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16th annual 30 Under 30: Honoring the best

This article shared 16289 times since Wed Jun 24, 2015
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L'Oreal Bailey, 29, is a lifelong resident of the West Side of Chicago. L'Oreal holds a Bachelor of Science degree in public health with an emphasis in health administration from Northern Illinois University ( NIU ) and a Master of Business Administration degree from DeVry University. While attending NIU, she joined the S.I.S.T.E.R.S organization, which not only gave back to the community but helped uplift young women of color.

In 2010, she began working at Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, where she became an advocate linking and re-engaging people living with HIV/AIDS back into care. Currently, L'Oreal is the research evaluation coordinator for Project Elevate at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Project Elevate is a groundbreaking STI prevention and treatment campaign created by and for young cisgender women of color and young transgender women of color throughout the Chicagoland area. L'Oreal believes her greatest accomplishment to date is having a healthy, beautiful baby boy who keeps her active and reminds her daily that our youth is our future. As an ally for the LGBTQ community, Ms. Bailey has participated in several campaigns to improve the health of this community and to raise awareness for the many issues faced by these individuals on a daily basis.

DID YOU KNOW? L'Oreal loves swimming. It gives her a sense of peace and calmness.




Bryan Bautista Gutierrez, 25, is a University of Washington-Seattle alumnus, having graduated with a degree in political science and Spanish, with a focus on Latino civic engagement. He began addressing HIV in college by volunteering with a local Latino HIV Prevention non-profit, Entre Hermanos. He travelled to Chicago in 2011 to attend the United States Conference on AIDS. He fell in love with this incredible city and its people, decided to make Chicago his new home, and has been working for Howard Brown Health Center since 2013.

He began his career there as a health educator, providing HIV prevention services to youth at the Broadway Youth Center; a service through Howard Brown. Eventually, he transitioned to his current role as PrEP coordinator at Howard Brown's main clinic site. Bryan helps some of Chicago's most vulnerable populations for HIV infections navigate the complexities of the health-care system so that they can access PrEP, a new biomedical HIV-prevention option involving daily medication. Furthermore, Bryan has been part of the effort to get out the Latino vote in Chicago, working with various political campaigns. Most recently, he volunteered for mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and newly elected 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. Bryan plans to continue his work at Howard Brown and eventually return to academia to pursue a Master of Science in nursing.

DID YOU KNOW? Bryan is a fan of author Junot Diaz. He has been reading his books for years, finding his writing both familiar and empowering.

Bria M.


Bria M. Berger, 25, was born and raised in Michigan, and now calls Chicago home. Bria works as an intensive case manager at Chicago House and Social Service Agency where she supports HIV-affected adults and families experiencing homelessness and unstable housing. Prior to this, Bria worked in the TransWorks program of the TransLife Center where she co-developed a mentorship program for trans-identified community members. In addition to nonprofit work, for the past five years Bria has worked in academic research on various projects, studying HIV prevention, LGBTQ youth homelessness and the lived experiences of people experiencing mental illness. Most recently, Bria has been researching the family connections of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness with researchers at University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, where she graduated with a master's degree in social work in 2014.

Bria also volunteers as a clinic escort with Illinois Choice Action Team to support those accessing reproductive services. An avid writer, Bria recently published her first piece in a literary journal.

DID YOU KNOW? Bria has synesthesia, which causes her to experience visual textures to words and sounds.



Alex Blair, 28, was born in West Bend, Wisconsin, and now lives in the Loop. Alex owns and operates four Freshii franchises in Chicago, with more locations opening throughout the year. He earned his B.A. in business management from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Without any true restaurant experience, Alex joined the Freshii team and has played a major role in building the fast-casual restaurant's presence in Chicago.

When Alex is not at one of his Freshii locations serving customers fresh juices and energizing meals, he can be found exercising at Equinox, inverting at Yoga Six or in the pool competing with the Illinois Masters swim team The Chicago Smelts. He lives for visits to dog parks with his three adorable French bulldogs: Baxter, Trubble and Jack. He savors summer Sundays boating along Lake Michigan. As a new resident to the Bucktown neighborhood, Alex loves exploring the diverse culinary adventures with his husband, Christopher.

