Culture June 23, 2021

Who is making LGBTQ+ history right now: GMA Inspiration List 2021

LGBTQ+ Pride Month celebrates the community that includes those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, Two Spirit, nonbinary, and in other ways that differ from heterosexual orientations and/or traditional expressions of gender.

Even today, in many places, such expressions and/or simply being LGBTQ+ can lead to isolation and hate; holding hands, kissing or engaging in "gay behavior" in public can lead to extreme forms of punishment; and same-sex relationships are still not legal everywhere in the world.

But even as the LGBTQ+ community is under attack and rights are denied, many are fighting back and reminding others that love is love. The Stonewall Uprising of June 1969 is seen as the starting point of the modern-day gay rights movement, when people at the popular gay bar, The Stonewall Inn -- led by transgender women of color -- fought back against a raid led by the police and ongoing harassment. In the decades since, the Uprising has inspired a Pride that celebrates the accomplishments, perseverance, culture and steadfast activism of the LGBTQ+ community.

Good Morning America and ABC News pay tribute to those who have enriched the community with their activism, knowledge, pride and respect.

We asked influential LGBTQ+, celebrities, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, athletes, spiritual leaders and more who are the rising stars whose influence will become monumental in shaping the future of the LGBTQ+ community. They are doing the work now, finding success and sharing their talent … making LGBTQ+ history right here, right now.

America, meet the next generation of LGBTQ+ changemakers. Welcome to the first GMA INSPIRATION LIST: Who's Making LGBTQ+ History Right Now?

Good Morning America

VH1/ABC News Illustration

RuPaul nominates Symone and Gottmik

The power, grace and audacity of Symone and Gottmik never ceases to amaze and inspire. Each of these exquisite queens has a unique sensibility that transcends drag, and enriches the worlds of art and fashion. But most importantly, these brave, sweet, sensitive souls have shared their stories with the world -- opening the hearts and minds of millions, and showing young people marginalized by society that they are not alone, that they matter and that there's a place for them in the spotlight.

Malik Aamir/ABC News Photo Illustration
Angelica Ross

Angelica Ross nominates Toni-Michelle Williams

Toni-Michelle Williams is a brilliant Black trans woman who lives and breathes restorative justice. Toni-Michelle is making history through her work with SNaP Co. (Solutions Not Punishment Co.), and with sheer grit she has made a lasting impact in the state of Georgia and beyond. I have sat across from Toni-Michelle at the White House speaking truth to power with Congress. I have watched her fight for the decriminalization of sex work and marijuana and get results. Toni-Michelle is so dedicated to restorative justice that she is willing to seek the same for her own father’s murderer. Toni-Michelle continues to inspire, teach and radicalize me and so many others in the movement for human rights and equality.

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Niecy Nash nominates All Black LGBTQ+ women

I nominate all Black LGBTQ+ women who are living their truth, owning their power and loving who they love out loud. I, myself, have done that recently, and it has brought normalcy to my life by loving who I want to love and doing it openly -- without fear. I nominate myself and all people like me who are fearlessly building their own future on our own terms.

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Lee Daniels nominates Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo

Rare is the occasion that I turn on the television and find myself completely blown away. But that is exactly how I felt while watching "La Veneno", the Javiers' tour de force mini-series on HBO Max. For the first time, I was able to see my generation honored and it was like, “Thank God, these kids get it.” All too often, LGBTQ+ history is erased from the history books, it takes brave visionaries such as the Javiers to cement our history on film, ensuring its longevity. Their fresh voices and clear perspectives instill in me a sense of hope that the next generation of queer filmmakers will be as honest, vulnerable and raw as my generation. The fact that the Javiers are achieving this at the ages of 36 and 30, respectively, makes their feat even more astounding. It is both humbling and heartwarming to be able to pass the baton to such visionary filmmakers as Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo. I, for one, will be waiting on bated breath to see what these two creative geniuses come up with next.

Luke Fontana/ABC News Illustration

Bobby Berk nominates Heather Carmichael

My favorite unsung hero, Heather Carmichael, is founder of My Friend's Place, which is a safe haven for homeless youth in the heart of Hollywood. It was humbling to meet Heather, a former neighbor, now friend and mentor. I watch her gracefully and wholeheartedly build a community to create a space that is inclusive, comfortable and offers permission to seek support without judgement for the homeless. It has serviced thousands of youth between the ages of 12-25 to provide not only life skills but also an outlet for self-expression. Watching and learning from Heather has been inspiring. Her dedication to these children, right in our own backyard in the heart of Los Angeles, is a testament that her work matters and is making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community. As an advocate for mental health, I am in awe of the volunteers and community she has built. The results of Heather’s vision and concept are impactful and admirable. She is an ambitious leader that is relatable, unfussy and confident in creating a dramatic shift amongst our youth. Imagine a space where you leave better than when you walked in? It's My Friend's Place.

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Carson Kressley nominates Twiggy Pucci Garçon

Having served on the board of True Colors United since its inception, I have been so impressed and moved by the work of Twiggy Pucci Garçon! With a Southern upbringing, Twiggy Pucci Garçon is a proud nonbinary member of the LGBTQ+ community. As an activist, producer, healer and creator, Twiggy attributes the balance of struggle and strength they witnessed and experienced, early in life, to their ability to maneuver through spaces of power and represent for people without. Praising literary greats like James Baldwin to the women in their family, Twiggy is quick to credit their ancestral warriors and pathmakers for the elevation of their own voice in a way that ultimately leads to progress. Since finding support in the ballroom community at a very crucial moment in their life, Twiggy leverages every opportunity to generate conversations around equity for LGBTQ+ young people, and create quality spaces for them to be centered in making decisions and solutions around the issue of homelessness. Working within True Colors United for more than half a decade, Twiggy works alongside a dynamic group of individuals in the fight and protection of rights for young people with lived experiences of homelessness. Leading initiatives including the former 40 of the 40, a national list of resilient young people with lived experiences of homelessness, they understand the importance of inspiring hope and reducing the stigma experienced by LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth while giving them the opportunities to safely grow and learn within the communities. A few years later, they co-created TCU’s National Youth Forum on Homelessness -- a group of young people who experienced homelessness or housing disability and leveraged their stories to inform the national conversation on homelessness, national policy and local practice. From day one, Twiggy identified the need to design a program that would address the nuances faced by service providers, and provide strategy and structure to the systems, experts and organizations that directly impact LGBTQ+ and BIPOC young people. Through the evolution of programs like Youth Collaboration into Youth Action, Twiggy and the True Colors team are committed to this movement of principle and practice.

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Stephen Fry nominates River Gallo

River Gallo is an intersex performer, writer and actor of tremendous talent. Intersex status is something that has been rarely discussed and is little understood. One in 1,000 babies is born intersex, which amounts to many millions in the world. There has been a grim history of mutilation, silencing and shame with which many intersex people are only just coming to terms. Emma Thompson and I had the honor of executive and co-producing River’s award-winning short film, "Ponyboi." River is now working on expanding this to a feature, which they have written and in which they will again star. River has worked tirelessly to outlaw the kinds of medical “intervention” that historically have characterized treatment of intersex children and to raise the profile of a too-long silent majority. It is easy to mock or raise eyebrows at the number of initials in LGBTQI -- but the “I” -- so misunderstood and unrepresented is very, very important. I salute River’s commitment, resilience and passion in making that letter “I” really mean something.

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Jai Rodriguez nominates Grace Semler Baldridge

Grace Semler Baldridge is a queer singer-songwriter and, in my opinion, a trailblazer. They were raised by faith-based parents in a rectory, and always felt the undeniable tension between church and their identity. Having been raised in the church myself, I know firsthand how harmful the messaging can be to LGBTQ+ folks and how often we are put out. We start to live our lives feeling like the church has turned its back on us, then God must also feel that way. Grace took a different path. They decided to be authentically themselves AND remain a Christian. Now married to a woman they love, Grace created and stars in a groundbreaking series exploring being queer and being a Christian titled “State of Grace.” Grace never backs down from difficult and uncomfortable conversations. Instead, they charge forward with love, compassion and understanding. I have never been more moved than while watching “State of Grace.” For years I've wanted to have many of the conversations they so bravely do in the docuseries. Many of us know that these kinds of conversations are long overdue, but we are often too scared of offending someone or being shut down. The painful scars many still hold are what Grace hopes to change. Being a trailblazer is to be fearlessly authentic and do the hard work of starting a dialogue geared to effect real change. Grace does that not only with their docuseries, but via social media where they are vocal and viral about their mission for LGBTQ+ inclusion and their music, including their latest project, “Preacher's Kid,” which quickly grabbed the No. 1 spot on iTunes on the Christian music charts. While we are all re-emerging and re-learning how to look at the world and truly see each other, Grace’s work is inspiring to many of us who tossed away our faith because we were so broken from the experience showing us it’s OK to be queer and hold onto your faith. Now, more than ever, the world needs more Grace.

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Leslie Jordan nominates Jacob "Fancy" Hagood

His name is Jacob “Fancy” Hagood. Ironically, a breakdown of Fancy’s name will provide the foundation for why I feel he should be recognized by the GMA Inspiration List as an LGBTQ+ history maker in 2021. Jacob … his given name, means “storyteller.” He is a singer-songwriter in Nashville who just released an album, "Southern Curiosity," a compilation of his stories and his experiences, and it’s a homecoming for him because it makes the statement, “This is who I am." Isn’t that the message we want to instill in every person within our community? Be you. Be proud. Fancy tells us all that through his storytelling, his music. Fancy ... in every sense of the word. By his own recollection, Jacob didn’t come out of the closet, he burst out of it on a unicorn with a rainbow runway! He was referred to as "Fancy" because his hair was always done, his nails were done and everything was always buttoned-up. The nickname stuck because it represented him perfectly -- he is Fancy and freely demonstrates that in mind and body. Hagood … or Ha-Good. Fancy is extremely funny (Ha!) and just a genuinely (Good) person who has a great sense of self. His humor brings levity to somewhat personal and uncomfortable topics surrounding our community, and he is a good soul who puts service and others at the forefront. Like Madonna, Prince and Cher before him, Fancy is only referred to by one name. Clearly, he’s on a path toward greatness! Things are starting to fall into place for Fancy -- and he even released a collaboration with the much-more-famous Ariana Grande and Meghan Trainor. He is proudly and respectfully representing the LGBTQ+ community as your “not-so-average” queer pop singer, and has earned my thanks and recognition. Love. Light. Leslie.

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Kirsten Vangsness

Kirsten Vangsness nominates Ro Rowan

Ro Rowan is an astonishingly prolific cellist, composer and sound designer based in Los Angeles. Ro infuses their performing with a mastery and passion that is palpable and unforgettably gorgeous.Though they are in demand (performing in over 275 concerts with the likes of Lourde, Kanye West , Lauryn Hill and Willie Nelson, to name a few), they make time to support the community in many ways. One of these is the launch of "The MiC: Musicians in Conversations," which is an ongoing Clubhouse show designed to "pass the mic to amplify voices in the music community and dissect what it means to be a modern musician.” In the years I have known Ro, they have continually supported small nonprofit L.A. theater by lending their time and talent. At the start of the pandemic, I sent Ro a recording of myself humming a song and asked, "Hey, Ro- can you help me with this?” which they spun into a hauntingly beautiful song that I know helped many during those bleak early weeks. They are as, Mister Rogers would say, “one of the helpers.”

Anytime I have created with Ro it has been full of so much heart and imagination and knowledge. Ro Rowan is the best kind of leader, one that does so by creating the environment and change they wish to see in the world, and leading by an example of brains, bravery and kindness. It’s such an honor to be able to shine a spotlight on such a fantastically wonderful artist and community member.

Adam Hedershott/ABC News Photo Illustration

Adam Faison nominates Brandon Simmoneau

A self-described “deaf yogi with his dachshund,” Brandon Simmoneau was busy honing his professional photography skills in L.A. when he and his friends noticed there was a severe deficit in accessible spaces where Deaf and disabled artists could create and/or display their art. So together with his friends, he co-founded a disability-driven nonprofit called Warehouse TV to do just that. Over the past couple years, they’ve raised money to create a multipurpose space in Burbank that can be fashioned as a photography studio, performance space, screening room or art gallery. And what’s more, under their Warehouse TV YouTube banner, they produce a unique brand of shows like “Chat in the Kitchen,” wherein a group of deaf friends talk candidly about deeper social issues.

ABC News Photo Illustration
Alyson Stoner

Alyson Stoner nominates Alok Vaid-Menon

Alok Vaid-Menon is a linguistic savant and multifaceted artist whose work explores gender, race, trauma, belonging and the human condition. I had the honor of discussing living beyond the gender binary, self-determination and intersectional identities with them. Within seconds, it was crystal clear that their existence and perspective are nothing short of everything we need in this world. They are deeply informed and deeply contemplative. They demonstrate unprecedented creativity and the ability to articulate compelling insight via poetry, visual storytelling and activism.

From head to toe, mind to heart, and cells to spirit, Alok inspires me and the world to recognize that we -- whether queer or hetero -- are not actually against each other. We’re all on a shared road to liberation from any system or paradigm that tries to boil down complex, nuanced, extravagantly unique people into insufficient labels and categories that are better suited for filing cabinets. Alok is a living testimony of what it means to be vibrantly and fully human.

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Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman nominates John “JP” Poliquin

The telling of queer stories made by queer people, for queer people, is of the utmost importance now more so than ever. After my generation was tragically raised in an era of normalized homophobia, where gay jokes, vicious insults and violent hate crimes were par for the course in nearly every mainstream genre of entertainment, TV, film, music, literature, a culture of gay hysteria was cultivated, nourished and nurtured by inaccurate tellings of our lived experiences through the eyes and limited perspective of straight, cisgender privilege. John “JP” Poliquin is a visionary writer, director and producer who is changing the game one project at a time, whether it is as writer-producer of the queer psychological thriller “SPIRAL,” which I had the blessing of starring in, or taking the helm as writer-director of his upcoming Netflix horror film, “SELFIE.” John is reclaiming the narrative, and gifting both the queer community and status quo with the nuance, authenticity and pride of what is it to be LGBTQIA+ in 2021, and reflecting the truth of who we are back to the world around us in a way that makes us, and our ancestors, proud. Thank you, John.

