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HEROES
 

Advocate: Champions of Pride 2019

Role Models: Top LGBTQ Business Executives

Black LGBTQ People in History

500 Queer Scientists

Unsung Heroes of LGBTQ Pride

Video: LGBTQ Heroes and Icons

Famous LGBTQ People: Queer Historical Icons

List: LGBTQ Activists

GLAAD: Asian LGBTQ Heroes

 

LGBTQ Champions

 

Our communities should be grateful for the dedicated individuals who have committed their lives to advocating for the rights of others.  These are everyday ordinary people doing extraordinary things to change the world.  Often they are unsung heroes who go about the business of helping others without any fanfare.

 

Sometimes these heroes are celebrities who use their fame and influence to increase visibility and raise awareness of LGBTQ issues.  These public heroes boldly speak out and do their best to educate others.  They organize activities and projects in their communities, they create programs and support groups, and they run for public office.

 

 

 

These amazing individuals see injustice and want to correct it.  They see people who are marginalized and disenfranchised, and they want to do what they can to create a more equitable and inclusive society.  They see oppression and they want to fight against it. 

 

These are people whom we admire.  They are role models and leaders.  They are champions of human rights and guardians of the downtrodden.  They inspire us.  They are the everyday people who contribute to the world through acts of kindness, courage, and conviction.  They are selfless.  They give of themselves.  They make a difference.

Straight Stars Who Support LGBTQ Rights

Nat Geo: Historic LGBTQ Figures Who Changed the World

LGBTQ Activists: Past and Present

Advocate: Champions of Pride 2019

Straight Celebrities Who Fight for LGBTQ Rights

Role Models: Top LGBTQ Business Executives

GLSEN: Black LGBTQ Heroes You Should Know

 

Advocates, Activists, Allies

 

We find LGBTQ advocates, activists, and allies in all segments of society. These champions of the LGBTQ cause are hard at work everyday in such areas as education, science, business, politics, law, the arts, medicine, military, and entertainment.  They are teachers, artists, and ministers. They are gay and straight, trans and cis, men and women, black and white, old and young. They are role models, change-makers, and everyday leaders in their own right.

 

Quentin Bell (Alabama)

Quentin Bell, a 31-year-old trans man, devotes his life to making sure queer and trans folks in Selma have the community, resources, and safety that he never had growing up.

 

“Selma needed a change,” he says. “You have to create the things you need and want to see in your community.” This led him to create the Knights and Orchids Society (TKOSociety.com), which is devoted to increasing visibility and improving the lives of LGBTQ people, specifically those living in the rural South. The society opened the Black Sheep Relief Center in 2017, where Bell serves as the executive director.

Doing this work in Alabama — where a majority of residents are opposed to same-sex marriage — isn’t easy, Bell says. “They don’t like it when we speak up. I can tell you that the work is hard, but I can also tell you that the reaping my children and their children will have makes it worth it.”

 

 

 

Malcolm Kenyatta (Pennsylvania)

Malcolm Kenyatta is a 28-year-old Philadelphia activist who, last November, became the state’s first out Black gay representative. “Simply put, representation matters,” he says of his victory as a kid from the projects. “Our stories matter, and our experiences matter. I can say without hesitation that marginalized communities produce better legislators, because they tend to be more empathetic.”

The politician plans on using his platform to focus on eradicating poverty, “the moral and economic issue” of our generation. “In the wealthiest country in the world, we’ve allowed a model of monopolistic capitalism to infect our economy and leave far too many Americans behind,” he says. “Ending poverty means investing in quality education, increasing affordable housing, increasing wages, and preparing our communities for the future.”

 

Kathy Ottersten (Alaska)

The 53-year-old intersex, gender-nonconforming, pansexual leader from Fairbanks, Alaska, made history last year as only the second out intersex person to win public office in the U.S. and first person to do so in Alaska, when Ottersten was elected to the Fairbanks City Council.

Ottersten says residents of Fairbanks were concerned with substantive issues rather than questions about sex and gender. Ottersten sees their new position as a continuation of a long history of activism. As an old ACT UP NYC member with a number of arrests under their belt, they see an opportunity to bring about real change in their state.