DID YOU KNOW? Alex's first trip out of the country was to meet the Freshii corporate team in Toronto.



Femmily Blake is a Sagittarius with a Pisces rising and moon who grew up in the south suburbs and moved to Chicago in 2006. He does youth work at the Broadway Youth Center ( BYC ), providing HIV/STI-testing sessions, and designing and facilitating sexual health programming. He provided support for survivors of sexual violence as an advocate and hotline worker before coming to BYC. He believes in intentional, accessible and harm reduction-based health care, and is pursuing a nursing degree. He is grateful for the amazing youth workers, young people, rad nurses, organizers and activists that came before him whom he's able to learn from.

Did you know? He got the No. 1 femme hippo award at BYC two of the three years he's been working there.


Blue is a program manager at Howard Brown Health Center where he coordinates transgender and gender non-conforming specific services. He trains medical, behavioral health and support service staff all over Chicago on how to be more trans* inclusive and celebratory.

Driven by his own experiences as a transmasculine person, Blue believes in the power of resource-driven healing spaces where trans* and gender non-conforming people come together, dream and take control of their own healthcare.

DID YOU KNOW? Blue is in a queer punk band called SLOP SINK.



Robert Carnilius, 27, is an award-winning filmmaker, graphic designer, illustrator and animator based in Chicago. He recently received his M.F.A. in cinema arts and sciences at Columbia College Chicago, and is dedicated to improving LGBTQ visibility and diverse representation in media.

His films range from narrative drama and animation comedy to experimental and documentary. Regardless of the genre, Robert's films focus on topics in the LGBTQ community and communities of color, including HIV/AIDS stigma, religion, racism, police brutality, being genderqueer and more.

An activist through his work, Robert strives to improve visibility and representation in the media. He hopes that educating, engaging and entertaining audiences will help remove the ignorance and fear at the core of many obstacles facing the LGBTQ community and communities of color.

DID YOU KNOW? Robert hates gender roles and is agnostic, but he enjoys his all-inclusive church. He is also addicted to video games and plans to create one.



Christine Head, 25, was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. After attending Bryn Mawr College and working in the Office of Intercultural Affairs around issues of race, class, sexual orientation and gender identity, Christine moved to Chicago to start her career in policy advocacy and continue her work as an ally.

After working as an external organizer at Service Employees International Union Local 73, Christine began her work in juvenile justice advocacy at Health & Medicine Policy Research Group. During her time at Health & Medicine, Christine has successfully spearheaded many efforts to improve outcome for LGBTQ youth in the juvenile system that include, but are not limited to, the adoption of a best practice guide for probation officer in Cook County, planning a number of interactive forums on issues related to juveniles such as Disproportionate Minority Contact and healthcare access, and speaking at the W. Haywood Burns 10th-anniversary conference on the future of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity competence in relation to racial and ethnic disparities. Christine continues to work to push forward policy reform that is conscience of SOGI competence as well as racial and ethnic disparities in contact with the juvenile justice system.

DID YOU KNOW? Christine has had the chicken pox twice. Yes, that is totally a thing!

Jess Kadish

Jess Kadish, 26, is a Boston-born, Chicago-based artist who's obsessed with storytelling—both doing it herself, and building spaces for others to tell them.

As a storyteller, she's an actor, director and teaching artist around town; a proud company member with 2nd Story and Aguijon Theater Company; and has also collaborated with Goodman Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, and Pride Films and Plays, among others.

As a builder of story spaces, Jess serves as director of programming at 2nd Story, a collective dedicated to the power of nonfiction storytelling. To her, nothing is better than that moment when a writer or performer sees their own story in a new way for the first time, or when an audience member finds something of him- or herself in another's story and is moved to tell their own.

Jess also works as the project manager at Morten Group, a consulting firm specializing in social change, where she coordinated the 2011 LGBT Community Needs Assessment—her first real introduction to Chicago's LGBTQ community, which she couldn't be more grateful to be a part of.

This fall, Jess will be pursuing her M.F.A. in acting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

DID YOU KNOW? Jess recently proposed to her partner Erica with a line from a Key and Peele sketch ( and she said yes! ).



