GO! Presents 100 Women We Love: Class of 2024

THE CULTURAL ROADMAP FOR CITY GIRLS EVERYWHERE

Class of 2014

100 Women We Love: Class of 2014

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From professors, to musicians, to activists, we present to you 2014’s 100 Women We Love.

Kody Partridge and Laurie Wood

Since last June, when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated DOMA, more than a dozen states have moved to legalize marriage equality. None was more unexpected than Utah. Three same-sex couples, including Salt Lake City residents Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, challenged Utah´s ban on same-sex marriage in the lawsuit Kitchen v Herbert-and won. They married on December 20, 2013, immediately after Judge Robert Shelby ruled Utah´s marriage ban unconstitutional (marriages are currently on hold pending an appeal). It was perfect for both: Kody wore Chucks, and Laurie wore jeans. ″What made it possible to step up and be part of this case is circumstance. We have the luxury of job security, our families have come to their own terms with who we are, and being on the news isn´t going to change much,″ they say. ″We decided we could because so many couldn´t-not because they wouldn´t or didn´t want to, but because circumstances made their stepping up impossible. We are honored that we can do this for the people of Utah.″ Both self-identified ″English geeks,″ Partridge teaches at a private high school and works with students on projects like Habitat for Humanity, while Wood is an Associate Professor of English at Utah Valley University and a director of the Women´s Redrock Music Festival outside Capitol Reef National Park. -KL

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Robin Roberts

We´ve loved Robin Roberts ever since she broke barriers hosting ESPN´s Sports Center and it´s clear she´s only getting more awesome. Within the last few years, the Good Morning America host has opened up about her personal life, particularly her struggle with breast cancer and myelodysplastic syndrome: Roberts´ mother passed away just days before she received a lifesaving bone marrow transplant from her sister. On New Year´s Eve, the best-selling author came out on Facebook, voicing gratitude to those who aided in her recovery, especially her family and girlfriend of a decade. The public response was overwhelmingly positive, and in her newly released memoir, Everybody´s Got Something, Roberts offers a glimpse into her home life with Amber Laign, a New York-based massage therapist. A mutual friend set them up, and as they say, that´s all she wrote. ″I liked the fact that she had no idea who I was. She rarely followed sports, so she never saw me on ESPN, and her office mates at the time watched a different morning show…ouch!″ Roberts laughs. ″When we do go out, Amber is supportive and proud of me, but in reality we are content to be homebodies.″ Brave, inspiring, and a total homebody? Yep, she´s our people. -QW

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Charice

Charice Pempengco, better known simply as Charice, is a YouTube sensation who rose to international fame after being discovered in 2007 by Ellen DeGeneres and later performing on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Within three years, she´d followed that up with a small arc on Glee and debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart with her first international studio album, Charice. Add to these facts that she´s a huge advocate for the LGBT community and we´d say Charice has accomplished a lot in her 22 years! Charice came out very publicly last year during an interview with a Filipino talk show host. When asked if she is a lesbian, she replied ″Yes, I am,″ in her native language of Tagalog. From that moment on, she´s been outspoken about who she is and how she lives her life. ″To those who could accept, and who could accept me, thank you very, very much,″ she stated. ″I just want to say to all of you that I feel very light-that I can leave the house knowing I am not hiding anything.″ Charice can next be seen performing at a June 15 concert in Washington D.C., a fundraiser for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). -CC

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Barbara Hammer

It´s fitting that Barbara Hammer was born in Hollywood, but that´s where the similarities between her film oeuvre and Tinseltown end. The acclaimed visual artist, considered a pioneer of queer cinema, has created more than 80 moving image works over a four-decade career, beginning with experimental films in the 1970s that explored taboo subjects like lesbian sexuality and menstruation. ″I never felt like a kernel in a corn cob, but always different; and experimental film was the most different art form I could find in 1970,″ Hammer remembers. Her films Optic Nerve (1985), Endangered (1988) and Nitrate Kisses (1992) were chosen for the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennials, and more recently, Hammer was honored with retrospective exhibitions at MoMA, the Tate Modern in London, the Jeu de Pomme in Paris, and the Toronto International Film Festival. Her work has earned scores of prestigious awards from art institutes and queer film festivals around the world. Making avant-garde films about marginalized communities and cultures isn´t always easy, Hammer says, but she is gratified by her cinematic legacy. ″I saw a blank screen for lesbian cinema when I was studying film history and I decided to begin to fill it. Being a pioneer is great for career building, but I am so happy that the screen is full and overflowing today.″ -KL

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Sandra Valls

Being a lesbian is never easy in comedy, nor is being a Latina. And if you´re both? Well, you´ve got your work cut out for you. Still, Sandra Valls has never let anything stop her. She performs sold-out shows around the country, appeared in two Showtime comedy specials, and is widely celebrated as one of the world´s funniest lesbian comics. She admits, though, that the journey hasn´t always been easy, particularly considering that she´s never been closeted. ″If you are defining success as fame and money and opportunity, then yes, it´s been quite difficult to ´make it´ as an out lesbian,″ she says. ″But if you´re defining success as fulfilling the mission you were sent to do on Earth-[which for me is] doing what I love, comedy and singing and performing, getting to travel and meet amazing people all over the world who love me, and getting paid for it-then yes, I´m very, very, very successful.″ A passionate activist, Valls uses her success to help others, working on comedy shows to benefit AIDS, domestic violence, LGBT rights and sobriety. Oh, and as if that weren´t enough, she´s an accomplished actor, singer and author, too. Learn more about this very funny (and very busy) lady at her official website, welovesandra.com. -GH

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Mary Lambert

We´ve loved Mary Lambert since hearing her luscious, heartrending vocals on the Grammy-nominated song ″Same Love″ by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. But this gifted singer-songwriter is so much more than the ´hook singer´ from 2013´s gay anthem. Lambert is a staunch advocate for the LGBT community, as well as for victims of abuse. She states, ″When I came out, I had a lot of inner turmoil with reconciling my gayness and my Christianity. I found that when I stopped listening to someone else´s interpretation of the Bible, prayed more and focused on the divinity of writing music, I had utmost clarity.″ The self-acceptance and self-love that she´s acquired since coming out are big themes in her writing, especially her debut EP Welcome to the Age of My Body. At this year´s Grammys, she sang ″Same Love″ with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, joined by Madonna, while Queen Latifah married 33 couples onstage. That´s not easy to top, but Lambert is ardently working on her music and poetry, and she recently performed for President Obama and the First Lady to celebrate the launch of the historic Harvey Milk postage stamp. She´s only 25-we can´t wait for what she accomplishes next! -CC

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YK Hong

A Bed-Stuy resident hailing from Seoul, Korea, YK Hong utilizes her international perspective in her work as an artist, activist and author. Specifically she´s intrigued by subjects like race, liberation, community accountability, migration, gentrification, consumption, anti-oppression and revolution. Hong´s TEDx talk, which can be found on ykhong.com, deals with her unique ideas on mindfulness and creativity. Her creative skills can be seen especially in her artwork, a mixture of traditional Korean techniques and contemporary experimental practices. Hong uses numerous media, ″combining the inherent organic grit of the material with often jarring human-made elements,″ according to her website. She also has done special online projects like 365 Release, in which she gave away one thing a day for an entire year. ″I do what I do out of necessity because I am compelled,″ she says. ″Not creating is not an option. To me, art and activism are inseparable. I have always felt that way. I exist to show people the world can be different, that we can find liberation through both mass rabble-rousing shifts and simple, individual, everyday acts. That´s my activism. That´s my art.″ -GH

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Red Summer

In 2008, Red Summer left a career as a high school and college educator to pursue her dream-to become a full-time performance artist, writer and filmmaker. The decision coincided with her international tour promoting her first book of poetry, First Person, and in 2012, she released her second book of poetry, Raw Sugar. She´s never looked back. Today, this dynamo´s projects involve performance art, activism, motivational speaking, leading workshops, writing and making documentary films, and performing spoken word on issues ranging from gender equality, race and sexual identity to education and relationships. Summer´s recent documentary has won critical acclaim: Al Nisa: Black Muslim Women in Atlanta´s Gay Mecca, premiered in Atlanta last July; it was chosen for the 2013 Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the 2014 Outfest Fusion LGBT People of Color Film Festival, and Frameline 38: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. Summer has spent the past year personally presenting the film at colleges and universities. What keeps Summer motivated for the long run? ″Having someone I´ve never met introduce themselves and say that something I wrote, or a project I worked on, has helped them get through a rough experience in life,″ she says. ″I love doing work that makes a positive impact on the world.″ -KL

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Ann Hampton Callaway

Yes, Ann Hampton Callaway sang (and wrote) the catchy theme song of the ´90s hit TV series The Nanny, but there´s so much more to her than that. The acclaimed jazz and pop performer and interpreter of the Great American Songbook has sung with over 30 of the world´s major orchestras and big bands. She´s collaborated with Cole Porter, written songs for Barbra Streisand, performed for Bill Clinton and received a Tony nomination for the Broadway musical Swing! Of course, she´s also recorded several albums, including At Last, Blues in the Night, To Ella With Love, and the soon-to-be-released The Sarah Vaughan Project: Live at Dizzy´s. At Last was dedicated to her partner, but coming out, Callaway says, ″was a slow evolution. I was out to family and friends when I fell in love with my first female partner, but she wasn´t comfortable with me being out professionally. Finally when I met the love of my life, Kari, it was unquestionably time to come out…Ever since then the inner freedom has been palpable. It has changed how much I own who I am, and how comfortable I am in my bones. I´ve always been an advocate for being your truest self. This brought it into full living color.″ -GH

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Cheryl Clarke

″I am a mannish dyke, muff diver, bull dagger, butch, feminist, femme, and PROUD,″ says Cheryl Clarke, quoting a poster she saw at the 1991 Lesbian and Gay Studies Conference at Rutgers University. The distinguished writer and educator, now retired after 41 years in Rutgers´ administration, is a prolific author of poetry and critical studies from a black lesbian perspective. Clarke cites her groundbreaking essays, ″Lesbianism: an act of resistance″ in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color (1982), and ″The Failure to Transform: Homophobia in the Black Community″ in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (1984) as her favorite achievements. ″One of the happiest moments of my writing life was when After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement was published in 2005. I felt I had made a contribution to Afro-American critical writing,″ Clarke tells GO. The author of four books of poetry and multiple critical essays, and a former board member of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Clarke continues to nurture and inspire the next generation of African-American lesbian thinkers. In 2013, Clarke also received the Kessler Award for service to the LGBT queer communities from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY. What advice does she offer to our community today? ″I say, avoid thinking that the liberal mainstream is enough.″ -KL

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Alexi Melvin

Alexi Melvin spent her childhood moving around the country as her dad, Bob, worked in Major League Baseball as a player and manager. Being exposed to a panoply of cultures and communities led Melvin to decide on a career in film. ″I chose to be a screenwriter and an actor for one simple reason that applies to both paths-to be a storyteller. People go to the movies to be inspired. It is my goal in life to inspire others, and to tell the stories that need and deserve to be told,″ she explains. After moving from Scottsdale, Ariz. to New York City, Melvin learned her craft at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Institute. She´s appeared in commercials, web series, TV, independent films, and featured roles in major motion pictures (Seeking Justice, Time Out of Mind and Gumshoes). She´s now focusing on screenwriting, having earned her Bachelor of Arts from The New School. This powerhouse, a Type-1 diabetic, also serves as an advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Keep an eye for this up-and-comer with her own story to tell. ″Nobody should feel that they are defined by one tiny piece of the puzzle that makes up who we are,″ Melvin advises. ″Love is love. Spread it around!″ -KL