 

List: LGBTQ Activists

Advocate: Champions of Pride 2019

HuffPost: Awesome LGBTQ Activist Heroes

Straight Athletes Who Support LGBTQ Rights

LGBTQ Latinx Heroes

Great Queers of History

Famous LGBTQ People: Queer Historical Icons

Straight Celebrity Allies

Video: LGBTQ Heroes and Icons


 

Jedidiah Jenkins (Tennessee)

Jedidiah Jenkins is a 36-year-old travel writer, Instagram influencer, and executive editor of Wilderness magazine, who detailed his journey of personal reconciliation in his book, To Shake the Sleeping Self. He grew up a closeted evangelical Christian south of Nashville. Years later, he spent 16 months on an epic 14,000 mile bike ride from Oregon to Patagonia. The son of Peter and Barbara Jenkins (of Walk Across America fame) chronicled his own journey on Instagram and then penned the inspirational memoir.

Jenkins describes himself as a Christian mystic gay man, and is happily living a life of no regrets. “I didn’t have a mentor growing up,” says Jenkins. “As I grew into myself, I knew I had to mentor myself. I had to become the example I never had. That is the spirit behind my writing and my life: be the person you needed when you were a teenager.”

 

Jonathan Leggette (Washington)

Jonathan Leggette is a young Black, nonbinary, trans, queer, and intersex activist who has found all their voices through the trailblazing work they’ve forged as a campus ambassador for GLAAD, their work with interACT Youth, and as a peer advisor in the

Trans and Queer Center at Evergreen State College, where they’re currently an undergrad. Leggette has used their platform to educate folks at college campuses, conferences, and beyond about what it means to be intersex — and how to better serve the community.

Leggette has Dominican, Haitian, Czech, and Taíno ancestry, and encourages folks to improve society at large as well as “the smaller community that you directly live in and interact with.”

“I am proud of my resilience in getting to where I am, from homelessness to being a writer and educator,” they say. “Anyone can be a champion by following their passion, being resilient, and thriving while not leaving behind the people that have supported you. Practice recognizing our intentions that we bring with us every day. Fight for justice and equity anytime you can as well as focusing on self-care.”
 

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Khudai Tanveer (Virginia)

Khudai Tanveer is a 22-year-old Richmond native advocating for the release of a trans man from Hong Kong who has been in solitary custody of ICE Detention Facility in Irwin, Ga., for over a year facing deportation proceedings.

Tanveer organized a GoFundMe page to support the cause (GoFundMe.com/FreeChinNow) and started the hashtag #FreeChinNow to draw attention to the man’s story. The queer activist says organizing Chin’s call to action “required me to use every skill I had ever learned. I am so grateful for everyone that showed out for him and supported him.”

“We can look at all those moments in our lives when we wanted [or] needed someone who looked like us, thought like us, or was experiencing the same things as us and become that person for future generations,” they add. “I strongly believe championining requires us to live in our authenticity to create more room for all of our intersections in the future, to lessen the pain of those coming after us. Start with small moments and build movements out of them.”

Miles Joyner (South Carolina)

Miles Joyner, a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina, has done much work in the bisexual community in Columbia, S.C., serving on the board of BiNet USA (and collaborating on their #BiStoriesProject), and leading a class in the bi+ community at Harriet Hancock LGBT Center. While in school, Joyner was a campus ambassador for GLAAD and USC’s logistics chair for IRIS (Individuals Respecting Identities and Sexualities). They have also been but have been involved with the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps. But they’re best known for running their own popular Facebook page, Miles the Bisexual, which offers an affirmative and intersectional take on bisexuality.

 

 

Dana Kaplan (Vermont)

Dana Kaplan is the executive director of Outright Vermont (OutrightVT.org), the state’s only queer youth services program. These at-risk youth are four and a half times more likely to have attempted suicide than their cisgender straight peers—and they have a higher dropout rate. All this is especially true in rural states like Vermont.

Through supportive peer connections and an array of targeted programs, Kaplan and Outright Vermont seek to strengthen families, and transform schools and communities. The organization’s signature program is Friday Night Group, a social and support gathering for youth ages 13 to 22, but it also runs the week-long Camp Outright, and programs like Gender Creative Kids and the Trans Parent Group.

“If you can be visible, be visible,” says Kaplan, who is queer, trans masculine, and Jewish. “Get out there and build relationships of support and solidarity. Make a sustaining commitment to local organizations doing this work today and tomorrow and next week, so that we can ensure that our most isolated and targeted youth have the affirmation and love they need and deserve.”

Jess Guilbeaux (Kansas)

Jess Guilbeaux, 23, was your average “lumberjack lesbian” before the world fell in love with her as the first lesbian client on the hit Netflix series Queer Eye. The Fab Five offered her a new perspective on life, helping her to regain her confidence and reconnect with her biological sister. But it didn’t stop there. During her episode, Guilbeaux shared her story of being kicked out of her adoptive home as a teen after coming out to her parents, and she’d had to quit college because she couldn’t afford the tuition without their support. Moved by her story, American audiences came to the rescue.