Naomi Lahiri, 26, had parents—immigrants from West Bengal—who raised her and her siblings in the United Kingdom. She moved to the United States in her teens. She then came out to herself and most others at the beginning of college, when she was 17.

Naomi completed her undergraduate degrees in gender studies and social work at the University of Missouri, and then her master's is social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has been pursuing her social work and activist dreams in Chicago for the past three-and-a-half years, and is now a licensed clinical social worker. Much of her hands-on organizing and work experience has been through Trikone-Chicago, Apna Ghar and Chicago Desi Youth Rising—all organizations working toward social justice and empowerment for South Asians and immigrants. She is now becoming more involved with the Desi LGBT Helpline and the Queer South Asian National Network.

DID YOU KNOW? She doesn't like fresh mangoes. She hasn't admitted this to very many people before.



Christopher Lense was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. In February 2014, he attended his first service at the Lighthouse Church of Chicago. He continuously attended and, in May 2014, he became a part of the Pastoral Advisory Counsel as steward of worship. Through his leadership, he worked to create a safe space for gay men and women so they could come to worship and know that they have valued members of the church.

Christopher advocates for HIV/AIDS health care and rights. Christopher studied at Truman College for his general studies.

Christopher recently relocated to the Bay Area of California and works as a flight attendant for a major U.S. airline. In The Golden State, he plans to attend a four-year university to further his education and earn a Ph.D. in sociology with a concentration in African studies, HIV/AIDS and LGBT issues. He also hopes to become involved in the gay community as he did in Chicago, the place that will always be his hometown.

DID YOU KNOW? Christopher loves the sounds of high heels and dress shoes on marble floors. That is why he enjoys wearing his dress shoes. CLICK CLACK!



Jessica London-Shields, 29, grew up in San Francisco, but has been a proud Chicagoan for more than 10 years. She is the co-founder & managing director of {she crew}, a multidisciplinary journaling to performance empowerment program for middle school girls. Founded with her partner, Meredith, {she crew} exists to support girls at a time of transition, focus their individual voices, create a safe space for self-expression, and facilitate a community that aids in the development of all its members. All {she crew} programs are obviously queer inclusive and trans and gender variant welcoming. {she crew}'s 2015 Summer Intensive is produced in partnership with the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.

Jessica is also an award-winning theater and film artist here in Chicago. In her creative work, she is dedicated to representing female stories with dignity and LGBTQ stories with authenticity. She is passionate about widening our perceptions about one another through genuine and authentic artistic representation.

DID YOU KNOW? Jessica can solve a Rubik's Cube in less than two minutes.



Page May, 26, is a Black, queer, woman who grew up in rural Vermont. Moving to Chicago four years ago was profoundly politicizing for her: The city's rich community of radical activists connected her to organizing and has supported her ongoing political education and leadership development.

She is now an organizer with We Charge Genocide, a grassroots effort to resist police violence against young people of color in Chicago. She is one of the eight youth delegates who traveled to the United Nations and the lead author of the shadow report submitted to the U.N. Committee Against Torture. She has helped to organize several actions and events including the Reclaim MLK march, Stephon Watts Memorial and Freedom Ride, Women to Celebrate, Rally for Reparations, Police Torture Pop-Up Exhibit and #Chi2Baltimore march. She is currently focused on the youth-centered campaign, #ChiStops, which seeks to challenge stop-and-frisk practices in Chicago. She is also working to launch Assata's Daughters, a new grassroots organizing collective for Black women in Chicago.

Throughout all of her work, she strives to challenge anti-blackness and organize through a Black, queer, feminist politic.

DID YOU KNOW? Page's favorite instrument is the banjo. She dreams of the day she will sit on her front porch and learn to play the blues.



Molly McAndrew, 27, was raised in Lisbon, Iowa. After receiving her B.A. from the University of Iowa, Molly moved to Chicago to complete her graduate studies at the University of Chicago. After graduating, Molly remained in Chicago and began working at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Molly's passion for healthcare access and affordability began and was fostered in college while volunteering for a women's reproductive health clinic. Molly saw first-hand the hurdles many women—specifically those with low income and those of color—faced when trying to access reproductive health care, and decided to become more involved, joining the clinic's board of directors. In Chicago, Molly continued to work in the field of health care while interning at Heartland Alliance, specifically advocating for Illinois to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act.