Nino Munez/Freeform/ABC News Photo Illustration
Stephen Conrad Moore

Stephen Conrad Moore nominates Dr. John-Martin Green

I want to kick off Pride Month by nominating a man who has been instrumental in repairing the internal relationships that the Black same-gender loving community has had within themselves, the larger Black community and the world at large, tackling internalized, personally mediated and institutionalized oppression. My life has definitely changed for the better since meeting Dr. John-Martin Green through a mutual actor friend of mine almost 15 years ago. Through participating in the community work he does, I have learned to embrace my FULL self, leaving neither my Blackness nor my queerness aside when engaging with the other. Dr. Green is an actor, activist, director, co-founder/co-artistic director of Blackberry Productions Theater Company and founder of The Gatekeepers Collective, a resiliency enhancement network of same-gender loving, gay, bisexual and queer African-descended men. And he is someone that every person should know.

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Nicco Annan nominates Pierre Gonzalez and Cedric Leiba Jr.

When the world shut down due to COVID-19, the Bomba beat mirrored the hearts of artists-activists Pierre Gonzalez and Cedric Leiba Jr., who formed DominiRican Productions. The Bomba is a traditional Puerto Rican dance and style of music with West African roots. It’s music is a source of political and spiritual expressions, as is DominiRican Productions. I’ve known these two men and their advocacy for marginalized communities, specifically the LGBTQ+ and Afro-Latinx communities, for years. To witness them both carry the torch for our community at large is ever inspiring, and even more so, encouraging to me and my generation. Less than a year after getting engaged, Pierre and Cedric formed DominiRican Productions right after filming the experimental short, "Release." Written by Leiba, it conveys the struggles of an Afro-Boricua gay artist. While being on hiatus from the national tour of "Hamilton" weeks before taking on the lead role of Alexander Hamilton, Gonzalez directed, produced and filmed "Release" at the Pregones Theater in The Bronx just days before the first pandemic shut down. Their mission and work may be inspired by the ancestors, however we in the present and generations to come will benefit from their protagonism for the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities specifically. They remain collaborative visionaries that continue to create for those who so often don't see themselves on stage or the big screen. Their projects illuminate a part of our community that deserves more light. Two promising trailblazers bringing healing and much-needed conversations.

Luke Fontana/ABC News Illustration

Maulik Pancholy nominates Parag Mehta and Vaibhav Jain

Parag Mehta and Vaibhav Jain have been breaking all kinds of barriers, not only for LGBTQ+ Indian Americans, including those of the Jain faith, but also for the entire LGBTQ community. The videos of their gay, Jain wedding in Texas went viral and have been viewed over 30 million times—spreading a message of hope, love and equality across the world. And the toast that Parag’s father gave at their wedding, where he openly and emotionally spoke of his journey to acceptance, went viral, too. No strangers to service—Parag served as chief of staff to Surgeon General Vivek Murthy during the Obama Administration, and Vaibhav was a driving force in the Biden election campaign—these two men have now petitioned the Delhi High Court to have their same-sex U.S. marriage recognized in India. Their efforts will bring India one step closer to marriage equality. Thank you Parag and Vaibhav for your visibility, your outspokenness, for tearing down walls, and for paving the way for global equality.

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Emmett Preciado

Emmett Preciado nominates Zoey Luna

If anyone deserves the honor of making history right now, it’s Zoey Luna. She is an incredibly bold, talented, and authentic human being. I remember the first time I met Zoey in person, I was blown away by the presence she carried herself with. The con-fi-dence. I am just so happy to know that trans youth have her as a role model. Let’s face it, there isn’t a whole lot of trans representation, especially for Latina transwomen. As a kid growing up in the late ’90s, I remember seeing only one trans person in the media. It gave me some hope, but it felt so unattainable. Like I’d have to be super rich to ever feel comfortable in my body. I felt so alone and didn’t really see a future for myself. I wished I could have had transmasculine role models to look up to. I didn’t see any until I was in college. These younger generations are so lucky to have Zoey as a role model. To show them that nothing, not your gender identity, your sexual orientation, your race, NOTHING will hold you back from reaching your goals and following your dreams.

Quei Tann/ABC News Illustration

Quei Tann nominates V. Vieux

Blazing into Pride Month, I’d like to nominate my trans sister, V. Vieux. When you’re a part of the trans community you automatically become family. V. is an up-and-coming actor. I see a lot of her in me. The Haitian-American actor was cast in her first television role in 2020 playing opposite Jason W. George on a Shondaland show on ABC. One of my first television roles was also on a Shondaland show on ABC. V. is also a part of television history on the groundbreaking show "Pose." It’s a show that I was almost cast in back in 2017 that didn’t go my way, but instead of letting it get me down, I continued to support my sisters. Seeing V. be the breakout star of a show, that I didn’t get, taught me a great lesson. We are all on our own journeys, and everyone's journey, and current station in life, is valid. As an actor, it is so easy to feel like our chosen career is a zero sum-game. That scarcity is creeping around the corner. When I see women like V. Vieux carving out her own path in the film and television industry, just like I have, it dispels those cynical thoughts and reassures my faith that we can all have a piece of the pie — just like every other community. We are family after all.

Art Streiber/ABC News Photo Illustration
Clea Duvall

Clea DuVall nominates Sarah McBride

Sarah McBride has been involved in progressive and community advocacy for most of her life. In 2013, Sarah was instrumental in lobbying the Delaware state legislature to pass a law that prohibited discrimination based on gender identity. In 2016, Sarah spoke at the Democratic National Convention, making her the first openly transgender person to address a national party convention. Then in 2020, Sarah made history again by winning a seat in the Delaware senate and becoming the first openly transgender person elected to a state senate in the United States. These are just a handful of her many accomplishments and at just 30 years old, it’s clear she is just getting started. I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at an HRC event in 2018. I was immediately struck by her. She had the confidence of someone who not only wanted to change the world, but knew she could. I have a deep admiration and respect for Sarah and the work she does, and I am grateful she is out there fighting to give us and our children a better future.

Molly Matalon/ABC News Illustration

Bobbi Salvör Menuez nominates Qween Jean

I didn’t grow up going to church, but whenever I see Qween Jean speak, I feel something holy. Always dressed to the nines, often with butterflies, flowers or scarfs adorning her crown, I can summon her voice in my head now, strong, loving and clear. Whether at the most recent second annual Brooklyn Liberation march or at the weekly contemporary Stonewall Protests -- the latter of which she started -- her voice can be heard calling out, “I believe in my power!” to which a sea of voices sing back, “I believe in my power!" continuing on to “I believe in your power!" and culminating in “I believe in Black trans power!” Qween Jean seems to deeply, somatically know the interconnectedness of our liberation, that our freedom is bound together and that this means none of us are free until Black trans women are free. Qween Jean creates and fosters spaces of healing and empowerment, not only for our trans siblings, but for all of us who come to know the inextricable interconnection of real liberation.

Zach Barack/ABC News Illustration

Zach Barack nominates Julian Gavino

I’ve been so moved by the consistency and love that Julian Gavino has shown the queer community. We met during New York Fashion Week in 2019. He immediately offered to connect me to a photo shoot with other incredible trans people because that’s what Julian does. He includes you. He is a caring and persistent fashion model and advocate for disabled LGBTQ people across the world who is constantly demonstrating, through his intentional words and visibility, that fashion and modeling ought to be accessible spaces for queer, disabled people. I particularly love how Julian manages to be effortlessly educational in his captions and pictures, using his platform to support those who live in the same identity space as him, but also -- very importantly -- those who do not. He speaks from his own experience about how enmeshed ableism and transphobia are in our system. He sheds light on the complexities of existing in two marginalized communities -- how insurance companies and health care institutions have fumbled efforts to manage his genetic condition, while spaces that focus on disabled activism have misgendered him. By being vulnerable, he shows that parts of us are always being compromised to exist in any space and that it’s time that comes to a definitive end. To close with a quote from one of Julian’s amazing captions: “Some people will surprise you. It’s okay if you’ve never seen it before. But just because you haven’t doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Let us open ourselves to being surprised and supportive to all, like Julian says.

Irvin Rivera/ABC News Photo Illustration

Molly Bernard nominates Jesse James Keitel

Jesse James Keitel is a superhero. The moment I met them on the set of "Younger" when they played a nonbinary character named Tam, they stopped me (and all of us) in my (our) tracks. They were confident, smart, effervescent, gorgeous, talented -- truly a force to be reckoned with. I cannot wait to see where they go, what they do and who they embody. I am so thrilled that they are a lead trans actor on a network television show (ABC's "Big Sky") -- they deserve it and the world over. Next up, a humble request to Marvel to put that person in an actual superhero movie!

Bjoern Kommerell/ABC News Illustration

Parvesh Cheena nominates Karan Soni

I’ve had the pleasure and absolute pride of seeing Karan Soni’s international star rise over the last decade. For many of us comedians of color in Los Angeles, the network diversity showcases are a ritual of passage. Karan was in the CBS diversity showcase a few years back and as an older alum -- class of 2009! -- I came back to watch his subversive talent shine and also watch him fight for his voice and ethnicity and authentic story. Karan has always had a clarity in his comedy and what he brings to any ensemble.

Often, we queer Asians so often have to fight against stereotypes based on our race before being recognized as queer. We have to correct issues of ethnic inaccuracies in scripts before and while having to defend our sexual and gender orientations. Before we, as a greater society, learned about intersectionality, many of us have had to clarify our own stories of self from the casting office to set.

Even in 2021, there aren’t many out Indian and Indian Americans working in Hollywood. Trust me, Maulik Pancholy and I have counted. Heh. But the number is growing.

To watch Karan grow from series regular roles on Amazon’s "Betas" to currently starring in TBS’s third season of "Miracle Workers" and film franchises like "Deadpool" has been a thrill. And now, with his wonderful partner in life and work, Roshan Sethi, Karan just had his feature film co-writing debut in "7 Days," which just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in June 2021. Karan is also directing television with episodes of "Miracle Workers" and "Room 104" in the can. And to annoy you more, Karan is such a good cook on top of all of his writing, directing and acting talents. Karan and Roshan were me and my partner’s first double date after vaccination, with a safe picnic in Griffith Park in Los Angeles.

Karan isn’t flashy or loud. He’s hardworking, dedicated and is always focused on the next project and story to share. With each work, you see his growth as an artist. No longer content to just be an actor, Karan's writing and directing is just a natural progression for a queer artist of color. As we get further from the ABCD (American-born confused Desis) generation, I am inspired by the younger crop of out and proud queer browns from the South Asian diaspora. This old Baby Gen Xer is so proud. I used to be Generation Y, by the way. What happened to them? We kids born in 1979 got screwed! Am I xennial!? What is that anyway!?

Ahem. Anyway. Karan’s perseverance just reminds me to keep working hard and stay focused. I also hope he still answers my texts when he is writing and directing his blockbuster films in a few years. We should be so lucky.

Staley Munroe/ABC News Illustration

Nina West nominates Letha Pugh

I nominate Letha Pugh, an entrepreneur and LGBTQ+ activist from Columbus, Ohio. Letha is the founder and CEO of Black, Out, and Proud, which provides advocacy, education and inspiration for and by the Black LGBTQIA+ community. She has fought tirelessly for equal rights in her local Columbus community and was recently awarded the Shellabarger Illuminator Award from the Columbus City Council during City Hall’s Pride Week lighting ceremony. In addition, Leta and her wife Wendy own BAKE ME HAPPY, a gluten-free bakery in Columbus where their motto is "revolutionizing the way the world views gluten-free -- one cookie, scone and snack cake at a time." During the COVID-19 crisis she founded Service Relief Kitchen, an organization to alleviate hunger within the service industry in Franklin County by soliciting, collecting and preparing food for free distribution to restaurant industry workers and families. They served over 10,000 meals to unemployed service-industry professionals and their families. Letha is leading the way for change in our community and I couldn't be prouder to nominate her as someone who is making LGBTQIA+ history now!

Disney/Freeform/ABC News Illustration

Zuri Adele nominates Saniyyah Sahar

Saniyyah Sahar is undoubtedly making LGBTQ+ history, living in her purpose as a hair healer for people of African descent of all genders. As a queer woman of African descent herself, she lives through the marginalization that comes with being Black and queer in a society deeply impacted by the agendas of “white” supremacy. In a world where hair salons and barbershops can often be harmful, heteronormative spaces, Saniyyah reclaims the ancestral work of hair care for our communities by placing affirmative, holistic wellness at the foundation of her offerings. Her work continues to have an undeniable impact on the confidence, joy and sense of purpose I have in my professional and personal life, and what I am able to offer to the world. Saniyyah truly reminds us that putting on our crowns starts at the root.

Courtesy Gioncarlo Valentine
Elegance Bratton

Elegance Bratton nominates Chester Algernal Gordon

Chester Algernal Gordon must be considered an important LGBTQ nonbinary changemaker during Pride 2021 because of their unique contributions to queer representation through championing diversity in front of and behind the camera. Chester is a producer, costume designer and rising Black queer storyteller who speaks truth to power while expanding empathy through the projects they pursue. Chester made history in 2019 becoming the first African-American nonbinary costume designer to have a film in competition at Cannes, with the Martin Scorsese-produced, "Port Authority." As a producer, Chester champions the voices of queer filmmakers of color, women and femmes. A dedicated warrior in the fight to diversify the industry, Chester has shepherded dozens of emerging queer storytellers out of obscurity and onto the radar of industry heavyweights. In doing so, they help to create beautiful stories that depict queer people of color in nuanced ways. They’ve won best U.S. narrative short at Sundance with "-Ship: A Visual Poem" and Outfest’s Jury Prize for U.S. narrative film "Fran This Summer." I speak from personal experience. My career as a storyteller has been catapulted with Chester as my main collaborator. Our short film, "Walk For Me," marks the narrative acting debut of none other than "Pose" actor Dominique Ross. The film is a part of The Criterion Channel's catalogue. Together we’ve produced Viceland’s GLAAD-nominated, Cannes MIPCOM-award-winning, "My House." The show follows voguers in and out of competition to uncover the meaning of Black queer identity in contemporary New York City. Our most recent documentary, "Pier Kids," won the Truer Than Fiction Independent Spirit Award and will premiere Aug. 2 on "POV." The film follows homeless, Black, trans and queer youth as they use the Christopher Street pier as a site to find chosen family. To top it off, we’re in production on "The Inspection," which will make Chester the first African-American nonbinary person to produce a film with A24 and Gamechanger films. All total, Chester has placed themselves on the front lines, queering the film business through their own creative accomplishments and by seeking out queer people, women and people of color to tell their own stories. Let’s lift them up for lifting us up!