Soon after the tear-jerking episode aired, a GoFundMe page raised $100,000 to send Guilbeaux back to school. Now she’s using her platform to remind others feeling alone and isolated that there’s a community of support out there. “There is a strength in vulnerability, and through that strength I’ve learned to accept who I am and my intersecting identities,” says Guilbeaux. “I’ve learned to love myself, flaws included... and grow from those mistakes. Take what you think makes you lesser and turn that into a strength.”
 

Advocate: Champions of Pride 2019

Role Models: Top LGBTQ Business Executives

Video: LGBTQ Heroes and Icons

Black LGBTQ People in History

500 Queer Scientists

Unsung Heroes of LGBTQ Pride

List: LGBTQ Activists

GLAAD: Asian LGBTQ Heroes

 

Jake Bain (Missouri)

Jake Bain is a 20-year-old who was the star running back at John Burroughs High School in 2017 when he decided to come out gay in a moving article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Now playing Division I football at Indiana State University, the athlete is using his growing fame to highlight a need for out queer athletes in sports. This year, on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, he also spoke about the importance of challenging toxic masculinity in locker rooms.

“I am most proud of the impact I have been able to make on a lot of people’s lives by sharing my story and pushing for more acceptance and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community,” he reflects on the past year. “It warms my heart every day to read new messages from kids all over the world who tell me that my story gave them the courage to come out and not be afraid to be themselves. I think the greatest thing I have learned throughout my journey so far is the power of visibility.”

 

Derrick Martin (Georgia)

In April 2010, Derrick Martin, a gay teen from Cochran, Georgia, was asked to leave home after publicity surrounding his decision to take his boyfriend to the high school prom. In July 2010, Martin launched Project LifeVEST to help other LGBTQ people in similar situations.

States the new group's website: "Our mission is simple: 'To be a helping hand, a life vest, to as many LGBTQ teens and adults as possible. We will carry out this mission through the establishment of safe places in as many cities as possible; through opening a call center with a qualified and well-educated and experienced team of counselors who can give advice and guidance where needed; through finding qualified and screened families who can, if the need arises, host rejected teens while they finish schooling or find a new place.'"

Martin is founder and president of the new organization. In a personal statement on the website, Martin reflects on the trauma that came from his decision to take his boyfriend to prom in the small Georgia town and the ensuing international media attention.

 

Savannah Skyler (Utah)

Savannah Skyler came out to her Mormon church in 2017 at 12 years old, and her testimony went viral, attracting fans such as Lady Gaga, whose Born This Way Foundation recognized the young lesbian for her bravery and courage. Since then Skyler has been named an HRC Youth Ambassador, has worked with the LoveLoud organization, and has written for The Advocate’s sister publication, Out. Not bad for a teenager from Eagle Mountain, Utah.

“I learned I can’t fight hate with hate,” Skyler reflects. “Taking that first step and giving love, even to those that have mistreated me, has gone far. It can be hard, but taking the high road and showing love has gotten me much farther in others’ hearts.”

Skyler is most proud of finding a community that she fits in and gaining the privilege of being out as exactly who she is. “You can be a champion by getting out of your comfort zone and breaking your walls entering into territories that are foreign to you. This is sometimes scary, but you are powerful! Discovering you are capable of doing anything, you can turn your dreams into plans and actions. We all have a voice, and we are all connected.”

 

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Christine Hallquist (Vermont)

Christine Hallquist made history as the first out transgender major party nominee for governor in the U.S. as the 2018 Democratic candidate for governor of Vermont. Though she lost the election to Republican candidate and incumbent Phil Scott, Hallquist continues to be a powerful voice in her state. She’s now CEO of Cross Border Power, whose mission is to solve climate change with a better battery: “We will build batteries that are four times as good as the ones that power cars today at half the cost,” she explains. “Batteries are the Holy Grail to solve climate change. I will fight to my last dying breath to end the ravages of carbon dioxide that threaten the very existence of most life on our planet.”

 

Lillian Lennon (Alaska)

The 20-year-old trans woman says she first caught the activism bug “when I started my hometown’s first LGBTQ+ Pride organization. From then on, queer rights and advocacy became a central point in my life, as I went on to help lead the Fair Anchorage Campaign in taking down the discriminatory Proposition 1 here in Anchorage, Alaska.”

That measure would have forced transgender people to use public facilities that match the sex on their birth certificates. For the nine months preceding its defeat, Lennon and her No on Prop 1 team went door-to-door to talk with residents. “I was able to explain that I’m a transgender woman myself…. I think it’s hard to say to someone’s face, ‘No, I don’t agree that you should have equal rights.’”