As the policy manager at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Molly works on the HIV Health Reform project which focuses on the Affordable Care Act and its impact on people living with HIV. This fall, Molly will begin a Ph.D. program at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Impact and Management and focus her research on health care access, utilization and quality in the context of vulnerable populations, and those living with chronic illnesses.

DID YOU KNOW? Molly is a die-hard Batman fan and is proud to boast she recently acquired the limitedly produced, ultimate collector's edition of the Batman Dark Knight trilogy.



Lucas McKeever, 27, grew up in the country outside of Macomb, Illinois. He received his master's degree from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2013.

Throughout graduate school, Lucas explored ways in which libraries can better serve their LGBTQ users. In October of 2013, he moved to Chicago and began an internship at Gerber/Hart Library and Archives. After the successful opening of the new facilities at 6500 N. Clark, the board of directors asked Lucas to stay on as a paid staff member. Since then, he, until recently, worked with many amazing community members to increase the accessibility of Gerber/Hart and the histories it houses.

Moving forward, Lucas is a member of the Rainbow Book List Committee of the American Library Association's GLBT Round Table, which assembles a list of the best LGBTQ literature published each year for ages 0-18. He is also a co-convener of the premier sessions of the LGBTQ Users Special Interest Group for the International Federation of Library Associations, facilitating conversations on service to LGBTQ communities in an international context at the federation's annual conference. Lucas is also currently serving as chair for the Disability Hospitality Suite Committee of the 2016 Creating Change Conference in Chicago.

DID YOU KNOW? Lucas is the first person to graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor's degree in queer studies.



Andrew Moran, 25, is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and a current graduate candidate for an M.A. in clinical mental health counseling from Roosevelt University. He is also the manager of volunteers at Lakeview Pantry, where he has the pleasure of coordinating a corps of nearly 1,000 volunteers who help to serve those in need in the Lake View community.

Drew started as a volunteer for Lakeview Pantry in 2012, before becoming an intern with its advocacy program. Eventually, he became a half-time worker in the volunteer department while attending graduate school. After 18 months with the organization, Drew stepped into his current role heading a department that coordinates more than 36,000 hours of volunteer time per year. He is now honored to supervise and work alongside one of the most diverse, giving and talented groups of individuals the city has to offer. In addition to his full-time work at the pantry, he continues to work toward practicing therapy, with a specialization in queer issues and sexuality. He hopes he will be able to apply his knowledge and experience to his work as an advocate for the queer community and for all those who find themselves in need and lacking opportunity.

DID YOU KNOW? Before entering his graduate program, Drew received an undergraduate degree in philosophy, which often gets him into trouble at cocktail parties.



Julia Napolitano, 27, was born in Illinois, grew up in New York State and returned to the Midwest in 2007 for the opportunity to attend Indiana University-Bloomington. While in Indiana, she co-chaired the Midwest BLGTA College Conference and, in 2010, worked with the National LGBTQ Task Force on its annual Creating Change Conference. When she moved here in 2011, Julia started to volunteer in health-care settings as a space to explore gender and sexuality, believing that nuanced understandings of bodies, pleasure, desire and identity pave the way for better overall health of individuals and the communities and social movements they are a part of. She is currently an HIV test counselor and health educator in Chicago House's Prevention Department, and also works at the welcoming, sex- and body-positive store Early to Bed.

DID YOU KNOW? Julia would like to start playing her viola again. Anyone interested in rocking out can get in touch!



Akosuah Owusu, 21, was born Oct. 10, 1993, in a two-parent home on Chicago's Southwest Side. She attended high school at Kenwood Academy and went on to a college university, where she's majoring in business accounting and minoring in studio design. Akosuah is a youth leader council for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health ( ICAH ), where she teaches sexual health, rights and justice. ICAH has helped Akosuah in many ways. For one, she's learned how to show support for many communities by becoming an ally.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family doing fun activates, learning new things about society and making changes in her community.

Did you know? Akosuah dreams of owning her own multinational business where she can better service people and bring forth positive changes in the world.



