June is LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) Pride Month in the United States, honoring the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement. The Stonewall Uprising was a series of events of clashes between the police and LGBTQ+ protests, fundamentally changing LGBTQ+ activism in the U.S. Activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both queer women of color, became trailblazers in this movement, also bringing attention to the importance of intersectionality in LGBTQ+ rights efforts.
With diversity, equity, and inclusion being at the forefront of many efforts towards a more equal society, raising and celebrating LGBTQ+ voices is vital, as many still remain oppressed or disadvantaged in places across the country and the world. This Pride Month and beyond, elevate your event with diverse storytellers whose experiences and efforts are invaluable in the fight towards equality in gender and sexuality. For ideas on how to inspire your audience, check out these 10 LGBTQ+ activists and speakers.
Transgender Model & Advocate; Founder of Gender Proud
Geena Rocero is a transgender Filipino-American model and trans rights activist. She is also the founder of Gender Proud, an advocacy and media production company that tells stories to elevate justice and equality for the transgender community. Rocero was born in Manila, Philippines to a working-class family. She started competing in beauty pageants at 15. She immigrated to San Francisco, California at 17, and she became a U.S. citizen in 2006. On March 31, 2014, in honor of International Transgender Day of Visibility, Rocero came out as transgender at the annual TED Conference. Her viral TED talk has since been viewed more than 3 million times and translated into 32 languages.
Along with Gender Proud Productions, Rocero produced and presented “Beautiful As I Want to Be” for LogoT. The digital series highlighted trans youth and received the 2016 GLAAD media Award. Gender Proud also produced “Willing and Able,” a 2017 GLAAD Media-nominated web series about transgender employment with Fusion TV. Gender Proud Productions worked with Fusion/Univision to produce a TV documentary about transgender athletes entitled “No League of Their Own.” Rocero served as an executive producer on “Made to Model,” which was nominated for the 2018 GLAAD Media Award. “Made to Model” features nine emerging and pioneering transgender models. Rocero has spoken at the White House, the World Economic Forum, and the United Nations. She has been featured on E’s “I Am Cait” as well as in CoverGirl Cosmetics’ “#GirlsCan” Campaign and Vanity Fair: Trans America.
Director, Writer & Producer; Known for her TED Talk on the Intersection of Civil Rights & LGBTQ+ Rights
Yoruba Richen is a documentary filmmaker who has directed and produced films in the U.S. and abroad including Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. Her latest film The New Black premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June and went on to win Audience Awards at AFI Docs, Philly Q Fest, and Frameline LGBTQ+ Film Festival as well as a special jury mention at Frameline. Richen’s previous film, Promised Land, received a Diverse Voices Co-Production fund award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and was broadcast on PBS’s POV in 2010. In 2007, Yoruba won a Fulbright award in filmmaking and traveled to Salvador, Brazil, where she began production on Sisters of the Good Death, a documentary about the oldest African women’s association in the Americas and the annual festival they hold celebrating the end of slavery.
Richen has received numerous grants including from ITVS, The Sundance Documentary Fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures, and the Ford Foundation. She won the Creative Promise Award at Tribeca All Access and was also a Sundance producers’ fellow. She teaches documentary film at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and is a Guggenheim Fellow.
English Olympic Diver, Olympic Bronze Medalist
At just 14 years and 81 days old at the start of the Beijing Olympics, Tom Daley was Britain’s second youngest male ever to enter the Olympics, only beaten by Kenneth Lesterat the 1960 Olympics. Tom Daley qualified for the Beijing Olympics in February 2008 at the FINA World Cup when he was seventh in the men’s individual 10m platform event. In March 2008, still only 13-years-old, he won the European Men’s 10m Platform Individual title, beating the current World Champion Gleb Galperin and World Cup Champion, Sascha Klein. At 5ft 2in and 7st 7lb, Tom Daley was significantly younger, shorter and lighter than the competition. In 2007 Tom Daley won the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.
Founder and CEO of Movement Vision Lab; Liberal Political Columnist, Commentator & Community Organizer
Sally Kohn is one of the leading progressive voices in America today. A frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, Kohn’s first book “The Opposite of Hate” was published in April 2018. Kohn is a popular keynote speaker at business conferences and college campuses talking about political division, hate, otherizing, diversity and identity — and how we can solve the deep problems of our past and present.