Taylor Miller, ABC News Photo Illustration
Dyllon Burnside

Dyllón Burnside nominates Jordan E. Cooper

The person who immediately comes to mind for me is Jordan E. Cooper. A graduate of my alma mater, The New School, Jordan E. Cooper is a 26-year-old OBIE Award-winning playwright and performer. My favorite thing about Jordan and his work is that he celebrates Blackness and queerness unapologetically. He recently starred in a sold out run of his play “Ain’t No Mo’” at The Public Theater, which was a New York Times Critic's Pick. Jordan created a pandemic-centered short film called “Mama Got a Cough” that’s been featured in National Geographic and was named "Best of 2020" by The New York Times. And he recently created and executive produced his first television project, “The Ms. Pat Show,” which will debut this summer on BET+. Jordan’s words are powerful and his passion for the people he writes for and about burns brightly. He is certainly one to watch in the coming years!

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Matthew Bomer

Matt Bomer nominates Representative Brian Sims

Representative Brian Sims is a politician who walks the walk. In 2012, Sims became the first openly gay member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Prior to that, he was a distinguished public policy attorney and civil rights advocate. He is a champion of equality for all, and he's used his time in office to fight for LGBTQ+ rights, women's rights and racial equality. That ongoing fight for equality has led him to the upcoming race for Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor's office. I have personally seen Brian take a stand for all members of our community and any community that needs their voice to be heard in government. For examples of this, just take a moment to visit his Instagram page. Having someone like Brian in office to champion those in need makes me feel seen and heard -- and I don't even live in Pennsylvania! I look forward to watching Brian change the country and the world for many years to come.

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Jesse James Keitel nominates John Moore

John Moore, aka the beloved drag queen Détroit La Comtesse, is soon to be Broadway’s newest, hippest and gayest stage manager. He’ll be making his Broadway debut with “Pass Over” at the August Wilson Theatre, scheduled to be the first post-COVID play back on Broadway early this fall. A beacon of talent, precision and joy, this sharp-tongued, quick-witted, bearded diva makes every show she touches a hit.

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Gio Benitez nominates Tony Castilleja

I met Tony Castilleja when I first started covering human spaceflight for ABC News. You know how people say, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist …”? Well, for Tony, it does because he’s an actual rocket scientist. He started as an intern for NASA and has spent years working on the Commercial Crew Program with Boeing Defense, Space & Security. As one of the few gay Latinos in the space industry, his presence alone helps inspire other young people to pursue impactful careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

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James Longman nominates Bertho Makso

A few years ago I was in Beirut to do a story on gay Syrian men fleeing the war to try and find safety in neighboring Lebanon. I managed to meet some of these men through the LGBTQ rights organization Proud Lebanon, and I’m nominating Bertho Makso, its co-founder and executive director. Almost single-handedly, Bertho has set up one of the most extraordinary refuges for LGBTQ people in the Middle East. Those displaced by war live through intense hardships, but most usually have friends or family alongside them. They may not be able to help materially, but at least they are there for emotional support of some kind. By contrast, LGBTQ refugees fleeing violence do it mostly alone and in many cases are actually running from their own families who would also do them harm. The men and women I met in Lebanon -- many of whom had come from Syria -- had no one. No one, except Bertho. Most weeks, he would go down to the beach where many of the terrified new arrivals would sleep and walk around offering his help. His charity provides shelter, education, legal aid, work opportunities and, most importantly, a community to people who would otherwise be totally alone. I saw him greet each of those at his center with the kind of care and kinship that so many of them had never experienced. The hub he created -- where those who had once needed the center’s help had become part of its welcoming fabric -- was so completely full of love and it was an inspiration. We need more Berthos in the world.

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Alex Perez nominates Julio Rodriguez

Coming out is tough, and if you’re Latino, there’s often an added layer of traditional family and cultural values that you have to combat as you exit the closet. Throw in the fact that a lot of the most prominent gay faces out there don’t look or sound like you … and the journey to your truth becomes even tougher. But then you meet people like Julio Rodriguez, who’s made it his life mission to make sure gay Latinos/as/x of all ages realize they’re not alone. That’s one of the reasons he pours his soul into his nonprofit called ALMA. He wants people to know gay identity doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your Latino identity. Julio also works to educate young Latinos on HIV/AIDS and the importance of knowing your status. While HIV is now extremely manageable when adhering to treatment, access to testing and education is often much more challenging for Latinos and other people of color. Julio is also now working with the Chicago History Museum on a documentary highlighting the unique impact of COVID-19 on the Latinx LGBTQ community in the city. He’s tireless in his efforts to give a voice to the underrepresented. The world needs more Julios—people who genuinely care.

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Steve Osunami nominates Gerald Bostock

It seems like forever that it was perfectly legal in most places for an employer to fire you just because you’re gay. But then Gerald Bostock came along. I met him once. He’s this nice guy from the Atlanta suburbs who lost his job after his employer found out he played on a gay softball team. Gerald had his day in court. And the highest court in the land decided that no, a boss can’t fire you this way. That was June of last year and the American workplace has been a much safer place for people like me ever since.

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Kenneth Moton nominates Terrance “T.O.” Henderson

Terrance “T.O.” Henderson is THAT artist. He’s the type of artist that when you can see the beat move through the man’s body, it’s like it’s a part of him. He’s the actor who breathes life into a character so flawlessly that you think they’re one. Terrance is a one-of-a-kind talent and creative mind who brings all of himself to his projects and his community activism in Columbia, South Carolina. The international award-winning choreographer, director, writer and teacher has been a driving force in the theater and dance communities of South Carolina for many years. Terrance is the dance program coordinator for Midlands Arts Conservatory, director of the modern and contemporary dance program at Southeastern School of Ballet, arts integration specialist at a local elementary school, and a company member and chair of the Equity Task Force at Trustus Theatre. Terrance exemplifies the importance of LGBTQIA+ visibility, performing throughout the state with groups like singing trio Indigo Soul. And his personal brand T.O. Dance Inc. was created to showcase his original dance and theater works. Because of his selfless nature, Terrance continues to concentrate his efforts on community outreach and activism to facilitate conversations on equality, racial justice and anti-racism, specifically in the arts community. Every year, Terrance participates in multiple Pride events and is currently working on a project with Historic Columbia collecting oral histories of the LGBTQIA+ community in the city. Terrance has spent most of his life helping people whether he knew it or not. I met Terrance 20 years ago during my freshman year at the University of South Carolina. Watching Terrance unapologetically be himself with such confidence signaled to me and so many other LGBTQ youth that we could be ourselves. That we could live our lives proudly and creatively. Terrance has always worked to create a safe and inclusive space, which is why he has dreams of building an actual physical space, a cultural center dedicated to helping other artists. “I have realized in recent years the importance of being engaged at the city level,” Terrance said. “So many of my struggles as a young artist and even now are tied to overarching citywide issues due to lack of infrastructure and proper representation in leadership." Terrance’s community activism has only strengthened through those struggles. “I seek to help revolutionize how we engage with one another across boundaries,” he said. “Art is healing and transformative, and that power is accessible to anyone. Art pushes us forward and changes our perspectives. Art disrupts and reimagines. I believe in the power of art.”

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Sam Champion nominates Rubem Robierb

From visibility, to equality, to acceptance, each step of our struggle in the LGBTQ community has been "hard-fought." Courageous individuals see possibilities not barriers. Bringing our lives out of the shadows, with the pride of representation, is one of the most powerful weapons of today! Every member of our community must be seen and Rubem Robierb demonstrates that as the artist of the "first sculpture dedicated to a trans woman" in the history of New York City, "Dream Machine: Dandara" in Tribeca Park. As we join together to celebrate Pride later this month, he will once again focus a bright light on our community, this time in the "crossroads of the world." As a part of Cube Art Fair, on June 25-27, Rubem will create a 15,000-square-foot immersive experience of "Pride" in Times Square. It's called "'Dream Machine: We Rise" and an "NFT" of this experience to raise money for GLAAD. It is easy to see the power and beauty of this art, but I also know the heart of the artist. As many of you are aware, he is my husband. We were engaged and married while I was an anchor on "Good Morning America." This year, I get a chance to share the "pride" of my life with you and I hope we can all gather together to share this visual symbol of visibility, equality, acceptance AND PRIDE! Please be strong, safe, happy and healthy, and use this month to be visible to the world.

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Galen Druke nominates Chris Hudson and Jackie Gambardella

Chris Hudson and Jackie Gambardella founded Camp Highlight, a summer camp for kids with LGBTQ parents, back in 2010. Anyone who grows up LGBTQ -- or not quite fitting in for whatever reason -- knows that when you’re young, your peers can be brutal. In high school, before I ever had the courage to come out myself, I knew kids whose parents came out. It meant a lot of change at home and, too often, becoming a target of taunts at school. Knowing someone else who’s going through similar experiences can be comforting in so many ways. Through the years, LGBTQ people have formed communities and support groups to help each other through the tough times -- and to add to the joy of life even when things are good. Chris and Jackie had the smart idea to make sure that the kids of LGBTQ parents could have similar opportunities. In fact, I originally learned about the camp when my cousin worked there as a counselor and told me stories of kids meeting other kids of LGBTQ parents for the very first time. Bravo to Chris and Jackie!

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Derick Waller nominates Congressmen Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones

These two Black, openly gay political newcomers are the first of their kind in Congress and they’re making history right now. At just 34 years old, Congressman Mondaire Jones broke out of a crowded eight-way field to win 42% of the vote in his 2020 Democratic primary. His district covers parts of Westchester and Rockland Counties in the northern suburbs of New York City. Not to be outdone, 33-years-old Congressman Ritchie Torres, who represents a section of the East Bronx, beat longtime New York City Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. for the open seat. The win was poetic justice. Where Torres is openly gay, Diaz is openly anti-gay, making a series of homophobic comments over the years that almost got him expelled from City Council. To their credit, voters rejected that ideology and took a chance on the new guy. These two young, gay men of color are paving the way for queer little boys and girls to one day also find the courage to run for public office, and I am so proud they’re both from New York.

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Dan Krauth nominates Cesar Villavicencio

When I was on vacation touring Havana, Cuba, the unexpected happened -- I met Cesar Villavicencio. He happened to be from New York City and was visiting with his parents, who are from Miami. The hard-to-reach Communist island turned out to be a very small world. I also lived in Miami for a few years before moving to New York, so I connected with Cesar and his parents right away over dinner. But Cesar wasn’t just there to be a tourist. He brought some things along with him to Cuba: three huge bags packed with new makeup, colorful women’s clothing and various styles of wigs. Remember, it’s difficult for many Americans to even get into Cuba right now let alone bring thousands of dollars' worth of new products through customs. He took the items and donated them to a group of Cuban drag performers. In the country, most people don’t have access to new things like makeup. They often rely on family members abroad to send them just the bare essentials. Cesar showed up with hard-to-find belongings that helped the performers fuel their creative energy and elevate their performances. He knows how important that creativity can be. Cesar’s also known as Pixie Aventura, a popular drag performer in the New York City area. If you follow Cesar on social media you’ll find he’s doing all types of inspirational things to make the LGBTQ+ community better, including raising money, and promoting empowerment and self-acceptance. Cesar even celebrates love and inclusion by officiating marriage ceremonies. But some of the most powerful work, like in Cuba, is done quietly and can have the most impact.

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Karl Schmid nominates Deondre B. Moore

I nominate Deondre B. Moore, an activist and author based in Texas. When he was 19, he was diagnosed with HIV, and decided that he would dedicate his time to help educate his community and peers in order to prevent the spread of the virus. After becoming an ambassador for Greater Than AIDS and taking part in its SpeakOut campaign, he has used this platform to do outreach in his home state and across the nation. He's served as a leader for the National Minority AIDS Council's youth initiative, helping with the United States Conference on AIDS' 60-Second Challenge campaign that promotes rapid HIV testing; and has been a spokesperson for the Positively Fearless campaign, which encourages Black gay men and others to redefine what it means to live with HIV.

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Will Ganss nominates Brandon Marianacci

This Pride Month, I'd like to celebrate Brandon Marianacci. He's the news producer for "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." After working in news and covering events like the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Brandon shifted his talents into the late-night comedy industry, one not very well known for its LGBTQ+ inclusivity. But Brandon makes sure our stories and voices are heard every single day. He is thoughtful and diligent, and inspires me every day with his work.

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Becky Worley nominates Gareth Thomas

Sexuality is an aspect of the broader issues of identity -- something that is nuanced and comprised of many layers. My identity includes being gay, but I also see myself as a mother, daughter, TV reporter and … as an athlete. I played four sports in high school. I was a varsity soccer player in college and played rugby into my mid-30s on a team that won seven national championships.

Society seems moderately comfortable with lesbian athletes. Megan Rapinoe, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Sheryl Swoopes have done great work as advocates and role models with press recognition and strong voices for change, but what about male athletes who are gay? Carl Nassib, a defensive linemen for the Las Vegas Raiders just came out. He is the first active NFL player to openly state he is gay. It was big news.

While there are other professional players on men’s teams and individual sports that are out, it still carries a stigma, especially in sports where hyper-masculinity is at the core. Beyond football, can you think of a more macho sport than rugby? In England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand, male rugby players are the epitome of tough, stoic, guy’s guys. So I’ve chosen to highlight a person in the rugby world whom you’ve probably never heard of, but who has inspired me with his courage as he stepped out into the world as a gay man.