Chris Percy is a passionate political and issue organizer from the Austin area of the West Side of Chicago.

After studying psychology at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Chris moved back to Chicago looking for an opportunity to use the skills he obtained through study to empower people to empower others. By chance, he heard about the Organizing Fellowship with Obama for America in 2011. As a fellow with the Obama campaign, Chris spent eight months working with the Oak Park and Proviso Townships to implement the neighborhood team model, assist in the recall campaign against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and organize for progressive candidates in both Wisconsin and Iowa.

In 2013, Chris joined Organizing for Action ( OFA ) as the marriage-equality issue organizer. After a successful campaign, Chris continued working with OFA as a spring trainer, training fellows to be organizers. After leaving OFA, Chris worked as a regional field director for Quinn for Illinois.

Most recently, Chris worked as part of state treasurer Kurt Summers' campaign, as the field director for Summers for Chicago, where he assisted in implementing a neighborhood think tank program for each neighborhood, including constituency think tanks for youth and the LGBTQ community in conjunction with the treasurer's office.

DID YOU KNOW? Outside of organizing, Chris enjoys traveling and reading, cooking, watching ridiculous amounts of television.



Mallory Price, 27, grew up on the South Side of Chicago and in the suburb of Tinley Park. She attended Saint Mary's College of Notre Dame, where Mallory served as the president of the Gay and Straight Alliance. As a Point Foundation scholar, Mallory attended the University of Chicago for her master's in social work. During grad school, Mallory interned at UCAN's LGBTQ Host Home Program, helping to raise more than $10,000 to help house LGBTQ youth.

Mallory has worked at Chicago House and Social Service Agency for the last few years but left her position as career services manager this June to take a position as vice president of operations for a construction company. Although she is leaving the social work field for now, she plans to run job-readiness workshops for Chicago House's Employment Program each month. Mallory is also a vice chair of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's, and helped pioneer the first scholarship for LGBTQ students at the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College, which two students were awarded this April. In her time off, Mallory enjoys antiquing; collecting rare books; playing with her dog, Tiny Tim; and fixing up her new house in Flossmoor.

DID YOU KNOW? Mallory has been to 48 out of 50 states.



Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 26, was born on February 18, 1989 in Chicago, Illinois, where he has lived his whole life. He attended Chicago Public Schools and graduated from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, where he was his senior class president. He then attended the University of Illinois at Urbana—Champaign, where he was an elected member of the Illinois Student Senate. After graduating in 2011, Carlos served as a congressional caseworker in the office of Congressman Luis Gutierrez.

After working for Gutierrez, Carlos worked as a Family Support Network Organizer with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights until he ran for alderman in 2015. On Feb. 24 of this year, Carlos received 67 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent alderman Rey Colon—and becoming one of the youngest aldermen in the city's history.

Did you know? Carlos is one of five LGBT members of the Chicago City Council.



Viveka Ray-Mazumder ( Vi ), 26, is a one-and-a-half-generation Indian American youth worker and community organizer. Growing up in New York in the wake of 9/11 impacted Vi deeply, and it moved them to become active around issues of racial justice, youth empowerment and prison abolition. Currently, Vi runs a teen program called KINETIC for immigrant and refugee youth in Chicago Public Schools through Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Chicago.

Vi is a founder and current collective member of Chicago Desi Youth Rising, a core member of Invisible to Invincible, an organization that celebrates Asians and Pacific Islanders who identity as LGBTQQ in Chicago, and a former collective member of the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois. In 2014, Vi was recognized as one of the Trans 100.

Among other things, Vi is passionate about using art as a tool for social change, and building strong communities and chosen families.

Did you know? Vi is all about making stencils. Surprise them with spray paint and an X-ACTO knife, and they will be your new best friend.



Nicholas Reinhart , 26, is a writer and director, who was born and raised in the western suburbs of Chicago. An imaginative and energetic only child, his parents spent years trying to channel his enthusiasm, finally enrolling him in a local children's theater production and sparking a life-long love of live theater.