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Daniela Iraschko-Stolz

Competitive ski jumper Daniela Iraschko-Stolz has enjoyed a lot of victories in her life, but this last one has been particularly sweet. The 30-year-old Austrian took home a silver medal in the women´s normal hill event at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Even if she hadn´t medaled, the out athlete still would have scored a huge victory. Iraschko-Stolz, who has been married to partner Isabel since 2013, proved, just by being there, that she wasn´t intimidated by Russia´s fiercely anti-gay climate. She told USA Today that she ″had a very good welcome like every other athlete,″ and said, ″I hope for the future that the people now can see the sport as a chance to change something. That would be nice. Because everyone looks at Russia and its laws, and I think it´s a good idea to change something.″ She seems confident that that change won´t be too far off, either. ″I know Russia will go and make the right steps in the future, and we should give them time,″ she told The Huffington Post. Let´s hope-for the sake of all concerned-that she´s right. -GH

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Edie Windsor

She´s the icon of the marriage equality movement, a petite octogenarian who lent her name to the most important legal victory for same-sex marriage rights in U.S. history. Edie Windsor set out to recoup the estate tax the government levied when her wife, Thea Spyer, passed away and left Windsor her estate-a tax that straight married people don´t have to pay. Her determined fight against the ironically named Defense of Marriage Act made her a household name last June, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA´s Section 3, a statute prohibiting the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages. Since then, six states have legalized marriage equality. Seven have ruled in favor of legalization, specifically citing U.S. v. Windsor. But it´s only the latest chapter in Windsor´s lifetime of groundbreaking, barrier-busting work. As a computer executive in the 1950s, she reached the highest technical rank at IBM as one of few women in the field. She has lent her support, especially in modernizing member databases for the digital age, to dozens of NYC-area LGBT organizations over the past three decades, including the LGBT Center, SAGE and Callen-Lorde. She´s still reveling in the DOMA decision, as she told The Philadelphia Inquirer in April. ″There´s something profound. It´s not just becoming an equal citizen; it´s more than that. It´s like your dreams as a six-year-old, suddenly they´re all real.″ -KL

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Jennifer Howd

These days, the multitude of distractions in our lives (hey, over here!) can overwhelm us, even prevent us from reaching our full potential. Filtering out the noise is Jennifer Howd´s specialty. The Los Angeles-based writer, creative producer and mindfulness facilitator helps regular folks connect with themselves, a practice that´s much easier said than done. Howd offers mindfulness classes, workshops and personal guidance to facilitate mindfulness as a way of life based on her studies at UCLA´s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. ″I love that my work gives me the opportunity to help people take a pause and connect with themselves. In this hectic world we live in-there´s nothing more important,″ she says. Howd explains her own journey in her book, The Mindfulness Diaries: How I Survived My First Nine-Day Silent Meditation Retreat. She also contributes to The Huffington Post, where she shares advice for living life in a state of blissful awareness. She adds, ″When I first moved to Los Angeles, I ran into Melissa Etheridge outside a toy store in Beverly Hills. I mentioned how appreciative I was of what she´s done for the LGBTQ community and asked her if she had any advice for me moving forward. She looked me right in the eyes and said these two simple words: ´love yourself.´ I think that´s the best message I could possibly pass along.″ -KL

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Heather Cassell

Heather Cassell is a freelance journalist and travel writer who founded the online women´s travel magazine, Girls That Roam, in 2012. Her passion for writing is heavily focused on LGBT issues, as she´s been covering our interests for more than 20 years! Five years ago she began her roaming adventures in Israel, Central America and around the United States, and the seed for Girls That Roam was born. In addition to Girls That Roam, Heather covers women´s issues, health and LGBT business news for The Bay Area Reporter. She´s also the marketing and sponsorship director of EDEN Pride Events, an event and lifestyle company that produces events for women and their friends. Heather considers the most rewarding aspect of her career as ″meeting all different kinds of people and traveling.″ She feels especially lucky to be able to do it with her partner, Geena Dabadghav, aka ´Super G.´ Heather says, ″It´s my goal to promote and help women to travel. Travel is not only fun, but it´s one of the most eye-opening experiences in life. I honestly believe if women travel and connect with each other, we can make the world a better place.″ -CC

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Antigone Rising

Antigone Rising is one of the hardest working bands out there-tirelessly creating, producing and performing their music independently. The New York-based, all-female, boot-stompin´, alt-country-rock quartet is comprised of sisters and founding members Kristen Ellis-Henderson and Cathy Henderson, along with lead singer Nini Camps and drummer Dena Tauriello. Cathy Henderson says of the band´s independent nature, ″The great thing is that as a band and [as] artists, we can take that control back and market ourselves how we want to. In this day and age, you can have a very successful underground career without having that defined commercial success.″ Currently on tour in support of their newest EP Whiskey & Wine, Volume 1 (Whiskey & Wine, Volume 2 comes out later this year), the band is trekking across the country to play for their devout fans, and they love doing it, living up to their motto ″play better than the boys, and make sure the fans feel like part of the family.″ Kristen Ellis-Henderson recently told GO, ″New York shows are always fun for a million reasons… being home and playing for the hometown crowd, it´s just so cool. But I love when we go out on the road, and we´re far from home, and I´m so glad and grateful that people come out to our shows.″ -CC

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Ellen Page

As if we needed one more reason to be obsessed with Ellen Page, our girl came out this year on Valentine´s Day-and not on Twitter or Facebook, but with a raw, powerful speech to a crowded ballroom at an HRC conference to support LGBT youth. ″It was definitely one of the most nerve-sort-of-wracking moments of my life,″ she says. ″And at the same time I was just so excited and thrilled to be at a place where I was ready to do that.″ Page also opened up about the depression she felt carrying that secret, or as she called it, ´lying by omission´: ″I was sad, honestly,″ she says. ″Obviously that´s a very personal thing to say, but I say it to encourage whatever other people are feeling. Very sad, isolated, a lot of anxiety. No more.″ Since then, the X-Men star says she can´t believe how much happier she is now. Kitty Pryde, indeed! Besides carrying blockbusters like Juno and Inception, Page is looking to tell our stories, too. We can´t wait to see her next project, Freeheld, a movie she´s been pushing to make for six years; Page co-stars with Julianne Moore in this tearjerking true story about a New Jersey police officer dying of cancer while fighting to transfer her pension benefits to her domestic partner. -QW

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Gina Yashere

She may not be a household name yet, but British comedian Gina Yashere is quickly getting there. The Hollywood Reporter recently called her ″one of the top 10 rising talents″ and she performed at this year´s The Dinah Comedy Night, along with fellow funny ladies Fortune Feimster and Erin Foley. ″I was always naturally funny as a child,″ Yashere says, ″but I didn´t know I could make a living from it. I thought the people on TV were a special, different brand of people.″ So Yashere worked as an elevator engineer for several years, but ″my spirit eventually dragged me back to where I was supposed to be.″ Not to say the journey was easy. ″I spent years establishing myself as just a funny comedian first before coming out, as I didn´t want to be labeled-not as a female comedian, not as a black comedian, not as a gay comedian.″ The strategy obviously paid off, and that´s something for which Yashere is truly grateful. ″I´m doing something I love doing and people happen to enjoy it, and I get paid. What could be better in life?″ -GH

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Yoruba Richen

What does the African-American community really think about the struggle over gay rights? This was the question Yoruba Richen sought to answer in her latest film, The New Black, a documentary that garnered awards from AFI Docs, Philly Q Fest and the Frameline LGBT Film Festival. The New Black profiles community members with differing opinions about the issue and chronicles the struggle for marriage equality in Maryland. Richen, a former associate producer for ABC News, previously directed Promised Land, about communities battling over land ownership in South Africa, and Sisters of the Good Death, which highlights an annual festival marking the end of slavery. Her passion for documentaries comes from a natural curiosity about the world we live in. ″Documentary film challenges me both artistically and intellectually, and allows me to probe deep to discover why and how things happen,″ she says. ″I love uncovering information and stories that give new insight into communities and events that we often don´t hear about, and shining a light on the vital issues of our time.″ Currently, she is influencing the next generation of documentary filmmakers as a program director at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. -GH

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Katherine Brewer Ball

″Working as a scholar between the disciplines of performance studies, visual art and critical theory, I get to spend my days discussing topics I love with students and colleagues,″ says Katherine Brewer Ball, a Wesleyan University postdoctoral fellow. One of her most rewarding projects was teaching a class called ´Taped in Front of a Live Audience,´ dealing with ″questions of liveness and presence in contemporary performance and video art. In conjunction with the class, I brought in three of my favorite artists (Vanessa Anspaugh, Jibz Cameron and Wu Tsang) to speak, perform and screen work. The students loved it, and it was a treat to have the opportunity to consider an artist´s work in real time.″ In addition to teaching, she´s published in Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory; Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts; and Bomblog-plus, she´s working on a book tentatively titled The Only Way Out Is In: Escape Strategies in Contemporary Art & Performance. In her free time, she helps run a Brooklyn reading series with Svetlana Kitto. ″We´ve hosted poets, performance artists, non-fiction writers, art critics, activists and scholars. The series itself isn´t explicitly queer, but it turns out that there is something pretty queer about most of the work the people we bring in are making.″ -GH

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Sarah Pappalardo

The gay experience has been well-documented by male playwrights, ranging from Harvey Fierstein to Mart Crowley to Terrence McNally, but it can be harder to find the lesbian experience on stage. Enter Sarah Pappalardo, who is bridging the gap with works like Cold, about the conflicts between the older owners and younger patrons of a lesbian dive bar. (It was recently produced in Philadelphia at the Plays and Players Theater.) In addition, Pappalardo is a co-founder of the satirical news magazine Reductress, which is something like The Onion, except for women. ″If anything,″ she says, ″being comfortable in my own skin has affected my success more than being ´out,´ but the two are obviously connected. Being comfortable with whoever you are will bring you more success than hiding it-smart people know when you´re hiding something.″ Pappalardo has had the good fortune to ″work with a bunch of hilarious women of wildly different backgrounds. I get to see how their personal history informs their comedy and their writing.″ Another rewarding aspect to her work? ″I get to laugh a lot and watch bad television.″ Sounds like our kind of girl! -GH

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Sharon Day

At Sharon Day´s coming-out party in 1990, half the attendees were lesbian and white, while the other half were Native American and straight. The guest list demonstrates how Day brings together LGBT people, those with HIV/AIDS, and indigenous groups in Minnesota as a spiritual and community leader. That same year, she left a position with the state to lead the Indigenous Peoples Task Force (then called the Minnesota American Indian AIDS Task Force), where she remains today. ″It was a time when people living with AIDS died with the disease. We looked to our cultural roots to understand death and dying, living and loving,″ Day recalls. She formed a strong link between the LGBT and Native communities by advocating culturally relevant healthcare and equality. Simultaneously, as a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, she convinced the tribe to include sexual orientation in its list of legally protected classes. Day has led three Nibi (″water″) Walks across the country, a ritual in her M´dewiwin faith; in her first, she carried waters from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Superior to honor and heal our environment. ″Caring for the Earth is the responsibility of every single one of us,″ she says. ″We must do this work with love, for the water, for each other and for our Ni Mama Akii, the Earth.″ -KL

