(clockwise, left to right) Jude (age 3,) Amanda Vestal and Erin Goldstein

Time Out Youth Board Chair Erin Goldstein is a native Charlottean who has a passion for family and adventure. In her downtime from work and being a mom and wife, she and her business partner and best friend, Malone, operate a T-shirt business promoting LGBTQ pride in the Charlotte, N.C. area.

How did your position as board chair at Time Out Youth (TOY) come about?

A very good friend of mine, Steven Wilson, approached me while we were out one night and asked if I was interested in interviewing. At that point in my life, it was time that I started to give back to the community, so I jumped at the chance. I started on the board as a general board member in 2013 and then started taking bigger leadership positions within that year on the board. I have served as the secretary, vice board chair and now board chair. I was voted in by the Board of Directors in 2018 and will serve until June 2020. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

What does your position entail?

As the board chair of Time Out Youth, I am the sounding board for Rodney Tucker, the executive director of Time Out Youth. I provide support, direction and advice regarding emerging issues or potential problems. I work with an executive committee, board of directors and TOY staff to have a common understanding of our goals and strategic plan. We work together to achieve the goals of our organization. We are the gatekeepers that ensure our fundraising dollars are being allotted appropriately and staying within Time Out Youth’s mission.

What can you tell me about Time Out Youth’s history? 

Time Out Youth has been an organization in Charlotte for the last 27 years which was started by Tonda Taylor in 1991 as a safe place for LGBTQ youth. From there TOY has grown to be one of the country’s leading LGBTQ youth organizations. We offer an array of programs and services to young people in our community ages 12-21. Some youth come to hang out and then we have some youth that have been thrown out of their homes because of their identity. We provide a safe space for any of those young people that need it.

What challenges has the organization faced since its establishment?

One of the biggest challenges that we have faced since I have been on the board is growing too fast. We have had multiple opportunities for growth quick, but we as a board have been very strategic about the upward direction that TOY is moving in. We have been very fortunate to be recipients of generous fundraising from our community members, and we want to ensure that we are deliberate and plan how we spend those dollars.

What do you consider to be the most rewarding part of your position at Time Out Youth? 

The most rewarding part of my position at Time Out Youth has been being able to see the growth of the organization. To think that when I started we had just moved from a church basement and now we own a building that is mind-blowing to me. It has been a great honor to be able to raise funds to support our current and future youth. I can see the changes that the youth experience when they are involved in our programs and Time Out Youth is truly a life-saving and life-changing organization.

Describe your experience of being an openly-lesbian professional as the membership director at Temple Israel? 

I have a very fortunate coming out story. When I came out of the closet, I was accepted by my family, friends and community with open arms. That has directly helped me in my position at Temple Israel. We are an open and accepting congregation, and I feel completely at home and myself in my work environment, which is a first for me. In my past, working in the community mental health field as a social worker, I really struggled with being able to be out, confident and secure in my work environment. Since switching careers, I have not struggled with this at all, and I am grateful to be a part of a community that loves me, my wife and our son.

Have you experienced adversity with being an openly-lesbian professional in your career?

Working in the mental health field in Charlotte has been an interesting experience. It has been tough to be an out lesbian and because of this, I found myself to be a fiercer advocate fighting for my own rights and the rights of our LGBTQIA community in the mental health field. I have educated fellow colleagues on LGBTQ issues, advocated for my community and continued to be the voice for those that do not feel that are being heard. Mental health issues run rampant in our LGBTQ community, and no one should feel that they can’t be who they are because their professionals do not understand.

How old were you when you came out as a lesbian and were you reluctant to do so?

I came out at 18 years old. I was somewhat reluctant, but actually, my mom took me to lunch and she guessed it. I said “I have something to tell you…” and she said “Erin, are you a lesbian?” At that moment, I knew that everything would be OK and that I was lucky to have parents, friends and family that loved and supported me.

How has your experience of being a diverse family been?

My experience as being a lesbian and having a baby has been really great. My wife and I met many years ago and then got together in 2011. We knew that we wanted a child, and we took the steps to being able to be parents. We live in a fairly diverse area. We have other LGBTQ friends with children, so I do not feel that we have met much adversity when it comes to raising a child in a diverse family. We have been extremely lucky, but we also refuse to surround ourselves with close-minded individuals. We don’t have time or tolerance for that. Amanda and I have been lucky to make our own “framily” and safe community for our child to grow up in.

Have you and your wife faced any challenges or intolerance within the school system as being same-sex parents?

