Stroking the mushroom tattoo above her wrist, Lexi Byrom, Mt. Lebanon Class of 2023 and recipient of the Allies for Health + Wellbeing’s 2023 Bright Young People award, reflects on her student activism and personal growth during the award ceremony at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
Event architect Thommy Conroy designed The Allies Ball and Free for All to reference the glam rock revelries of the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine, complete with colorful feather boas, bold drag queens and live music. Self-promoted as one of the best parties in Pittsburgh, the ball is also the largest fundraising activity for Allies for Health + Wellbeing. Formerly the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit empowers individuals and communities through integrated medical care and supportive human services.
For a second year, the event honored 12 local Bright Young People.
The original Bright Young People were socialites in the 1920s and ’30s known for throwing outrageous, over-the-top parties and advocating for social change.
A founding member of Lebo Pride, Byrom, 18, is a 2023 Bright Young People awardee, and an agitator for policy change and inclusion in the Mt. Lebanon School District.
It began about two and a half years ago, when Byrom and another transgender woman in the community, Asta Kill, discussed the need for an LGBTQ student group focused on activism and awareness during a
“While there is a Gender and Sexuality Alliance at the school, we found that they were more focused on creating a safe space, which is also very important, but we wanted to get this change done,” Byrom said.
Fast forward to 2023, and the small student group that first met at Byrom’s house is now Lebo Pride, an incorporated nonprofit organization with a board of directors. For Byrom, Lebo Pride is all about unity.
“We all came together,” she said. “Several of the students and myself had gone separately to the school board before, and nothing
As a result of Byrom’s leadership, 70 students showed up and shared their testimonies and concerns at a school board meeting during early 2023.
“That’s when they paid attention and a lot of those concerns that everyone individually had was wrapped up into the policy we presented, and what is ultimately going to get passed,” Byrom said.
The policy initially written by Mt. Lebanon students contained six or seven concerns including teacher education and bathroom facilities. Campaign for Our Shared Future (COSF), a nonpartisan group focused on supporting high quality K-12 education, helped the students edit the proposal and prepare a legal document to be presented to the
Carrie Reighard, Ashland Avenue, is the CFO of Allies for Health + Wellbeing and treasurer of Lebo Pride. She nominated Byrom for the 2023 Bright Young People award and admired her effort to create the first Lebo Pride celebration. Above all, she applauds Byrom’s dedication to the community, even though she was a senior and graduated this June.
“She is still so committed to this community and how these situations are going to play out and impact her peers, her community and the younger folks who are going to be growing up behind her,” Reighard said.
Byrom credits much of her advocacy success to the love and support of her family.
“One of the really big things was my mom helping me through the process of legally changing my name,” Byrom said. “It was a big, affirming moment for me. Just this moment of rebirth.”
Byrom struggled with her identity before coming out to her family and friends in 10th grade, and then coming out to the school the next year.
She believes that quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic gave her the space to reflect on the feelings she’d been having for her entire life and hadn’t been able to sort through.
“In that moment of nothing else going on but myself, I was able to kind of sort through everything and realize I was a trans woman and that I identify as a lesbian now,” she said.
After years of being uncomfortable in the boys’ locker room and experiencing an inherent anxiety surrounding everything in her life, it immediately lifted upon coming out.
While it’s been a long journey to find her personal fashion style, she finds a lot of inspiration in the beauty of nature’s rebirth and decided to tattoo a mushroom on her upper wrist.
“Mushrooms grow out of this decay,” she explained.
After years of difficult times, she finally felt like she was “a beautiful thing that could be enjoyed.”
When she’s not lobbying for policy change, she loves engaging in a quieter form of activism. She loves listening to queer artists and watching TV shows with queer characters.
“Seeing yourself represented in the media is really cool,” she said.
She also strives to be a safe space for others by decorating her possessions with rainbows. “People know that they’re safe to come to me if they need to.”
Byrom plans to continue her advocacy and care for others in the University of Pittsburgh’s nursing program.