Gareth Thomas is a Welsh professional rugby player whose career spanned from 1994 to 2011. He gained success at the very highest levels of the game, known for bone-crunching, open-field tackles and his lightning-fast pace. Every position in this full-contact game (played without pads or helmets) mandates a level of physicality and endurance that most cannot fathom. Gareth held his own and then some. He captained Wales and the British Lions, an all-star squad of international players selected every four years, achieving the highest honor for any British player.

But Thomas had a secret. In his autobiography, "Proud," he detailed all the ways he tried to deny his sexuality, wishing he was straight, getting married (and divorced) and seriously contemplating suicide. Finally, so afraid he would hurt himself, he came out to one of the Welsh coaches asking for support. With Thomas’ permission, that coach shared the news with some of the other players. In an interview with UK site Inews, Thomas said, “I’d been running and running and running, and I just couldn’t run any more.” Certain that admitting his secret would ruin his life, Thomas said that the ensuing acceptance from his teammates stunned him to his core. “[Wales flanker] Martyn Williams literally said, ‘Mate, let’s have a beer!’ I wasn’t prepared for the protection they gave me. But their commitment helped me protect my secret.”

Gaining confidence from his teammates, Thomas went public about his sexuality a few years later. But in 2019, Thomas said a tabloid journalist unearthed his health records, and knocked on the door of his family home asking his parents for comment on their son’s illness. Thomas was HIV positive and the journalist forced him to go public with the news.

In a move to turn a mess into a message, he chose to make the announcement about his HIV status on the same day that he competed in a triathlon, wanting to show people that being HIV positive wasn’t going to stop him from continuing to be an athlete.

Thomas has often appeared with Prince Harry (a big rugby fan) to champion mental health awareness. He has worked tirelessly since his retirement from rugby speaking to teens about the destructiveness of homophobia and the importance of seeking help for mental health struggles.

Just stepping out onto a rugby pitch mandates a supreme level of courage, but to say openly to the hyper-masculine rugby world, “I’m gay,” is next-level bravery. As I think of young queer people struggling with all the aspects of their identities, just saying you are gay, trans or nonbinary doesn’t have to suddenly take over as your only identity. As Thomas said to the Daily Mail when he came out, ”I don't want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player, first and foremost. I am a man.” You can be LGBTQ+, you can also be an athlete, and be a dad, and be a -- whatever you want to be.

We all have rich and diverse identities. During this Pride Month (or anytime), be like Gareth’s teammates: Take your queer friends out for a beer and let them reveal all the layers of their nuanced and rich identities.

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LZ Granderson nominates Brian Silva

Brian Silva was executive director of Marriage Equality New York when marriage equality passed in New York. But he didn’t spend a lot of time celebrating. Brian was extremely happy, but he also knew there were still states where same-sex couples could not marry. The organization expanded its efforts and became Marriage Equality USA under his leadership. After marriage equality in the U.S. was gained, Brian began fighting for LGBTQ rights internationally and founded the National Equality Action Team. He continues to amaze me with his commitment to freedom for everyone.

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Eric Resendiz

Eric Resendiz nominates Eduardo “Eddie” Martinez

Eduardo “Eddie” Martinez is a co-founder of the Latino Equality Alliance, an LGBTQ+ center in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, that aims to provide resources and education to the Latino community. He was sworn in as a council member last year in his hometown of Huntington Park and, as a Latino and member of the LGBTQ+ community, I feel Eddie is an excellent example to many. He is very involved in the different communities that overlap. A big plus: He also has a keen interest in the youth and setting them up for success to be great leaders.

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Jason Knowles

Jason Knowles nominates Diego Cevallos-Garzon

Diego Cevallos-Garzon recently opened up Chicago’s first LGBT+ gym located in the Northalsted district of Lakeview, formally known as Boystown. Diego is a trailblazer in the community, saying that his gym, Strong Hands, “was created for the LGBTQ community to come and learn boxing, train and feel safe, and not feel judged. I wanted a gym where if you wanted to come in with a wig and makeup it would be a normal thing. My community deserves it.” Diego is taking his mission one step further with plans to start a free self-defense program for trans women of color who may be the targets of violence. Diego identifies as a gay Afro-Latino male. He started boxing at 8 and was a junior Olympian and a ringside national competitor. He is now a national qualifier for bodybuilding in two categories and will be embarking on a national tournament through The National Physique Committee to hopefully win his pro card. He is currently also competing for Mr. Muscle & Fitness for Muscle & Fitness magazine.

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Tim Pulliam

Tim Pulliam nominates Kendra R. Johnson

I’m shining a light on Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of Equality North Carolina. She leads the oldest statewide organization in the country dedicated to securing rights and protections for the LGBTQ+ community. I had the opportunity to interview Johnson on several occasions since she took on the role in 2018. She’s passionate about this work. It lives and breathes in her. After the murder of George Floyd, Johnson used her platform to amplify and lend support to the Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter movements during Pride Month 2020. Since then, she’s been vocal against three proposed bills targeting the state’s transgender youth, which is being criticized for limiting their access to health care and athletics. Recently, she’s been advocating for the city of Charlotte to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community from employment, health care and housing discrimination. Johnson’s advocacy through ENC has led to nine cities and counties to pass nondiscrimination ordinances over the past year, including Raleigh-Durham, where I live and work. Johnson is a proud HBCU graduate. Back in the '90s, she founded the first lesbian-bisexual support group at Spelman College, her alma mater in Atlanta. She reminds so many of us to be visible, be authentic and be a voice for equality.

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TJ Parker

TJ Parker nominates MaDonna Land

MaDonna Land is the program director for Tony’s Place. It’s a drop-in center for Houston’s LGBTQ+ homeless youth up to the age of 25. They provide services and resources with the hope of one day getting those youths off the streets and someplace safe. Tony’s Place was founded in 2016 by Tony Carroll. He sadly passed away just as Tony’s Place was getting started. Before the pandemic, they served up to 75 youth daily. They lost touch with some of their members during the pandemic and are now trying to reconnect with them, with volunteers hitting the Houston streets, and providing food, clothing and other items. Their daily drop-in numbers are rising, again. They operate fully on private funding and donors. They just signed a lease with a 5,000-square-foot location near downtown Houston, opening this summer to further increase their efforts for a safe place for LGBTQ+ homeless youth.

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Reggie Aqui

Reggie Aqui nominates Honey Mahogany

Honey Mahogany is San Francisco. She is woven into the fabric of life here. A social worker, an entertainer, a business owner and now an elected official, she is dedicated to making this city a better place, particularly for LGBTQ individuals. On a national scale, people first met Honey as a season five contestant on "RuPaul’s Drag Race." But it was a different kind of race, a political one, that allowed her to really make HERstory. Honey is chair of the San Francisco Democratic party, the first Black person and first transgender person to hold the seat. Prior to this position, as vice-chair to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, she broke barriers by being the first Black trans person elected in California. I could go on and on about this queen, including how she helped create the first official transgender cultural district in the country. No, she didn’t snatch RuPaul’s trophy, but Honey’s long list of accomplishments sure are sweet.

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Lionel Moise nominates DonChristian Jones

DonChristian Jones is a silent mover, but has a tremendous impact in our community. He is a musician, an artist whose murals can be seen around the country and a philanthropist. DonChristian has worked for several organizations introducing LGBTQ+ youth to the arts while being a support system for them in the tough transition of coming out and just getting through the teen years. From Youth Pride to neighborhood murals, every moment of his day revolves around uplifting the community. He recently founded Public Assistants in response to the pandemic and protests for equality nationwide. It is a mutual aid network, design lab and resistance hub. He’s started a mural residency program to allow youth to be paid for their art and give them a space to do so. It also allows them to make a mark and fight for justice through creativity. They’ve launched a radio program, offer free bike repairs and refurbish bikes for the community, and support a neighborhood fridge and garden where people can donate or take the food they need -- no questions asked. From toy and coat drives and holiday turkey giveaways to delivering hot meals, media training, community gardening and wellness programs like acupuncture, they’re actively improving the Brownsville and Flatbush, Brooklyn, areas. Unfortunately, the owner of their initial space informed them they needed to move, even after signing a lease. Now, even without a physical location, DonChristian and his volunteers have still continued the summer youth programs and initiatives as they look for a new space to ensure LGBTQ+ youth are not left behind in a delicate time. They've fundraised and used their own funds and resources to ensure the community was not impacted by the transition. DonChristian is young but leaving his mark and doing it with so much style! He is the epitome of walking the walk, not just talking. He’s been an inspiration to so many young people across Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as his peers, including me. The discussions we all have, the ideas we say would be nice to see happen in our community, he puts into motion. He’s using the talents he’s been blessed with to ensure others can flourish. He's making history NOW and it's clear he's just getting started.

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Adam Joseph nominates David Wren and David Blake

David Wren was a legal assistant and David Blake was a lawyer. They met in 1994 during a trial. David Blake was married to a woman and had two children. Fast forward and later in their lives, they got married in 2017 at 61 and 71 years old. They bought a bed and breakfast together after retiring from law in 2013. To leave the city of Philadelphia and move to such a small town, I guess what you would call upstate New York, was big. They loved entertaining and hosting. They basically looked at every person who stayed at the bed and breakfast as family and made sure they felt welcome. If you look up any reviews online, you will see straight and gay couples, but mainly straight, really enjoyed their company and hospitality. In a small town at that point, before gay marriage was legal, it was a big deal for a gay couple own a business. The community realized the two were amazing men looking to change small-town life. They ended up getting married in a church in the town, probably the only church in the town. And although now retired from the bed and breakfast, they still reside there and make sure the community is a happy place.

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Drew Tuma nominates The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence believe all people have the right to express their unique joy and beauty. Using their signature nun motif, the Sisters are devoted to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and community service. Since the 1970s they've helped advance LGBTQ+ issues. They produced the world's first fundraiser benefit for an AIDS organization in 1981. They have raised more than $1 million for various causes in San Francisco. Their activism has made the City of San Francisco and the world a better and more accepting place.

Good Morning America

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Todrick Hall nominates Ryan Brockington

Ryan Brockington and I are childhood friends and grew up together in Texas. He and his partner went through the process of adopting to grow their family. Throughout the process of growing his family, he realized there were no children's books that properly depicted all the different ways families can look in 2021. Children can have a mom and a dad, two moms, two dads, etc. Realizing this was a resource that was missing for children, Ryan decided to publish his own book, "Daddy & Dada," to properly depict how all families look different. I literally got chills when I saw the book for the first time. I had never seen families (like mine will be some day, and so many others) depicted in a book for children to have as reference, comparison and maybe help them see they aren't so "different."

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Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge nominates Brooke Eden

For GMA’s Inspiration List, I am nominating country singer Brooke Eden. In the '80s, I built my following and was discovered at a lesbian bar during a time that not many singers were out. I hadn’t even come out yet and wouldn’t for a few years. It’s just incredible to now see an up-and-coming country artist like Brooke be signed to a major Nashville label, and be out and proud and celebrated. Her music is smart and joyful, and she stayed true to herself from day one. She met her now fiancée during a radio tour early in her career and years later they are beacons of visibility. It’s important to give Brooke, as well as others like Joy Oladokun, Brandi Carlile, Crys Matthews and T.J. Osborne, a lot of credit for shifting the tides and I think we’ll all be grateful for the music we get to hear when we welcome and celebrate ALL artists.

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Adam Lambert nominates Diana Rodriguez

I just had the honor of working with Diana Rodriguez on the Pride Live Stonewall Day event with my foundation, The Feel Something Foundation. Her passion, drive, warmth and compassion really blew me away. As founder of Pride Live, Diana’s activism has lifted queer visibility to new heights and turned Stonewall Day into an event that carries powerful messages of affirmation to LGBTQ people all over the globe. And she has even gotten the likes of Presidents Obama and Biden, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga involved! Diana embodies the spirit of Stonewall with her passion for advancing LGBTQ equality, and to reach the most marginalized LGBTQ people with love and acceptance. For the last 20 years, her events have raised funds for LGBTQ+ organizations that would have otherwise been left behind. From advocating for underrepresented LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations, to supporting the efforts leading up to the declaration of the Stonewall National Monument, to conceptualizing Stonewall Day, Pride Live’s work is transformational and done in service of the LGBTQ+ community. We are blessed to have someone like her at the helm of this queer ship! Thank you, Diana!

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Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken nominates T Cooper

T Cooper's creative mind makes me laugh; it makes me feel, and even more, it makes me think. He is an author, television writer, journalist, filmmaker and a professor at Emory University. But beyond the classroom, his groundbreaking work pushes boundaries both in print and on screen.

His feature-length documentary, Man Made, is a stunning portrait of modern masculinity that traces the lives of four transgender men as they prepare to step on stage at the only all-trans bodybuilding competition in the world. Hands down, it is the most powerfully affecting film about transgender individuals I've ever seen.

Transgender himself, T has an incredible talent for explaining transgender issues and making the subject accessible to all audiences. His Young Adult novel series, Changers, which he wrote with his wife and writing partner, Allison Glock-Cooper, is amazing as a literary work and should be used as a Masterclass example for all activists, advocates and allies on how to educate and enlighten others about the importance of empathy and acceptance.

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Grace Gaustad nominates Sedona Prince

I love the authenticity and fierceness of Sedona Prince. Not only is she a star on the basketball court, but she’s a real-life superhero for women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights as well. Just recently, Sedona brought attention to the massive NCAA women’s tournament scandal, where the men’s workout facilities were far better equipped than the women’s rooms. What started as a TikTok soon turned into a viral story exposing gender inequality in sports. She even made the New York Times among many other major outlets! I found Sedona’s TikTok page after being a fan of hers on the court. Her content is fun, lighthearted and also informative on all things advocacy. She creates a safe space for her audience by being her unapologetic self and encourages her followers to do the same. I’m so happy that the next generation of young girls has a great LGBTQ+ role model in Sedona. I wish when I was a little girl playing basketball that I had someone as cool as her to look up to. Keep changing the world, Sedona, and keep fighting for what you believe in. You’re a rock star, and you have a forever friend, fan and supporter in me!

