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.
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.
“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.”