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Thirteenth annual 30 Under 30 honors LGBT individuals, allies

This article shared 23003 times since Wed Jun 20, 2012
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Windy City Times' 30 Under 30 Awards are sponsored by:

Windy City Media Group, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Chicago House and the Center on Halsted

Presentation: Thursday, June 28, 5:30pm-8pm, Center on Halsted, 3656 N Halsted, Chicago, More information at the link:

Allison Burque, 29, is a licensed clinical social worker and activist in the LGBTQ community. She worked for two years as an HIV case manager with the Howard Brown Health Center, and now focuses on queer women's health with the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and the Alternative Inseminations Program at the center.

Allison is also a DJ and organizer with Chances Dances, a collective that hosts three monthly queer dance parties and uses the proceeds to provide micro-grants for LGBTQ artists. She recently opened a small private practice that specializes in providing therapy for LGBTQ folks and those impacted by HIV. She currently lives in Logan Square with her partner and their greyhound, Milkshake.

Did you know? Allison once waited on the head coach for the Green Bay Packers, and he gave her a $300 tip. (She didn't mention her Chicago roots.).

Lauren Carter, 24, moved from Minneapolis to Chicago in 2006 to study Spanish and political science at Loyola University. While there, she began to cultivate her ties to Chicago's LGBT community as the vice president of Advocate, Loyola's LGBT student organization, and as an intern for Equality Illinois. After graduation, Lauren worked as the organizer for Vote Naked, a program that encouraged the new absentee/vote-by-mail rules in Illinois; she also served as the LGBT coordinator for Gery Chico in his 2011 bid for mayor.

Currently Lauren serves on the Young Leaders Board of the Center on Halsted, as well as the founding Ambassadors Board at the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago. Hoping to someday start her own nonprofit, she is currently taking a break from her 9 to 5 to focus on her writing, which includes "The Ovary Office," a politically charged blog for The L Stop.

Did you know? A traveler at heart, Lauren dreams of being able to travel the world in search of its grassroots leaders—couch-surfing her way from one country to the next to study the roots of social justice and the queer community's international presence. Here's to wining the lottery!

Mar Curran, 22, is a trans/queer-rights activist and community organizer. A Loyola University Chicago graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and women's studies/gender studies, he was active in campus life through one year as secretary and, later, president of the school LGBT group Advocate. He also served as the Queer Intercollegiate Alliance's co-chair for two years, working to bring different Chicagoland schools' queer communities together.

He is on the Vanguard for Video Action League as well as the Center on Halsted's Young Leaders Board. In addition, Mar is a staff writer and community outreach manager for In Our Words, an online activist and literary salon for queer people and their allies.

Did you know? Mar Curran knows every word of Destiny's Child's hit song "Say My Name," and can even play an acoustic cover of it on the guitar.

Precious Davis, 26, is a native of Omaha, Neb., who moved to Chicago to pursue her passions of theater and nonprofit work after studying in London and Paris. Precious, a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, first achieved recognition locally thanks to memorable drag performances in Boystown.

Last summer, Precious decided to stop performing and commit her life to direct service in the nonprofit world. She is an artistic associate with About Face Theatre and a facilitator with the National Conference for Community and Justice in addition to being the youth outreach coordinator at Center on Halsted. In her free time, she delves into photography, queer performance and transgender issues; she also likes being with friends Kandice, Chadwick and Jordan.

Did you know? When she was a college sophomore, Precious walked the 530 stairs to the top of the dome at London's St. Paul's Cathedral—in five-inch stilettos.

Anna DeShawn, 28, is a Chicago-born social entrepreneur. Anna graduated from Drake University in 2005 with a degree in radio/television production. She went on to study corporate communications at Ithaca College and graduated with her masters in 2007.

Media has always been Anna's passion so it was natural that she founded E3 Radio, LLC. E3 Radio is an online radio network that produces media to bring about real change. Anna and the QCREW including Brandee Young host their show for queer people of color around the country every Thursday. Anna also produces two additional shows on the E3 network: Conversations with Angie Harvey and Phenomenal Soul Sessions.

Did you know? Anna has been in love with Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts all her life. Interviewing Robin would be the ultimate experience—and a date with her wouldn't hurt, either.

Naomi Goldberg, 29, is an LGBT movement and policy researcher for the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), a think tank that works to speed equality for LGBT people. She's also a collaborator in the longest-running longitudinal study of children raised by lesbian parents.

Naomi has co-authored reports and articles about LGBT issues such as parenting, domestic violence, community-building and progress toward LGBT equality. She volunteers with the Mount Holyoke Club of Chicago and Limmud Chicago, a Jewish learning conference. Naomi recently married her long-time girlfriend, Libby.

