Coming Out & Family Acceptance: Panel & Community Conversation

HVTF Panel & Community Conversation on Saturday, November 21st | 12-1pm
Coming Out & Family Acceptance: Panel & Community Conversation

Panel Moderator: Anthony Arrien
Pronouns: he/him/his


Karen Marder, LCSWDutchess Pride Center
Pronouns: she/her

Robyn Schlesinger, ESQ
Pronouns: she/her

Weston Siano, Center Lane, a program of WJCS
Pronouns: he/him
Jay Tyler, CANDLE Youth Pride
Pronouns: he/they


Discussion Description: Coming out as transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary can be a complicated and dangerous. It can also be an incredibly liberating and empowering step to take for many. No matter what age you come out, your support network is crucial to know you're not alone and that who you are is valid and accepted. When family or close friends reject or refuse to affirm TGNCNB people, the impact can be felt in many areas of life. This panel, open to all, will feature the voices and experiences of several youth-serving LGBTQ+ organizations on the dynamics of coming out and the importance of support networks and family acceptance. A large portion of this session will be designated as a Q&A for attendees to share experiences, concerns and support related to this important topic.

Discussion Format: Part panel - part community conversation. This session will feature voices of advocates working with LGBTQ youth. Attendees are encouraged to share feelings, experiences & concerns around coming out, navigating acceptance, and supporting others present.

Moderator Bio:

Anthony Arrien is a 67 year old transgender man who has facilitated The LOFT’s adult transgender peer support group twice per month for several years. He has done his presentation "The Incomplete Guide to Trans and Non Binary Identities"  at The LOFT's Hudson Valley Trans Forum, The Philadelphia Transgender Wellness Conference, TransLives: in Connecticut, PrideWorks, local library programs and for medical and mental health associations. He is a board member of GLSEN Lower Hudson Valley, is active in PFLAG Putnam and is chair of the LGBTQIA Social Justice Team at Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation in White Plains.  He is also a filmmaker who produces PSA's and has done legislative visits for LGBTQ advocacy in New York State.

Anthony is a full time employee of the Town of Putnam Valley, NY managing their government and educational access TV channels on the Altice cable system. In his college years he studied physics and astronomy and graduated from University of Arizona after studying for a time at Boston University. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree, he studied film directing in the Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts to pursue a career in documentary film making.  He spent 25 years as a union Gaffer in NABET Local 15 and later IATSE Local 52 working in the greater New York area film industry.  He has operated his own production company, Brain Trust Productions, Inc. since February 1998, doing video production and post production.

He has been very active in nonprofit organizations all his life, first as president of the Springfield Telescope Makers, Inc., Chair of the North East Region of the Astronomical League, Chair of Putnam Valley Arts, and has more recently been Chair of the Alliance for Community Media of New York and on the board of the Alliance for Community Media North East Region for over ten years.  He has worked in public policy for the Alliance for Community Media, and was the recipient of the 2017 Chuck Sherwood Leadership Award of the ACM North East Region for his public policy work for Public Educational and Government Access Television.

In addition to being a filmmaker, Anthony is also an artist and plein air landscape painter who works in oils on linen. He often travels to the Southwest to paint desert landscapes.  Closer to home, he is a member of the Lower Hudson Valley Plein Air Painters. For physical recreation he enjoys ice skating and roller skating year round and has taken an new interest in ballroom dancing.

Panelists Bios:

Karen Marder, LCSW: In her role as Executive Director of Dutchess County Pride Center, Karen supervises all of Dutchess County Pride Center’s programs and operations.  She is actively involved in the day to day running of Dutchess County Pride Center, including running numerous groups, overseeing the Youth Board and working directly with program facilitators and volunteers.  She is also the Co-Chair of PKGO Pride.

Karen received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Wurzweiler University in 1995, and is a Licenced Clinical Social Worker.  She has spent the majority of her career working to better the lives of youth, particularly LGBTQ+ youth and their families.  She has worked in the non-profit sector for most of her career.  Karen previously held the position of Executive Director while at My House, an Academic Enrichment Center for previously incarcerated women, as well as those recovering from addiction or domestic violence to obtain skills, training and their GED’s.  While there, she helped create an afterschool program for at risk youth and teens.  

Karen’s son came out as transgender in 2015, and when her son began his transition, Karen looked for resources for LGBTQ+ youth in Dutchess County and soon found that there wasn’t really anything locally.  Knowing that her son and many other LGBTQ+ folks needed support and acceptance, Karen, along with the other co-founders, turned Dutchess County Pride Center from an idea to a reality.

Before co-founding Dutchess Pride, Karen had taken some time off from work to raise her children, James and Samantha, and their sweet mutt, Juliet.

Jay Tyler (he/they) is the Youth Pride Program Assistant at CANDLE where he supports the Youth Pride team in facilitating support groups, workshops, and events for LGBTQ+ youth in Rockland County and the surrounding areas. They are currently finishing their final semester of graduate school at SUNY New Paltz in their Humanistic/Multicultural Education MPS Program and hope to continue to bring their education and skills into the spaces he holds. Jay is also a big fan of the Hudson Valley and when he is not on Zoom can be found hiking, exploring new local food spots, or spending quality time with their cat, Charlie. Jay identifies as trans masculine and is 27 years old and enjoys helping others learn.

Robyn Schlesinger, ESQ (she/her) is an attorney who works extensively with the LGBTQIA+ community.  Her expertise focuses on nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education.  She is also an active LOFT volunteer, working with TGNCNB individuals on their employment searches and doing training for employers on creating trans inclusive workplaces.

Weston Siano is a 25-year-old Latinx Trans-man with a passion for helping trans youth build a better tomorrow. Born in Texas and raised in New York, activism took a hold of Weston at a young age and never let go. Weston currently runs several Westchester county LGBTQ+ youth programs through WJCS Center Lane, is a member of the New Rochelle pride board, and organizes Trans-related educational events throughout New York.  
In addition to Weston’s work with kids, he also attends local schools to educate teachers and administrators on LGBTQ+ student issues. When he’s not lending his voice to the LGBTQ+ community, Weston can be found at the Humane Society of Westchester where he works a part time job as an adoption counselor.
Moving forward, Weston hopes to bridge the gap between the economically and racially diverse towns of Westchester county. He’s started this process by helping to form a new trans support group that’s bringing kids of the BIPOC Trans community together. He strives to further the education of the local school systems to make the next generations educational experience better than ever. Weston is a voice for the youth, and is driven by his love for social justice and community outreach. He won’t stop until maximum inclusivity is achieved.