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Pride Stories: Amanda Mikos

woman raising rainbow flag in crowd

How Visibility and Openness Shapes Community

When Ethos – Harmarsville Assistant General Manager Amanda Mikos (she/her/hers) imagines community, she thinks of a space where people feel supported, secure, and unapologetically free to be themselves. 

“Community is a safe place to live, exist, and meet others in similar scenarios as you,” Amanda said. “I think that’s very important when it comes to anything LGBTQIA+, because you need to have a support system that reminds you that you’re not alone. And for Ethos, I want to get the word out there that we’re a safe place to be,” Amanda said.

For LGBTQIA+ people, Amanda said that finding community can be tough, noting that many “almost have to scope it out” when it comes time to meet like-minded individuals. That makes creating accepting spaces where people can show up as their true selves even more important.

“We see hundreds of patients a day, and still, we’re able to hone in on what makes each person unique instead of being another face that comes through the door,” Amanda said. “That matters. This visibility matters.”

As a queer Hispanic person who works in a dispensary, Amanda said she understands the importance of her visibility in the cannabis industry and the effect it can have on others.

“Working in cannabis is part of who I am; being that open about it opens other peoples’ eyes,” Amanda said. “They’ll see that it’s not scary, that I’m a professional, that I can have this career as a queer person and as a Hispanic person. There are so many intersections in my life, and just by being genuine about it, it leads others to opening up as well.”

By being open, Amanda opens the door to building strong bridges with others that lead to “productive and powerful conversations.”

“There will be a light bulb moment where [a patient] realize[s] they can share openly with me,” Amanda said. “You’ll see their bodies physically relax when they realize they can be themselves.”

Amanda expressed the importance of word of mouth in the broader LGBTQIA+ community as friends share their experiences at all types of retail establishments. Questions about welcoming staff and a safe environment are common, and when the experience at a particular place is positive, word travels fast.

“I feel like no matter where a queer person may be, they find at least one or two other people that they can confide in, and that’s how word of mouth spreads,” Amanda said. “If someone had a positive experience somewhere where they felt welcome, respected, and accepted, they’re going to tell a friend.”

Feedback from patients reflects the effort Amanda puts in at her dispensary. Noting that “there’s nothing better than being addressed as who you are,” she said patients take note of dispensary associates’ effort to use the correct names and pronouns, especially when they don’t match a patient’s government-issued ID or medical marijuana card required to enter the dispensary.

“It’s not just your name – it’s your identity,” Amanda said. “Pronouns are very important to me, and I prioritize getting our team to put notes and keep an eye out to help us remember to address them in the proper way.”

A new transplant to the Pittsburgh area, Amanda said she has connected with the local LGBTQIA+ community online, finding organizations and special interest groups as ways to build her support network. And outside the dispensary, she makes time to volunteer with Free Store 15104, a Pittsburgh-area initiative that redistributes surplus goods to those in need.

“I’m passionate about helping out not only queer people, but other marginalized people and those who are struggling financially,” Amanda said. “You can’t put a price on someone’s smile after giving something to them. I like to spend a few hours there whenever I can.”

No matter where and how she finds community, Amanda honors the many ways her identities intersect: as a queer person, as a Hispanic woman, and as a cannabis industry professional passionate about how cannabis helps people feel better each day.

“By living your truth and being out there, it makes a difference,” Amanda said. “When you take these discussions outside the dispensary, it also breaks the stigma of cannabis in general and can open up opportunities to help not only queer people, but folks with other marginalized identities that intersect with the queer community.”

Read more Pride Stories here

 

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