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Carly Sakolove

Cabaret connoisseurs and theater scenesters will recognize Carly Sakolove not only for her roles in off-Broadway productions such as NEWSical the Musical and Girls´ Night: the Musical, but also for her viral YouTube videos of Broadway diva impersonations. She does as many as 12 in one take-everyone from Judy Garland to Elaine Stritch. In 2012, Sakolove created and co-wrote her one-woman show I Hear Voices, which played at Joe´s Pub and monthly at the Duplex, garnering rave reviews. Not surprisingly, she feels right at home being gay in the theater community. At 15, Sakolove came home from theater camp and announced to her family that she preferred girls. ″They simply said, ´whatever makes you happy!´″ she recalls. ″I know I am one of the lucky ones and I will never take that for granted.″ Now she´s coming off the nine-month national tour of Mamma Mia! in which she starred as Rosie and made the most of her time on the road, co-founding Cabaret for a Cause, a multi-city event featuring Mamma Mia! cast members that has raised several thousand dollars for The Trevor Project. Beginning in November, you can catch this rising hottie supertalent reprising her Rosie role aboard Royal Caribbean´s newest cruise ship through next June. She offers this advice to other queer creatives: ″The best art you can create is a result of living your own truth.″ -QW

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Blair

At GO, we take our business of scouting for talented babes very seriously, so we´re quite pleased with ourselves for tracking down Louisiana native-turned Brooklynite pop musician, Blair. Growing up in the Deep South, Blair taught herself guitar by listening to John Frusciante´s first solo records, and was soon opening for such uber-cool acts as Cat Power and Bright Eyes. In 2010, she released her first full-length album Die Young. Five years of writing and recording went into this underground gem; you´ve likely heard it without knowing it. Her songs have been featured on HBO´s Girls and ABC´s Pretty Little Liars, as well as several films. For Blair, being out has facilitated authenticity and creativity. ″By coming out, I gave myself the gift of movement. I can think, create and express myself more freely,″ she tells GO. ″This freedom of movement has made my creative process much more fulfilling, and it has given me the confidence to explore different ways of creative expression.″ These days, Blair fronts Future of What, a rad new band whose debut LP Pro Dreams is due out later this year. Whether you´re cooking dinner, making out or trudging home when the G train craps out, this stuff will put you in a smart, feel-good brain space. Check their Facebook page for upcoming shows. -QW

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Glennisha Morgan

If you haven´t seen Glennisha Morgan´s innovative work online or on TV yet, you will soon. This journalist, photographer and filmmaker is an influential voice in online media-and a great example of how to create a career out of your passion. Morgan is the founder and publisher of The Fembassy, a blog dedicated to women MCs. She also contributes celebrity profiles to The Huffington Post, Ebony.com, ELIXHER, Vibe Vixen, Ikons, Autostraddle, AOL and other outlets, and her razor-sharp commentary has been featured on Trace TV, Vibe.com, CentricTV.com and more. Not surprisingly, the website ForHarriet.com named Morgan one of the most inspiring black women in social media-which expands her reach far beyond traditional journalism. She tells GO that being an out lesbian has directly contributed to her success: ″I feel blessed that the intersections of my identities can be expressed in my work.″ But, she adds, ″I don´t equate success to the amount of money that I make or to being well-known. Success, to me, is being able to go after each and every one of my dreams, while being liberated enough to walk in my truth doing so. The fact that I´ve been able to do that feels amazing.″ -KL

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Lindsay Katt

Lindsay Katt is a queer recording artist, writer and film producer who is breaking the mold in pop music-especially with how fans consume her music. Already an established artist with songs appearing on popular TV shows and commercials, Katt´s upcoming album, The Avant-Gardener, is due out in September with a full video ″filmtrack″ to accompany it. The filmtrack will consist of 10 music videos that connect together to create a short narrative film, giving fans an entirely new way to listen to and experience her music. Creating rich, innovative, melodic music comes naturally to Katt, and she´s developed a devoted fan base because of it. She´s also a dedicated LGBTQ activist and has fervently supported her community. She´s performed at the Democratic Convention, DC Pride 2013, and donated all proceeds from her song ″My Home″ to Freedom to Marry. She performs out and proud, and she believes, ″that being our authentic selves is the greatest gift we can give to the world. Be fearless, and when you cannot be fearless, be brave.″ Next on Katt´s schedule? A return to Joe´s Pub on June 15, where she´ll play tracks from the upcoming release and old fan favorites. -CC

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Bianca Kosoy

Based in San Francisco, Bianca Kosoy is an executive creative director (formerly at Equinox), iconoclast, brand evangelist and curator of luxury experiences who redefines the way that brands interact with consumers. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, WWD, Elle, Esquire, Billboard, Forbes, US Weekly, Ad Age, Gotham, LA Confidential, Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times-just to name a few. When she´s not building (or rebuilding) a brand, or shooting in New York and LA, she enjoys riding her Vespa and more than likely adding another tattoo to her already extensive body of work. ″I live my life passionately and unapologetically. I am exactly who I choose to be-like it or leave it. I´m not for everybody, but it works, and I wouldn´t have it any other way,″ she says. ″Whenever you have a strong POV, you have to be willing to risk being a controversial figure and that comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. As a result of taking risks, being provocative and transparent in who you are, both personally and professionally, your work inevitably becomes more powerful, evokes a reaction and leaves its mark on social issues and pop culture.″ -CC

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Sarah Jenny

Sarah Jenny is a one-woman party machine: The Brooklyn resident co-produces the award-winning Hey Queen, co-curates the Brooklyn Pride celebration Everybooty and is an official ″yenta″ at Select All. ″Showcasing new and emerging artists and creating a diverse space that is financially and physically accessible for folks across the LGBT spectrum″ are the most fulfilling parts of her work, she says; while being queer ″means I am committed to thinking about access to the space I help create, to prioritizing trans* and POC artists and performers, and paying everyone involved with our events before considering a profit margin.″ Jenny´s daytime job is in fundraising and marketing, and she calls upon those skills when producing fundraisers for organizations like the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Queers for Economic Justice and the PROS Network. A former organizer for sex workers, she has a deep understanding of neglected communities. ″We have come so far [with the] freedom to marry [issue] in recent years, but we cannot lose sight of the pressing issues impacting the most marginalized among us: transphobia, homeless queer youth, poverty, racism, stigma and violence.″ Certainly something to think about as we enter a new season of Pride. -GH

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Cathy Croghan

Getting old is hard for everyone, but LGBT folks face unique issues when it comes to receiving proper care. Luckily, they have a strong advocate in Cathy Croghan, a public health nurse and geriatric community health consultant. ″My vision for the aging work I do is ´successful LGBT aging´ wherever you live, and that includes general access to high quality, welcoming services that promote healthy aging. Therefore, I have focused my research on understanding the needs of LGBT adults as they age and the readiness of aging service providers to meet those needs.″ As part of her aging work, Croghan was a past founding chair of two groups that work to improve life for gay seniors, GLBT Generations and Training to Serve (trainingtoserve.org). In addition to those groups, Croghan also is on the American Society of Aging´s LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN) Leadership Council, the National LGBT Aging Roundtable and the National LGBT Aging Resource Center´s Advisory Council. ″I believe if you want something done, you should actively work to make it happen…I encourage everyone to look for ways to volunteer. It is good for you. It is good for your community. It will help us all age well.″ -GH

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Cara Page

″As a Black Queer cultural/memory worker and organizer, I want to lift up the legacy of LGBTQGNC and Two Spirit freedom fighters-those who have come before us and those who will return after us-to transform and revolutionize our existence,″ says Cara Page, the executive director of the Audre Lorde Project. This former national director of the Committee on Women, Population and the Environment, and co-founder of the Kindred Collective comes from a long line of organizers and cultural workers ″from the Southeast to the Northeast.″ For more than twenty years, Page has worked for a wide range of causes, including the queer and trans liberation movement, the reproductive justice movement, the racial and economic justice movements, and the National People´s Movement Assembly-all this in addition to being a published Black queer feminist writer and playwright. She thanks her teachers, communities and comrades for the struggle and transformation towards our collective dignity, power, well-being and liberation. -GH

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Anna Hauptmann

Almost nothing´s gayer than Lilith Fair. So it makes perfect sense that Anna Hauptmann, Special Events Manager for The Center, the hub of NYC´s LGBTQ community, started her career there, touring with the legendary concert series as a representative for the Breast Cancer Fund. Later on, she produced shows for out comic Kate Clinton and all-woman group Sweet Honey in the Rock. Hauptmann also worked in corporate life, but found that less appealing. ″It took me a while of climbing the corporate ladder and chasing big money before life taught me that doing work for just money isn´t worth it,″ she says. Today, the rewards of her job go way beyond fattening up her bank account. ″Throwing awesome events where the proceeds go towards fostering the LGBTQ community? You can´t put a price tag on that.″ Something else you can´t put a price tag on? Dreams. And Hauptmann has a huge one for The Center: an ″epic party″ that would involve all the leading nightlife promoters-something, she says, that would be ″all-inclusive″ and ″once in a lifetime.″ Sounds pretty amazing to us! -GH

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Dara Nai

Dara Nai´s first attempt at professional humor writing, ″Ryder Trucks Launches New Ad Campaign to Win More Lesbian Second Date Business,″ led to a regular gig at AfterEllen.com. The Internet proved the perfect platform for combining Nai´s dry, knowing wit and obsession with lezzie media. Between posting scores of articles, Nai starred with Karman Kregloe and Jill Bennett in ″We´re Getting Nowhere,″ AfterEllen´s most-viewed web series. ″WGN was lightning in a bottle,″ Nai remembers. ″Lesbian audiences seemed ready for something new. We were just playing around, mocking The L Word with sock puppets. I had no idea the show would resonate the way it did.″ After a two-year run on LOGO in her subsequent series, ″Dara & Karman´s Hit List,″ Nai turned to writing for scripted TV. So far, she´s worked on a sitcom for Cedric the Entertainer, a new 40-episode comedy series developed for Chinese television, and a ″Weekend Update″-style pilot for BET airing in July. She´s also the head writer on Second Shot, an independent LGBT comedy about a quirky gay bar in rural Ohio. ″I´d love to see ´Second Shot´ go to series, and we´re definitely working on that. Writing a grown-up, LGBT sitcom would be incredibly rewarding. And I would get to write girl-on-girl sex scenes, which wouldn´t suck, either.″ -KL

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Gretchen Wylder

″Musical theatre is gay. I mean, it´s a really, really gay medium, right? And that´s why I love it,″ declares Gretchen Wylder. An actor-singer-dancer-comedian, Wylder moved to New York City in 2010 from Chicago, and in that short time has made a splash on the off-Broadway scene. Most recently, she played a principal role in the musical Til Divorce Do Us Part, which is nominated for a 2014 Drama Desk Award; she also originated the role of Wendy in last summer´s Lesbian Love Octagon. Wylder has an impressive list of projects in the works: her first international tour with a new musical comedy, a one-woman cabaret, and her first starring role in an indie feature film. In her first year in NYC, she competed in the Miss Lez Pageant, which remains one of the highlights of her experiences on the East Coast. Even with her personal success, Wylder realizes lesbian actors still have a ways to go. ″More actors are coming out, but the stigma surrounding queer actors has a strong hold,″ she says. ″The more of us who are out from the very beginning, the more we each take part in chipping away at those stigmas, and making the entertainment industry a more LGBTQ-friendly environment.″ -KL

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Hannah & Maggie

NYC-based duo Hannah & Maggie blend the folk music they were raised on with a modern-day melodic, indie sound. Flattered to be compared to idols Simon & Garfunkel and The Indigo Girls, they love bringing their rabid fan base a sound that´s all their own: harmonious, comforting, warm and sweet. They´re passionate singer-songwriters who are thrilled to share their music with the world. Maggie says, ″It´s safe to say that the most rewarding part of playing music together is the lasting relationships we´ve made with other people along the way. We feel incredibly lucky to have stumbled upon an artistic endeavor that connects us so directly to other people. We´ve been so touched by the support of fans, mentors and fellow musicians that it´s hard to imagine what this experience would be like without their love and guidance.″ What´s next on their schedule? On June 26, they´re performing with a lot of our other favorite LGBT musicians at Posture Magazine Presents: Girl on Girl, A Pride Concert Event. -CC

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Imani Woody, Ph.D.

