Jan Rader is West Virginia's first female fire chief. She's also openly gay.
I just think it’s important for people to be who they are and to not feel threatened by being themselves. It took me a long time to be comfortable in my own skin. I see death and destruction on a daily basis, so life’s too short to worry about petty little things. But unfortunately, people in the LGBTQ community still have to worry about basic human rights from time to time, and that’s not good."
Matt Jarvis is Marshall University's first ever openly gay student body president. He grew up in Nitro, West Virginia. Matt graduated from Marshall in 2018, and he serves on Huntington mayor Steve Williams' LGBT Advisory Committee.
Matt came out when he was in high school. His grandparents were surprised, but they have always supported him.
Matt never thought he would go to Marshall. His whole family went there. Instead, Matt wanted to leave West Virginia.
At Marshall, Matt found a community in Greek life. He says, his fraternity supports him. But, it's more complicated than that.
When Mayor Williams asked Matt to give a presentation on LGBTQ issues, he first found his voice as a leader off campus.
West Virginia, we know what poverty is. The opioid crisis, Huntington is kind of the poster child for that, unfortunately. We know what a social problem looks like, we know what a health epidemic looks like. It’s not an image problem, the image is real. There are people who are hurting. There are people who are addicted. There are people who have lost jobs, who have lost homes, who have lost their lives. Suddenly queerness and LGBTQ initiatives really aren’t in the same boat as you know, 27 people overdosing in one day within a 4 hour period. And I would like not to compare those things."
Matt's hometown, Nitro, is much smaller than Huntington, the second largest city in West Virginia.