Lennon currently works for Planned Parenthood Votes, the org’s super PAC, and also works with Fair Anchorage, Transgender Leadership Alaska, and Talkeetna Pride.
 

Straight Stars Who Support LGBTQ Rights

Nat Geo: Historic LGBTQ Figures Who Changed the World

LGBTQ Activists: Past and Present

Advocate: Champions of Pride 2019

Straight Celebrities Who Fight for LGBTQ Rights

Role Models: Top LGBTQ Business Executives

GLSEN: Black LGBTQ Heroes You Should Know

 

 

Nancy Rosenbrahn (South Dakota)

Nancy Rosenbrahn says for the majority of the 32 years she and her wife have been together, hey never imagined they’d live to see marriage equality. After their well-publicized nuptials in 2014 — performed in nearby Minneapolis — the real fight was getting it recognized in their home state of South Dakota.

It wasn’t the first time Rosenbrahn had been a pioneer in terms of LGBTQ court victories — “In 1976, I was the first out lesbian to go to court for my children in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” she tells The Advocate proudly. “And I won.”

The Rosenbrahns and five other couples filed a lawsuit challenging the South Dakota law, and succeeded. But Judge Karen Schreier’s decision to overturn the ban due to it being unconstitutional was in the process of being appealed when the Supreme Court Obergefell decision rendered the decision moot.

Rosenbrahn says she is most inspired by “my grandchildren, who are showing us that race, sexuality, sexual identity, and ability do not matter. They are fearless in pursuit of a better place to live and they make no apologies.”

Tippi McCullough (Arkansas)

Tippi McCullough had always been a private person before she became a public figure in 2013, when Mount St. Mary’s Academy, a Catholic school in Little Rock, fired her from her teaching job because she had married her female partner, attorney Barbara Mariani. McCullough now has another job: Arkansas state representative.

She won the election to the Arkansas House in November 2018, making her one of very few out LGBTQ people to win elective office in the state. One of her first efforts in office was introducing an equal pay bill, which died in committee (where the leading opponents were Republican women). No doubt, McCullough will continue fighting for the causes she believes in.

Kota Babcock (Colorado)

Kota Babcock is an 18-year-old journalism major at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, who proudly rocks two letters of the LGBTQ (he’s trans and bisexual) — but admits that Pride didn’t necessarily come easy.

“I noticed an entire chapter of American history had been entirely hidden from me as a young, closeted LGBT person, especially when I lived in a conservative town,” says Babcock. “I joined Rainbow Alley [a youth space in Denver] after finding out I was LGBTQ and realizing that my school didn’t have a GSA and wasn’t willing to form one. I grew out of that space after a few years and found All the TEA [an HIV advocacy group in Denver] through a close friend and mentor, Peaches. While working with this group, I found a very distinct interest I had in reshaping how journalists discuss people living with HIV, and helping to offer new ways for teachers and

other community members to teach about the past, present, and future of people living with and affected by HIV.” On World AIDS Day 2018, Babcock was awarded the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders scholarship by the National AIDS Memorial for his HIV activism.

 

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Calla Devlin Rongerude (Iowa)

Calla Devlin Rongerude is the bisexual author of the award-winning YA novels Tell Me Something Real and Right Where You Left Me. Few in the LGBTQ community realize that this 50-year-old mother has also quietly been pushing for our rights over the past 15 years by crafting compelling material for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Freedom to Marry, and Movement Advancement Project, in jobs she says “feel like a mission. I believe in the power of storytelling. It humanizes issues and evokes compassion and empathy and is perhaps the most effective tool we have to open hearts and minds.”

At MAP, she manages Open to All, a nationwide public awareness campaign “centered around the principle of when a business opens its doors to the public it must serve everyone on the same terms... It’s a coalition of 200-plus civil rights, racial justice, LGBTQ, disability, religious, and allied organizations working together to oppose discrimination,” along with more than 2,000 businesses.

 

Josh Burford (Alabama)

 

Josh Burford founded the Invisible Histories Project. He says, "The queer community has lost so much history since the mid 1980s. The AIDS epidemic wiped out one entire generation of community leaders, and their histories were oftentimes intentionally destroyed. We can’t even conceptualize the things that we’ve lost because we don’t really know at this point what we have. People generally don’t imagine that their history is important. There’s millions of people involved, but we want to celebrate individual people toiling away oftentimes in isolation or in very small groups making what for them are small gains but for the community is a large gain."