A regular columnist and commentator, Kohn’s writing has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, New York Magazine, More Magazine, RollingStone, USA Today, Time, Afar Magazine, and many other outlets. Her three hit TED Talks have been viewed more than 4 million times, and her work has been highlighted by outlets ranging from the Colbert Report to the National Review. Kohn is a popular media trainer and public speaking coach, helping build the skills of everyone from grassroots leaders to C-suite executives.
The US Army’s First Openly Trans Soldier
Shane Ortega is the first openly serving transgender military service member. He was featured in the HBO documentary The Trans List. Ortega is a mixed American Indian enrolled in the Skaroreh Katenuauka Nation, a retired disabled combat veteran (Marines and Army) of over 11 years, and a two-spirit (transgender) man.
Ortega has a record of championing human rights legislation and policy. He is an advocate, consultant, author, speaker, and educator on topics such as LGBTQ+ equity, indigenous rights, disabled veterans’ rights, MMIW, two-spirit education, land sovereignty, and colonial/tribal law relationship. He is most commonly known for his work repealing the transgender military ban and co-founding the non-profit organization SPARTA, an LGBTQ+ military support group. Ortega also assisted with education for the “Road Home Program” at Howard Brown Health in Chicago.
Actress & Singer; Known for “Pose”
Mj Rodriguez stars as housemother Blanca in Ryan Murphy’s groundbreaking series “Pose” on FX. The series was nominated for a 2019 Emmy Award and a 2018 Golden Globe Award in the category of Best Television Series Drama, in addition to a Writers Guild Award nomination. The series also won a Peabody Award and two GLAAD Media Awards in the category of Outstanding Drama Series. Most recently, Rodriguez was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series in addition to nominations for a MTV Movie + TV Award in the category of Breakthrough Performance and two Gold Derby Awards for Drama Actress and Breakthrough Performance. She also historically won the 2019 Imagen Award for Best Actress in Television. “Pose” will soon make a highly anticipated return to FX for its third season.
Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Rodriguez made her Off-Broadway debut in New World Stages production of RENT as Angel, before continuing onto New York City Center to star in Encores! production of “Runaways”. She recently starred as Audrey in the Pasadena Playhouse’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors”. In 2018 she made her Tribeca Film Debut starring in the indie film Saturday Church, a performance which garnered her a Tribeca Film Festival Nomination for Best Actress.
Chef, Model & TV Personality Known for Netflix’s “Queer Eye”
Antoni Porowski is a chef, actor, model and television personality known for being the food and wine connoisseur on Netflix’s “Queer Eye.” At a young age Porowski was bitten by the culinary bug, spending countless hours in the kitchen watching his mother cooking and bringing a world of culinary delights to life. He discovered the worlds of Julia Child, Jacque Pepin, and Anthony Bourdain and soon began to teach himself how to cook.
Self-taught, Porowski put himself through university, where he received a degree in psychology. But his love of food soon brought him back to the kitchen. He immediately went to work in restaurants from Montreal to New York City, continuing to hone his craft and find his place in the culinary world. In New York, Porowski met with the original “Fab Five” food and wine expert Ted Allen and began a mentorship. This quickly turned into him becoming Ted’s personal chef. The relationship helped launch Porowski’s career, and he became the personal chef to some of New York and Brooklyn’s most prominent citizens. The President of Barclays Stadium and the Chief Curator of MOMA are two of his biggest fans as is the founder of Tasting Table, who hired Porowski to host segments on the renowned cooking site.
Those experiences and his degree in psychology influenced his underlying philosophy; food should tell a story and the heart and the stomach are inter-connected. His big break came when he joined the Fab Five as the food and wine expert on the Netflix revival of “Queer Eye” in 2018. The show has won multiple Emmy Awards, including two for Outstanding Structured Reality Program. His first cookbook, “Antoni in the Kitchen,” was released in 2019. He also opened The Village Den, a fast-casual restaurant in New York City’s West Village in 2019.