Nicholas attended Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, graduating with a B.F.A. in music theater. He returned to his hometown and quickly became active in Chicago's vital theater scene. In 2012, he was invited to join Circle Theatre as a company member and, within a year, he was promoted to producing director. He oversaw the remount production of the Jeff Award-winning When the Rain Stops Falling in the city as well as two full productions. In 2014, when Circle Theatre encountered operating troubles, he was appointed artistic director.

A proud gay man, Nicholas found a second artistic home at the LGBT theater company MidTangent Productions, where he served as associate creative director. Last year, he worked as the music director and as a cast member in the long-running production Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens. This past winter, he co-wrote and directed the 1980s-themed musical The Bitchfest Club.

As a firm believer that the arts are not a luxury but a necessity, Nicholas seeks to create art that is smart, inclusive, and ultimately, an entertaining night in the theater.

DID YOU KNOW? Nicholas has an unhealthy obsession with awards shows.



Chris Rice, 29, is an out and proud marketing professional bringing LGBT advocacy to corporate America.

Having grown up in rural Hickory Tree, Tennessee, and coming out at the age of 15, Chris decided he would never go back into the closet to climb the corporate ladder. He has found that being out at work is an asset to his career and has served as the lead of the Whirlpool Pride Network, which is an LGBTQ resource group for Whirlpool Corporation, the world's leading marketer of home appliances.

Chris helps some of the world's most recognized appliance brands connect with the LGBTQ community—think the Maytag Man holding a rainbow cake to celebrate June pride month. Chris gives back to the community by organizing an annual fundraiser at the World of Whirlpool in Chicago's River North neighborhood supporting organizations, like Project Fierce, that benefit Chicago's LGBTQ youths experiencing homelessness.

DID YOU KNOW? Chris went to high school in a NASCAR track. When his school was temporarily condemned his senior year, classes were held at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Ian Harris


Ian Harris Schroeder is a youth advocate, group facilitator and prison abolitionist with a passion for dancing, mediating conflict, rapping, gospel music and baking. Currently working as the Family Ties case manager at Chicago House and Social Service Agency, Ian supports families transitioning out of homelessness to send first-generation students to college, build connections between parents and children, engage harm-reduction practices for substance use and nutrition and generally achieve their life goals.

Ian has spent their life crafting theater with street-based and LGBTQ young people as a method of storytelling and healing, most recently as artistic coordinator with the fabulous Youth Empowerment Performance Project. Over the past five years, Ian has published phenomenological research on gender identity development, developed and facilitated gardening projects with adolescents experiencing incarceration, and supported families with refugee status from Somalia and Ethiopia to engage in theater and sports to process trauma. They hope to move forward in their life to use arts to collaboratively create a better world.

DID YOU KNOW? Ian would love to marry Dai Burger and Neil deGrasse Tyson, minus the patriarchy. Also, Ian has great hair; they have totally won awards for it.



Debbie Southorn, 26, grew up near Portland, Oregon, and moved to Chicago in 2010 after getting a B.A. in music and a minor in American ethnic studies at Willamette University. She spent her first two years in Chicago teaching youth media and the past three advocating against militarism with the American Friends Service Committee.

Since 2010, she has volunteered and coordinated childcare with other queers in the Chicago Childcare Collective. In 2012, Debbie helped lead a campaign pressuring Center on Halsted to cancel its support for the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema, in solidarity with Palestinian queers living under military occupation. In 2013, she co-founded the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink, a national organization of LGBTQ prisoners and "free-world" allies that challenges the violence and isolation of the prison industrial complex.

Debbie just got back from a four-month stint in the Bay Area, California, where she participated in the Anne Braden program, a political education and training program for white anti-racist organizers run by the Catalyst Project.

DID YOU KNOW? Debbie has a chip blog ( ), and she really loves Doritos and Diet Dr. Pepper.



Liz Thompson , 29, grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, before moving to Chicago in 2008 after completing a bachelor's degree in sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While in Chicago, she completed her master's in public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2013, while working full time in the public health sector.

Upon moving to Chicago, Liz immediately began her career in public health as an HIV tester and sexual health educator at Chicago House. While working there, she collaborated with a dynamic group of social service providers to help launch the Chicago Female Condom Campaign ( FC2s ) in 2009. Liz eventually expanded her work with FC2s to the National Female Condom Campaign, developing a toolkit for local FC2 education and promotion. In 2012, Liz was invited by the Center for Health and Gender Equity to represent Illinois at the Healthy Future Action Summit and Lobby Day in Washington, D.C..