 

The Invisible Histories Project is designed to be a repository for the preservation of the history of LGBTQ life in the South. The archive will preserve, collect, and protect the living history of the diversity of the Queer community and experiences both urban and rural across the South.

Josh is an award-winning historian, archivist, and educator with over 20 years of experience creating stronger communities for Queer and Transgender people across the US. Josh is a native of Alabama. He attended the University of Alabama for his undergraduate degrees in English and History. Josh finished his Master’s degrees in 2006 with an MA in American Studies (with a concentration in LGBTQ history of the late 20th century) as well a Masters in Library and Information Studies. A historian and archivist by training, Josh is passionate about education and advocacy for Queer Youth and the preservation and documentation of Southern Queer History.

 

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LGBTQ Television Stars

 

Brianna Titone (Colorado)

Brianna Titone made history as the first transgender person elected to state office in Colorado. The 41-year-old lesbian geologist now serves as state representative for House District 27 after a close election that came down to a few hundred votes. She hopes her story inspires others to live out their dreams and not be dissuaded by the various systems of oppression arrayed against them. Titone is one of four transgender state lawmakers in the country and she hopes her election will open the door for others to follow.

“I get the greatest reward from being able to be myself and to directly represent the people in my district,” she says. “I also have the opportunity to represent and inspire people everywhere else. The best part of my job is being visible and present for others and working to better their lives. I always dreamed of accomplishing something for the greater good and never imagined how I would do that. I’m overjoyed that I’ve been able to do that on several levels. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”

 

Gia Parr (Connecticut)

Gia Parr is a lot like many other 15-year-old girls. She loves shopping and hanging out with her friends, and has dreams of seeing Ariana Grande in concert. Plus, she founded a nonprofit organization that helped launch a youth movement. Parr is the founder of GenderCool Project, “a national storytelling campaign which shows who transgender kids are, not what they are,” she says. “As the first person to come out in my middle school, I helped set an example that even in a small, more conservative town, one can receive a great amount of support from others. It is hard to show your true self and reveal something you have been hiding your whole life, but coming out has not only helped me, but it has allowed me to help others by sharing my positive story nationally.”

Steve Newman (Delaware)

Steve Newman is the president of Delaware Pride, having joined the organization back in 1998, and has been in his current position for the last eight years. Its mission is to promote platforms for expressing diversity and creating a more visible and united LGBTQ community.

As Newman notes, it’s important to let members of the community know they are not alone, that there are people, groups, and resources available that can not only help empower individuals to live out and proud but also provide a welcoming, inclusive, and safe environment. Delaware Pride is responsible for the state’s Pride Parade and Festival, which also happens to be the largest LGBTQ gathering in Delaware. Newman has also helped bring awareness to the needs of the community by linking volunteers and donors with causes such as the Food Bank of Delaware. “We have come so far, but we still have so far to go,” he says.

Antonio Brown (Georgia)

Antonio Brown is the Atlanta City Council’s first out bisexual. The now 34-year-old entrepreneur grew up in poverty, with parents who were frequently incarcerated, but as an adult he became a successful business owner, founding a men’s shoe brand called LVL XIII, now sold at Nordstrom. He has also established a nonprofit organization, Dream of Humanity, which is dedicated to helping disadvantaged people achieve self-sufficiency, and the Antonio Brown Scholarship, which sends children living with or affected by HIV to summer camp.
 

Florintine Dawn (Indiana)

Florintine Dawn shot to viral fame in February when she became the first drag queen to lead Story Hour at her local library in Evansville. Children watched as she read stories aloud in full drag, becoming a fine example of how to build acceptance and understanding in middle America. Still, it didn’t come without its critics.

“Despite the hatred outside and inside the library, the children and their guardians celebrated our differences by dancing and singing and listening to one another,” reflects Dawn, whose given name is Owen Jackson. “My heart was warmed, and I hope theirs was also.”

Dawn also took part in the Mysti Dawn Foundation fundraiser last year, named in honor of her Drag Mother who passed away, helping raise $1,400 toward toys for children over the holidays.
 

List: LGBTQ Activists

Advocate: Champions of Pride 2019

HuffPost: Awesome LGBTQ Activist Heroes

Straight Athletes Who Support LGBTQ Rights

LGBTQ Latinx Heroes

Great Queers of History

Famous LGBTQ People: Queer Historical Icons

Straight Celebrity Allies

Video: LGBTQ Heroes and Icons

 

Ella Briggs (Connecticut)

Ella Briggs, the Connecticut 11-year-old fifth-grader who is gay and ran on a pro-LGBTQ platform, was sworn in as the state’s “kid governor” at the Old State House in Hartford.

