m so glad I stuck with it because I gained so much personally and professionally. I not only learned about networking, applying for jobs, how to make an elevator pitch, how to write a resume, and more about the job market, but I matured exponentially over the months I spent in class. I went in with the maturity level of a high school student and came out as an adult. I felt confident in my abilities and empowered to be who I was.
After I finished the program, I landed two internships with Melwood back to back. Melwood’s leaders recognized how much progress I made and in 2019 I was chosen by the Board of Directors to become part of the Melwood Board. I was honored to have been chosen to represent the population Melwood serves – people with disabilities – within its governing body. This experience has been life changing because it helped me see the process of running a business from a completely different lens.
Earlier this year, I made the decision to fully recognize, embrace, and express who I really am – Nathan. In addition to having the support of my family and friends I am also grateful that many people have supported me over my time at Melwood. Diversity, inclusion, and equity make up the foundation of Melwood’s mission and I’m proud to be part of an organization that doesn’t make me – or anyone else – feel uncomfortable for being who I am.
Today I feel more like myself than ever before which I find to be both extraordinary and also completely ordinary. People should be able to be who they are and accepted for who they are – always. I’m happy that June is recognized as PRIDE month and that there is an opportunity to celebrate those who are LGBTQ+, but I look forward to the day when a person being who they are is not seen as an act of bravery or defiance. We are all people and we deserve the opportunity to live happily as our authentic selves.
Melwood Board of Directors Member
Melwood is one of the largest employers of people with disabilities in the country, employing more than 1,600 workers – nearly 1,000 of whom are people with disabilities. Melwood offers job placement, job training, life skills for independence, and support services to more than 2,500 people each year in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Melwood also has an inclusive summer camp program for children and provides employment and support services to veterans and active duty military members who have experienced service-related trauma or injury. For more information, visit www.Melwood.org.
Vice President of Government and Public Relations