Liz is committed to applying her skills and knowledge to address health disparities and social injustice. She is now the health services coordinator for Deborah's Place, Chicago's largest provider of supportive housing for women experiencing homelessness.

DID YOU KNOW? Liz is an avid weightlifter and hopes to eventually compete in local powerlifting competitions.



Monica Trinidad, 28, was born on the Far South Side of Chicago, in the East Side/South Chicago communities. She began organizing against the Iraq War as a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in gender and women's studies.

In 2012, she co-founded Brown and Proud Press, a zine-making collective of queer people of color with the intent of sharing personal narratives as a catalyst for collective healing and change. Now in its third year, Brown & Proud Press has zines archived at the University of Chicago's Library Zine Collection and Barnard Zine Library and sold through various distributors and bookstores across the country. In 2014, Monica traveled to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, with We Charge Genocide to deliver a report on police violence against youth of color in Chicago. Monica recently had her artwork featured in the first-ever Artists Against Police Violence curated exhibit at EMW Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She's currently in her second year of co-organizing Fed Up Fest, a three-day, DIY music and workshop festival centering queer and trans voices in punk communities.

DID YOU KNOW? Monica is a textbook Virgo and will organize your closet if you let her.


Van Barham

Derek Van Barham ( 29 ) - was born and raised in south Mississippi. A Southern gentleman to the core, he attended the University of Mississippi ( Ole Miss ) before moving to Chicago in 2008. He received his M.F.A. from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where his thesis focused on gender-blind casting in theatre.

Derek found an artistic home with two Chicago companies committed to developing new work. He is the artistic director of The Ruckus and an artistic associate with Pride Films & Plays, whose mission is to create powerful theatrics and films that speak for the LGBTQ community and are essential viewing for all audiences.

He directed Topher Payne's Angry Fags as part of the Steppenwolf Garage Repertory, and co-directed the Chicago premiere of Terrence McNally's Some Men with David Zak. He received a Jeff nomination for directing Songs from an Unmade Bed and developed Kill Your Boyfriends ( based on the poetry of Walt Whitman, Richard Siken and Alex Dimitrov ) for the Naked July Festival. His current show, Miracle!, by Dan Savage, asks the important question: "What if Helen Keller were a drag queen?"

As an improviser, Derek currently plays at iO Chicago with the queer team Baby Wine. For the second year, he is helping host and curate QWEIRDO!, a Pride showcase of Chicago's best queer comedians and improvisers.

DID YOU KNOW? The name of Derek's home Wi-Fi network is Girl, Interrupted. The password is "Clea Duvall."


Von Vogt

Will Von Vogt is an actor/producer/casting director who grew up on the coast of Maine. He moved to Chicago in 2004 to get his B.F.A. in acting from Chicago's famed Theatre School at DePaul University. After graduating, he lived and worked in Minneapolis and New York City as an actor and talent manager.

Will returned to Chicago in 2012 and has since worked in various forms in the city's art scene. As an actor, he has given focus to portraying queer characters and is passionate about telling stories that go beyond traditional stereotypes. He is a producer and casting director for Cor Theatre—a storefront theater company in its first season that's producing the queer play A Map of Virtue"and the hit show Love and Human Remains, which is currently running.

Will is committed to creating work for queer and minority artists. He is a proud member of the curatorial team of Salonathon—a weekly performance series happening every Monday night at Beauty Bar Chicago. Salonathon is a home for underground, emerging, and gender defining art, which spearheads opportunities for LGBTQ artists of all mediums to come and share their work.

DID YOU KNOW? The way to Will's heart is potato and, as a proud Gemini, he checks his horoscope with great frequency.

Teen special mention

Jeffrey Leon

Jeffrey Leon: As a future LGBTQ activist, Jeffrey is an 18-year-old transgender ( FTM ) Latino senior at UNO Charter School Network Major Hector P. Garcia High School. Jeffrey, who began his transition earlier this academic year, is the current president of the school's Pride Club, where membership has tripled under his leadership to include both LGBTQQIA-identified students and allies.