Briggs, who attends the Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary Magnet School in Avon, was elected by 6,400 fifth-graders from 87 schools across the state. Her three-point platform included promoting adoptions for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, training teachers on how to work with LGBTQ youth, and creating youth programs for LGBTQ youth and their allies.

“I will begin important conversations with students and adults all over this great state. We will talk about what it means to be accepting and respectful of everyone, including those of us in the LGBTQ community,” Briggs, who ran despite having faced bullying for her identity, said at her swearing-in ceremony in January 2019. Briggs’s term as kid governor runs throughout 2019, but her political aspirations don’t end there. She intends to be the country’s “first lesbian president,” she said at her inauguration.

 

 

Sara Couvillon (Alabama)

 

The SPLC praised officials at an Alabama high school for restoring the right of a student to wear a t-shirt expressing acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. Sara Couvillon, a sophomore at Hoover High School, wore a t-shirt that said, “gay? fine by me.” School officials told her to change her shirt out of “concern for her safety," despite the fact that no one had made any threats. At first, Hoover High School defended its decision to ban the pro-gay t-shirt.

Then, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent the school a letter letting them know this case would not be taken lightly: Evidently, officials at your school told Sara that she could not wear the shirt because they were “concerned for her safety.” Yet, Sara did not experience any threats of violence, nor did the officials tell Sara that there were threats of violence against gay students from which disruption could have, or did, result. In fact, Sara had routinely worn the t-shirt during the previous school year without incident. Therefore, the officials’ stated reason for the censorship was unfounded and unsubstantiated. Moreover, even if there are students who will act disruptively in reaction to Sara’s t-shirt, the school has a duty to punish the disruptive students, not to prohibit Sara’s speech.

By censoring Sara out of concern that other students would behave disruptively, your school has allowed those disruptive students to exercise a “heckler’s veto” over Sara’s free speech rights. The First Amendment does not permit such an outcome.

The principal, Don Hulin, responded: “At Hoover High School, we have a tradition and practice of respecting the rights of students to exercise all of their constitutional entitlements. We are fortunate to have a diversified student body and we work very diligently to encourage a culture of tolerance and understanding.
 

In the tradition of the United States Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines, students at Hoover High School exercise their First Amendment rights without restriction unless such expression disrupts the learning environment or disabuses the rights of others.
 

Our dress code at Hoover High School is designed to facilitate the learning environment that is so important to our school. The t-shirt at issue has not caused a substantial disruption and the student will be allowed to wear it. Our focus has been and will be on the learning environment at Hoover High School.”

 

Emmet Cummings (Iowa)

Emmet Cummings was an Iowa high school student when he was barred from attending Boys State by the American Legion’s state board of directors because he’s transgender. “I had to fight in order to even get in,” says 18-year-old Cummings. Under pressure, the board reversed its decision and made an exception from its “biological male” requirement to allow Cummings to attend the educational program about state and local governance.

“Being there, for me, signaled the beginning of a new era, that change would come, no matter hard it was to get in,” Cummings says. “I was lucky, growing up in a rural community that accepted me, but it’s taught me that people can learn... Most people are for change, even if it doesn’t quite seem like it at first. The hope that gives me for the future has been the best part of growing up trans in Iowa.”

Cummings, who also identifies as bisexual and queer, says, “I’m incredibly proud of being one of the founding members of my high school’s Diversity Alliance Club, which aims to educate the student body about LGBTQ issues.”
 

Advocate: Champions of Pride 2019

Role Models: Top LGBTQ Business Executives

Black LGBTQ People in History

500 Queer Scientists

Unsung Heroes of LGBTQ Pride

List: LGBTQ Activists

GLAAD: Asian LGBTQ Heroes

 

Sarah McBride (Delaware)

 

Twenty-five-year-old Sarah McBride made history when she took center stage at the Democratic National Convention, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, as the first openly transgender person to address a major party convention.

McBride, who currently works as the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, is no stranger to breaking down barriers. Four years ago, as student body president at American University, the then-21-year-old made national headlines when she came out as transgender in the school's student-run paper, The Eagle. Later in 2012, she interned at the White House Office of Public Engagement -- the first out trans woman to work at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

More recently, McBride stepped into the national spotlight for a viral selfie she took while inside a women's restroom in North Carolina, where a controversial law enacted last March bans transgender people from using government building bathrooms in line with their gender identities.

