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. (Note: Fitzgerald-Matson identifies as a trans woman and prefers the pronouns they/them/theirs.)
Growing up in the tiny mountain town of Petersburgh, NY, population under 2,000. Fitzgerald-Matson understands how isolated trans and genderqueer individuals can feel. “41 percent attempt to commit suicide at some point; rural trans people are at the highest risk,” they said. “Even in my town there’s no cable internet, there’s still dial-up—and that’s if you’re lucky enough to afford that.” The internet, they added, is “the only place trans people have a consistent space in this world to express and explore identity. If you don’t have the internet, you don’t have 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. “The trauma-informed aspect of the program is what drew me here in the first place,” they explained. “I’ve seen it incorporated into many classes—the professors do a really good job of incorporating it into every facet of the program.”
The ability to choose their field placement was also a huge plus. “I was really thankful that we could do an employment-based field,” they said. Upon graduation, Fitzgerald-Matson hopes to become a gender identity counselor, with a special interest in conducting assessments and assisting transgender individuals with aspects of medical transition, including trying to obtain hormone replacement therapy.
Fitzgerald-Matson works as 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 Pride Center clients come back to let them know how things are going. Fitzgerald-Matson’s work stresses the need for rural outreach: “We have no resources in the Southtowns and below. People from Jamestown must commute to see me and any other resources in the city,” they explained.
For now, Fitzgerald-Matson continues their work at UB and the Pride Center. What does the future hold? “It’s in our five year plan for my husband and me to move back to my hometown,” they said. “We want to be back in nature; we both 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.”