Jeffrey was one of the speakers from the Trans Male Latino Panel for United Latino Pride recently. The purpose of this panel was to shed light on the barriers that trans Latino men face regarding society, family, culture and oneself. Jeffrey feels it's important that we, as a community, come together and understand where we stand on issues and stigma.

While considering colleges, Jeffrey hopes to pursue a career in LGBT mental health, with a focus on the Latino community.

DID YOU KNOW? Jeffrey loves organizing—to the point that when he gets bored, he makes a mess so he can reorganize it again.

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Gay News

Trans actress, gay actors, 'Kokomo City' receive Spirit Award nominations
The nominations for the 39th annual Film Independent Spirit Awards have been announced—and LGBTQ+ actors, directors and productions definitely made their mark. Trans actress Trace Lysette was announced as one of the nominees for Best Lead ...

Gay News

Bring Chicago Home: Guess who's saying no again
Commentary by Bob Palmer and Mark Swartz - Chicago is ushering in an era of change with a new progressive mayor with a vision to invest in communities long ignored and a significant increase in like-minded city council members. We are excited to see ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Tenn. law, banned books, rainbow complex, journalists quit
Under pressure from a lawsuit over an anti-LGBTQ+ city ordinance, officials in Murfreesboro, Tennessee removed language that banned homosexuality in public, MSNBC noted. Passed in June, Murfreesboro's "public decency" ordinance ...

Gay News

'She was here...and she is here': Street to be renamed after Elise Malary
By Alec Karam - The memory of the late activist Elise Malary will soon become a permanent part of Andersonville's Catalpa Avenue. The renamed "Elise Malary Way" will encompass the Catalpa Plaza area, a planned pedestrian plaza between Ashland Avenue ...

Gay News

Fla. students walk out after school board's anti-trans actions
In Florida, hundreds of students at Coconut Creek's Monarch High School held a walkout on Nov. 28 after their principal and several other school officials were reportedly reassigned over a transgender student's participation on the girls ...

Gay News

OPINION For LGBTQ+ children, the holidays are often the most challenging time of the year
Holiday time for most of us is a time to spend more time with family and loved ones, but for many children, it is a harsh reminder of their non-acceptance and thus, is all the more difficult as well. ...

Gay News

YEPP 'rises' to occasion at fall fundraiser
Members and guests of Youth Empowerment Performance Project (YEPP) gathered Nov. 17 at Chicago Theater Works, 1113 W. Belmont Ave., for the organization's fall fundraiser, Rise Up: Our Celebration of Resistance. The evening marked both the ...

Gay News

Out sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson receives multiple honors
Over the past few weeks, LGBTQ+ sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson has received several honors. The city of Dallas honored LGBTQ+ sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson—twice, according to LGBTQ Nation. Her former high school named the track where she ran ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Bishop removed, business news, Jezebel shutting down, MAP head
Pope Francis removed the bishop of Tyler, Texas—a conservative prelate active on social media who has been a fierce critic of the pontiff, PBS reported. A one-line statement from the Vatican said the pope had "relieved" ...

Gay News

Illinois attorney general part of effort against Oklahoma anti-trans youth law
--From a press release - Chicago — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is opposing a state law in Oklahoma that severely limits the ability of transgender youth to access critical, lifesaving gender-affirming care. Raoul, along with a coalition of attorneys general, ...

Gay News

IDHS head Dulce Quintero reflects on making history, being an advocate
Dulce Quintero has always believed in helping people—and decades of doing so has resulted in an especially noteworthy achievement. Recently, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker appointed Quintero, a member of the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, as ...

Gay News

AVER celebrates LGBTQ+ veterans at annual Veterans Day dinner
Writer and historian Owen Keehnen was keynote speaker at the the American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) Chicago Chapter's 32nd annual LGBTQ Veterans Day Banquet held on Veterans Day at Ann Sather restaurant on Belmont. Keehnen ...

Gay News

Kwame Raoul backs Maryland school board's efforts for LGBTQ+ safety, inclusion
--From a press release - Chicago — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a coalition of 19 attorneys general, supported a Maryland board of education's efforts to create a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ children and students. The ...


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