Did you know? Naomi has lived in eight of the 21 cities on AutoStraddle's Most Lesbionic Cities.

Vivian Gonzalez, 29, was born on the South Side of Chicago. She attended the International Academy of Design and Technology, where she got a B.A. in web and media design.

Combining her passions for women and design, Vivian joined forces with Lisa Martinez to create, an online blog for local LBTQ women. The L Stop features services such as a biweekly newsletter, an updated events and a blogging system. The year-old website has become a hub for women in Chicago and the Midwest. Vivian is excited to see what happens in the near future with The L Stop and LGBTQ.

Did you know? Vivian's favorite animal is the ferret. Also, if she didn't become a designer she would've been a restaurant chef.

Will Guzzardi, 25, grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., and earned a Bachelor's in comparative literature from Brown University in 2009. After moving to Chicago's Logan Square, he worked as a reporter and associate editor for Huffington Post Chicago, where he covered news, politics, culture, sports and more.

In August 2011, this straight ally of the LGBT community ran for state representative of Illinois' 39th District with a platform based on the issues of education, housing, government reform and civil rights. He initially captured 49.2 percent of the vote, forcing a recount.

Will has been a staunch advocate for marriage equality, in part because of his own brother, who is gay. In addition, Will wrote an editorial on the Huffington Post about same-sex marriage, at one point saying that "supporting civil unions over marriage is very dangerous. … This risk is why 'separate but equal' was eliminated in America."

Did you know? Will founded Brown's premier improv comedy group, and performed for a year on a Harold team at the iO improv theater here in Chicago.

Young Sun Han, 29, is a visual artist working in photography, performance, installation and sculpture whose work is unabashedly queer, personal and political. He recently competed on season two of Bravo's Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, where he finished as runner-up.

Young graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 2005, he received the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange grant to live and work in Cologne, Germany, where he also studied the language. Since moving back to Chicago, Young has exhibited his work at Jean Albano Gallery, Las Manos Gallery and New York's Printed Matter Inc. Also, his work has been featured in publications such as Entertainment Weekly, and his artist book is still raising funds for the organization Life Funds for North Korean Refugees.

Did you know? On midnight of New Year's Eve 2009, Young found a stranger on Craigslist to embrace him for an uninterrupted 24 hours for a performance piece at the Swimming Pool Project Space. Many other strangers joined in for the last 10 minutes.

Reginald Harris, 30, was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago in the Englewood neighborhood. He began his dance training with his uncle and mentor Marshall Lindsey at the age of 5, and started his classical ballet training with former Dance Theatre of Harlem principal dancer Homer Bryant at the age of 14. After graduating from Whitney Young Magnet High School in 2000, Reginald trained professionally at the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle; he joined Ballet Austin in 2002, where he danced professionally for six years.

In 2008, Reginald moved back to Chicago, joining the River North Chicago Dance Company as a company dancer, and joined the dance faculty of the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) when it first opened its doors in fall of 2009. In 2011 Reginald was named the head of the dance cepartment at ChiArts, where he continues to teach and oversee 130 young dance majors.

Did you know? Reginald makes a legendary baked macaroni and cheese.

Ryan Hart, 25, was raised on the South Side of Chicago. He attended South Shore Community Academy; after graduation, he attended the International Academy of Design and Technology, but had to stop school because of what turned out to be the HIV strand that began to infect his system.

At the beginning of the next year, he received an official diagnosis; Ryan was 19 years old and made it his personal prerogative to share his story with those who would listen, educating and advising his peers about the virus; and volunteering for different organizations and events. Five years later, Ryan is fulfilling his dream of advocating to those in need. He is serving as a board member on ACCESS Community Health's Advisory Council and the board council for the AIDS Foundation Chicago's Housing Program. He is also a brother with Theta Chi Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Did you know? Ryan is an artist who has been drawing since he was a toddler. He wants to release a line of fashionable HIV-prevention T-shirts.

Christopher Hongosh, 27, has been a resident of Chicago for three years. He is originally from Cleveland, where he was involved in the planning and execution of that city's Pride festival. Upon arriving in Chicago, Christopher became a volunteer for Howard Brown and its outreach program regarding STI testing.

Two years ago, Christopher took part in Project Wish's HIV vaccine study at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and received a trial vaccine against. Last year, Christopher joined the Ride for AIDS Chicago; he raised $1,300 from his friends and family as well as completed the 200-mile, two-day ride. Again this year, Christopher is partaking in the ride and became a co-captain on Team TPAN.

