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Features & Articles

Better Than He Found It

Tags
  • Community Impact
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

For Drew Medvid (A&S ’19), getting involved in transgender advocacy in Pittsburgh seemed to happen by accident. Even Medvid’s decision to come to Pitt and study politics seems more a matter of fate than chance.

Medvid’s late grandfather, Nufrie Medvid, once lived in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, and was a die-hard Pitt fan. Nufrie Medvid served roles in local politics for Collier Township before moving south and eventually to North Carolina.

Medvid majored in history and political science at Pitt, played the mellophone and clarinet in the Pitt Band and studied abroad in South Africa. His experience as a University of Pittsburgh Scholar in Residence in response to the Tree of Life shooting in 2019 proved pivotal in his development as an emerging educator and activist.“I left North Carolina during the bathroom bill era. It was a hard time being trans,” Medvid said. "Pitt was definitely a haven. I sought refuge here." (In March of 2016, North Carolina passed a HB2, which prevented trans people from using bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity.)

Drew Medvid, who was born in North Carolina, says it was the birthplace of his activism, too.

Medvid and six other undergraduate students created an exhibition project, “To Those Who Grasp It,” exploring antisemitism, white supremacy and hate following the mass shooting at the synagogue. Medvid’s work was displayed on Pitt’s campus in the fall of 2019 and featured in the Classrooms Without Borders 2019 Conference on Antisemitism, Hate and Social Responsibility.

As part of his experience as a Scholar in Residence, Medvid took a special topics research course for which he created comics that dealt with hate speech. His work will soon to be published by OUR’s anthology Drawing Conclusions: Graphic Research from OUR Summer Scholars 2019-2020.“They learned how to work as a team and to take care not to re-traumatize themselves and the people they were talking to in the community,” said Laura Nelson, assistant director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (OUR) who worked with Medvid on the project. “Those are skills that served a lot of them in that group of six in what they've have gone on to and for Drew in terms of community organizing." 

I want to leave it better than I found it, and Pittsburgh is my home now.”

“As a white trans man, I have privilege, and even I faced things that were very uncomfortable,” he said.While Medvid found Pitt to be an inclusive place, he recognized improvements were needed, especially for inclusive policies and procedures. He advocated, for example, for training for staff and faculty working with trans students, systematic use of preferred pronouns and non-binary language in University policies.

Following graduation from Pitt, Medvid took on a board role with SisTers PGH, a local organization that serves transgender and gender nonconforming youth in Pittsburgh with a focus on transgender women of color. 

Medvid also served as lead program director for BroThers PGH, an affiliated nonprofit that supports trans masculine and non-binary people in Allegheny County. BroThers PGH offers talk spaces, social events and information sessions, as well as provisions for transition-related needs.

Medvid said he’s loved having impact through his nonprofit leadership in Pittsburgh and learning from more experienced activists. 

“I'm just now coming into my activism,” Medvid said. “I want to leave it better than I found it, and Pittsburgh is my home now.”

In 2020, Medvid took a job as an administrative assistant in the African Studies Program at the University and taught the First Approaches to Research course through the OUR during the pandemic. While working at Pitt, Medvid held a leadership role with Pitt Queer Professionals and served on Pitt’s Transgender Working Group and LGBTQ taskforce. Medvid’s work on the taskforce focused on the creation of a proposal for a dedicated space for LGBTQ people at Pitt.

Medvid recently landed a job as Pennsylvania regional organizing lead for Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest civil rights organization for LGBTQ people. In this role, Medvid leads organizing, volunteer recruitment and engagement on legislative matters and elections that achieve equality for LGBTQ people.

According to Nelson, Medvid’s ability to see the strengths and potential in others is the common theme to his various roles and contributions at Pitt and in the city of Pittsburgh.

“Drew lifts people up in incredible ways,” Nelson said.