Know That She Did Rage Against the Dying of the Light, The Life of Joyce Myers Shulick (1959-2023)

Beaver County LGBTQ
Joyce Shulick

Joyce Myers Shulick was a lesbian hero during her life, but one whose modest contributions fade slowly into the mists of time. I refuse to allow that to happen.

It matters that Joyce was here. It matters that she made an impact of any size. And it matters that we acknowledge a life lived always with an eye to better others. Even one that dares to speak uncomfortable truths.

I recently learned that Joyce died in August 2023 at the age of 65. Details of her final days have been kept private, but friends know that Joyce was living in immense pain. Medical disabilities left her almost homebound especially when she had to give up her car this past summer.

She was only 65 years old. Fuck that.

When I met Joyce 20 years ago, she was working as a home health caretaker for people with disabilities. She held the people she served in high regard, but was blunt about the failings of the system – she worked her body to near death with a very frail safety net as her reward. We spoke often how society’s disregard for the people she served meant the workers were disregarded as well.

Joyce was born in September 1959 in Ambridge. She lived in Beaver County most of her life. She studied at Community College of Beaver County and West Minster College. Joyce worked in residential care for 38 years until her increasingly poor health forced her to retire. She had one daughter, Jodie, who was the light of her life. Joyce was also close to her mother who passed in 2017 and numerous lifelong friends.

Joyce had been very active in her faith community until hypocrisy and a failure to support LGBTQ people led her to publicly denounce Christianity.

Joyce realized she was a lesbian in the early 80s, but did not have a support system. She quietly explored Pittsburgh legacy spaces like Wild Sisters and Bloomers before coming out in the early 1990’s in the Beaver County Times. I will find that news clipping no matter what.

That’s the history bit. Joyce came out in a rural Western Pennsylvania community in a time when it was just unheard of. We had no openly elected officials, few openly LGBTQ anyone. And that really matters. We must lift up stories like hers to inspire and support other rural LGBTQ people.

Joyce was also the very first person to respond to the #AMPLIFY Q&A in 2015. She loved animals, especially cats. Joyce honored her friends.

After her disability left her at home, Joyce became famous for her blunt diatribes about the realities of her life. She documented every painful moment from the disrespect and negligence of her doctors to the struttles to get her insulin refilled. Joyce shared countless stories about her landlord, the company that owned her electric recliners, and how she was treated in local businesses. Her battles with the Social Security Administration and pension company were epic and necessary for everyone to read.

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She did not hold back because she knew that educating the general public was essential to systemic change. She knew the delusions and beliefs people clung to in order to avoid their complicity. Joyce ripped open her most difficult moments, from her abusive childhood to the rejection by so-called-Christian family and friends.

If silence truly does equal complicity, then Joyce Shulick resisted with every fiber of her being.

I do not know how or when Joyce died or why there is no obituary. I gave my condolences to her daughter and received her blessing to write this. I witnessed how Joyce lived her life, That is what matters in the end. She was true to herself, she stood up for underdogs, and her compassion was boundless.

If you Google Joyce Shulick, you will see countless obituaries where she left a word of comfort. I was stunned by her diligence and her living her values in spite of a church that hurt her. They did not crush her though. Her father, her ex-husband, the system could never destroy the essence of Joyce.

I hope you will honor Joyce with a comment or a snowflake.

No longer able to drive due to all of my disability issues. I only put 42 miles on it this yr. I sold the car. For the first time in my adult life I am really unable to go anywhere unless someone can take me. My daughter and a dear friend have been getting me to the many Dr. appts. I just feel so sad for them as well. No one wants to be a burden, but any type of assisted living is not in the budget for a disabled human services worker. The vast majority of Americans are in this same mess when it comes to old age and being able to get care.

Just wasted most of the morning, and still do not have any real answers, trying to talk with Lilly Cares, and emailing my Dr., to get my refills of my 2 types of insulin. Needless to say it was excruciating at best. I may have one refill on the way. It appears from the Doctor’s office that they received the request from Lilly Cares and faxed the refill back to them. Lilly Cares says they did not receive it. Your guess is as good as mine. I do not know if the insulin will come to my home, as it is supposed to, or if it will be sent to the Doctor’s office, or if I will ever get it at all. As for the other refill, I guess it is somewhere in the Twilight Zone. I could not get a straight answer from Lilly Cares about it. I swear they make this as difficult as possible, in the hopes that people will just break down and spend the thousands they charge for the insulin. As a poor person, this is not an option for me, so I must endure this struggle every year.

Don’t for a minute think that I fear death. If there is a way for my energy to connect with the energies of those I have loved, I will definitely figure it out. Belief in a God, is totally unnecessary. What I fear is the sometimes horribly, prolonged suffering that proceeds it. We used to torture people to death, now we torture them to life. It is appalling, that in this day and age, people can not make the decision to legally end their lives, when the suffering becomes too much. This should be a free service to anyone who wants it.

As Christmas approaches, I can not help but think that I might actually be able to live comfortably in my disabled, retirement years, if I had back all of the money that I was guilted into giving to churches for 60 years. What a shame, what a total waste.

Describe your community in terms of being LGBTQ friendly (or not.) Beaver County has a mix of friendly and unfriendly people. There are some churches at this point who tolerate us. This to me is not acceptance. There are no services, stores, restaurants, bars, churches, etc. that I am aware of, who openly advertise that they are gay friendly. I do not see this changing in the future.

What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That we truly become equal citizens able to live without fear.

Rest in power, Joyce. Your walk through this world touched countless lives. And your compassion coupled with the blunt realities of your life are signs to us that we must do better. You deserved better.


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