Jude is three years old, so we have not really faced any issues with school. Jude goes to the best preschool in Charlotte, The Charlotte Jewish Preschool, and we have been welcomed there with open arms by all teachers, staff and other families. We are lucky to not be the only LGBTQ family that has a kiddo in school. As we look to sending Jude to elementary school at CMS, that is the first thing on our radar is the culture and environment at the school. We are lucky to have a few different options for school, but that will be first and foremost.

Tell us about your T-shirt company, Yas Queen.

I am lucky enough to live next to my best friend, Malone and her husband, Rafe. Malone and I went to high school together, and then we reconnected as adults about 10 years ago. Since reconnecting, we have served on the board of Time Out Youth together, share the same friends and now share a backyard. One morning we were talking and said “we should make a gay owned T-shirt company that represents Charlotte.” Malone and I are both Charlotteans and love this city. We wanted to be able to be represented as members of the LGBTQ community and Charlotte is the “QUEEN CITY.” So from there Yas Queen Industries was born. We are very lucky to partner with Action Plus, a local company, that produces our T-shirts. Our friend and fellow member of the LGBTQ community Penny Mann designs our awesome shirts (#yasqueencity.) Malone and I maintain a business online, sell shirts in the White Rabbit and then gear up for Pride in CLT every year. We just wanted to make a product that represented the large LGBTQ community in Charlotte and show our own PRIDE for CLT.

What inspired you and your partner to go into the T-shirt business?

We wanted something that represented us. We have a lot of awesome local T-shirt companies in Charlotte but none that really represent the LGBTQ community, and specifically none that actually give a portion of their monies back to only LGBTQ organizations. Malone and I are lucky to be able to do that and stick with our mission and goals.

What’s it like being an LGBTQ-oriented small business in Charlotte, N.C.?

Since this is neither of our full-time jobs, we have not had a ton of time to pour into our business. We have been very lucky to have our shirts in the White Rabbit store and happy to be represented there. Otherwise, we have not met any adversity to our small business.

Describe you and your business partner’s creative process of designing T-shirts. How do you pick colors, slogans, graphics, etc.?

There is not a lot of rhyme to our reason. Neither Malone or myself are artistic, so typically we have an idea and make a terrible sketch of it and then send it over to our designer, Penny, who makes the magic happen. She is a seriously talented artist and graphic designer and we are really lucky to have her. The only thing that we want our designs to have are something colorful (read: rainbow) and representing the city that we live in!

What are some of you and your family’s favorite vacation spots?

Amanda and I love to travel. We have been very fortunate to be able to travel all around the world with The Charlotte Royals Rugby Football Club which is Charlotte’s own gay rugby club. We have been to Australia and Europe a few times. My personal favorite is anywhere in Europe. I am a history/art junkie, and I love to plan so going to Europe usually hits all of my wish list when traveling. Amanda is a beach person so we try to get to Hilton Head or Wilmington once a year. We have recently enjoyed traveling with our three year old and we are planning a trip to Canada this summer.

Where did you and your wife meet?

Amanda and I met through a mutual friend when I was getting my undergraduate and then a Master’s degree in social work at UNCC. When we met, we were just friends, as we both were in a relationship. When we both were single, she sent me a message on Facebook with a “smiley face,” and the rest was history. Amanda was my first gay friend in Charlotte. Sometimes, these things are just meant to be.

Describe you and your wife’s marriage proposal. Who proposed to whom?

Amanda proposed to me… kind of. We were celebrating our first holiday season living together and we were cleaning up getting ready for a big New Year’s Eve Party and I saw a box and opened it… There was a lovely ring in there, and I couldn’t process what was going on. Amanda then asked and I obviously said yes. I will note, however, I knew after the first date that she was “my person.”

What are some of your favorite hobbies or pastimes?

I am a very social person. I love spending time with friends and family. I enjoy a good meal and cocktail. Amanda coaches the The Royals and during the fall and spring, most weekends are spent at rugby games and then enjoying a “mom’s night out” at Sidelines or Bar Argon. We love going to the movies and binge watching TV.

What’s the last book you read?

The last book I read was “Before We Were Yours.” It is a fantastic work of historical fiction by Lisa Wingate. I am mainly into historical fiction, especially books about the Holocaust.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?

I do not think that I have one favorite movie however there are a few movies that I can watch over and over and not get sick of them. One of my most favorites is “Bridesmaids.”

What are three words that describe you?

Outgoing, honest, and passionate.