Caring for our LGBT elders is an obligation that will become more crucial as people live longer. Dr. Imani Woody recognized this fact long ago. She is the founding director and CEO of Mary´s House for Older Adults, a developing LGBT-friendly residential housing community in Washington, D.C.-the culmination of her long career in LGBT and women´s health. Among her career highlights was serving as the director of client services at the Mautner Project, providing educational and direct services to lesbians and bisexual women with cancer. She was also the program manager for the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged and a training specialist for the AARP Foundation. Currently, Woody serves on many boards, including the [D.C.] Mayor´s GLBT Advisory Council, the Older Adults Advisory Council for the Metropolitan Community Churches, SAGE Metro DC, and the LGBT Technology Partnership. Her motivation is simple: ″Eventually, we will all be gay old folks. [When that day comes], I want to live in an environment that respects and honors my life,″ she says. ″I love to see the hope on the elders´ faces when I tell them about the Mary´s House for Older Adults LGBT-friendly residence. We´ve got people who want to be on a waiting list now.″ -KL

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Claudia Cogan

Claudia Cogan describes her coming out as ″slow! I started in college, retreated, and then finally broke through forever at 25.″ In her early twenties, the comic and self-described ″daughter of Laverne and Shirley″ began working in improv, ″a surprisingly heterosexual branch of the theater/acting world. So when I came out, I was a little alone. But it toughened me up for stand-up, when I´m often not just the only gay person but the only woman on a lineup.″ That tough attitude has served Cogan well: In addition to being featured in New York and Time Out New York, she has appeared as a semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing; at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival; the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival; in clubs throughout the country; on YouTube´s Official Comedy Channel; and on Rooftop Comedy. This June, you can catch her on VH1´s I Love the 2000s, another in the series of pop culture specials that make fun of various decades. Of course, none of this would be possible without the fans, and so, when asked what message she wants to send to the LGBT community, Cogan says, ″Thank you. Your support keeps me going.″ -GH

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Sabrina Dirks

Self-taught fashion designer Sabrina Dirks is a real wunderkind. Growing up in a small German village, Dirks never felt like she fit into the common standard of feminine beauty displayed by the women around her. She loved sneakers, short tousled hair, and simple, comfortable clothes. When she couldn´t find apparel that she wanted to wear, she made it herself. In 2011, she founded the fashion label NJULEZZ, Europe´s first queer fashion house employing LGBT graphics and authentic models. Since debuting at the huge Christopher Street Day festival in Cologne that year, Dirks´ boyishly tailored shirts and hoodies have garnered fans around the world-from the U.S. to Australia. Germany´s leading lesbian magazine L-Mag featured the label on its cover, and Dirks (who runs the line with her fiancee, Kathi Lindner) plans to market directly to LGBT Pridegoers this summer. Dirks and Lindner are fascinated by the idiosyncratic fashion of the LGBT scene, which they say develops completely independently of the mainstream and is constantly reinventing itself. ″A lesbian as a trendsetter is not as unusual as it was five years ago-and we want to be right at the heart of the action.″ -KL

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Bria & Chrissy

Bria & Chrissy are one of the Internet´s biggest success stories. As YouTube´s most-viewed lesbian couple, they´ve garnered over 30 million views and 200,000 subscribers. They keep audiences coming back for more with uplifting songs and humorous skits, but even more important, they aim to change minds. ″Whether it´s giving a homophobic person a new perspective or showing young people that it is okay to be themselves, we feel so lucky to have a platform that allows us to make a difference,″ they say. ″We take that honor very seriously.″ In November they released the album Face Your Fears, which tells love stories in an honest way (in other words, no awkward pronouns). Clearly, they´ve come a long way from the old days when they were struggling to forge creative paths. ″Our channel has allowed us to sing, act, perform and most importantly evolve. Our dreams come true with each new video we put out.″ (You can see those dreams coming true for yourself at their official YouTube site, youtube.com/user/BriaAndChrissy). -GH

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Patricia Racette

Soprano Patricia Racette has thrilled thousands with her performances at the Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Royal Opera House and the Paris Opera, just to name a few. ″My mantra on the stage is that I must be honest in the roles I portray and be true to the art form that I serve,″ she says. ″That means that I, as an artist, could never lie about who I am, even in a small way. I take that mantra from the stage to my life as a member of our beautiful LGBT community and the greater community at large.″ The talented singer has recently begun expanding her repertoire with the cabaret CD Diva on Detour-but don´t think, even for a second, that she´s leaving opera behind. This summer, she will be back at the San Francisco Opera to play Julie in Show Boat as well as the title role in Madame Butterfly, while next season she will be returning to the Metropolitan Opera in a new production of Pagliacci. For both her personal and professional accomplishments, we say, ″Brava!″ -GH

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Christine Martucci

Christine Martucci is a community favorite and it´s no wonder why. Her passion as a soulful singer-songwriter not only shows in her lyrics and live performances, but also in her efforts to release her music as an independent artist. Because of her unwavering passion, she´s developed just as ardent a fan base, nicknamed the Tucci Train. And the Tucci Train has not disappointed this year-they´ve already donated over $10,000 to surpass her Kickstarter goal to fund her upcoming fourth album, Angels of War, scheduled for release later this year. True to her independent spirit, Martucci believes it´s been important to be an out artist. ″Doors open for you when you see them; doors close for you if you do not believe you are worthy to walk through them…regardless if you are LGBT or straight,″ she says. ″Success will come easy to those who work hard for it, to those who seize opportunities when they come and never think they´re not worthy. So being who I am and honest about who I am has only affected me in a positive way.″-CC

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Mili Dutta

Growing up in India, Mili Dutta didn´t know that anyone else could be queer. Then she saw Martina Navratilova on television with her girlfriend, heard the word ″gay″ for the first time, and confirmed its meaning in a dictionary. Sadly, Dutta realized that she´d never have the freedom to live and love truthfully in her home country-so she studied hard in school with the goal of moving to the U.S. In 1994, Dutta made it to South Minneapolis, carrying two suitcases and $500 in her pocket. Since then, Dutta has advocated LGBT rights and economic development in India while working as an IT consultant. She organizes an annual fundraiser that supports women´s financial empowerment in Assam, and founded Out in the Backyard (OIBY), a grassroots movement connecting LGBT and straight people to neighborhood resources and education. ″In everything I do, I stay focused on a healthy LGBT community in South Minneapolis and women´s empowerment in Assam. These are the two most important areas to my life, my passions,″ she tells GO. The best measure of her success and dedication? Dutta returned to northeast India this year, after a 20-year absence, and organized the region´s first gay Pride event. -KL

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Emilie M. Townes

Emilie M. Townes has broken through significant glass ceilings in her distinguished career in religion and academia. She was the first African-American woman to serve in her current role as the Dean of the Vanderbilt University Divinity School, where she is also the Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society. In 2005, Dr. Townes was the first African-American woman elected to the presidential line of the American Academy of Religion, and then served as its president in 2008. She was also the first African-American and first female Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Yale Divinity School, where she was also a professor. ″I cherish working with very committed faculty, staff and students who do not question the importance of creating a more just world-they try to live it every day. It is rare to find a job that matches my personal commitments so well, yet continues to challenge me to grow and keep unearthing the ways that gender, sexuality, race, class, and more are deeply human things rather than problems or issues we need to hide or disdain,″ she says. A Baptist clergywoman and current president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion, Townes has published widely on Womanist spirituality and continues to study women and health in the African diaspora. -KL

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RainbowDee

It´s important to nurture our LGBT community with a personal touch. RainbowDee takes that mission to heart. ″I love networking, brainstorming and pitching in to help,″ she says. She has parlayed this talent into a popular, free, weekly email newsletter for lesbians. ″RainbowDee´s Coming Events″ lists dances, workshops, support groups and other social activities throughout the tri-state area. Her dedication prompts her to volunteer with homeless LGBTQ youth at Sylvia´s Place and to care for LGBT elders like Gladys Sille, an out poet, artist and dancer known on a first-name basis throughout the community. When RainbowDee noticed Gladys wasn´t receiving proper care at a Brooklyn nursing home, she moved her to a new facility; then asked the court to grant her legal guardianship. RainbowDee visited weekly to ensure it provided a safe, respectful environment for all LGBTs. Though Gladys recently passed away at age 96, ″the warm memories of our friendship remain in my heart,″ RainbowDee says. Many LGBT organizations have recognized RainbowDee´s service to the community, and her photos have been included in the Fresh Fruit Festival´s exhibit ″Lesbian Passions″ at the Leslie-Lohman Gallery. ″I am often blessed with opportunities to serve our community, and for that, I am most grateful.″ -KL

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Lily Tomlin

In the same way people wish Betty White was their grandma, we wish Lily Tomlin was our aunt. An endlessly quotable observationalist, Tomlin has been a staple in American comedy since her first appearance as Ernestine the telephone operator on Rowan and Martin´s Laugh-In in 1969. Four Emmys and two Tonys later, she´s succeeded in every outlet from stand-up to movies, a media powerhouse-due to her unwavering commitment to personal and artistic integrity. In 1975, Time offered her the cover if she´d come out. Offended that it was treated as a bargaining chip, Tomlin declined. Two years later, they gave her the cover anyway. On New Year´s Eve, Tomlin married Jane Wagner, her partner of over four decades. Describing her interest in how journalists and publications have handled the issue over the years, she says, ″Everybody in the industry was certainly aware of my sexuality. In interviews, I always reference Jane and talk about Jane, but they don´t always write about it.″ She and Jane still collaborate creatively, too, and we´re so glad. Last year they worked on An Apology to Elephants, an HBO doc exploring the abusive treatment of elephants by zoos and circuses. Jane wrote it, Lily narrated it, and we recommend it! -QW

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Mira Patel

As one of the few openly gay women of color in the Obama Administration, Mira Patel pushed the United States to champion human rights for all. The Massachusetts native worked on defense and finance policy for Hillary Clinton in the Senate; Patel then advised Secretary Clinton on international gender and LGBT rights issues at the State Department. Patel helped draft the famous speech in which Clinton said ″gay rights are human rights,″ and conceived the Global Equality Fund, a $15 million public-private partnership that supports LGBT advocacy organizations in over 30 countries. ″There is a clear connection between governments and societies who target LGBT people and instability, violence, and repression. Legislative bodies use anti-gay laws to bolster popular support before elections, or to distract from corruption,″ Patel points out. ″Advancing LGBT rights is not only a moral concern, but also a national security challenge for the United States.″ She left the government in 2013 to earn her MBA at the Wharton School, where she continues to focus on public-private partnerships and social justice initiatives. ″I hope the LGBT community comes together as a global force to support the brave activists fighting on the front lines for equality, justice, and human freedom around the world.″ -KL

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Rachael Sage

In her own words, singer, songwriter and producer Rachael Sage´s music is ″at its essence, about transformation and overcoming obstacles.″ Her recently released EP, New Destination, encompasses this core message and redefines Sage´s string-heavy alt-pop in a more adventurous, contemporary setting. Sage has been writing her melodic compositions since she was old enough to reach the piano keys, and has been out and proud since emerging on the New York music scene. She knew she was bisexual from the age of 12, when she didn´t know a word for it existed. As a staunch LGBT advocate, Sage says, ″I think the LGBT community reflects the most brave, beautiful, ambitious, creative and diverse qualities of our larger society. I am continually inspired by, and grateful for the work that has been done so that I can get up on a stage most places in the world and sing whatever is in my heart, freely. I hope I can keep helping to make that a reality in more and more of the world, in my own small way!″ Sage will be performing during Pride at the RAW NYC ″Panorama″ showcase at the Cutting Room on June 27. -CC