 

Ted Chalfen (Colorado)

 

A Boulder, Colorado-based gay teen's incredible commencement speech thanking his graduating classmates for their support is receiving some attention nationally. The speech was given at the graduation ceremony of Fairview High School. "I’m going to skip all of the clichés I want to rattle off right now, and get right to the point -- I’m gay," Ted Chalfen told the crowd. "Many, if not most, of the students here today know this, and most of them don’t really care."

Admitting he was prepared to "endure taunting, social ostracization and even physical abuse" when he came out before entering high school, Chalfen added, "The response I have received, by and large, has been stunning. The amount of people who actually seemed happy to hear that I was gay outnumbered those who didn't care, and those who didn't care far outnumbered the small group who reacted negatively."  He then noted, "The kindness and understanding that you all have shown me over the past four years speaks volumes about each and every one of you as human beings."

 

 

Advocate: Champions of Pride 2019

Role Models: Top LGBTQ Business Executives

Black LGBTQ People in History

500 Queer Scientists

Unsung Heroes of LGBTQ Pride

List: LGBTQ Activists

GLAAD: Asian LGBTQ Heroes

 

Sarah Noone & Adam Pratt (Alabama)

Two brave Alabama teens got national attention for their LGBTQ activism. They were featured in a front-page article in the Birmingham News. With the help of Rep. Patricia Todd, two Birmingham high school students are showing real courage in opposing legislation that they fear will be harmful to Alabama youth. Sarah Noone, 16, and Adam Pratt, 17, are took a bold stand against an anti-gay Alabama law.

They organized a petition effort to gain public support for their cause and submitted their comments on a video posted through Change.Org. They are asking the Alabama legislature to remove a section of Alabama law that requires sexual education teachers to emphasize "homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense."

Sarah says, "I’ve devoted my life to helping the LGBTQ youth of this state find safe places and thrive as a community. As a Youth Leader of the Birmingham Alliance of Gay, Straight and Lesbian Youth (BAGLY), I spend considerable time with individuals who face some of the worst homophobia and transphobia that this country has to offer."

 

Ryan Andresen (California)

Ryan joined the Boy Scouts when he was just six years old, and since then, he's dreamed of earning his Eagle award -- the highest rank in the Boy Scouts. Ryan is now a senior in high school, and just completed the final requirements to earn his Eagle badge. But because he recently came out to his friends and family as gay, leaders from our local Boy Scout troop say they won't approve his Eagle award.

A Boy Scout gets his Eagle by earning many badges, completing all lower Scout rank requirements, and carrying out an approved final project. So Ryan decided to build a "Tolerance Wall" for his school, to show bully victims -- like Ryan -- that they are not alone. Ryan worked countless hours with elementary students to amass a wall of 288 unique tiles, all illustrating acts of kindness.

But when leadership in Troop 212 (San Francisco Bay Area) found out that Ryan was gay, the Scoutmaster said he refused to sign the official paperwork designating Ryan as an Eagle Scout, despite the fact that Ryan completed all of the requirements.

Andresen has shown heroic commitment to the Boy Scouts despite fierce adversity and intolerance. Andresen has endured years of bullying and torment at school and while attending Boy Scout activities. When Andresen attended Boy Scout camp his nicknames were "tinkerbell" and "faggot." In addition, Andresen endured hazing that included, among other rituals, having the word "fag" written in charcoal across his chest, all so he could participate in the Boy Scouts, and earn his Eagle Scout award.

 

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Zach Wahls (Iowa)

One of the speeches delivered at the 2012 Democratic National Convention was from Zach Wahls, an Iowa youth with lesbian parents who gained notoriety for speaking out against a proposed ban on marriage equality in his state. He spoke before the Iowa House of Representatives in February 2011 (A video of his speech is posted below). He is also an Eagle Scout who’s been pushing the Boy Scouts to end its gay ban.

Wahls, who is straight, said support for the right of gay couples like his parents to marry is a reason he’s supporting the re-election of President Obama, who came out in favor of marriage equality in May. “President Obama understands that. He supports my moms’ marriage,” Wahls said. “President Obama put his political future on the line to do what was right. Without his leadership, we wouldn’t be here. President Obama is fighting for our families, all of our families. He has our backs. We have his.”

Notably, Wahls cushioned his support for marriage equality by saying the belief that nuptials should be limited to one man, one woman shouldn’t be considered “a radical view,” saying, “For many people, it’s a matter of faith. We respect that.” But that didn’t stop Wahls from criticizing Romney for opposing same-sex marriage and his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment. “Gov. Romney says he’s against same-sex marriage because every child deserves a mother and a father,” Wahls said. “I think every child deserves a family as loving and committed as mine. Because the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us; that’s what makes a family. Mr. Romney, my family is just as real as yours.”

