Liza + Hannah: A Lambert House love story

According to Hannah Hatton, dating fellow Lambert House volunteer Liza Gould wasn’t in the cards.

They’d seen each other in passing at the center, but their opposite schedules didn’t allow them much time to talk. That is until one day, when they unwittingly found themselves on the same shift. Their first conversation began over snacks in the kitchen.

“Talking to her, this was when I knew: we are going to be friends,” Liza says, with an ever so slight, devilish grin creeping across her face.

Hannah chimes in, “Yeah, but I friend-zoned her pretty hard” - a fact Liza doesn’t dispute.

So for the next few months, Liza and Hannah would get to know each other within the strict confines of the friend zone.


“I knew I was gay when I was seven, I grew up in a conservative household, I was later in a domestic violence relationship, and my mom has severe mental illness...I have a lot of intersectionality in my life that enables me to connect to people," says Liza.


In a different way, a “friend zone” is what Lambert House is - a place to unabashedly be one’s self without the pressure of pretense. It’s a safe haven, insulated from the stresses of world outside, where youth can seek connections with others whose intentions are genuine, and who offer the kind of acceptance many may never have experienced.

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The lack of such acceptance was, in fact, one of the first things Hannah and Liza learned about each other. Both grew up in families where there wasn’t much support. At 16, Hannah ran away from an “unpleasant home situation where I never felt supported or understood,” and was pregnant with her son soon after that.  

Liza could more than relate. “I knew I was gay when I was seven, I grew up in a conservative household, I was later in a domestic violence relationship, and my mom has severe mental illness...I have a lot of intersectionality in my life that enables me to connect to people,” she explains.

Hannah interjects, “She’s also really comfortable sharing that. There is something about her demeanor and how she engages with people, that they’ll tell her incredibly personal things.”

It’s perhaps because of these qualities, and because of their shared experiences, that Liza and Hannah recognize the youths’ intense need to connect. To feel like normal kids. To exist in a place where they can feel just as okay to play video games in silence as they do to open up and seek advice. They both know that space for peace is integral to a child’s development.  


"Many of them don’t have positive LGBT relationships in their lives, and it’s hard to know that’s possible. It gives them something to strive for, if they choose - finding a partner, getting married, making it work,” Hannah says.


For Liza, witnessing these transitions has been one of the most fulfilling parts of her time at Lambert House.

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“It’s seeing them grow up, become adults, really flourish in their gender identity and their sexuality, seeing them find that comfort...finding themselves.”

You might say that Lambert House is where Liza and Hannah found themselves, too. But just like many of the youth that come to Lambert House for the first time, neither of them could have had any idea what was in store.

As those first few months ticked by, little by little the margins of Hannah and Liza’s own friend zone began chipping away. Less than two years later, in May 2017, the two were married on Washington State’s beautiful Whidbey Island.

Their relationship is something the youth at Lambert House hold very dear.

“As we’ve taken new steps, gotten engaged, gotten married, they have just been so genuinely thrilled. Many of them don’t have positive LGBT relationships in their lives, and it’s hard to know that’s possible. It gives them something to strive for, if they choose - finding a partner, getting married, making it work,” Hannah says.

Liza adds, “We’re examples that it’s possible, that everyone can have those.”

Home is where your friends are: How Maya found a family at Lambert House

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“In all honesty, I feel like I’d be six feet in the ground.”
 
That’s what Maya Vasquez says when asked where she’d be if she had never started coming to Lambert House five years ago. 
 
Just a freshman in high school, Maya was looking for a place she could call home. Not that she didn’t have one. She’d probably say the one she had was great - but also that she felt like she could never quite be herself there. She could never be sure her family wouldn’t make a comment about the leggings she was wearing, use the wrong pronoun, or give her looks as she walked out the door in a feminine outfit.

“They’re not terrible people. But it’s definitely sometimes a toxic environment,” Maya says of her household.

It was that desire to belong and to be accepted that drove her to seek sanctuary in a place like Lambert House. But she didn’t expect what she would find there.

Over the years Maya found that her relationships at Lambert House became like the family she had always wanted  - a group of people who simply accepted her for who she was. 


"Lambert House has been a second home and a family to me. I wasn’t really expecting that."


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For Maya one of the best parts of coming to Lambert House has been having people from the LGBTQ community to look up to. She says, “I consider my true best friends to be the volunteers. I know these are adults that can give me advice because they’ve been in situations similar to where I’ve been.” 
 
This proved especially critical during the time of the Orlando night club shooting last year. 
 
“That struck me hard. Coming here, this was my only safe haven at that time. It was like a therapy session with people who were suffering and doing the same thing."
 
"During that time a volunteer, Allison, told us her experience with the Columbine shooting. The way she spoke about it kinda made us trust her more...she said she also felt scared, and even though she wouldn’t have been in danger, it just told me that it doesn’t matter which part of the community you are. We’re all scared,” she says.         
 
Sometimes Maya still has doubts like these. Sometimes the world can be unforgiving. But through it all, nothing seems to change at Lambert House. Maya knows that acceptance and love can always be found there. 

She says, “The fact that no one at Lambert House judges me for wearing what I want - that proves to me this is the place I’m accepted. Not everyone is going to accept you, but at least here you can be accepted.
 
"Lambert House has been a second home and a family to me. I wasn’t really expecting that."