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Kelley Robinson
Joy Asiko

Kelley Robinson

Kelley Robinson

Meet one of the artists, disruptors, educators, groundbreakers, innovators, and storytellers who all helped make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people.

When life becomes exacting for Kelley Robinson — the new head of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization — she thinks of those whose shoulders we stand on.

The elders of the civil rights and reproductive rights movements “said that the hardest part of our fight is manifesting a world that we’ve never seen before,” she says. “The hardest part, yes. But for me, and I suspect for all of us, it’s the most fulfilling part.”

As a successful and high-profile Black queer mother, Robinson embodies the experience that Audre Lorde and Bayard Rustin were fighting for. “I’m a descendant of the first free Black family in Muscatine, Iowa, and my wife, Becky, is a first-generation daughter of Indian ancestry,” Robinson says. “Together, we have the most beautiful chocolate child. My story — and all our stories — is proof that the story of America is one of progress.”

Even as a beneficiary of past generations’ battles, Robinson is keenly aware of how much further we need to go. Under Robinson’s direction, the former executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund is placing racial and reproductive justice front and center at the 43-year-old HRC, which weathered the forced exit of Robinson’s predecessor, Alphonso David, in 2021.

The organization had no time to ruminate on the past, though. Responding to 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures this year, Robinson and HRC declared a state of emergency for queer Americans in June. “Heading into 2024, we’re going to mobilize like never before so we can hold onto the Senate, take back the House, and win the White House,” she says.

As Robinson knows, queer liberation encompasses more than politicians and voters.

“We are fighting for the freedom to dance into the night, without worrying it will be our last, as was the case with O’Shae Sibley,” says Robinson. “We are fighting to wave our Pride flags without the fear of being brutally attacked, like Lauri Carleton was. We are fighting for the freedom to send our kids to school without worrying about what they’re being taught or if they’ll make it home.” @hrcpresident


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Neal Broverman