Siobhan Fitzgerald-Matson, or Shevy as they prefer to be called, has a lofty and worthwhile life goal: to create a performance arts camp for trans and genderqueer youth allowing for a community network of support and understanding among young people.
Having grown up in a tiny mountain town called Petersburgh, NY, a town of less than two thousand people, Fitzgerald-Matson understands how isolated trans and genderqueer individuals feel. They explain “41 percent attempt to commit suicide at some point and I think rural trans people are at the highest risk. Even in my town there’s not cable internet, there’s still dial up and that’s if you’re lucky enough to afford that.” The internet is “the only place trans people have a consistent space in this world to express and explore identity and if you don’t have the internet you don’t have any resources, services, or community.”
Upon moving to Buffalo, Fitzgerald-Matson was already engaged in social work with the Pride Center of WNY, Inc. The only thing they lacked was the degree. It was the incorporation of trauma-informed care and the focus on human rights that sold them on the UBSSW. “I really am drawn to the trauma informed aspect of the program, that’s what drew me here in the first place,” they explain. “I’ve seen that incorporated into a lot of classes and I think the professors do a really good job incorporating that into every facet of the program.” The ability for students to choose their field placement was also a huge plus. They said “I was really thankful that they let us do the employment-based field.” Upon graduation, Fitzgerald-Matson hopes to become a gender identity counselor, with a special interest in conducting assessments and assisting transgender individuals trying to obtain Hormone Replacement Therapy and assist in other aspect of medical transition.
Fitzgerald-Matson is currently the Transgender Wellness Coordinator at the Pride Center of WNY, Inc.. Some of their duties include running individual interventions surrounding sexual health harm reduction, a group intervention called NAILS (New Attitudes in Love and Sex) which trains trans individuals to engage their friends in conversations surrounding the reduction of more risky behaviors, and coordinating referrals for trans-affirming providers in the area. While they are not a gender-identity counselor yet, they say that many of the clients come back to let them know how things are going. Fitzgerald-Matson’s work with the Pride Center has continued to stress the need for rural outreach “I have no resources for anyone in the Southtowns and below. People from Jamestown commute to come and see me or other resources in the city” they explain.
For now, Fitzgerald-Matson continues their work at UB and the Pride Center. What does the future hold for them? “My husband and I are probably going to move back to my hometown. I don’t know exactly when, but it’s in the five-year plan. We just want to be back in nature and we both really like the wilderness and want to raise our kids there. It is also where I hope to start the performing arts camp for trans youth.”