He has recruited four new riders to ride and has set a fundraising goal of $3,333. On March 29, he held his first fundraiser at DS Tequila and raised more than $3,000 for TPAN.

Did you know? One of Christopher's favorite lines is "If I have five oranges, I eat one, save one and give the other three away," attributed to Cleveland philanthropist Roe Green.

Paul E. Johnson, 29, was born in Virginia, Minn.; ironically enough, he then grew up from the age of 4 in a town called Nevada, Mo. After trying out six different majors at the University of Missouri-Columbia, he decided to move to Chicago to attend The John Marshall Law School.

In addition to writing winning applications for funding and awards from the American Bar Association (ABA) for John Marshall's Diversity Affairs Committee, as a student he founded and has led the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues Network of the ABA's Section of International Law. Issues presented include the systematic abuse of LGBT people under religious legal schemes as well as LGBT asylum under the system of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. His article, "Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a Threat to Human Rights and the Rule of Law," appeared in the April 2010 issue of Africa Law Today.

Paul is currently pursuing non-profit advocacy work and dreams of someday becoming a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department.

Did you know? Paul ran his own business selling books door-to-door during the summer of 2002, and had no idea when he sold books to Trey Anastasio that he was meeting the lead singer of Phish.

Antonio "Apollo" Jones is a young Black gay man whose creative genius and commitment to his community is evidenced not only by his interaction in various youth programming at Center on Halsted and Broadway Youth Center, but also the exemplary deportment he maintains in a community challenged by negative stereotypes of gay youth. Apollo is a graduate of the Center on Halsted's Silver fork program, a 12-week vocational training program for LGBTA adults. He has also been a part of the TPAN program Our Voices Advocating Health (OVAH), and is a current member of the youth-empowerment organization Prodigies of Pride.

Did you know? Apollo is also a writer, rapper and vocalist.

Veronica Lozano, 23, is driven by her passion and rage against heteronormative societal ideals, making this queer Latina a natural to create change. A recent DePaul University alum, Veronica pushes the masses into rethinking what the queer body/ community looks like, intersecting identities of not only sexual orientation, race, gender, and class but also (dis)ability status on a local and national level—being involved with organizations such as the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH) and Advocates for Youth.

She currently holds many titles, such as a bilingual health educator/ HIV tester for the Center on Halsted and a peer (LGBTQ) health educator for Advocates for Youth.

Did you know? Veronica danced with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago for five years.

Jim Merrell, 28 has worked in HIV/AIDS policy and advocacy since 2007. He currently works as national coalition development coordinator at AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). In this role, Jim helps to coordinate the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, a national coalition of individuals and organizations working at the intersection of HIV/AIDS and social justice. He also leads Dose of Change, an evolving project that strives to build the community knowledge and organizing capacity of HIV/AIDS advocates.

Previously, Jim worked as a policy associate at AFC, where he was charged with leading the organization's statewide grassroots organizing efforts. As resident "tech nerd," he has helped to integrate new technologies into AFC's policy work, including electronic advocacy systems, virtual trainings and an ever-expanding list of websites.

Did you know? Jim is a Pisces, loves to sing and holds a B.A. in political science from Northwestern University. In addition, he can do a good impression of Chewbacca from Star Wars.

ellie navidson, 25, (who identifies as genderqueer) moved to Chicago as a youngster, growing under the influence of the punk scene and becoming deeply passionate about issues of social justice. It went to the University of Illinois at Chicago and received a degree in gender and women's studies.

Ze organizes with Genderqueer Chicago, co-founded No Boys Allowed and works on various other safe-space, consciousness-raising and literary projects. He's committed to anti-assimilationist queer politics, radical visibility and brave personal growth. Lastly, she does written explorations of gender and normativity, with a personal blog at .

Did you know? ellie has a freckle in her eye and thinks of it as glitter from God.

Kate Palmer, 29, is a queer, working-class feminist activist originally from the Detroit area. Her work focuses on the intersections of reproductive justice and queer issues.

She received an undergraduate degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and has spent the last 10 years working in reproductive healthcare and HIV outreach and education. Kate is the co-founder of 45 Million Voices, a project to reduce stigma around abortion as well as the co-founder and co-director of the Chicago Doula Circle, an organization that provides doula support for folks going though abortion experiences. She is also a birth and postpartum doula specializing in the needs of queer and trans families. In addition, Kate is currently a board member of the Chicago Women's Health Center and the Chicago Abortion Fund.

Did you know? When Kate was a young child, she was inexplicably fascinated by Pope John Paul II.