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Scott Hoying

Scott Hoying nominates Jake Wesley Rogers

I love the artistry, queerness, boldness, visuals, musicality and message Jake Wesley Rogers brings to the table. He’s extremely thoughtful and creative with his art. His voice is overflowing with emotion. It somehow is able to sound completely fresh yet so classic simultaneously. It’s so, so, so exciting seeing a queer artist be so effortlessly original, free and expressive. I find it profoundly inspiring. I could listen to his song “Middle of Love” on repeat for days. The lyrics are so poignant and poetic. That, mixed with the infectious melodies and a stunning performance, makes for a masterpiece. I’m looking forward to seeing him take the music industry by storm over the next few years.

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Pabllo Vittar nominates Urias

Not only is Urias an icon for the global transgender community, but she is one of my best and oldest friends. Together, growing up in Uberlândia, we were each other’s support system. Brazil has become notorious for hate crimes against members of the LGBTQI+ community, with transgender community bearing the brunt of this unfounded hatred. And I have had the pleasure of seeing Urias' strength and courage from a very young age. We’ve worked together in the past on my song, "Ouro," and I am now so proud to watch her bring her art into the world. Her voice is hypnotic and unlike anything I’ve heard, her production choices push boundaries and her fashion is so futuristic, it feels like the rest of the world needs to catch up. Her new EP, "FÚRIA PT1," is a must listen and I can’t wait to be together with her listening to it blasting in the clubs!

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Rebecca Black nominates Blair Imani

Over the past year, I’ve been consistently inspired by Blair Imani’s work to provide easily accessible and understandable information about everything -- from specific issues regarding the LGBTQIA+ community, racial and social equity, sustainability and really so much more -- through her social media series, "Smarter in Seconds." To me, it's those like her who have dedicated such a strong effort to nurture a community that is not only well-informed but that continues to lead with kindness that gives me hope for more well-rounded youth in our future.

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Nikki Blonsky nominates Leon Wu

Leon Wu’s incredible perseverance and kindness on his quest for inclusivity is why I believe he will become a huge staple within both the LGBTQ+ community and the fashion industry. There are very few designers who take the time to create such a detailed and intimate structure to something completely customized for you. When it comes to pleasing a client, you will never get anything but 110% from Leon. He works worldwide having Zoom calls with clients from Europe and Australia, to Canada and all over the United States to accommodate whatever needs they may have. He is aware firsthand of the challenges transitioning people have with body dysmorphia and body image. Additionally, he recognizes the need for the actual measurements of queer bodies to be customized to create a sculptured fitted suit requiring his staff to undergo two months of intensive training to work with his clients to help find their confidence. Leon is a great example of never giving up on your dreams. This superstar tailor first started working with drag kings as a costume designer for 15 years, which then sparked an idea within him for an all-gender-inclusive-themed fashion company. Leon got a lot of his experience fashioning masculinity/feminist in the drag world, since he performed as a drag king for 15 years. In addition to taking consideration of the client’s style, measurements and body type, they discuss areas that may require special attention and the desired feeling that clients want when wearing his clothing. It wasn’t until the Sharpe Suiting brand came about that inspired Leon to fully start to transition. “In a way, founding and growing Sharpe has helped me grow on my own path to transition. I started taking gender-affirming hormones a year after launching Sharpe Suiting. That said, I’ve had to transition in the public eye which was a bit uncomfortable. Although it’s hard to look back at articles and witness photos from my second puberty, I’m grateful for the journey and hope perhaps it’s an inspiration to younger trans youth that anything is possible. And that it does get better,” he told me. Having to run his new business while going through a huge transition within himself is why I believe Leon has the determination and strength to change the fashion world.

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Ty Herndon nominates Lily Rose

The night before I came out in the pages of People magazine back in 2014, I could hardly contain my feelings. I was feeling everything -- hope, love, fear, you name it -- and there wasn’t much of a roadmap for it. Among the many hopes and aspirations that ran through my mind, however, was that one day because of what I was about to do, an out and proud LGBTQ country artist would arrive on the radio and on the charts and never have to COME out -- they’d always just BE out. Enter Lily Rose. This year, she burst onto the country music scene with her debut single, “Villain,” and immediately went to No. 1 on the iTunes all-genre and country charts. Not only is she a talented and spectacular musical breath of fresh air, she is an out lesbian who is experiencing success right out the gate -- no years of being told to remain silent by her record label, no DJs refusing to play her music, no tortured nights of self-observation trying to decide if it’s all worth it if she can’t be herself. She is a hero to so many young LGBTQ artists like her, and she’s proving every day that you can be yourself, bring your life experiences to your music, connect with fans and be successful. It’s a new day in Nashville, and I’m so proud of Lily Rose for standing in her truth and paving the way for others.

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Rufus Wainwright is a singer, songwriter and composer.

Rufus Wainwright nominates Malcolm Kenyatta

I first saw Malcolm Kenyatta on MSNBC around September of last year talking about voting rights in Pennsylvania leading up to the general election in 2020. I was immediately struck by his passion and intelligence, how well and outspoken he is. Of course he is also quite handsome and charismatic looking, which cannot go unnoticed. He immediately struck me as a future leader and a new type of politician who is proud and out, whose partner is an integral part to his political life and whose quest for justice transcends just queer causes. The coalition of minorities is the majority. He is the first African American gay man elected to state office in Pennsylvania. It is sad that in this country we are still so much in the "first categories" with gay, African American, women, transgender and so many other minorities, but at least those glass ceilings are being shattered one by one. He is running now for the U.S. Senate. I hope he will follow in the footsteps of Harris Llewellyn Wofford Jr. who was the first gay U.S. senator (although not out when he served in the U.S. Senate) from Pennsylvania and become the first out African American gay U.S. senator. Maybe he will sing some of his floor speeches as I know he has a pretty great voice and almost became a poet and performer. It would be nice to hear some new tunes in the Senate.

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Laura Jane Grace nominates Cher Strauberry

Cher Strauberry is carrying on the East Bay punk rock spirit a la Gilman Street and Lookout Records vibes into the 2020s. Undeniably cool, Cher holds the title of "first trans woman in pro skating." Sugar-sweet lo-fi punk rock gems abound on her debut solo album, "Chering Is Caring." Totally DIY, recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder, the album is also in part an audio 'zine that tells the story of a road trip adventure to see a Bikini Kill reunion show in Los Angeles. Get on board. Check it out.

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Solomon Ray nominates Chief Esparza

Let me tell you about a person I know who is making LGBTQ+ history as we speak. This person is a Latinx-Chicanx queer, a fierce advocate of the LBGTQ+ community online and is doing the work to amplify the voices of people of color in the community. He gives money to mutual aid funds and supports the community with cash out of his own pocket. And even as I type this I know that Chief Esparza avoids the stage and the spotlight. On his own platform, Chief pushes back against colorism, racism and misogyny, sharing resources, elevating others and putting equity at the center of his politics. More than that, Chief is part of a dedicated group of queer and trans people of color who co-founded and co-manage the nonprofit organization known as Color Bloq. Along with Niq, Sean-Paul and Nic, plus their staff, this group has put hundreds of our voices front and center -- and paid them -- to talk about everything from LGBTQ+ lives outside of urban centers, to our queer fashion journeys, to our relationships to food, and even imagining worlds of justice and joy. It truly is a community effort, for us, by us. And they say it all the time: “We are more than our trauma, we dare to joy.” Chief believes that we all deserve joy. And he surrounds himself with people who believe that, too.

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Laith Ashley nominates Queen Victoria Ortega

Queen Victoria Ortega believes in leadership through service. Currently, she serves as the National President of FLUX, a division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a network of trans leaders dedicated to raising the profile of trans and gender nonbinary communities. As patron and advisor to many charitable organizations, she continues to ensure that tangible and transformative change is happening. Queen Victoria has also been a member of such bodies as the Los Angeles County Prevention Planning Council, the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV Health Services, the Transgender Service Provider Network and the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities. She is a powerful leader and advocate for the trans community.

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Monique Heart nominates the "Minoritea Report" podcast

I’m honored to give recognition to the "Minoritea Report" podcast. The podcast is hosted by Kerel, Dawon and Jerrell, all queer people of color, who break down the current state of the Black community and the queer community. They navigate the space of being a queer Black man in America in a way that is so effortless and they give me a safe space to know that I’m not alone.

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Vincint nominates Eliel Cruz

I nominate Eliel Cruz for the work he’s doing with the Brooklyn Liberation movement, and his exemplary work in using his voice and life to help the trans community. He inspires me everyday with his tireless activism and his heartfelt approach to taking care of our brothers and sisters who aren’t being amplified. I see him in the next five years pushing through a bill for the protective rights of trans Americans and becoming a true beacon of change in our community even more so than he already has been!

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Chely Wright nominates Eduardo Lam

I am deeply inspired by architect, engineer, designer, and painter Eduardo Lam. As an openly gay man in the construction industry who also happens to be half Chinese and half Peruvian, Eduardo is a damn unicorn! I recently took a new position as the Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Unispace. We design and build some of the most dynamic corporate office spaces around the globe. It took less than a hot minute in my new role for me to realize that we have a rising star in our ranks. The first time Eduardo and I spoke, he said, “You need to know me. You need to hear my voice and what I have to say.” He got my attention, that’s for sure. There are many things to love and admire about Eduardo, but what strikes me most about him is that he is a world-class storyteller. His job is to understand our clients and then to translate that understanding into a space that reflects who they are and who they want to be. I truly believe that who Eduardo is— with his rich, intersecting identity— is exactly why he’s so brilliant at what he does. Eduardo is currently the lead designer for one of Unispace’s most prominent clients— L Brands. (Victoria’s Secret / Bath & Body Works). Eduardo also led the recently completed Justworks project in New York, which was a complex new headquarters that included several inclusive design features like gender-neutral bathrooms and inclusive mural art and graphics throughout. This unapologetically gay man knows his power, and he’s using it to create positive change in an industry and in a society that still has a long way to go. Eduardo Lam is a trailblazer worthy of celebration this Pride Month.

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Brandy Clark nominates Fancy Hagood 

God broke the mold when he made Fancy Hagood and I knew that the first time I sat down to write a song with him. I was mesmerized by the amazing creator and human who was sitting across from me that day. He could sing, he could write and he was so uniquely himself. I’d known men who wore lipstick and men who wore beards. Fancy was the first man I met who proudly wore both at the same time. As talented as I knew Fancy was that day, I really never knew how he could get all of who he is into his music. Well, fast forward a handful of years and his debut album, “Southern Curiosity,” and he has done just that. Listening to it I found myself smiling, laughing and crying all at the same time. I don’t know if I have ever heard an album where an artist has the bravery to celebrate who they are so completely. He’s so important to the LGBTQ+ community because he is telling stories that we all live, but don’t necessarily have the guts to tell. The vulnerability in songs like “Either” and “Forest” absolutely left me on the floor in a puddle, and then “Mr. Atlanta” and “Casanova” picked me up and made me wanna dance all night long. I am so thankful that with “Southern Curiosity,” the world has the chance to fully experience a unique and special artist who is telling important stories that we all need to hear.

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Andrew Rannells nominates Jo Ellen Pellman

Being cast in "The Prom" by Ryan Murphy was a dream come true on many levels. I was a part of a big, splashy movie musical and I was working with living legends, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. I was nervous, I was excited and every day going to set was a total thrill. And if all that wasn’t enough, I was given a very unexpected gift in meeting and working with Jo Ellen Pellman. Jo Ellen, fresh from college, was cast as the film’s lead and the true heart of the story. I was immediately taken by her poise and grace and her kind confidence as she navigated the set. It was a joy to see her enthusiasm and unabashed awe at what we were all a part of. I can be easily overwhelmed or intimidated in professional settings but Jo Ellen’s ease and warmth were truly inspiring and came through in her incredibly thoughtful performance of a young woman asking, if not at times demanding, acceptance from her peers. Her character wins over her classmates, and Jo Ellen won over our cast and crew. If all that wasn’t enough, Jo Ellen has also chosen to use this moment to help other young queer people to find their voice and use it. Pairing with our co-star Ariana DeBose, the two started The Unruly Hearts Initiative, raising funds and awareness for The Trevor Project and The Point Foundation. She was not satisfied by simply being an actor, she also added the role of activist to her resume. Jo Ellen not only inspires with her talent but with her actions as a human.

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Robbie Fairchild nominates Nick Laughlin

Nick Laughlin is a member of the New York theater community and is using his love of theatricality to change the face of NYC gay nightlife. He is the type of visionary that, with the help of a financial backer, could make the next Studio 54. He is the creative force behind many of RuPaul’s drag queens, such as Alaska Thunderf--- 5000 and Jan Sport. As Alaska’s creative director, he produces, choreographs, directs and styles many of her music videos. As co-founder alongside Alaska in their production company Divatronic, he creates unforgettable recreations of past diva performances exclusively at the queer venue 3 Dollar Bill in Brooklyn. Their shows represent an intersection of drag, Broadway, performance art and fashion. During the pandemic, his social media trend #QuarantineCouture, an at-home, DIY fashion show, caught the attention of Huffington Post and Yahoo News. Nick is the king, queen, mother of the gay scene in NYC, and as the world is opening back up again, the queer community is flocking to dance under his glittery, safe, loving and inclusive wings.

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Tyler Glenn nominates J. Harrison Ghee

J. Harrison Ghee is a force of many Broadway stages. I was fortunate enough to star beside him in 2018 on Broadway in “Kinky Boots” as Charlie Price opposite his Lola. He inspired me then, and continues to as a friend and artist by living boldly outside the lines, or blurring them altogether. The Broadway community at large was gravely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn’t stop J from using his social media to convey truth and advocacy through spoken word, song and photography. Like during Black History Month, where he portrayed several important figures of Black excellence throughout history, shining a light and paying homage to his ancestry. J continues to blaze trails as he will play Velma Kelly in the summer run of "Chicago" at the famed Muny theater in St. Louis, as well as joined the cast of the upcoming Broadway adaptation of "Mrs. Doubtfire." You can also catch him in Netflix’ "Raising Dion." J lives boldly through his art and boundless talent, his generous spirit and his wise-beyond-his-years heart. I am a better person for simply knowing him. The sky is absolutely the limit for J.