Author, Feminist, Transgender Rights Activist, TV Host & Founder of #GirlsLikeUs
Janet Mock is a writer, director, and producer whose memoir, “Redefining Realness,” debuted on the New York Times bestsellers list in 2014. Her second book, “Surpassing Certainty,” a memoir about her twenties, was released in 2017. She is a sought-after speaker, an advocate for trans rights, and the founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a social media project that empowers trans women.
Mock made television history last year as the first trans woman of color to write, direct and produce for a series with Ryan Murphy’s FX drama “Pose,” which has assembled the largest cast of trans actors in series regular roles ever for a scripted series and has received six Emmy nominations. She has a number of additional groundbreaking TV projects in the works, and her historic multi-million dollar deal with Netflix has made her the first trans woman of color to secure an overall deal with a major studio.
Born in Hawaii, Janet began her career as an editor at People.com and has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Marie Claire, Interview, and Allure. She has also worked as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight and a host for MSNBC, where she helmed the groundbreaking series — “So POPular!”— interviewing Lena Dunham, Salma Hayek, and Issa Rae. Janet also produced and conducted all interviews for the HBO documentary, The Trans List, and hosted and produced the Lenny podcast Never Before, which featured in-depth interviews with everyone from Representative Maxine Waters and Tina Knowles to Kris Jenner and Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney.
Transgender Model, Activist & Artist
Already making his mark in the industry, multi-hyphenate Chella Man has brought significant attention to his work as an artist, writer, model, and actor through sharing his personal documentation of his life while advocating for those within his communities. Being Deaf, genderqueer, trans-masculine, Chinese, and Jewish, Chella found he didn’t have role models to look up to, so he decided to be his own representation. This motto— “be your own representation” —would become a pillar of his teachings.
Through his talks, he opens up about his experiences transitioning on testosterone, navigating the world with a disability, and facing isolation while growing up within a small and conservative town in Central Pennsylvania. Since leaving high school as a Junior to attend college early, he has written for Condé Naste’s first queer publication Them, launched a radically inclusive clothing line in collaboration with Opening Ceremony, signed as the first deaf and trans masculine model with IMG Models, and was casted as a superhero within Warner Brother’s DC Universe, Titans. With over 245,000 subscribers and 8 million views on his YouTube channel, Chella is becoming a true representation for many communities as he advocates for those within the disabled and/or queer communities. He hopes to continue pushing the boundaries of what it means to be accessible, inclusive, and equal in this world.
Openly Gay Actor Known for “My So Called Life,” “Thirteen Reasons Why” & “Star Trek: Discovery”
Wilson Cruz is an actor known for playing Rickie Vasquez on “My So-Called Life,” Angel in the Broadway tour production of Rent, and the recurring characters Junito on”Noah’s Arc” and Dr. Hugh Culber on “Star Trek: Discovery.” As an openly gay man of Afro-Puerto Rican ancestry, he has served as an advocate for gay youth, especially gay youth of color. Cruz can most recently be seen recurring in the CBS series “Star Trek: Discovery” playing the role of Dr. Hugh Culber and recurring on the Netflix’s series, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” playing the role of Dennis Vasquez. Early in his career, Cruz won the hearts of audiences playing Rickie Vasquez on “My So Called Life,” the first openly gay teenager role to air on network primetime television.
On the frontlines of LGBTQ+ advocacy, Cruz recently served as the Director of Entertainment Industry Partnerships and as National Spokesperson for GLAAD, the nation’s leading LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization. Cruz also wrote and is executive producing a six-part docuseries, “Out of The Box: How America Came Out on TV.” Cruz joined the board of directors of GLAAD in 1997 and joined the staff of GLAAD in 2012 as a National Spokesperson and Strategic Giving Officer.
From actors to athletes to writers, these LGBTQ+ public figures incorporate activism into all they do. They advocate for the rights of every person to be able to live their truth and to be treated equally regardless of gender or sexual orientation. It is through their voices that people are able to understand the struggles and strides that must be made in order to address this inequality. No matter what kind of event you are planning, including these popular LGBTQ+ speakers will expand your program towards more diversity, equity, and inclusion.