 


 

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Elizabeth Garrett (Alabama)

Elizabeth Garrett was a 10th-grade student at Brookwood High School, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She wore a sweatshirt with the words “Warning, This Individual Infected With ‘The Gay,’ Proceed With Caution.” She wore it to express her support for LGBTQ rights and to communicate, in a humorous way, that there is nothing wrong with gay people.

A school official demanded that Elizabeth remove her sweatshirt, claiming that it was “distracting.” The administrator released Elizabeth to her class only after she placed it in her backpack. On a separate occasion during this school year, the administrator indicated that same-sex couples are not permitted to attend the school prom together. Elizabeth became a catalyst for change in her school when the Southern Poverty Law Center came to her defense and demanded the Tuscaloosa County School System end its discriminatory ban.

The SPLC reached a resolution with the school system and it announced in March 2012 that it will allow its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students to attend prom with same-sex dates. The school district also has recognized the right of students to wear clothing with slogans expressing acceptance of LGBTQ people.

 

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Danielle Smith (Maine)

For four years, Danielle Smith, 17, has steadily and tirelessly worked for safe schools and equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens, never imagining her efforts would attract attention beyond her home in Bowdoin, Maine. But as she prepares to graduate from high school, the accolades have begun to pour in.

At a gala event in New York City on May 24, 2010, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), named Smith its Student Advocate of the Year. And on June 22, she attended a special reception in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month at the White House, where she met President Barack Obama.
 

Smith has spent her high school career working as an advocate for LGBTQ rights, training students, lobbying politicians, speaking with newspapers and TV, and organizing local protests. “Danielle is an exceptional student whose leadership within her school community and state has led to safer and more welcoming schools for all Maine students,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “Danielle’s commitment to safe schools is an inspiration.”

Since she was a freshman at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, Maine, Smith has been active in the school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), becoming president in her sophomore year. After her first year as president, she was invited to become a member of the GLSEN national student leadership team, called Jump-Start. Through the Jump-Start program, Smith organized trainings across southern Maine for youth leaders.

Smith also served as a media spokesperson for GLSEN and GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) about the implementation of the Maine Human Rights Act as it related to regulations that would affect schools.

 

 

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Preston Whitt (Alabama)

The Point Foundation named their 25 scholarship recipients of 2010. They included a cadet, a football captain, and the founder of Mississippi's first GSA. Preston Whitt is from Decatur, Alabama. He is pursuing a BA in international affairs focusing on Latin America and Spanish at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Whitt, the son of divorced parents, was raised by his evangelical Christian mother in rural Alabama. He always knew that he was different, and other students knew it as well. Throughout his school years, Whitt was taunted, harassed, and bullied almost incessantly, and not just by; some teachers even joined in. When his mother found out he was gay, she had an exorcism performed on him, then kicked him out and attempted to end the family’s relationship with him, including all financial support.

However, Whitt took those experiences and converted them into the foundation of his determination to protect other students from suffering. Politically involved, Whitt has worked with GLSEN in various capacities, most recently as a GLSEN media ambassador to help promote safer schools. Preston has also started a mentoring community on Facebook called Alabama LGBTQ Mentors to help support LGBTQ youths in that state.

Preston attends George Washington University, where he is double-majoring in international affairs and Spanish. He describes his life goal as working to fight all manner of oppression so that every individual has the opportunity to achieve his or her own happiness.

“My personal experiences have given me a passion for activism to improve the lives of LGBTQ people, particularly LGBTQ students," Whitt says. "With the support of Point, I hope to continue and expand on these efforts until LGBTQ people are fully safe, equal, and respected members of society worldwide.”
 

 

Laura Gentle (Georgia)

Laura Gentle was the first straight Co-President in Lambda Legal’s some 35-year history and was also heavily involved in women’s rights as the founder of the University of West Georgia’s first feminist organization that fostered straight, lesbian and bi-sexual feminist ideology.

After moving to Midtown Atlanta, she lent support to many LGBTQ and civil rights organizations, including: the Stonewall Democrats, Georgia Equality, AIDS Atlanta and YouthPride through financial contributions and volunteering.

Later, she took a step back from her activism work, but after the Eagle bar (gay bar in Midtown Atlanta) was raided by Atlanta police and over 60 patrons were detained without cause, she went back to work and helped organize many protests and community events to fight back against such discrimination. She states: "I felt I needed to stand up as an ally to draw the straight community into this issue as I feel it affects everyone who loves Midtown and doesn’t want it changed for the worse."
 

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