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Zac Posen nominates Jock Soto

Jock Soto is a world-class ballet star dancer, but has been under the radar for some time since leaving the stage and moving to rural New Mexico after many years in New York City. I think a creative revival late in one's life is inspiring and magical. He is an inspiration and leader to Indigenous people and the LGBTQIA+ community.

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Gigi Gorgeous

Gigi Gorgeous nominates Marc Lamentac

I am nominating Marc Lamentac, also known as Mimi, who is my good friend of almost 20 years and co-host of our podcast, "Queerified." About five years ago, he reached out to me for help, sharing he was dealing with crippling anxiety and depression. As a queer person of color, he opened up to me about not understanding how he would be able to take up space, to have a seat at the table, not just as part of the community but in the world. How was he able to get a job, having long hair and being feminine? Who was going to hire him? He was battling his own mind, seeking desperately for the courage to live a normal life. When he hit rock bottom, as a friend, I knew all I could do was be there for him, and I’m grateful that he took matters into his own hands and sought therapy. His first question was, “What is it like for normal people?” This was before there was as much representation for our community in media and there was not a TV show or a public personality that he could identify with. He felt truly alone, and I remember that day he called me and just asked me to pray for him. He didn’t know what he was going to do next. I’m so glad he finally opened up to me, to our friends, as we were all ready to support him and let him know he wasn’t alone. In therapy, he was given the coping skills he needed to succeed and this was when we joined forces to launch this podcast. People don’t want to speak or to have their opinions heard because they are so scared of what other people may think about them. He took the leap to being the living example of speaking without a filter, sharing his mind, and to be the representation in media for others struggling with the same feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and depression. That took tremendous courage, and every day he chooses to live out loud and share his story, he is furthering the progress for our community and encouraging others that it’s all going to be OK.

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Alison Bechdel nominates Sharon Lee De La Cruz

For Sharon Lee De La Cruz, there’s no conflict between her multidisciplinary creativity and her multi-issue activism. She grew up in The Bronx against a vivid backdrop of graffiti that sparked her love for color and mark-making, and she still lives and works there as a community organizer. De La Cruz came to embrace her identity by decolonizing it. In her graphic memoir, “I Am a Wild Seed,” she examines the way she learned about her queerness and Blackness in mostly white spaces. It was not an easy journey, but eventually she became able to see past the lenses of capitalism and white feminism, to fully claim her queer Dominican, Puerto Rican and Black identity in all its overlapping glory. Comics is just one of this talented artist’s disciplines. She also makes 'zines, interactive sculpture and public art. “Ruby Walks” is a powerful mural of Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to integrate the New Orleans school system in 1960. It runs the length of a city block on the Hunts Point Avenue bridge in The Bronx. Sharon’s a tech whiz, too, as evidenced by her ingenious tablet-based redesign of the intake for unaccompanied children crossing the border. Instead of a daunting form, kids are invited to make a drawing of their house and the people who live in it. It’s only fitting that her activism is as multipronged as her art: climate, racial justice, immigration, prison reform, sex and gender, STEM education. To all of these issues, Sharon brings her trademark wit, exuberance and intersectional wisdom. The queer community is lucky to have Sharon on our side, using her wide-ranging skills and passions to create a better world for all of us. As she puts it, “You don’t have to wait for someone else to tell your story. You can make that story.”

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Jari Jones nominates Ceyenne Doroshow

Ceyenne Doroshow is our community mother, auntie, healer, backbone and overall caretaker of the LGBTQ family. It is one thing to cater to the immediate needs of support and resources, but to also put plans into action for the future of those same people in need. This is what a true leader does. Ceyenne has not only provided housing out of her own home for both LGBTQ individuals who were seeking refuge in the U.S. as well as those recently incarcerated, she has also created safe spaces and opportunities for LGBTQ folks, specifically trans folks, to thrive after difficult life events. She has given hope to those who were in need of a fresh start and/or a second chance, and has further empowered them to sustain healthy and long-lasting living conditions. Her monumental org, G.L.I.T.S., advocates and educates to ensure health, wellness and inclusion of transgender people in our society, and to address the stigmatization and criminalization of trans people because of anti-prostitution, anti-sex work laws. Ceyenne Doroshow is not only held in high regard by her community but deserves her flowers, her applause and her money from the world.

Adam Wolffbrandt

Jennie Runk nominates Allison Beck

I want to nominate a fellow model at my agency, Allison Beck. Only 19 years old, coming into an industry where our personal lives can be quite public, she’s already well practiced in being publicly out and proud through TikTok, where she’s grown quite a following after sharing a little about her experience as a trans woman. She has the outspoken confidence shared by many members of her generation, having grown up in a world where social media is an insidious part of their lives from the time that they’re very young. She has an inspiring sense of self and would never dare to shrink herself to fit society’s narrow view of what she should be. She makes it seem like the easiest thing in the world to discover exactly who she is and to love what she finds there. She has dreams of becoming a high-fashion it girl, and while her modeling career is just starting out, she is definitely someone to watch. She has the dedication and motivation to get herself exactly where she wants to be. And with the practice she already has in being open about her life on a public platform, I know she’ll carry that same energy forward, and become quite a strong role model for young women and girls like her in the future.

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Thai Nguyen nominates Hieu Nguyen

For many years, I was so alone and afraid to reach out to anyone. I thought being alone was the only way I could live without hurting or disappointing people in my life. Over the years, I was very fortunate and so grateful to have found my own support system, including my friends, colleagues, my boyfriend of 14 years, and most recently, my Netflix “Say I Do” family. They have shown me what it is like to be free and living out through the community's support. Please don't make the same mistake I did -- I hope the younger generation can find it within themselves to reach out as much and as far as you can for support and guidance. Always be proud and authentic to who you are -- but you don't have to do it alone. I would like to nominate my friend Hieu Nguyen. I admire his courage, strength and dedication. I applaud him and other young leaders following his footsteps to create a better and stronger community to protect our younger generations. He is a co-founder and past board chair of Viet Rainbow of Orange County. VROC is a grassroots organization based in Orange County, California, that builds community and mobilizes intergenerationally. VROC is grounded in values of equity, healing, joy and social justice. VROC strives to create a world where everyone has the resources and agency to thrive with dignity. The organization was founded in response to the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California’s attempt to ban LGBTQ people from participating in the annual Tết (Lunar New Year) parade in Little Saigon, California, in 2013. The argument was, “LGBT is not part of Vietnamese culture.” Using a multipronged approach, a group of Vietnamese American LGBTQ people and allies advocated and fought for their right to be included in the parade while also changing the hearts of the Vietnamese American community. They presented their stories to Vietnamese and mainstream media outlets, and garnered support from local, state and national organizations such as the ACLU, Lambda Legal and Equality California. As a result, the 2014 parade featured LGBTQ inclusion, and VROC was founded to advocate for LGBTQ rights and to raise awareness in the Vietnamese community. VROC is currently led by Executive Director Uyen Phuong Hoang and board chair James Huynh, both past volunteers and youth leaders. VROC primarily works with LGBTQ+ Vietnamese Americans and their loved ones through research, education and advocacy while strengthening collective power alongside other communities working towards liberation. In building a collective power with other communities, we can shape the future of LGBTQ+ POC and their loved ones in Orange County, California.

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Becca McCaren

Becca McCharen nominates Andraya Yearwood

I'd like to nominate Andraya Yearwood as someone who, through her advocacy, is currently rewriting history. Andraya is a track and field athlete and advocate for transgender girls’ inclusion in sports. As high school athletes, Andraya and fellow runner Terry Miller became defendants in a lawsuit brought by fellow high school runners in Conneticut who sought to block the participation of transgender athletes in Conneticut high school sports, claiming they had an unfair advantage. In the Chromat film "Joy Run'' by filmmaker Tourmaline, Andraya commented on why she became an advocate for trans athletes everywhere: "If we are not going to, then who will?" Andraya celebrates the supportive community built through sports and through her own experience shows us why athletics should be accessible to people all along the gender spectrum. She was recently featured in "Changing the Game," a documentary on Hulu.

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Lord Troy

Lord Troy nominates Jordan Daniels

To know Jordan is to know the true physical embodiment of compassion, joy and positivity — just take one scroll through his Instagram feed and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jordan on a personal level as well as through shared work within queer/fat/Jewish spaces and I’m not sure I’ve met someone as authentic and passionate as he is. Not only does he make me believe in real change, he also makes me believe in actual identifiable progress. He’s constantly educating, leading by example, and always open to constructive criticism and growth which, to me, are signs of a true trailblazer. I am forever inspired by his tenacity and I encourage everyone to take the time to get to know this dazzling human. He’s already a living icon and I can’t wait to see what’s to come for the self-proclaimed “Queer Afro-Jew Fatty.

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Tess Holliday

Tess Holliday nominates Curry

Curry is a visually staggering, true powerhouse who reflects the vibrancy of all the colors of the kaleidoscopic rainbow. They aren’t just the kind making moves in traditional spaces and places with co-signs that the world is more apt to recognize but truly, in every aspect of life that matters. To know them is to watch an LBTQ icon in history form, exist, breathe life back on to culture at large. Curry exerts their personal power in ways I learn and benefit from every day, and I strongly suggest everyone go read and take notes from as well. They post about breaking intergenerational, systematic wounds and giving grace in understanding -- superseding harm while still looking up to their mother as their greatest inspiration. They unequivocally ask their community for what they need, how intimacy is non-negotiable, how reciprocity is the bare minimum because “I already do for y’all. All the time.” Curry does not wince or stand back at articulating their value system, then asking that the world meet them at the crossroads. They do not compromise themselves to fit into a world not hospitable or welcoming to so many marginalized folks. It’s no small thing, to be so certain and so real all at once as a human being. As a pioneer and a plus model, I have so much privilege and I am learning every day. Part of that is to both leverage my privilege while standing up for myself in a society I hope to and have already shaped to change. But I could not do what I do, I could not grow how I am trying to grow without BIPOC queer folks constantly leading and showing us all the way. Curry is there, holding the brightest and largest torch, illuminating the trail in the dark not just for them but for everyone that can see their tremendous light and has the wisdom and foresight to take heed.

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Frankie Rodriguez nominates Rob Rodriguez

One person who I think is making LGTBQ+ history right now is Rob Rodriguez. They work for the Burbank YMCA and this month spearheaded the opening of Burbank’s first LGBTQ+ youth center. They have also been working with the city to make it a more inclusive place for everyone.

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Joe Serafini nominates Dylan Mulvaney

One person who I think is making LGBTQ+ history right now is Dylan Mulvaney. They are an actor and content creator on TikTok and Instagram, where they use their platform to entertain and educate users on their experiences as a nonbinary individual. Their friendly and bubbly personality is fun to follow, with series such as "Interviewing Animals" and "It's a They! Question of the Day." I have learned a lot following their journey, while also being wildly entertained! Happy Pride Month!

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US White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre nominates Stella Keating

Stella Keating is a 16-year-old transgender advocate from Washington state. The leader of the GenderCool Project became the first transgender teenager to testify before the U.S. Senate earlier this year. She joined the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the Equality Act, landmark legislation that would fill gaps in current civil rights laws and ensure LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination nationwide. Her testimony came on the heels of state legislatures across the country introducing bills targeting transgender rights -- and particularly trans kids -- and attempting to undermine the daily lives of trans people. Earlier this year, Stella was chosen to have a conversation with Dr. Jill Biden during a virtual session ahead of the president’s address, where she spoke on her advocacy surrounding transgender and nonbinary youth.

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Representative Brian Sims nominates Deja Lynn Alvarez

When I reflect upon the incredible history of our community, I’m reminded not only of how far we’ve come, but also of the incredible, indomitable spirits who have fought tooth and nail to get us here. No person exemplifies this authentic and relentless spirit more than Deja Lynn Alvarez. Throughout her entire adult life, Deja has been a positive force for change within the LGBTQ+ community here in Philadelphia. She co-founded and served as the director of Philadelphia’s first LGBTQ-specific shelter and recovery facility, she co-founded and facilitated Sisterly Love (a trans support and skill-building program by and for transgender women) and she currently serves as the LGBTQ care coordinator for Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health. This is just the tip of the iceberg -- the list goes on and on from here. Most recently, Deja started an emergency food distribution center to feed those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. What started out as a program to feed a few families has grown tremendously and now feeds over 1,000 families a week. After over a decade of leadership and advocacy, Deja is now running to replace me as the representative of Pennsylvania’s 182nd legislative district in the House of Representatives. Once elected, she will be the first trans Latina in U.S. history to hold public office. As the current holder of this seat, I can think of no other person more uniquely qualified to represent our district and to lead the fight for equality in Harrisburg. Deja is a true trailblazer and history maker, and I’m excited and honored to nominate her to this list.

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Sally Kohn nominates Edgar Villanueva

Edgar Villanueva is opening up our nation’s eyes to face the injustice of our past and build a more just future. As queer Native American activist, Edgar has been doing powerful work to challenge foundations and ultra-wealthy donors to “decolonize” their practices, bringing true racial and economic justice to the work they do. But Edgar is also a key voice in the broader movement to decolonize our minds, our institutions, and our culture in every sense and space — bringing true independence, inclusion and justice for all communities. If the world is more equal today than yesterday, and we feel more free and included tomorrow than today, we all have Edgar to thank!

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Human Rights Campaign's Alphonso David nominates Nakiya Lynch

Nakiya Lynch grew up to become the saving grace that they wish they had when they were in foster care. Through their work as a youth ambassador at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ organization, and at Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, Nakiya works tirelessly to help affirm foster youth in various ways, including training future foster parents on how to care for an LGBTQ child, working with foster care agencies to become more LGBTQ-inclusive, and working directly with foster youth to understand and meet their needs. Without a doubt, the world is made better by Nakiya. They are changing lives simply by bringing warmth, understanding and innovation to their work with foster youth, and by inspiring people to do more for others and to simply be better people. Thank you, Nakiya, for being you.