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Devon Kirkpatrick

An up-and-coming writer/director, Devon Kirkpatrick is a 2014 fellow at the American Film Institute´s Directing Workshop for Women, where she is in pre-production on the short film Ma/ddy. The story of ″a genderqueer widow [who] carries a child using their late wife´s embryo, creating a family that will forever link them to the love of their life,″ ″Ma/ddy″ is Kirkpatrick´s second narrative film project. Her first script, a queer road trip love story titled Out of Range, was selected as an Emerging Narrative for IFP Film Week in 2012 and in the No Borders category in 2013. ″I want to create diverse stories within the film and TV landscape by writing and directing films such as Ma/ddy and featuring non-gender-conforming protagonists,″ she explains. This former deputy publisher of GO has also forged a career in television, working in various roles on projects like Nurse Jackie, Law and Order and Girlfriend in a Coma. She directed and produced a two-year documentary project for the Centerstone Foundation, a nonprofit organization assisting incarcerated people with addiction or mental illness, before settling into her current role in creative development at Universal Television under Nurse Jackie creator/producer Liz Brixius. -KL

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Dana Goldberg

″I was the youngest child in a single-parent household run by a Jewish mother in which two out of the three kids are gay. I´m not sure I had much of a choice but to go into comedy,″ laughs Dana Goldberg. Since 2003, she´s been mining her rich trove of familial experience to get audiences giggling from Albuquerque to New York to Edinburgh. Goldberg performed as part of the U.S. Comedy Invasion at the world-famous Fringe Festival in Scotland; closer to home, she was a finalist at the Wendy´s Good Taste Comedy Challenge produced by HBO and TBS, and performed at the exclusive San Francisco International Comedy Competition. More recently, Goldberg starred in her comedy special, One Night Stand Up: Episode 4 on LOGO, and began headlining at clubs like the Laugh Factory and L.A. Improv. Perhaps most importantly, Goldberg uses her talent for great causes. ″I´m grateful to be able to have a voice in our community to reach mass audiences through my humor. Over the last four years I´ve helped to raise almost two million dollars for the Human Rights Campaign,″ Goldberg says proudly. ″It feels good to be part of that change, and my comedy has given me an avenue to do so.″ -KL

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Erinn Furey

Luckily for us, Erinn Furey couldn´t decide between music and social work-so she does both. A licensed social worker at Pride for Youth on Long Island, Furey uses creative arts to fuel both therapeutic work and program development with LGBTQ youth. In her 15 years of experience empowering disenfranchised youth, Furey founded a creative literacy program for shelter youth, facilitated a youth-driven Haitian earthquake relief effort, and made it to the semi-finals of American Idol! Now, as Suffolk County Delegate for the National Association of Social Workers, Furey has earned praise from the Born This Way Foundation and will soon be featured on the Emmy award-winning show Nick News with Linda Ellerbee. ″We live in a world where both arts-based programs and mental health services are inaccessible and unaffordable to the people who deserve them-particularly marginalized young people,″ she says of what motivates her. ″It also makes me angry most community arts centers are not truly ´community centers,´ but more so arts centers for the communities that can afford to access them.″ When she´s not on tour with her activism workshop for transgender youth, TransACTion!, Furey works with local theater groups and performs at Pride parades with her band The Free Candy Band. ″I wanted to prove to young people everywhere that they could take the things they love to do, turn them into skills, and incorporate what they love into what they do,″ she says. ″I am living proof it can happen!″ -QW

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Desiree Akhavan

″I´m very bad at almost everything, but telling stories is where I make sense,″ claims Iranian-American filmmaker Desiree Akhavan, whom au courant lesbians will recognize as the co-star and co-creator (with Ingrid Jungermann) of The Slope. That web series, in which she plays a ″superficial, homophobic″ bisexual Brooklynite, showcased Akhavan´s deadpan comic delivery and adeptness at capturing the overachieving insouciance of hipster millennials. At Sundance last January, she debuted her first feature film, Appropriate Behavior, which she wrote, starred in and directed. The autobiographical comedy follows her character, Shirin, as she tries to get over a past lesbian relationship and still live up to her Persian family´s tough standards. ″I make films because I have so much to say and to not communicate those things is painful. I make films because they are seen and can touch people I would otherwise never come in contact with. This is particularly important because stories like mine are usually ignored, and I strongly believe it´s important to be proud and honest,″ she says. Up next for this rising auteur, whom Filmmaker Magazine called one of the ″25 New Faces of Independent Film″? Appearing in the next season of HBO´s Girls. Stay tuned. -KL

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Irma Salvatierra Bajar

Irma Salvatierra Bajar has one goal-″serving the people″-and many ways of accomplishing it. The queer Filipino grassroots organizer and native of Hawaii is the membership program coordinator at the Audre Lorde Project, which serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, Two Spirit, trans and gender non-conforming (LGBTSTGNC) people of color in New York City. She is also the vice-chair of international relations for GABRIELA-USA, the stateside chapter of GABRIELA Philippines, an alliance that advances the struggle of women in the overall movement for genuine democracy and national liberation in the Philippines. Bajar also builds relationships among grassroots women´s organizations for the International Women´s Alliance, a global network that advocates national and social liberation. For her fearless determination to improve women´s lives at home and abroad, Bajar was honored by the Stonewall Foundation this year at its Stonewall Honors gala. But you won´t find Bajar resting on her laurels. She tells GO, ″The time is now for all of us to expand and intensify our collective resilience towards liberation for all oppressed and exploited peoples. We must struggle against injustice, discrimination, exploitation and oppression, because these are all LGBTSTGNC issues that affect our community.″ -KL

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Ingrid Jungermann

″Transforming the dark parts of my brain into something that I, and I hope others, can laugh at″ is the M.O. behind Ingrid Jungermann´s two critically lauded web series, The Slope and F to 7th. The former followed the on-again, off-again relationship between Jungermann and her co-star, Desiree Akhavan, within the lesbian fishbowl of Brooklyn´s Park Slope. F to 7th, a ″homoneurotic web series,″ continues Jungermann´s search for relevance in an evolving gay milieu. Its two seasons have featured turns by New York icons Janeane Garofalo, Amy Sedaris, Gaby Hoffmann, Michael Showalter, Olympia Dukakis and Kristen Connolly. ″I make films and web series that give the LGBT community a chance to celebrate, share and laugh at our imperfections. I believe true equality is achieved only when you share your own insecurities and shortcomings,″ she says. Critics agree. Jungermann is now developing a TV series based on F to 7th and a feature film, Women Who Kill-a crime comedy about love and death-while pursuing an MFA at NYU´s Graduate Film School. Her mix of self-deprecating humor, satire and comic timing, plus her knack for poking holes in the often-silly lesbian zeitgeist, has landed the Brooklyn-based filmmaker on Out´s 100 People of the Year and Filmmaker Magazine´s 25 Faces of Independent Film. -KL

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Christine L. Abbott

According to a 2012 study, only one-third of Americans have a financial plan for their future. That´s where Christine L. Abbott comes in. As the Vice President of Wealth Management at UBS Financial Services, Inc., a global financial services firm, she focuses on financial planning, cash management and retirement planning strategies. Because each customer has a unique set of assets and needs, Abbott develops custom financial plans based on each client´s short- and long-term fiduciary goals. ″I love getting to know my clients personally,″ says Abbott. ″I have the opportunity to not only help with their financial planning, but also to know their families, interests, what they dream about, and what keeps them up at night. I get to travel the journey with them throughout the years.″ She joined UBS after a decade spent leading a national nonprofit organization and earning her Series 7 and 66 securities licenses, as well as life, accident, health and variable life/variable annuity insurance licenses. Outside the office, she volunteers with numerous organizations in her Clifton, New Jersey community. -KL

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Lori Sokol, PH.D.

The movements toward LGBT rights and women´s rights share many goals, but rarely meet to achieve them. Bridging that gap, professionally and personally, is Dr. Lori Sokol. An educational psychologist, writer and speaker, she´s dedicated to building awareness of gender equality, gay rights and the needs of working women. Sokol is the publisher of Work Life Matters magazine, which issues an annual list of the most LGBT-friendly workplaces; host of the radio show of the same name on 1490AM WGCH; and author of The New Future of Work. As a consultant, she helps businesses address LGBT workplace equality, flexible working solutions and other challenges in the 21st century economy. ″I continually provide a different spin and angle on issues to help people see them in a different light. This is particularly important when trying to break through discriminatory and stereotypical ways of thinking,″ Sokol explains. Not bad for someone who only recently came out-in The Huffington Post, no less. ″I waited to do so until my son came out, since I didn´t want to influence him in any way,″ she says. ″Still, after being married to his father for close to 20 years, I was concerned about how he would handle it. But he simply responded, ´Mom, I always knew you were a lesbian!´″ -KL

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Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara would really love to stop talking about gay stuff. Not because they´re not loud and proud, but because they feel it´s not unusual to be out in showbiz anymore. ″Our music [is] what people are mainly focused on,″ the twin musicians told Canada´s Global News last month. Yet, they realize their 15 years in the spotlight has made them into role models for people who don´t have the freedom to live openly. ″We´ve accepted that that´s going to be a big part of what our band is-hopefully bringing hope and change to people everywhere,″ said Tegan. They have an enviable platform for that. In March, the Quins won Junos (Canada´s version of the Grammy) for Single of the Year (″Closer″), Pop Album of the Year (Heartthrob) and Group of the Year. Fresh off that success, they headlined The Dinah in Palm Springs in April, and will perform at WorldPride in Toronto this June. They´ll continue touring for the rest of this year, and then buckle down to write and record their next album, slated for 2016. Said Tegan, ″We have a lot of collaborations in our back pockets [that are] going to be coming out over this year and next year, so [fans are] still going to be getting a lot of Tegan and Sara.″ -KL

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Cheryl Maas

A few memories stand out from this year´s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The gorgeous, orange-clad Dutch team dominating events like speed-skating, snowboarding and cross-country skiing is one; another is the display of defiance by the handful of openly LGBT athletes who protested Russia´s harsh anti-gay ″propaganda″ law. Dutch slopestyle snowboarder Cheryl Maas put herself right in the crosshairs. Maas, who reached the slopestyle semi-finals but didn´t medal, was the first athlete to give Russian president Vladimir Putin the proverbial middle finger on international TV: after a qualifying run, she thrust her gloves emblazoned with rainbows and unicorns at the cameras. The gesture was unmistakable, since Maas had criticized the choice of Russia as the Olympic host prior to the games. ″The International Olympic Committee should not select countries where certain groups are excluded, as is the case in Russia. By choosing Russia, the IOC is taking a step back in time,″ the two-time Olympian told a Dutch newspaper last year. Maas is married to and has a daughter with fellow Olympian snowboarder Stine Brun Kjeldaas. -KL

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Djuan Trent

Guess what? Beauty pageant contestants can be queer, too! Djuan Trent, the stunning 2010 Miss Kentucky and 2011 Miss America semi-finalist, proved that when she made history by coming out on her blog this past February, prompted by the battle over same-sex marriage in her home state. Says Trent: ″I never thought that I would see the day that I would live out comfortably…I remember being younger and feeling so envious of other young people who were living in their truth, and I could only hope that I would have the courage to do so one day.″ Now that that day has come, Trent is using her fame in positive ways. She talks to audiences about self-esteem, goal-setting and queer identity; she also works with organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, Dare to Be Bold and Southerners for Freedom to Marry (where she is co-chair). ″I feel blessed to have been so well-received by the LGBTQ community and allies. I strive daily to live my life in a way that will inspire others, in everything that I do…Now that I am out, I feel limitless and boundless.″ -GH