Juana Peralta, 28 is a Latina queer organizer. As a core member of the Chicago Dyke March Collective, Juana, has played a pivotal role in the organization of the Dyke March in South Shore and the upcoming Chicago Dyke March in Argyle/Uptown.

Juana was born in Bogota, Colombia; she was raised in New York City and Miami, and attended the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla. Juana helps organize/co-hosts Heavy Rotation, a queer fat/body-positive dance party. Juana writes/collaborates on a queer writing collective/micropress, "Failed Attempt," which she helped founded in 2011. There are two volumes of zines and assorted collected mixed media work.

Did you know? Juana also goes by the stage name of "Jennifer Love Handles" and dreams of attending culinary school one day.

Mugsie Pike, 24, was born in Milwaukee, Wis., but has Chicago roots. Mugsie (who prefers the pronoun "they") went to Northwestern University, where they double-majored in theatre—with a focus on costume design—and gender studies. They wrote an honors thesis on the role lingerie in the construction of gender.

After college, Mugsie combined a love of sewing with a desire to create relevant individual-scale feminist and queer-positive change. With this goal, they studied custom bra-making and started Renegade Lingerie, a purposely inclusive custom lingerie company that makes foundation wear for people of all sizes, genders, abilities and orientations. Mugsie designed one of the first stand-to-pee packing harnesses on the market, and received a Critical Fierceness grant for it. They also co-run the Intersex Chicago group at the Center on Halsted.

Did you know? Mugsie played baritone saxophone in high school and was the only band member crazy enough to march with it.

DiDa Ritz, 26, no stranger to the local or global scene, has been doing drag for five years. DiDa's name comes from her love of model/burlesque dancer Dita von Teese and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Ritz has worked with About Face Theatre; at venues such as the Lakeview nightspots Hydrate and Berlin; has performed at TPAN's Chicago Takes Off benefit; and has worked with celebrities such as Margaret Cho.

Many saw DiDa compete on RuPaul's Drag Race, where the self-proclaimed "Legs of Halsted" placed in the top five.

Did you know? DiDa's favorite place is the Hello Kitty store.

Ricardo Sebastian, 26, launched Luxury Management (LUX MGT) as a fundraising project to support local non-profits through event production and fashion shows in 2008, while he was president of Students in Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University (RMU SIFE).

In less than a year, Ricardo has taken his brand from Chicago to New York and L.A., benefiting such organizations as the American Cancer Society. He is best known for his philanthropic efforts at minibar Ultra Lounge; however, Ricardo also promotes with fashion and art, with the intention to make the rest of the community aware of new members of the LGBT community as they work in their new projects. His work has generated more than $600,000 for Chicago's local businesses and has impacted more than 40,000 people.

Did you know? Ricardo has a purple belt in karate. He chose not to move forward because he didn't agree with the color scheme after purple.

Mike Simmons, 29, hails from the Lincoln Square neighborhood on Chicago's North Side. He attended Amherst College for his undergraduate degree, where he became student body president his senior year and led efforts to launch an on-campus think tank. He also interned for then-Sen. Barack Obama.

After graduating in 2006, he took a job in the private sector before heading to Capitol Hill to staff Sen. Dick Durbin. In 2009, he returned to Chicago to head policy for Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer. Mike also served as curriculum chair for the inaugural class of the New Leaders Council in Chicago in 2010. He now serves as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's policy director.

Mike also served as curriculum chair for the inaugural class of the New Leaders Council in Chicago in 2010. He now serves as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's policy director.

Did you know? He once won an award for riding a unicycle.

Anthony Singleton, 21, began working with Chicago's Taskforce Prevention & Community Services shortly after graduating from high school. Since then he has worked with other organizations such as Project VIDA, Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus and the Chicago Child Care Society.

He now works with the Center on Halsted, where he is working on two grants. One of them involves the Mpowerment project, a peer- and network-based community-level intervention meant to reach African-American and Latino males 16 to 24. Anthony also works on the National Strategy with Youth Pride Services, which highlights what it is like to grow up Black and gay in Chicago.

Did you know? Anthony has more than 25 brothers and sisters.

Donte Smith, 26, is a Houston transplant who has been part of social-justice projects involving issues ranging from labor to transgender/queer rights.

Donte currently works at Heartland Alliance as an HIV prevention specialist. They also serve as a member of the AIDS United AmeriCorps Chicago team that recevied the 2012 Alexian Award of Excellence from the Alexian Brothers' AIDS Ministry for its long-term community courtyard project.