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GLAAD’s Serena Sonoma nominates Jasmine Davis

Jasmine Davis is a community health organizer and Black transgender advocate who leads and mobilizes efforts in HIV prevention, health care and transgender advocacy in her hometown of New Orleans. Jasmine’s work is urgent and personal. Forty years after the first HIV/AIDS cases were reported, HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on Black Americans and transgender Americans. The CDC reported that 4 in 10 transgender women in seven major cities, including New Orleans, have HIV. Jasmine’s commitment to her community and to public health includes her work at CrescentCare, which focuses on risk factors that affect the sexual health of transgender women, and providing access to HIV prevention and a broad range of health of wellness services in the Greater New Orleans and Southeastern Louisiana areas. Her work has played a vital role in community-driven research and resources, and for LGBTQ acceptance. “I just want everyone to realize that we are all humans in this world and the only way we’re going to get through this is together,” Jasmine said. The Transgender Law Center has cited Davis as a “strong voice of influence” who works across platforms to “educate, empower and bring awareness while promoting positive solutions that contribute to the development of the Transgender and Gender Non Conforming (TGNC) community.”

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It Gets Better Project's Ross von Metzke nominates Travis Flores

Ross von Metzke nominates Travis Flores, an activist, a writer, a storyteller, a creator ... but more than that, he is an inspiration to the countless people who have followed his journey. At just 30 years old, he has gone through three double-lung transplants -- the most recent one during COVID -- and he keeps getting back up, using his platform to encourage others to fight, to be honest about their feelings and their fears, and to never give up on themselves. The It Gets Better Project has featured Travis twice -- his coming out story and his first video interview with his partner -- and the hope he gives to LGBTQ+ youth who are struggling is magnificent to witness. He inspires me, and as for what comes next for Travis, I really do think that the sky's the limit. I just know that whatever he does, it will be with a fire in his soul and a commitment to make things better for those who follow in his footsteps.

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It Gets Better Project's Eboni Munn nominates Ianne Fields Stewart

Eboni Munn nominates Ianne Fields Stewart, a Black, queer, lesbian and nonbinary transfemme storyteller who is New York-based and the founder of The Okra Project, a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black trans people by providing home-cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources. I am inspired by her commitment to provide accessibility to the most marginalized communities as she ties ancestral cooking traditions with providing nourishment through her work. I see Ianne’s work continuing to expand with co-organizing rallies for trans youth, her efforts to provide community spotlights for other organizations geared towards Black trans lives and accessible resources to community members. Her work inspires me daily to continue to center and uplift community members who are marginalized.

The It Gets Better: A Digital Pride Experience is a two day event that will be streamed on the organization's YouTube channel from Wednesday June 23rd-Thursday June 24th from 11-3pm PST.

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Earl Fowlkes, president/CEO Center for Black Equity, nominates Matthew Rose

Matthew Rose is a longstanding HIV and social justice advocate, and Health GAP’s resident U.S. government policy wonk. He brings over a decade of experience in community engagement, federal health policy, HIV science and advancing health equity. Matthew serves as a policy advisor for the Center of Black Equity supporting the center’s work on federal policy across key strategic areas. He is the director of U.S. policy and advocacy for Health GAP, a global HIV advocacy organization. Prior to joining the team, Matthew served as the policy and advocacy manager for the National Minority AIDS Council, where he worked on federal appropriations and authorization legislation related to HIV and health disparities affecting people of color. He also oversaw the development program for the National HIV Biomedical Prevention Summit, one of the leading conferences on HIV biomedical implementation in the United States. Matthew is currently the community co-chair of the Microbicide Trials Network and a member of the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group (VARG), an independent, advocate-led, global team of AIDS prevention research advocates that plays a critical role as a liaison in the highly complex field of HIV vaccine research. He serves on the board of directors for the HIPS, which advances the health, rights and dignity of people and communities impacted by sex work and drug use by providing non-judgmental harm reduction services, advocacy, and community engagement led by those with lived experience. He is a proud African American gay man.

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Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, nominates Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen

In a year characterized by a record number of bills targeting transgender and nonbinary youth, trans representation and advocacy have never been more crucial -- and fearless leaders like Rodrigo provide young people with a much-needed source of hope. Rodrigo is a Cuban American transgender man and longtime LGBTQ movement leader who, on July 1, will become the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, the nation's leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people. Rodrigo will bring palpable passion and vast experience to NCTE, having worked in nearly every corner of the LGBTQ movement over the last decade, including training thousands of volunteers to campaign for marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections, organizing leadership development programs in queer and trans communities of color, and supporting LGBTQ migrants fleeing persecution. Rodrigo exemplifies the diversity and resilience of our community, and I am excited to witness his historic tenure at NCTE and to work together to promote the well-being of transgender and nonbinary youth.

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis nominates Alejandro Flores-Muñoz

Alejandro Flores-Muñoz is a seasoned entrepreneur and activist who has made it his mission to advocate for marginalized communities. As an outspoken queer, DACA, Latinx person, Muñoz's life’s work aims to champion for the next generation of intersectional entrepreneurs. Brought to the United States by his mother in 1997, Alejandro had strong progressive values instilled into him from a young age. His family upbringing and willingness to overcome adversity is what inspired him to open his businesses: Unum Sunglasses, Progressive Button, Stokes Poke and Combi Taco. Recently, Alejandro launched a YouTube series where he transparently and vulnerably opens up about his journey as an undocumented entrepreneur offering tips, advice and support to those looking to start or grow their business. He is also an author, having written "No Papers, No Fear, You Can Do Business Here." Muñoz lives in Denver, where he works directly with local agencies and nonprofits as one of the leading advocates for the DACA community. Alejandro proudly served as the program director for America Votes Colorado and has been awarded both the Transformative Leadership for Change and Immigrants Rising Fellowship. On April 13, 2021, Flores-Muñoz testified in support of Colorado Senate Bill 21-199, which would repeal provisions of the 2006 law requiring people to prove lawful presence in the United States to receive public benefits and certain professional and business licenses.

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Kalen Allen nominates Chase Campbell

Chase Campbell is a junior at Sumner Academy of Arts & Science. For two years she has served as president of the LGBTQ+ Club. She has overseen organizing and running meetings, providing educational resources for the students, and spearheaded all school-wide outreach and events surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. Chase has helped organize Coming Out Day, Ally Week, and International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. During these events, she shares out facts about the LGBTQ+ community in our daily announcements broadcasted in the morning. When club funds are low, she has used her own money to buy swag to hand out to the student body during events. She has spent a lot of time and energy advertising the club and ensuring that all members feel welcome, heard, and, if needed, protected. Chase has done an outstanding job bringing awareness to the LGBTQ+ community and issues throughout the school, and it has allowed for Sumner to be one of the most inclusive and accepting schools in the USD 500 district for the LGBTQ+ community.

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Josh Helfgott nominates all trans youth

Most trans youth know what I’m about to write, but you might not. So please read this because it’s seriously terrifying. Conservative politicians across 37 states proposed 110 anti-trans bills this year, more than any other year in history, and 13 of them already passed. Most of them target children. Tennessee passed a law requiring businesses to post warning signs if they allow trans people to use the correct bathroom. And they banned trans kids from using bathrooms and locker rooms at school that match their gender. Arkansas banned trans kids from getting gender-affirming health care, the most extreme anti-trans law ever passed in U.S. history. And on the first day of Pride Month, the governor of Florida celebrated by banning trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. Montana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia passed similar laws this year. The sports laws are super creative because a lot of people think they agree with them, so I’d like to remind you that when the governor of West Virginia was asked to name just one example of a trans athlete presenting an unfair advantage in his state, he couldn't. Because there aren’t any. So why was this his priority when West Virginia ranks almost last in education, health care and the economy? To all trans youth: You are perfect as you are. Do not listen to anyone who tells you differently. Your future is bright, so just keep shining. I know you will. And one last thing because I don't think you hear it enough: I’m so proud of you.

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Rob Anderson nominates Joris Lechêne

I first discovered Joris from a two-part TikTok video where he contextualized Lil' Nas X's "Montero" music video to a Black, straight, religious friend. I was impressed by how well he explained an important queer moment to someone who would otherwise be put off by its controversy. I immediately followed him and loved his consistently smart and insightful takes on current events, media, and history. On TikTok, Joris shares his lived experiences as a queer, neurodivergent person of color to start conversations on homophobia, racism, and other cultural biases. It's a brave thing to do on the platform, since TikTok creators who talk about uncomfortable subjects don’t often benefit from the algorithm in the same way as those who create feel-good content. I think Joris and his work deserve much more attention, and his voice is such an important part of the LGBTQ+ community.

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Kenny Screven

Kenny Screven nominates Chloe Cole-Wilson

I adore the passionate, creative and trailblazing spirit of Chloe Cole-Wilson, whose tenacious presence will amplify any space or setting. Chloe is a multifaceted artist who utilizes her many talents to empower the LGBTQ+ youth in her community. Chloe’s expressive prowess engages young people to tell stories from a Black queer perspective. In a room full of people, she will never hesitate to express her thoughts in advocating for marginalized individuals. Chloe Cole-Wilson embodies the tolerance, empathy and relentlessness necessary to be a leader for “priority” -- not just minority -- communities. Chloe once said, “I want to strengthen this community, even if it’s just through an emotional cleanse.” I find this statement to be deeply resonant, that people should feel more comfortable to express their feelings in a constructive way. Helping someone in need may simply mean finding a way to strengthen and support their creativity. For me, creating with makeup is a very therapeutic process that allows for growth and expression. For Chloe, she articulates emotions through her poetry, most notably with her group Basement Poetry. At the LGBTQ+ center Project Silk, we share the passion to educate young people in new outlets to redirect their talents towards leading a happy and emotionally prosperous future.

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Claire Raymond nominates Sal Jo Osborne

Walking in my first Pride parade, I was introduced to one of the most incredible spirits I have ever met. Sal Jo Osborne, her now fiancée and I walked side by side, telling each other our life stories in a nutshell. With a fiery spirit for life, Sal unpacked her life journey of growing up in the Mormon church, and how she was coming out of religion and the closet. She now has a beautiful blended family with her fiancée Lena and they are raising their seven children together in their beautiful blended family, teaching them that exactly who they are is perfect. Knowing the power of her story and the yearning to learn from others, Sal started her “Peace Out" podcast to be able to tell her own story, full and honest, and to help spread the message that being LGBTQ+ is a beautiful thing. Here, she interviews people from the LGBTQ+ community, as well as those who have come out of religion and, for some, both! To break free from the shame she was taught around sexuality, and use the strength and security in herself she has gained to help anyone who needs a hand has inspired me to continue to live my truth openly and proudly. She is creating a community where everyone is welcomed just as they are, no matter where they came from or where they are currently. I am proud to call Sal a friend and am so proud of the podcast that helps so many.

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Anthony Baldwin (Tony Talks) nominates Tré Melvin

My selected LGBTQ+ trailblazer is Tré Melvin. Tré Melvin is an entertainer who is known for his comedic skits across multiple platforms. At a young age, and being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I looked up to Tré for the amount of self-love he expressed through his videos. At the time, I saw it as a superpower to be a gay male who is openly expressing themselves to the world. Today, Tré still creates amazing productions, has exclusive content on his personalized website and is working on owning his own network! In the near future, I see Tré having his own comedy series on his own major TV network to share with the world that will inspire other up-and-coming LGBTQ+ trailblazers!

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Lilia Buckingham nominates Brianna Reed

I am thrilled to nominate Brianna Reed. Bri is a talented writer, actress and creator. Though she is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, like anyone, she is far more than her sexuality and her pronouns. She is a literal ray of sunshine, with energy, enthusiasm, and passion to spare. Her imagination, like her fierce love for her friends and for life, knows no limits. I can’t wait to see what Bri creates next and hope you get to see who she is and what she does.

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Becky Albertalli nominates Julian Winters

I love so many things about Julian Winters, but I keep coming back to this one: he makes earnestness cool again. His books are infused with warmth; they feel like home. And yet, Julian never holds back when it comes to the complexity of identity, self-discovery and human connection. There’s something kind of magical about the way he threads his stories with so much sweetness, their depth catches you off guard every time. Underneath the geeky charm, pining and found family hijinks, Julian’s books have a way of carving out space for vulnerability. I can’t even begin to describe how profoundly his work has affected me personally. And when I think about the queer kids in my life, these are the books I want to hand them.

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Adam Silvera nominates Aiden Thomas

The moment I saw the deal announcement for Aiden Thomas' novel "Cemetery Boys," I knew something special was about to hit bookshelves. And the rest of the industry seemed to agree. Aiden's fantasy novel about a trans brujo determined to prove his gender to his Latinx family was not only a National Bestseller, it made history as the first novel with a trans narrator written by an openly trans author to land on the New York Times Bestseller List. Oh, and it was even long-listed for the National Book Award, which is still a rare feat for a young adult fantasy novel. Did I mention this is Aiden's debut novel?! "Cemetery Boys" is a beautiful novel about belonging, and given that Aiden's second novel "Lost in the Never Woods" was another instant bestseller, it's clear that Aiden Thomas' voice won't go unheard in literary circles and beyond.

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David Yi nominates Jason Kim

I am thankful to writers and trailblazers like Jason Kim who bring bold, beautiful, and brave Korean American stories to Hollywood. Jason, a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, has been at the forefront of pushing for diversity at a time when few Asian Americans were included in these spaces. From his work at the New Yorker, to his musical, "KPOP," work on the Emmy-nominated series, "Barry," and now his series with the artist Tablo, Neon Machine, for Amazon, he is an inspiration to those who've always felt unseen or unheard. Jason's making AAPI history, LGBTQIA+ history, and is a trailblazer in all communities and I am proud to nominate him for ABC News' Pride Inspiration List. Thanks to him, we all can feel more comfortable in our skin and proud to be who we are.

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Soman Chainani

Soman Chainani nominates Aditi Hardikar, senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Treasury

Brilliant, energetic and only just at the beginning of her career — and yet Aditi Hardikar has already become a respected name in government for her work with the LGBT community and how public policy impacts these communities. As Obama’s AAPI and LGBT liaison, she was the first woman of color in either position, using her own personal nexus between the two communities as a cornerstone of her outreach. Now Hardikar has a new position at the Biden White House. As a senior advisor, she’s focused on how the Treasury Department can best represent diverse and marginalized populations — both inside the vast department of 85,000 employees and within its various programs, including the distribution of its portion of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Whether it’s creating equity in rescue and lending programs, or including more LGBTQ voices inside the Treasury Department, Hardikar is a crucial voice in turning the page from the last four years, and rebuilding a more resilient and fair financial system. With strengths in community organizing, fundraising, and policy making, Hardikar will surely be an influential leader in helping to advance LGBTQ interests for a long and bright future to come.

