WTS Philadelphia Celebrates LGBTQ+ History Month by Shining the Spotlight on Mia Held, MCRP and Flynn Butterly
WTS Philadelphia is proud to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month by highlighting the achievements of two of our active members of the WTS Philadelphia Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee: Mia Held and Flynn Butterly. LGBTQ+ History Month is dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the contributions, struggles and achievements of the LGBTQ+ community throughout history. Mia and Flynn have been significant contributors to the monthly WTS Philadelphia EDI newsletter articles and social media posts and we are honored to share their inspirational stories.
Mia Held, MCRP, Senior Consultant, Aviation Planning & Sustainability, C&S Companies
Fifteen years ago, if you told me I would be a WTS Spotlight for LGBTQ History Month, I likely would have been terrified about who would know, and how they might treat me as a result. While I am a proud member of the community now, there is a learning curve to understanding, accepting, and loving yourself when being different can feel downright dangerous. I knew who I was as a small child, but it would be another decade before I was able to name it, and a few more years before that identity felt like home. I’m proud to be a WTS Spotlight for October, without fear, and with the hope that I can serve as an example of the value of diversity in our industry. To help our industry be more welcoming and inclusive, I’m proud to be out and be seen.
Aviation is my dream industry and I count myself extremely lucky to be someone who is invigorated by their work every day. Day-to-day, I advise airports across the country on Airport Sustainability Management Plans, Airport Master Plans, Strategic Energy & Emissions Plans, Risk and Vulnerability Assessments, and the administration of LEED and Envision Rating Systems. I am passionate about the work I am able to contribute to in sustainability, resilience, environmental justice, equity, and community engagement. I am a member of the WTS Philadelphia EDI Committee, part of the Transportation Research Board, Young Members Council- Aviation (TRB YMC-A) leadership team and AV020- Aviation System Planning Committee, and a member of the American Planning Association (APA).
I am originally from Buffalo, NY (Go Bills!) and while I have always been a planner, I had a less-than-traditional path to aviation planning as a career. Prior to joining the Aviation Industry, I came from a background of community organizing and education. I thoroughly enjoyed the energy and creativity that working with students brought to my life. But, after several years of telling my kids with sincerity that they “could be anything they wanted to be,” I took my own advice and went back to school. I have long been a lover of aviation and of airports with memories of watching planes taking off and landing at BUF/BNIA, from my grandmother’s backyard.
I am a graduate of The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM with a Masters in Community & Regional Planning and hold a BFA in Theater and BA in English from Niagara University. I am living proof of the power of transferable skills. I utilize my theater degree on a regular basis in some of the best meetings and workshops you’ll ever attend.
I am also a newlywed. My lovely wife, Jenna, and I tied the knot at LOVE Park under the shadow of City Hall, tying me to Philadelphia in a very meaningful way.
Occasionally, I’m asked why who I love matters and why I’d want to bring my whole self to the workplace. I look forward to a time where the world is open enough that we no longer question that being who we are as individuals makes the world a better place. In managing the challenges of a complex world, we need all of us.
Flynn Butterly (they/them), Traffic Design Engineer, HNTB
I am originally from a more rural area of southern New Jersey, which is where my interest for transportation engineering began. When your hometown gets ravaged by storms regularly and there isn’t clear communication on how/when the roads will be fixed, plus you grow up seeing development when environmental preservation should be the focus, it puts a bee in your bonnet. I tease my friends that “sometimes something makes you so mad, it becomes your career”, but the truth is environmental sustainability and transportation equity are sincere passions of mine and I’m proud and excited to be working to make our transportation infrastructure thoughtfully safer and more accessible for everyone.
I may have been raised in NJ, but Philadelphia is truly my home. I attended Drexel University, and it was here for the first time that I was able to meet many other LGBTQ+ folks and to feel safe and happy. By high school I had started to realize that I wasn’t straight, which in my hometown was a scary thought. It was in college that I realized after years of frustration and self-loathing that the reason I felt awful being viewed as and treated like “a woman” wasn’t because being a woman is a bad thing to be. In fact, at this point I had done a lot of work to confront my internalized misogyny and embraced that being a woman is a wonderful, amazing kind of person to be. So why did I still feel so bad? It hit me like a ton of bricks. I just wasn’t a woman. Through the support and grace of my friends I’ve been able to truly come into myself as the non-binary person I’ve always been. Though there are still struggles I am happier, more loved, and more myself than I have ever been.
So what happened after college? I graduated at the peak of COVID terror in 2020 😊. The job market was a little rough and I ended up in Delaware working as a traffic engineer. At my former company I was active on the volunteer subcommittee, and a founding member/vice chair of the LQBTQ+ ERG. I started at that company in the closet, but little over a year into my tenor I was coming out as trans and explaining how the company unintentionally had some underdeveloped systems for trans employees to the president of the company. Talk about terrifying! I continued to advocate for education and positive change for LGBTQ+ and disabled employees at my former company for the rest of my tenure. Even at my most tired I felt bolstered knowing that there were fellow trans employees who felt safer knowing that the ERG was there to listen and advocate.
My first 2 years in the industry were spent in traffic capacity, TID, and safety studies. At the end of 2022 I moved back to Philadelphia and took an opportunity to begin working in the city at a new company in Jan 2023. I’ve been excited and energized to continue safety work at HNTB while also getting my feet wet with signal design and ITS work. Now back to my home base city I’ve jumped into working with WTS and MASITE along with my company’s inclusion and diversity committee. I’m excited to be helping folks with a complete street look at roadways on the clock, and advocate for kinder, safer, more aware spaces off the clock.
Do I feel safe as a trans person in the industry and in the world? No. Am I stubborn and immensely blessed to have amazing and supportive friends? Yes, yes I am. In my worst times I have looked at living openly trans folks and our trans leaders who have passed to know that I am allowed to exist, and I can keep going. I hope this finds someone who may feel uncertain, because they deserve to know that trans folk exist in Transportation and even if it can be tough, you’re not alone and there are folks who will help carve out the space they deserve to thrive in our industry. How do I end this? Go Birds!