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Vala Durvett

While working in nightlife might sound like a dream gig to some, it isn´t for everyone, warns Vala Durvett. ″There are certain qualities one must have to be in the nightlife business… Most people prefer to attend parties rather than work at them, but not me. I actually feel uncomfortable, like I should be doing something.″ Durvett has been ″doing something″ for over a decade now, starting at Crobar where she was a bottle service host. Today, at 29, she runs The DL, one of New York´s top rooftop lounges; she also launched and manages the party series Lurk. ″I like to select four to five DJs, all different in culture, personality and sound, who would normally throw their own parties. By bringing them together at Lurk, I am giving you a taste of the whole community, the L, G, B and T. I want people to feel comfortable with one another, but I also like to encourage people to get out of their shells a bit more.″ Durvett, who married French journalist Marie Rousseau in 2013, says her home life is one of the major keys to her success. ″When you work in nightlife, it´s important to have someone at home to ground you. My wife is my stability. I´m very blessed.″ -GH

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Vanessa M. Brown

Senior Pastor Vanessa Brown is a voice of empowerment for anyone who has ever felt rejected by their religion. ″I want the LGBT community to know that we are the most resilient, innovative, creative, talented and spiritual beings on the planet,″ says the native New Yorker. Her positive influence is felt far beyond the ″radically inclusive″ ministry at Harlem´s Rivers @ Rehoboth and Rivers of Living Water, Newark, NJ. Brown has recently been given the title of Episcopal Liaison of the North East Region of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. ″The most rewarding aspects of my work as a spiritual leader in the community are seeing when people begin to truly reconcile their spirituality with their sexuality, live in their authentic truth, love the God of their understanding, and realize it´s not about religion [as a whole, but] about their relationship [with God],″ she says. When it comes to equal rights, she is a firm believer that we must work hard and sometimes sacrifice in order to achieve our goals. ″Freedom is not really free. There is a high price to pay. Let´s ensure that all of us are living in our freedom to be. We are far greater together than we are apart.″ Now, can she get a hallelujah? -GH

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Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers

In 2013 Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers changed the course of marriage equality in Idaho when they, along with three other couples, filed and won a case that argued that Idaho´s marriage laws were in violation of the U.S. Constitution. ″When we first considered being a part of this lawsuit we were fairly convinced that there was no way that we would win, and that Idaho would be among the last states to grant marriage equality,″ they said. ″But when we were sitting in the courtroom listening to the arguments from both sides it became exceedingly clear that the state´s arguments against us were completely without merit…It was then that we began to believe that not only was there a chance that we could win, but that we were absolutely going to win.″ While Latta and Ehlers are obviously thrilled that they won, they know that there´s still plenty of work to do. ″The momentum of this fight has taken on a life of its own, and it´s not going to stop; we´re not going to stop, until everyone across the country has marriage equality.″ -GH

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Jennifer Knapp

It´s never easy to come out, but it requires a special brand of courage if you´re a Christian music star. Jennifer Knapp, who revealed her orientation in 2010, possesses that special brand of courage in spades. Still, she says, ″I underestimated how damaging and volatile Christians can be towards the LGBT community.″ Others, however, were far more understanding-the revelation did not affect relationships with family or friends, nor did it spell the end of her career. In fact, her 2010 album Letting Go debuted at number 73 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart. In 2011, she began Inside Out Faith, an advocacy organization for LGBT people of faith. She has a new album coming out later this year, and this October, she will be releasing her memoir, Facing the Music: Discovering Real Life, Real Love and Real Faith. But as fantastic as all those accomplishments are, they still pale in comparison to the larger victory. ″I am proud to be me,″ says Knapp. ″To be able to say that, unashamed, everywhere I go-that´s a kind of success that keeps you going.″ -GH

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Maria Bello

Maria Bello joined last year´s class of newly out celebrities with a thought-provoking essay for The New York Times in November. In the Modern Love article ″Coming Out as a Modern Family,″ the 47-year-old actress, famous for her roles in Prisoners, Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2 and ER, happily revealed she was in a relationship with media executive Clare Munn. ″She is the person I like being with the most,″ Bello wrote, ″the one with whom I am most myself.″ The essay also focuses on the difficulties Bello faced outing herself to her son and family, as well as her unease with the traditional definition of the word ″partner.″ Bello believes the title shouldn´t be reserved just for the person she´s romantically attached to, but rather expanded to include other important figures in her life: ″Whomever I love, however I love them, whether they sleep in my bed or not, or whether I do homework with them or share a child with them, ´love is love.´ And I love our modern family.″ Though Bello was fearful the outing would harm her career, this appears not to be the case: Look for her in Disney´s sports drama, McFarland, due out later this year. -GH

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Marianne Rafter

Beauty and fashion photographer Marianne Rafter chased her dreams all the way from north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, where she was born, to the capital city of Oslo, to NYC´s Parsons The New School for Design. Her long migration certainly has paid off; since graduating, her luminous portraits, fashion spreads, food photography and travel imagery have appeared in top-tier magazines and books. Dividing her time between the U.S. and Europe, Rafter counts The New York Times, MoMA, Wine Spectator, Time Out, Eating Well, Fitness and the Manhattan Athletic Club among her stateside clients. She also works with European companies like Bie Produksjon and Proactima, both in Norway. Though the fashion and beauty world has a reputation for snobbery, Rafter is refreshingly honest about the advantage that being a lesbian in the industry has given her. ″Being gay is an asset,″ she reports, ″so I could not have found a more supportive and accepting environment to work in. [Because of that,] I´m able to express myself visually and to make a living from the freedom and joy of creativity. And, of course, photographing beautiful women is always a huge perk!″ -KL

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Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene

Does Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene ever sleep? That´s the question you have to ask yourself after reading this young woman´s impressive resume. She´s a performance activist, poet, dancer, essayist, playwright, actress, video artist and mixed-media visual artist who has toured with one-woman shows, produced art exhibitions, written and directed poem videos, published chapbooks and released a music and poetry album. ″Poetry is my first language and is the most natural way for me to express my soul,″ she says. ″Poetry opens our hearts in ways that few things can and is a powerful space within which I express truths that provide room for the liberation of all our spirits.″ This summer she´s releasing her first novel, For Sizakele, and has plans for a second album of poetry, Nigerian Dyke Realness, in 2015. Says Etaghene, ″The most rewarding thing about my work is that I get to inspire people, put light in their eyes, and affirm the feelings inside them that they didn´t know someone else felt. That´s an amazing feeling.″-GH

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Julie Goldman

What were you doing in high school? Chances are, it wasn´t stand-up, but then again, we can´t all be Julie Goldman. From that early start, this amazingly talented actress/writer/producer has gone on to headline comedy shows; star in major cable network specials (on LOGO, Showtime and Comedy Central); and appear in numerous films and TV series, such as The People´s Couch, Roomies, Weeds, The Big Gay Sketch Show and Out at the Wedding. If you haven´t seen her riotous one-woman show Lady Gentleman, or her sidesplitting web series In Your Box Office (co-starring creative partner Brandy Howard), you´re missing-literally-two of the funniest experiences in life. Despite her lengthy list of credits, there are challenges Goldman has faced as a butch lesbian in the entertainment industry. ″I don´t think sexuality in general affects people´s careers unless you look a certain way, [but] I am a masculine lady gentleman, and that has absolutely been a blessing and a curse. I wouldn´t change a thing, though, and I feel very grateful for having learned and experienced everything I have-the good, the bad, and the manly-due to the way I look.″ Anyway, she says, ″at this point, there´s no turning back because I have no other skills.″ We´re so glad! -GH

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Hannah Thomas

Hannah Thomas might be found under guitar-based roots music on iTunes, but this Georgia-based singer-songwriter can´t be pigeonholed. She adds other genres to her mix: ´70s rock, a little punk, blues and a dash of country. The hardworking musician played more than 200 shows in the past 18 months, in countless venues, and still had energy to record seven tracks for her newest EP, Goodbye on Wasted Time. Dedication, and being true to herself, have endeared her to fans across the country. ″I feel like being honest has helped me connect to my fans in a more real way. When I quit filtering my writing process and began to write the things I was feeling, I believe all my fans-gay and straight-could tell. They began to relate to my music more because it came from the heart,″ she tells GO. Thomas has shared bills with the Indigo Girls, Don Dixon & Marti Jones, Danielle Howle, Michelle Malone, Antigone Rising, Zac Brown and many more, but her biggest stage might have been the halftime show during an Atlanta Falcons/ Green Bay Packers game at the Georgia Dome. In addition to her upcoming tour dates in the southern U.S., Thomas will perform solo and with her band at Knoxville Pride (Jun 21), a Gay Games event in Akron (Aug 14) and Key West Women´s Week (Aug 31-Sept 7). -KL

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Laura Laing

″I sucked at math in school. Turns out, all I needed was a super teacher to help me realize that I have a pretty decent math brain,″ says Laura Laing, a freelance journalist and author of Math for Grownups. After four years of teaching math at a Virginia high school in the early ´90s, she realized her need to come out wouldn´t jive in the rural community-so Laing left the school and returned to her first passion, writing. ″Writing is teaching, and in the end, I´m all about turning complex ideas into easy-to-digest stories,″ she tells GO. As a freelancer, Laing wrote school curricula and contributed to national publications like Parade, Parents, Pregnancy and The Advocate before publishing Math for Grownups in 2011. Yes, Laing has a degree in mathematics-but the purpose of her book is to convince readers that they don´t need a degree to understand and appreciate its principles. Contrary to popular belief, there´s no ″math gene.″ To prove it, Laing followed up with Math for Writers, a guide for the group even less attuned to logic than the average adult. Says Laing, ″My main purpose is convincing people that math isn´t all that bad, and that girls have kick-ass math brains.″ -KL

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Lynda Marin

In her native Puerto Rico, Lynda Marin came out in the ´80s, a time when being out was not as socially accepted as it is now. It took courage, but Marin was only acting upon her foundational philosophy: ″Believe in yourself, and don´t focus on fulfilling others´ expectations.″ Now, as a licensed psychologist in Puerto Rico, a certified hypnotist in the U.S., and a contributor to the bilingual magazine My LifeStyle, Marin helps others face their personal challenges and live fuller lives. This recent transplant to New York works with clients at her lower Manhattan hypnotherapy practice, where she leads sessions in English and Spanish. Marin is careful to explain what hypnosis isn´t-it´s not a trance in which a client hands over mind control to the therapist. Instead, Marin uses hypnotic techniques to accelerate treatment. That approach has helped people overcome anxiety, stress, addiction or relationship problems, as well as reach goals like smoking cessation. She also assists LGBT clients in working out issues with sexual or gender identities. ″It is not how people see us, but how we see ourselves. We need to improve our self-esteem and celebrate the diversity in our community,″ says Marin. -KL

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Kat Holmes

Talk about an overnight success! SUBMERGE, Australian writer-producer Kat Holmes´ very first feature film-her first film, period-premiered in more than 30 festivals around the world in 2013. The story follows a female student-athlete who must choose the right paths in love and life, despite the lure of instant gratification. Its star, Lily Hall, won multiple awards for her portrayal of this complex and driven character. Holmes stayed motivated throughout the long, and at times arduous, indie filmmaking process: ″I wanted to bring stories with queer characters to the big screen; and portray a multidimensional, relatable experience.″ Prior to SUBMERGE, Holmes had a successful career in the corporate IT sector, but felt drawn to filmmaking back in 2004 when she started writing stories for mainstream audiences that contained queer characters just as a matter of course. ″I guess I wanted to contribute to the LGBT cultural landscape.″ Holmes says. The highlight of 2013 for Holmes was being able to attend screenings of SUBMERGE at festivals and engage with audiences. Her next project? Developing a lesbian version of the 2009 rom-com He´s Just Not That Into You. SUBMERGE is currently available on iTunes. -KL

