Advocate In Chief

Sarah Rosso takes their activism to Washington

Sarah Rosso. Photo by G Michael Beigay.

This summer, Sarah Rosso, Executive Director of the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation, hobnobbed with LGBTQ activists and celebrities when she attended a reception hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris in partnership with GLAAD to celebrate Pride. Rosso partied poolside with leaders in the LGBTQ community.

Rosso, who grew up in Pittsburgh, was honored to be surrounded by the luminaries in the LGBTQ+ community. She began her lifelong advocacy when she was attending Chatham University earning her first degree — Rosso has a BA in Cultural Studies & Psychology, an MA in Leadership & Organizational Transformation, and a Masters in Public Health. She even met her wife Sarah Miller while playing tennis at Chatham. The two became partners on and off the courts.

“We’re coming up on twenty years together,” Rosso said. “Sarah (Miller) also works with the LGBTQ+ community at the Central Outreach Wellness Center.” Miller is a dedicated Family Nurse Practitioner with specialties in Transgender Healthcare, LGBTQ+ healthcare, and HIV care.

Rosso claims her activism was sparked by a friend who convinced her to get involved in volunteering. The same friend talked her into joining the Steel City Softball team. She immersed herself in the LGBTQ+ community and even worked at 5801. Rosso joked, “I worked at 58. That’s where I met most of Gay Pittsburgh.”

Her work as executive director for the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation has taken her all around the country. Rosso works with the Human Rights Campaign on their All Children – All Families Training Program (ACAF), where facilitators like Rosso, offer expert training, capacity building, and coaching on a diverse range of LGBTQ+ related topics for child welfare professionals and caregivers. While she has led some of the training sessions online, she’s had to go to North Carolina, Alabama, and some other locations around the country. Rosso said, “I had to go teach a course in a town forty miles from Birmingham, Alabama. I thought I was going to have a ‘Deliverance’ moment, but I was wildly mistaken. The people I met there were open and thoughtful and wanted to learn how to protect and care for LGBTQ+ children.”

While Rosso represented the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation, Stacey Stevenson, the first Black President & CEO of Family Equity was also at the Pride event which was held at Vice President Kamala Harris’s official residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C.

Rosso said, “I was walking into the event next to MJ (Michaela Jaé) Rodriguez [from ‘Pose’].” She added, “I knew more of the policy people than the celebrities.” She admitted, “That at one point, I turned to Murray Hill and asked, ‘What do you do for a living?’” Rosso was unaware that the drag king is a cast member of the Max-streaming show, “Somebody Somewhere,” and an icon in the NYC cabaret scene. Rosso did recognize TikTok celebrity V (Vitus Spehar) from “Under the Desk News.”

Rosso talked to fellow Pennsylvanian and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine, MD. While Rosso didn’t get to speak one-on-one with the Vice President, she chatted with the country’s first Second Gentleman, Douglass Emhoff, and Reggie Greer, the White House senior advisor on LGBTQ+ Engagement. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first Black person and the first openly LGBTQ person to serve in the position, was also in attendance.  

The Vice President has a history of commitment to the LGBTQ community, fighting to advance civil and human rights, including for LGBTQ people, throughout her career. As San Francisco District Attorney, Vice President Harris created one of the first LGBTQ hate crimes units in the nation, fought against the so-called “gay and transgender panic defense,” and officiated same-sex marriages in 2004 in San Francisco City Hall. Rosso said, “The couple from the first marriage she officiated was at the event.”

Vice President Harris said at the event, “Pride Month is about celebrating those whose shoulders we stand on for their work to advance civil rights, and an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the fight for equal rights. The LGBTQ+ movement is an expression of our love of our country and is rooted in an unwavering belief in the promise of freedom, equality, and justice. Let us remember that pride is, and has always been, patriotic. And, as we confront the attacks on LGBTQ+ rights across the country, let us remember that we are in this together.”

The event was emceed by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 15 winner Sasha Colby. GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis also spoke during a Pride Celebration.

Among the allies and activists in attendance included performer Alex Newell (from the TV show, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” and the hit Broadway show, “Shucked”), Club Q Founding Owner Matthew Haynes, Pulse shooting survivor and Equality Florida Press Secretary Brandon J. Wolf, trans journalists Dawn Ennis and Erin Reed, along with celebrities and influential voices: Ariana DeboseBobby Berk (“Queer Eye”), Brooke EdenCody Belew, Cody Rigsby, Cory Michael Smith, De’Bronski Jefferson ( “We’re Here,”), Dove Cameron (singer and actor), Erin Reed, Frankie Grande, G FLIP (singer and songwriter with albums, “About Us” and “Drummer”), British comedian, Gina Yashere, Silver Medal Olympian, Gus Kenworthy, Jazz Jennings, Sophie B. Hawkins, and many more.

Rosso said, “I don’t think I’ll ever get invited to anything this cool again in my life.”

Michael Buzzelli is a stand-up comedian and sit-down author. As a comedian, he has performed all around the country, most notably, the Ice House, the Comedy Store and the Improv in Los Angeles. As a writer, Michael Buzzelli has been published in a variety of websites, magazines and newspapers. He is a theater and arts critic for 'Burgh Vivant,’ Pittsburgh's online cultural talk magazine. He is also a Moth Grand Slam storyteller and actor. His books, "Below Average Genius," a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column in the Observer-Reporter, and his romantic comedy,  “All I Want for Christmas," are on sale at Amazon.com. He is working on a LGBTQ romantic comedy called, “Why I Hate My Friends.” You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. (He / Him / His)