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Silvia Vasquez Lavado

Silvia Vasquez-Lavado nominates Erin Parisi

A fellow mountaineer and explorer, Erin Parisi is on the quest to become the first transgender athlete to scale the seven summits, the tallest mountains in each continent. The pure task of physically scaling these mountains is incredibly arduous and complex, yet the most challenging mountain Erin had to climb was coming out. For Erin to be known and seen as her true self yet still facing so many bigotries against her identity and community is a daily fight she is committed to continuing. Erin faced critics from the very beginning, yet finding a supportive community that believed in her ignited an unstoppable fire and the chance to launch, a nonprofit that facilitates joy, comfort and safety in the outdoors, and that provides multiple opportunities for our trans community. Erin’s quest of the seven summits is to bring visibility and a voice to the ongoing fight for trans rights. Erin has already completed four of the seven summits. Unfortunately, the pandemic delayed some of her expeditions, but she is ready to continue with the final three, including Everest (Nepal), Denali (Alaska) and Vinson Massif (Antarctica). Erin’s ultimate hope is for our trans community to be humanized, for the killing of so many of our trans brothers and trans sisters to stop, and to provide our trans community with their rightful opportunity to fully live their American dream. It's an honor to nominate Erin!

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Tuck Woodstock nominates Salimatu Amabebe

Salimatu Amabebe is a chef, multimedia artist, writer, photographer, performer and generally one of the most talented people I have ever met. He is best known as the creator and director of Black Feast, a project dedicated to celebrating Black artists and writers through food. At pop-up dinners in Oregon, California and New York, Salimatu has thoughtfully paired four-course vegan meals with live performances by Black queer and trans artists like Jayy Dodd, Jamila Woods and Amenta Abioto aka Yawa. At other events, he's prepared hundreds of elaborate desserts and nourishing gift baskets, distributing them to Black guests free of charge. I'm constantly in awe at the scope of Salimatu's work, the loving care that goes into each endeavor, and the thoughtful way that he spotlights other Black trans and queer creators. As his star continues to rise, I'm eager to see what new beauty he brings into the world.

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Adam Rippon nominates Jason Brown

I nominate Olympic figure skater Jason Brown. I skated and competed with Jason for most of my career. As his competition, I always admired how talented he was, but after I retired following the 2018 Olympics, I have had the chance to really admire just how great he really is. Watching Jason skate is a masterclass in performance and execution. Jason might not have the most difficult jumps in his programs but what he lacks in his technical program is completely compensated for by the skill of his skating. Jason is an Olympic medalist from 2014. He recently came out as gay on social media and if he qualifies for the 2022 Olympics (he is a favorite for the team) it will be his first Olympics as an out gay athlete. His representation will mean so much to the many people who will get the opportunity to watch him compete on the world stage. I know I will probably shed a few tears … I GET EMOTIONAL. I’M ONLY HUMAN! His beautiful skating is matched only by how truly kind he is to everyone he meets. I am so proud of him and so grateful for him.

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Caleb Marshall nominates Luis Cervantes

Luis Cervantes is a dancer, choreographer, personal trainer and co-founder of Fuego Fitness LA. I found him last year in April when his choreography for a Gwen Stefani-Beyoncé mashup blew up on TikTok. The moment I saw him dancing I was hooked. He has this bright and positive energy you can just feel through the screen. Luis is unapologetically queer, and lets every bit of his personality and identity shine in his content. He blends his talent for dance and his passion for fitness to provide a home for people often left out of the traditional fitness world. Fitness has always been a hyper-masculine, rigid space that often glorifies unrealistic and toxic body standards. With his fitness program, Fuego Fitness, he helps people approach exercise in ways that are fun, healthy and encouraging. It’s magical to see how his authenticity and pride give his followers the confidence to also embrace and celebrate themselves.

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Athlete Ally nominates Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe is a beautiful example of someone living their dream and truth. She trains hard to accomplish her goals and uses her platform as a Team USA athlete to let transgender kids know that they are loved, and that there’s a place for them in sports. Poised to become the first transgender Team USA athlete to travel to the Olympics, Chelsea is making history and blazing a trail for countless others to come. As she told Outsports, "If you can live life openly as yourself in a world so hostile to your existence, then you already have the strength of a champion." We are proud every day to call Chelsea Wolfe an Athlete Ally ambassador.

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Camille Angel nominates CJ Wechsler

Tireless. That’s what an LQBTQIA+ religious activist must be, first and foremost, in the longstanding push for equality. Dismantling religious-based homophobia and transphobia while still embracing religion and spirituality requires a boundless and hopeful energy. Tireless — it’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of my nominee, CJ Wechsler. CJ transferred to University of San Francisco, the Catholic Jesuit institution where I teach Queering Religion in the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice. With two years to go before graduation, CJ knew that since their time at USF was limited, they had to act quickly to fulfill their goal of creating a space that promotes the intersection of religion and spirituality with LGBTQIA+ identities. To that end, CJ reached out to me on their first day on campus. Because of their initiative, Qmmunity was born. It’s a safe space for queer-identifying students who face unique situations — both hardship and comfort — from their relationship with faith, and it understands that whether they face external rejection from family or the internal struggle of reconciliation, college may be the first time in their lives that they have a community to help make sense of this intersection. CJ accomplished building Qmmunity twice — once in an in-person format and then again after they revamped it to be completely online during the pandemic to ensure that Qmmunity members would not be alone despite being dispersed. Now, CJ is pursuing their passion for education reform, serving as an eighth-grade teacher committed to innovating gender and sexuality education, and expanding gender non-conforming representation in our education system. “I believe it is critical to have firsthand experience in the area one intends to change, and my current position with Teach for America will give me a glimpse into the school districts that are most underserved and heavily impacted by policy change. I hope to develop skills to use as a teacher in the classroom, as a colleague in the school district and eventually, as someone influencing policy.” Tireless. It’s what our community needs; it’s what CJ brings to the table. It’s no surprise that they say that their favorite word is “Hineini, Here I am. This declaration implies active readiness to serve -- more than just a physical presence, it’s also a spiritual and mental one. I stand by this temperament, both to pursue my own goals and to promote action in others.”

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Joy Ladin nominates Rena Yehuda Newman

Though just out of college, nonbinary transgender writer, comics artist, magazine editor and teacher Rena Yehuda Newman is already inspiring a rising generation of queer Jewish writers -- writers who see the intersectional complexities of queerness and Jewishness as sources of creativity, insight and even revelation -- to sample, remix and trans-figure gender, sexuality, identity and 3,000 years of tradition. My generation grew up trying to fit ourselves into one identity box or another, cutting off pieces of ourselves to be either “good” Jews or “good” queer people. For Rena Yehuda, either/or is always a step toward saying “yes, and ...” Yes, literary writing and zines and comics; yes, evolving gender and sexuality and religious practice; yes, contemporary art and storytelling and Bible; yes, deep commitment to tradition and queering the line between the personal and political. I've seen Rena Yehuda walk that talk, demonstrating, in their life, art, writing and teaching, the myriad ways in which Jewish and queer identity are intertwined, challenging and feeding and complicating and delighting in one another, showing that gender, like religion and art, is, as they put it, “a collaborative process and part of our collective revelation, a creative act through which we uncover who we are together. Through that creativity, we find ourselves more and more in the image of our Creator.” To which I say, "Amen!"

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Joy Ladin

Brandan Robertson nominates Crystal Cheatham

Crystal Cheatham is both a force to be reckoned with herself and someone truly committed to uplifting the unheard voices of queer people of faith. Crystal is a former Evangelical, who after bravely coming out as lesbian in her early 20s, realized that there was no space for her in her church and decided to create a virtual space for queer Christians to thrive spiritually. Eventually, Crystal dreamed up and launched a Bible app for queer folks called the Our Bible App, which provides a wide array of progressive, inclusive content to help LGBTQ+ people of faith nurture their souls. She has been relentless in working to create resources for queer folks to know that their sexuality or gender identity is a gift from God and that they dont need to choose either their faith or their sexuality. Her creativity and innovation, commitment to giving queer religious writers a platform to use their gifts and her own willingness to share her personal journey has changed the lives of countless queer people of faith. Her work is truly inspiring.

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Mitchell Gold nominates Alan Buie-King

I’d like to nominate Alan Buie-King, who is board chair of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. He is a very special gay man doing work that could be a monumental game changer in the fight for full legal and spiritual equality for LGBTQA people. Along with Jane Clementi and the TCF Faith Committee, he is leading an effort to request all non-affirming religious denominations to change their very teachings that "homosexuality is a sin" to "LGBTQ is A-OK." This is a huge, monumental undertaking … one that LGBTQ advocacy groups have been daunted to tackle. Tyler Clementi lost his life to suicide over 10 years ago. Over the years, Jane has come to understand how the toxic teachings of her church and so many other denominations are the basic reason LGBTQ teens and young adults suffer such inordinate mental anguish, and even take their lives at far higher rates than their non-LGBTQ peers. More than 40% of homeless teens are LGBTQ while only being 5-7% of the population. It is estimated that more than 70% of these innocent, vulnerable teens are homeless because of their family’s religious attitude towards them, up to and including throwing them out or making life miserable enough that the teen decides to leave with nothing. The campaigns have started and will kick into a much higher gear in the fall. What especially makes these efforts different and potentially more effective is the gentleness and grace with which Jane will communicate. Alan is truly an unsung hero in our movement quietly steering an important effort by raising necessary funds and keeping the operations moving in the right direction. Alan Buie-King is the president and chief operating officer of Workplace Options, a global employee well-being company providing emotional, physical and practical support to more than 46 million people worldwide. He is highly regarded as an innovator and visionary by the international business community for his professional accomplishments, and known as a champion of social and political progress by the LGBT community for his efforts to advance an equal rights agenda. Living in North Carolina, Alan is a founding member of both the LGBT Center of Raleigh, the largest community organization of its kind in the state, and Out! Raleigh, one of the Southeast’s largest celebrations of LGBT life. He is also currently on the board of Equality NC, a statewide organization dedicated to securing equality and justice for LGBT people.

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Nicole Ehrlich nominates Lauren 'Kittens' Abedini

When thinking of someone to nominate for this list, a person who truly inspires me every single day, one name came to mind: Lauren “Kittens” Abedini. I've had the pleasure of working with Kittens during my annual Celebration of Women in Art exhibition at Art Basel in Miami and I quickly discovered she is an absolute force of nature. This talented DJ, who has performed everywhere from Coachella to Electric Daisy Carnival, uses her platform to fight sexism in the music industry and boldly embraces her identity as a lesbian woman of color at every turn. Kittens uplifts women and the LGBTQ+ community through her activism and "She/Her/They" podcast, on which she has truly powerful and necessary conversations with guests. The world could use more people like Kittens.

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Gary Dakin nominates Rocco Lawson

Rocco Lawson is 20 years old and Denver-based with an incredibly supportive family, and loves to experiment with makeup, fashion etc. Gay-identifying, Rocco joined Leeds Student Government with the goal to make campus a more equitable place. He gathered the people who had the same interests within Leeds Student Government and they formed The Decreasing Student Inequities Committee. They just helped Colorado become the first state to ban legacy admissions as well as helping eliminate testing requirements. He also works at a business school as a social media intern and creates content during important events such as Pride Month, Juneteenth, Women’s History Month, Black History Month, etc., to raise awareness. His work highlighting the inequities in society as well as putting a spotlight on Pride all the while doing it as a proud out gay man makes him a future leader whose gayness lends an empathy, resilience and determination that I believe our community has been built on.

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Cecilia Chung nominates Juniperangelica (Gia) Cordova

Juniperangelica (Gia) Cordova is the associate director of Gender Justice Leadership Program at the Gender & Sexuality Alliance Network leading TRUTH, Transgender Law Center’s collaborative program alongside GSAN. TRUTH, or Trans Youth, is a media-centered leadership program that supports young transgender and nonbinary leaders in building up their media skills, leadership confidence, and campaign strategies. TRUTH supports annual cohorts of leaders representing over 15 states nationwide, convening in-person at various points of the program year. TRUTH’s annual campaign takes place on the Friday before Transgender Day of Remembrance every November.

Gia has been a leader since a very young age, all the while pushing that trans youth be included at all levels of trans liberation. She has served as a spokesperson, a facilitator, an organizer, and led much of robust and critical work led by trans youth to combat the increasing anti-trans legislation sweeping the US. Gia is truly an unsung hero and oftentimes plays a role behind the scenes to support the leadership development of trans youth around the country, specifically building and growing the leader of trans girls of color.

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Dr. Alexes Hazen nominates Kevin Moore

Kevin Moore is the assistant director for LGBTQ+ Clinical Services at NYU Langone Health. Kevin is a resource expert in gender-affirming care, and the pre- and post-management of gender-affirming surgeries. He has been a nurse for more than eight years, including in emergency and trauma care, critical care and post-anesthesia care. At NYU Langone, Kevin educates all new nursing, ancillary and human resources staff, and conducts in-services at the ambulatory sites. A resource for health care providers and non-clinical staff regarding LGBTQ+ cultural and clinical sensitivity, Kevin has been the team leader in building the hospital’s Transgender Center of Excellence, and is also a patient navigator for LGBTQ+ patients seeking proficient and affirming providers. In 2019, Kevin also helped NYU Langone receive two exemplars in nurse-led Gender Affirming Care in both Magnet and CARF recertifications. This June, Kevin will be featured on Johnson & Johnson’s nursing website as a nursing innovator who is creating solutions to help improve quality and access to equitable care for LGBTQ+ people, and ultimately help decrease and/or prevent health disparities related to the barriers of health care. Kevin holds a bachelor of science in nursing from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He is currently enrolled in the post-baccalaureate to DNP in Leadership at Rutgers University School of Nursing.

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