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Rea Carey

″I came out when I was 16 years old in the ´80s, right as the AIDS crisis was exploding,″ remembers Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. ″A lot of my friends died, and it completely shaped my sense of purpose, commitment and vision of us as a community.″ She led the Lesbian Bisexual Alliance while a student at Smith College, then worked as an AIDS educator, lobbyist, and activist in ACT UP/DC. In 2004, she joined the Task Force, the national progressive LGBT advocacy organization, as deputy executive director. She´s held the top role since 2008 and helped to orchestrate the historic shift toward LGBT rights in the military, the workplace and marriage. Carey counts the passage of federal hate crimes and domestic violence laws, achieving marriage equality in a record number of states, and hosting the annual National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change among the Task Force´s successes under her leadership. Says Carey, ″What we are really after is lived freedom. The freedom to walk the streets holding hands without fear, the freedom to be fully out in every single minute of every day, the freedom to proudly say, ´one´ when we check into a hotel and are asked if we want one bed or two. We will reach that freedom!″ -KL

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Amy Christopher

Amy Christopher comes from a family who were all involved in show business. Unlike her sister, actress Kate Burton (Scandal, Greys Anatomy), Christopher chose a position behind the scenes as a casting director. For years, she worked for places such as the Roundabout Theatre Company, the Williamstown Theatre Festival and Fox television, and has just launched her own casting business along with fellow casting director (and actor) Marcia DeBonis. Christopher runs the Tape Room, a New York-based casting company that also gives actors a professional location to do their auditions and provides them with coaching services. DeBonis and Christopher boast an extensive, combined experience of more than 25 years, so they know how to get the most out of an actor for an audition. Christopher says the most exciting aspect of her job is ″working with actors. That has always been my favorite part of casting, working with actors and helping them-as much as I can-get the role they are coming in for.″ And because she comes from an acting family, Christopher knows just how difficult auditioning (and the acting life in general) can be, ″so,″ she says, ″I vowed when I got into casting that I would always have a warm and welcoming room for them to come into.″ -GH

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Julia Weldon

″Music was endlessly important to me from a young age,″ says indie-folk pop artist Julia Weldon, ″but sometimes it´s scary to actually strive to do what´s closest to our hearts.″ Thankfully, Weldon got over that fear and, since 2008, has released two albums. Her latest, Light Is a Ghost, aims to recreate ″the feel of the open road on a late summer evening.″ Praised for her authenticity, Weldon is proudly out, but she doesn´t want people to focus only on that. ″I have people of all kinds come up to me after a show and say they can relate to my songs, which is really the best compliment. On the flip side, I play for queer college groups all across the country, and it´s so meaningful to connect with queer youth and use music as a way to be a strong, unabashedly out role model for them.″ Weldon is also a role model for anyone wanting to follow a dream. Early on, she says, ″things picked up speed and it was clear that I should follow this path. I perform and make music because I can´t imagine doing anything else. It´s a passion in life, and more and more, it feels like a calling.″ – GH

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Jacqueline Gares

″I always had a camera and was documenting my surroundings,″ says Jacqueline Gares. The filmmaker´s latest project is FREE CeCe, a film that focuses on CeCe McDonald, an African-American trans woman who was arrested for acting in self-defense and served time in a men´s prison. ″As the gay community continues to gain ground with marriage equality, we need to acknowledge the injustices faced every day by the trans community for just being themselves.″ It´s a struggle Gares can relate to. ″I remember being dragged out of the closet by my fierce Italian grandmother. It was rough but she taught me to be true to my word and my convictions…Thankfully, we were able to get back together as a family…I was 19 and my grandparents helped me go to college and graduate school, which changed my life.″ Following college, Gares worked on PBS´ POV and IN THE LIFE, and says, ″I became a storyteller because I witnessed the power of the personal voice. I was inspired to tell human stories and reveal commonalities so people could relate and open their minds.″ Hopefully, FREE CeCe will open minds-and hearts-when it is released. You can get updates on the film´s progress at freececedocumentary.net. -GH

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Sara Sugar

Sara Sugar is a multimedia journalist who is tirelessly working to bring the queer women of New York City together through the launch of Project Q. The platform combines in-person events with strong online social engagement to connect queer women throughout the city. With Project Q, Sugar brought us the ″Queer Women Kissing″ video that has received more than 140,000 views on YouTube. It launched an enormously successful spin-off event over Memorial Day weekend-the ″Meet Your First Kiss″ party. ″There aren´t enough resources out there for queer women,″ she says. ″I´ve known for a very long time that I wanted to change that, to help serve my community. Nothing makes me happier than finally being able to do just that.″ Sugar has accomplished a lot in recent years. She´s a 2013 graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and a former fellow of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. In 2014, she was one of only two recipients of the J. Douglas Creighton Scholarship, funded by Digital First Media CEO John Paton. She´s also proud to announce her new job as associate publisher of PinkNews. Those who have worked with Sugar and utilized Project Q know that her successes are sweet, just as her name suggests! -CC

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Kay Floyd

Kay Floyd made history in 2012 by being the first out lesbian to be elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Her priorities are strengthening the state´s education system and improving conditions for Oklahoma´s women. Among the bills she has authored include ones that give suicide prevention assistance in schools and stop domestic violence. ″The most rewarding aspect of my work is making a difference in a state where we are ranked second in the nation as the toughest place to live if you´re a woman and second to last in the nation for the number of women in office,″ she says. ″From passing legislation to helping victims of domestic violence to working on suicide prevention in our schools, I am proud to lead the way in lifting up women and children.″ The former Administrative Law Judge for the state of Oklahoma also makes the most of her spare time as a member of three separate committees within the Oklahoma Bar Association, as well as volunteering on the Citizens Action Committee for the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter and sitting on the Board of Directors of Oklahoma´s Lyric Theater. -GH

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Katrina Del Mar

High-contrast living? Katrina del Mar practically invented that concept. In her photography, independent films, poetry and multimedia collaborations, this award-winning artist has created a visual encyclopedia of queer, feminist, lowbrow iconography. ″I´m not jaded. I still get excited for Pride; I´m still on a mission to promote lesbian visibility, feminism, queer rights. I´m still on a mission to push myself in creative work, because if I don´t do it, it may never happen,″ she says. Called ″the lesbian Russ Meyer″ (it´s a compliment), del Mar has shown her critically acclaimed Girl Gang Trilogy of films at international venues, including the Museum for Contemporary Art in Bordeaux, the Fringe Film Festival in London, Reykjavik´s Bio Paradis and the MoMA Dome 2 in NYC´s Rockaway Beach. Over the past year, she´s held two solo photography shows: Girls Girls Girls at Participant Inc and Summer Sang in Me at Strange Loop Gallery, both in NYC. This summer, she´ll present paintings, photos, readings and music in Provincetown, MA. And if that wasn´t enough, del Mar is taking up writing again. ″It started with poetry a few years ago, just these blurts. Now I´m adapting my Girl Gang Trilogy into novels,″ she reveals. ″I figure why not: life is short, might as well make a mess.″ -KL

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Raven-Symonê

First of all, it must be said that GO staffers have always lauded That´s So Raven as supremely superior to Hannah Montana and The Lizzie McGuire Show, and now we can safely say Raven is our favorite child star who hasn´t gone off the rails. The Cosby Show alum came out in a celebratory tweet last August, after Minnesota, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia legalized marriage equality. ″I am very happy that gay marriage is opening up around the country and being accepted,″ she said. ″I am not currently getting married, but it is great to know I can now, should I wish to.″ Raven´s career is also as strong as ever; she recently played the lead in the five-time Tony-nominated production of Sister Act on Broadway, and thanks to her booming Instagram account, is becoming something of a fashion icon. The Dr. Dolittle star has found a balance between being out and proud, and keeping her personal life private: ″I´m not one, in my 25-year career, to disclose who I´m dating,″ she says. ″And I shall not start now.″ That said, she won´t shy away from a good cause. Raven and her rumored girlfriend, model AzMarie Livingston, made a quiet entrance at their first public appearance last fall at Ludacris´ LudaDay Weekend Celebrity Pool Party, a charity event benefitting the Atlanta community. We´re excited for whatever comes next! -QW

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LP

The ukulele is an underappreciated instrument. Guitars get all the attention; you don´t see rock stars being called ″ukulele gods.″ But LP, the LA transplant who just released her new studio album, Forever for Now, spotlights it in her dynamic, inspired songwriting and behind her powerful voice. Produced by Grammy-winning producer and Warner Bros. Records chairman Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Dave Matthews Band), the album combines a hopeful and expansive tone with vintage rock swagger-for example, on the track ″Into the Wild″ (the earworm heard on CitiBank´s recent TV ad). It´s earned LP props from Vogue, Esquire, Billboard, The Los Angeles Times and many other media outlets. Forever for Now heralds a new phase in LP´s career: having started out as a performer years ago, the grind of endless gigging led her to focus on songwriting. She´s penned hits for Rihanna (″Cheers [Drink to That]″) and Christina Aguilera (″Beautiful People″). Yet singing and playing live is LP´s first love, and she´ll have more opportunities to do that now. ″To connect with people through playing songs you´ve written is a unique feeling that I don´t get anywhere else,″ she says. ″It´s what ultimately makes any struggle that you go through to create the songs worthwhile and fulfilling.″ -KL

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Deborah Waxman, Ph.D.

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., a historian of American Judaism, is the first woman rabbi to head a Jewish congregational union and lead a Jewish seminary. As a leader of Reconstructionist Judaism, Waxman suggests that the movement, which emphasizes relevance and pluralism, offers a way toward meaning and connection for Jewish people in the 21st century. ″Being Jewish is, I believe, ultimately about drawing on a framework that is at once age-old and ever-changing to find ways of being most human, and being most connected to other people, Jews and non-Jews alike. I am honored to travel the country meeting with people who are inquisitive, committed to building community, and open to being transformed,″ Waxman says. Since 1999, Waxman has been an administrator at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College near Philadelphia, most recently as vice president for governance, where her expertise in strategic planning and fundraising led to major gifts from national foundations. As of last January, in her new role as president, she has led the recently restructured RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities as a combined organization that trains Jewish leaders and also provides services to congregations. Waxman continues to teach and publish in academic journals. Among her many academic honors is the prestigious Ruth Fein Prize from the American Jewish Historical Society. -KL

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Bevin Branlandingham

Bevin Branlandingham spreads body positivity wherever she can, whether at her popular party Rebel Cupcake, in her coaching service or on her blog, The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Life (QueerFatFemme.com). ″I intentionally chose the name because living my life at the intersection of those identities has been very empowering for me,″ the Brooklyn-based writer, performer and cultural producer says. Unsurprisingly, Branlandingham strongly disagrees with the media´s message that people must diet to achieve any sense of happiness or self-worth. ″Too many folks spend so much of their lives putting off really living and enjoying themselves until they lose weight or modify themselves in some way. Truly feeling worthy is an inside job, not something that is conditional on outside acceptance or conforming your body to a cultural norm.″ Branlandingham says her activism is having a strong effect on the community-specifically, people tell her she´s making them feel secure about being themselves, who they´re supposed to be. And that effect couldn´t be more rewarding for the woman who calls herself ″the queer Oprah:″ ″I want folks to know that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.″ -GH