In 2010, Donte co-founded the Black and Brown Punk Show series, which focuses on individuals and communities of color. This fall, Donte will launch HIVoices, a documentary and blog series highlighting the voices of long-term survivors of HIV. As

someone living with HIV since 2009, Donte hopes it will serve as a resource for people newly diagnosed with the virus.

Did you know? Donte is an experienced herbalist, tarot reader, and killer cook whose vegan curried eggplant-pizza recipe has snatched trophies.

Andrew Sobotka, 26, works in IT operations for CSG Media, and serves as the president of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association (CGHA).

A native of Detroit (known as Hockeytown), Andrew graduated from Michigan State University in 2007 with a B.A. in telecommunications. He moved to Chicago and initially worked for Hewlett-Packard, constantly traveling. However, he decided to work for CSG Media in 2009, which allowed him to establish roots in the city.

Joining the CGHA—first as a player, and now as the organization's president—has been one of the more fulfilling pursuits Andrew has experienced. After the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, Andrew invited the team to join the CGHA in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade—an invitation that was accepted and widely covered in local and national media outlets. Since 2010, the CGHA has donated and raised nearly $10,000 for charities such as the Howard Brown Health Center and Chicago Cares.

Did you know? Andrew is a vegetarian and a wannabe urban vegetable farmer. He loves beets.

Brett Taylor, 25, grew up in small-town Indiana and moved to Chicago to attend the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where he graduated with a degree in musical theater.

While in college, Brett began working at Chicago Children's Museum and has been in his current role as special projects coordinator for the Office of the President for the last year and a half. He is an active supporter of the LGBT community as a member of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance's Education and Training Committee as well as at the museum, where he leads the museum's All Families Matter Initiative, a LGBT community-outreach project. He is also active with United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, where he is a member of the external Diveristy Committee.

Did you know? A proud Eagle Scout, Brett has a roller-coaster addiction.

Kyle Thomas, 25, was born in Milwaukee. After years of professional acting, writing novels and plays, and studying psychology, mythology and literature, he co-founded Hesperidian Productions with Jane Morson in 2011.

Hesperidian Productions is a Chicago-based company that produces film, fashion and music. Kyle's leadership as president of the company and his position as film director have led the company to produce an award-winning short film, "Awakening," as well as "Stiletto," which premiered to a crowd of more than 1,000 people in March. Hesperidian is now developing its first feature film, which Kyle will direct; the movie will be produced just outside of Chicago.

Did you know? Kyle wrote his first novel at age 14 after a history teacher confiscated his work during class. She was impressed with his storytelling abilities and took him under her wing, teaching him the "hero's journey."

Shena Willbrant, 29, a passionate activist at heart, spends her days working for the Lesbian Community Care Project and her free time training camp professionals and youth about LGBTQ advocacy.

Shena was born and raised in Battle Creek, Mich. While receiving a bachelor's degree in social work and women's studies from Western Michigan University, she worked in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. She has since settled in Chicago, where she is pursuing a graduate degree at Loyola University Chicago.

Shena unites her love of feminist activism with camp by developing and facilitating curriculum and training materials for the American Camp Association. A fierce advocate for women's health, she also works to connect queer women to health and wellness programs and services by providing outreach at professional conferences, city festivals and local events.

Did you know? Shena's hometown of Battle Creek, Mich.—known as the "Cereal Capital of the World"—hosts her all-time favorite festival, "The World's Longest Breakfast Table" every June. More than 60,000 people join together to eat a community breakfast.

Jenae Williams, 29,a cultural curator for the Chicago queer and lesbian scene for the last 10 years, begs you don't do the math or you will hear the story of her getting kicked out of the Closet by Tabitha at age 17 or rebellious pool games at Stargaze at 19. Currently doing customer service for Stardust at the Berlin nightclub, she has also hosted the only lesbian party on the Halsted strip with Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz at the helm.

Named one of Chicago's "Cultural Curators" by Time Out Chicago and winner of the Chicago Reader's poll for best female promoter in 2011, she tries to organize parties in safe spaces filled with amazing music and welcoming staff. Jenae is a board member of the Chicago Michfest Planning Committee. Over the last two years she has helped 14 womyn receive scholarship tickets to the Michigan's Womyns Music Festival.

Jenae is also involved with Decibelle, an annual not-for-profit, community-based event that features internationally acclaimed and emerging female musicians and artists, educators, activists and community leaders in dozens of events.

Did you know? Proclaiming boldly that she is the most consistently photographed lesbian in Nightspots magazine, Jenae is very proud to be a Boistown lesbian and to be a 30 under 30 winner.

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