Andrea Mox vividly remembers her first experience with Chico’s Stonewall Alliance Center. Just talking about it brings back the butterflies in her stomach from that day over 20 years ago, when she walked through the organization’s doors and said out loud for the first time in public that she is a lesbian.
Mox told the CN&R that she was immediately welcomed. Stonewall offered her a lot of support and helped her navigate a challenging time in her life.
That’s why, for Mox, being appointed as the organization’s executive director in late February is an honor. She knows firsthand the difference that the center has made in people’s lives, and she’s passionate about its mission: to cultivate a safe, inclusive environment; and to unite, strengthen and affirm the LGBTQ community by providing support, resources, education, advocacy and opportunities for celebration.
“It feels really good for me to be able to give back and to be involved with an organization that was so helpful for me at a pivotal time in my life and a scary time, and I remember that,” Mox said. “Anything that I can do to create safe spaces and meaningful connection for the LGBTQ population, it just means a lot.”
Since coming out, Mox has pushed for positive changes for the community, instituting programs for transgender students as a staff member at both Chico State and Butte College. Her vision as Stonewall’s new director is to focus on education and advocacy while drafting a road map for the nonprofit’s future, exploring ways to implement new programs to help the center grow.
“I’m coming in with eyes wide open. Right now, my job is to learn,” Mox said. “I want to support the team and just build on the great work they’ve been doing, and to provide them with that ability to step back a little. Let’s go looking; let’s go searching.”
Stonewall has gone through significant turnover in the executive director role, with Mox being the fourth to officially take on the title in less than three years. Alyssa Larson, the organization’s events coordinator, said it has been challenging for the staff to adapt to constant changes in leadership. Mox has been engaged with the team, Larson said, watching, learning, participating and making suggestions—trying to figure out how her role can support and improve upon Stonewall’s current programs.
“I appreciate so far what I know from talking to Andrea,” Larson said. “Her intention is not to storm in and rewrite everything; her intention is to work with us, which is what we’ve always wanted.”
Mox grew up in Cupertino but has lived in Chico for decades, choosing to stay put after graduating from Chico State because of the love she felt for the town.
In 2000, Mox had been married to a man for 16 years and was raising two young children. She was well-established in her career in information technology at Chico State. That was the year she came out, turning to Stonewall for strength and encouragement.
Today, in addition to her new role with Stonewall, she operates the Rainbow Rescue Ranch, caring for animals with disabilities with her wife, Lindsay Briggs; son, Trevor; and ranch-mate, Danny.
Before taking on the executive director position full-time, Mox worked at Chico State for 25 years and at Butte College for nearly eight years, “doing nerd stuff,” she said, starting in technical support positions and working her way up to Chief Technology Officer at Butte College before her departure.
In addition to her personal connection, she also has a professional history with Stonewall. She was a founding member of the Gender and Sexuality Equity Task Force at Butte College and worked closely with Stonewall staff to plan transgender awareness and remembrance events and student panels.
Throughout her career, Mox recognized the influential positions she held, she said, and looked for opportunities to push for significant, positive changes for the LGBTQ community. Inspired by student activism at Butte College, Mox led a campus-wide project that implemented legal and chosen name changes for transgender students throughout the college’s internal systems, such as classroom rosters, student learning programs and health services. Students can now enter their chosen name, gender identity and pronouns, and the system affirms as well as protects student identities, avoiding outing them in official communications, for example.
While at Chico State, Mox spearheaded a similar initiative, working with colleagues to incorporate chosen names for transgender students within the university’s virtual learning and class management system.
“We did it in a way where we didn’t even put [a name change] in our ticketing system. We didn’t track it at all, because we didn’t want anything to come back negative for that student,” she said. “We just kind of did the thing because it was the right thing to do.”
Mox has also presented at statewide workshops, speaking on LGBTQ issues and how technology can be utilized to create safer spaces and experiences for students.
Stonewall Alliance Center offers a variety of services to the LGBTQ community, including low- to no-cost counseling; social and support groups; free HIV and Hepatitis C testing; assistance with legal-name and gender-marker changes; gender-affirming chest binders and bras; and referrals to LGBTQ-affirming health care, legal assistance and other services.
It also hosts the annual Chico Pride celebration, which will be held in June this year (see infobox opposite page), Trans Month (which just concluded in March), Trans Day of Remembrance and other art and performance-based events.
Recently, Stonewall has focused creating new programs and support systems for LGBTQ people of color. Last summer, the organization launched the Safer Action Support with Stonewall (S.A.S.S.), a team of volunteers focused on providing safety at protests and other local events led by people of color. Stonewall also established the QT*POC Direct Aid Fund to provide emergency financial support to queer and trans people of color. Since then, Stonewall has granted approximately $8,000 to about 17 people, according to Larson, paying for essential needs such as transportation, one-time rental assistance and energy bills.
Stonewall received seed funding from United Way to establish the QT*POC Fund and just received another grant from the organization to expand its efforts. It will be collaborating with local leaders and teachers who are people of color to create a cultural competency training on anti-racism. This will be similar to Stonewall’s cultural competency training centered on LGBTQ issues and identities, which it offers to local businesses, nonprofits, government offices and classrooms.
These issues are important for the organization, Mox said. She had already hit the ground running two weeks into the job by attending a digital conference with LGBTQ center leaders across the U.S., sharing best practices and ideas on how to improve and grow their programs, including a focus on intersectionality and serving people of color.
Stonewall must prioritize creating welcoming, safe spaces for LGBTQ people of color, Mox said, “but we have to do it in a way where we’re not just putting another emotional tax on that population.”
Moving forward, Mox says she is a cautious optimist when it comes to the strides that are being made with the causes that Stonewall supports. She was thrilled about last year’s “rainbow wave,” when a record-breaking number of LGBTQ people ran for political offices and the United States saw historic political wins among transgender people and LGBTQ people of color.
“To me, that is so exciting, to see some actual representation that mirrors what our society really is. And my hope is that, absolutely, we kind of have broken a little bit of that glass ceiling … and maybe we’re actually going to be coming into a space where that will start becoming more of the norm and we will see more representation across all of our communities,” Mox said.
But advocacy work is far from over, she continued, especially in rural towns like Chico, where representation, inclusivity and the safety of LGBTQ community members is still a significant issue.
“This is life or death for some people, what Stonewall does and what we provide,” Mox said. “I really believe that Stonewall is headed in the right direction. … We definitely want to educate and do it in ways that will gain positive momentum for us, but yet we also want to, I think, stand our ground where we need to stand our ground and be OK with that as a center, and be prepared for any kind of potential repercussions from that. And I think as a strong center, as long as we are committed and focused on what our mission is, then we can stand that ground.”
Take Pride: Stonewall Alliance Center is hosting its annual Chico Pride celebration in June and is seeking artists, musicians, performers and sponsors. Visit stonewallchico.com for more info.