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Lori Nix

Lori Nix doesn´t harbor a death wish, but her photographs of post-apocalyptic dioramas might lead you to think so. The Kansas native grew up on a steady diet of popcorn, Coke and the latest disaster flick at her local movie theater; it was the ´70s, and dystopian blockbusters like Planet of the Apes, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake were big at the box office. Today, the Brooklyn-based artist builds and photographs intricately detailed ″fake landscapes″ that imagine what the world would be like after humankind has ceased to exist. Nix´s work has garnered numerous accolades and much attention from her peers; she won a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship and has exhibited in galleries around the world-in New York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Munich, Toronto and Brescia, Italy. She just completed her first solo show in Germany of The City, her pioneering diorama/photo series of NYC interiors after residents have mysteriously disappeared. But Nix´s favorite aspect of her thriving art career is closer to home. ″I get to work everyday with my partner of 15 years, Kathleen Gerber. Being able to share the success and working towards a common goal is amazing. It wouldn´t happen without her,″ she says. And if a meteor hits Manhattan or Godzilla emerges from the Gowanus Canal, Nix will know what to do. -KL

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k.d. lang

Back in 1992, when Canadian singer-songwriter k.d. lang hit the Billboard pop charts-with a background in nutty performance art and serious country music-she changed the game. Always androgynous, she wasn´t afraid to dress like a man; when she officially came out that year, she quickly became the ″lesbian chic″ poster boi and got shaved by a provocative Cindy Crawford on the cover of Vanity Fair. Though she´s still best-remembered for Ingenue, her breakthrough 1992 album featuring the smash hit ″Constant Craving,″ her star has continued to rise. She´s received a total of four Grammys, the latest for her work with legendary singer Tony Bennett. This past winter, she appeared in the Broadway musical After Midnight, and in 2013 was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the Juno Awards. During that ceremony, she professed her love for her native country, and encouraged everyone to let their ″freak flags fly″ and ″embrace the quirkmeister″ inside themselves. Something tells us k.d. lang will be doing that for many years to come. -GH

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Michele Balan

Michele Balan doesn´t miss wearing skirt suits to work. Before this critically acclaimed comic´s big break, she was a highly paid software sales executive, but found the work unfulfilling-and pumps just weren´t her thing. Told she had a natural gift for humor, Balan launched her comedy career by impersonating Bette Midler, and then honing her stand-up skills. The highs and lows of scratching out a living in the competitive comedy scene formed the nucleus of her material. And her years of hard work paid off. Balan was a finalist on NBC´s Last Comic Standing and has performed on hundreds of TV series, late-night shows, comedy club stages, cruise ships (including Olivia cruises) and summer festivals. Her favorite gig so far? Performing stand-up for a roomful of A-list celebs at actor Camryn Manheim´s 50th birthday party. But the best part of her job, she says, is ″when someone says ´thanks for making me laugh, I really needed it.´ Another best is the openness in the comedy industry today. I´m so happy the world is changing and that I´m still young enough to see it!″ Catch one of Balan´s upcoming gigs on board a Celebrity Summit cruise. -KL

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Sally Kohn

Watch out, Rachel Maddow! Sally Kohn is some serious competition. A Brooklyn-based, progressive journalist who contributes to CNN and The Daily Beast, Kohn has garnered notice from The New York Times and The Colbert Report. What´s more, Mediaite called her one of the top 100 most influential American television pundits. The former senior campaign strategist with the Center for Community Change and one-time executive director for the Third Wave Foundation sees her current media position as a way of drumming up even more attention for the values she´s passionate about. ″I made a pivot from community organizing to being a writer and talking head because I wanted to help create a bigger stage for social justice ideas and values. Talking to 100 people about change and fairness is one thing; talking to a million is entirely something else. And stepping into that spotlight is a way to harness that power and attention for the issues and voices I believe in. So it´s not just me talking, but I´m helping to shed light on other leaders, other folks living the issues we´re talking about, [and] making sure more diverse voices and perspectives across the board are not just talked about but doing the talking.″ – GH

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Erin Drinkwater

We have a lot to celebrate in the fight for marriage equality, but that isn´t our only battle. Erin Drinkwater, executive director of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, reminds us about the other challenges we face. ″Violence against transgender women of color, the high rate of runaway and homeless LGBTQ youth, police violence, increasing HIV rates, major health disparities, economic insecurity-these issues need our focus as well.″ She should know; she´s been deeply embedded in progressive politics and social justice campaigns for more than a decade. She´s served in leadership roles with Empire State Pride Agenda and Lambda Independent Democrats; as Congressman Jerrold L. Nadler´s Manhattan Community Representative and LGBT Liaison; and as Sean Patrick Maloney´s Policy Director in his 2006 Attorney General bid. More recently, she worked on the two Obama for America campaigns and was chosen as a delegate to the 2012 DNC Convention. Now, she´s bringing her experience to her home borough. With her guidance, the BCPC has expanded its programs to serve Brooklyn´s LGBTQ community, including those that nurture the thriving arts scene. ″There are incredible things happening by and for LGBTQ artists, which is one of the many reasons the BCPC hosts art shows, screenings and readings-and we want to do even more to support and nourish our community´s vibrancy, to always maintain a space for all our communities,″ she adds. -KL

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Lea Krauss

″When I was a little girl my father would affectionately say I had such a big mouth I should get paid for it,″ says Lea Krauss. Today, she´s using that big voice to help others. After obtaining an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the University of Miami, she began a three-year career as a prosecutor, and says that it ″afforded me unique insight into the workings of the criminal justice system, as well as invaluable trial experience.″ She then went on to start her own criminal law firm (″because of my commitment to protecting civil liberties″), which she continues to run today-and is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, as well. As if that weren´t enough to keep her busy, in her spare time, she is the president of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Network. Krauss says she believes that being a lesbian attorney gives her a special advantage. ″Many of my clients hire me because they feel more comfortable with someone who understands them,″ she says. ″Every day I hope to positively impact lives and to be respected for my professionalism and integrity.″ -GH

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Jane Bolgatz, Ph.D.

Whether conducting masters-level courses on teaching social studies, or doctoral courses on the sociopolitical dimensions of teaching, Jane Bolgatz has a message for educators. ″They need to address issues of heterosexism and heteronormativity in their classrooms and schools. I´m interested in talking to all teachers, but white teachers in particular, about being anti-racist educators,″ says Bolgatz, an associate professor at Fordham University´s Graduate School of Education. She is the author of Talking Race in the Classroom and frequently consults with teachers, administrators, parents and professors about diversity and equity in schools and universities. She is currently running a $2.5 million grant to prepare teachers in high-needs subjects and schools in New York State. Through the grant, she has developed dynamic partnerships with several middle and high schools in the Bronx. In helping others to see and address inequality in schools, Bolgatz leads by example. ″It is great to be out to my students, colleagues and the many teachers I work with in the field. I think I model openness by being comfortable with myself and my life. When people see me addressing race, class, sexual orientation and other issues head-on, they learn how to do so themselves.″ -KL

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Nicole Conn

It´s no exaggeration to call Nicole Conn a pioneer. Her first film, 1992´s Claire of the Moon, was, upon its release, ″the biggest lesbian feature since Desert Hearts,″ according to Wolfe Video. (This accomplishment is even more impressive when you consider that she also produced, wrote and raised the money for it.) Since that project, she´s kept very busy: she created the first-ever ancillary merchandise for a lesbian film in the form of Claire of the Moon CDs, t-shirts, prints, posters and other items; little man, her documentary about her premature son, came out in 2005; Elena Undone hit screens in 2010; the super-sexy A Perfect Ending, currently the best-selling film in the genre, debuted in 2012; and she recently finished a short, She4Me. ″I´m committed to the viewers a thousand percent,″ Conn says, ″to giving them real, raw and honest portrayals of women at the crossroads of their lives.″ It´s not always easy, considering what a financial struggle dyke filmmaking can be-″we are still considered a very niche market, even though our audience is huge and voracious;″ still, she is more than rewarded by the response. ″I´ve gotten so many emails from women (and men) whose lives are actually changed by the experience of watching one of my films. It´s such an honor.″ -GH

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Meredith Baxter

Like many famous actors, Meredith Baxter let her TV and film performances speak for themselves, and kept quiet about her personal life. That changed when passengers on a lesbian cruise in 2009 were surprised to see her aboard. Since then, Baxter-best remembered as mom Elyse Keaton on the ´80s sitcom Family Ties, as well as a producer and spokesperson-has appeared at The Dinah and spoken out for LGBT rights, especially during the Prop 8 battle in California. Last December, Baxter married her longtime girlfriend, Nancy Locke, and more recently, she revealed her personal journey at the annual National Center for Lesbian Rights gala in front of 1,500 people. Though her decision to come out wasn´t easy, she said, ″My friends and family all knew, but the industry didn´t know, and I didn´t like keeping it a secret. I didn´t want to hide, it was too hard,″ Baxter said. ″[Afterwards] I had no idea the aspects of my life that had been affected by trying to stay small, out of the limelight.″ Considering the cosmic leap that television has made in its portrayal of gay characters, Baxter added, viewers ″get to see thatwe want the same things; that the differences are not there. I think it´s a great boon.″ -KL

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Rae Tutera

Two years ago, Rae Tutera created The Handsome Butch project (thehandsomebutch.tumblr.com), ″designed to remind LGBTQ folks, in case they ever forgot, that they have the right to be handsome.″ But she´s not only blogging about the handsome butch life; she´s also dressing handsome butches, as a queer clothier for Bindle & Keep, a New York-based bespoke menswear and womenswear company. ″Like many other folks both within and outside the LGBTQ community, I spent decades wearing clothes that hid me,″ she says. ″I didn´t appreciate the impact that had on my identity until I put on my first suit. I wanted to pass on that feeling of awe and empowerment to as many people as possible.″ And while it´s clear Tutera has been reaching a large audience-her work has been profiled everywhere from The New York Times to Refinery29 to Marie Claire-there´s another reward, as well. ″The diversity of my clients has been an education and a joy, and it´s heartening that as we tell each other our stories and discuss our lifestyles, that no matter how different they may be, we discover so many overlaps of experiences and feelings. I never anticipated custom clothes being the context in which I would really learn the meaning of community-building; without hyperbole, it has changed my life.″ -GH

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Maria Cadenas

Maria Cadenas is getting back to her roots-in more ways than one. This visionary executive builds on her cultural heritage and passion for LGBT rights in her role as the philanthropy manager for Driscoll´s, the largest supplier of conventional and organic berries in the U.S. She oversees the company´s U.S., Mexico and Chile employee volunteerism and giving portfolio, and directs investment in rural communities. It´s a perfect fit for Cadenas, whose work has focused on philanthropic initiatives-recently as the executive director of the Cream City Foundation, a public LGBT funder in Wisconsin; and as the associate director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. She´s active on the boards of several local and national organizations, including the Funders for LGBTQ Issues, the Stewardship Council of Roots of Change, and the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County´s Diversity Partnership Fund. Cadenas admirably blends her own diverse interests into a fulfilling career, ″whether [I do it] as a lesbian, a woman, an immigrant or any other label given to me.″ And her motivation comes from our shared humanity. ″It is about each of us and what we do to provide equity and justice. It is about our right to be treated with dignity and respect, and how we afford that same treatment to those around us.″ -KL

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Audrey Bilger

For cultural insight into the fight for marriage equality, Audrey Bilger is the one to call. She´s the co-editor, with Michele Kort, of the Lambda Literary Award finalist, Here Come the Brides! Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage, a collection of stories and photos of lesbian couples who are changing marriage for the better. A writer and gender studies professor, Bilger is the faculty director of the Center for Writing and Public Discourse at Claremont McKenna College and a contributor to Ms., The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and on the editorial board of Pickering and Chatto´s Gender and Genre series. But don´t get the idea that she lives in an ivory tower; Bilger´s examination of same-sex marriage comes from experience. ″My own marriage-legal since 2008 in California and recognized in 2013 by the federal government-brings joy and adventure to my life, and I believe that in a very short time, marriage equality will be the law of the land,″ she predicts. ″Every time a new state recognizes our marriage rights, we see photos of happy, smiling newlyweds and their friends and family. Those pictures are our victory signs, and they will pave the way for more advances in LGBT rights.″ -KL

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