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The 2022 Out100: See All the Names From the Full List Here
This is the 2022 Out100.
The Out100 is Out's proudest tradition: a roundup of the year's most impactful LGBTQ+ changemakers in entertainment, fashion, politics, business, and beyond. 2022 saw a barrage of challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community, and these Artists, Disruptors, Educators, and Groundbreakers fought back using their art, abilities, and platforms.
Below, see the full list of the 2022 Out100.
When Jerrod Carmichael arrived at the Emmys this year, he sported an absurdly large, open-chested fur coat. Historically at events, the comedian has worn variations of a black suit to be "a little less conspicuous." But on this recent red carpet, dressed in a splashy showpiece that highlighted a golden necklace and shimmering chest...we all saw him.
And when the 35-year-old arrives on set for his Out100 cover shoot -- in shorts and a wrestling championship belt in hand -- I see him too. Carmichael isn't an aloof Hollywood player. Rather, he's terrified at times -- and willing to admit it -- including at the responsibility of being the cover star of a queer magazine.
"I feel very new," he admits. Ask him about the obstacles he's overcome this year, and he stammers. Even the question is a bit much. "My legs started shaking with fear," he says. "I want to coil up and take a nap."
Rafael Silva and Ronen Rubinstein
Tarlos is here -- and ready to take over.
Coined by fans of Fox's hit procedural drama 9-1-1: Lone Star, the affectionate "ship" name is a portmanteau of the show's queer main characters: firefighter-turned-paramedic Tyler Kennedy "T.K." Strand (Ronen Rubinstein) and Carlos Reyes (Rafael Silva), an Austin police officer. The LGBTQ-inclusive series centers on the lives of emergency responders and also boasts names like Rob Lowe, Liv Tyler, and transgender actor Brian Michael Smith.
A sea of rainbow flags and the arms of queer youth sway to the beat during Hayley Kiyoko's recent Los Angeles performance of "Girls Like Girls." Fans sing along, cry, and hug each other. For many of them, this concert is the only place they feel like they can truly be themselves.
In June 2015, when Kiyoko released her self-directed video for "Girls Like Girls," the world was a different place, and queer women didn't really have a space in pop music or very many spaces at all. Now, two albums and seven years of hard work later, Kiyoko has carved out a space for lesbian and queer women like her to not just live but to thrive.
There were three times during his 63rd year when Michael "Mick" Peterson believed he was going to die. The gay man (now 66) was repeatedly hospitalized due to a neurological autoimmune disease, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy. He attributes a feeling of purpose to helping bring him back from the brink.
"The most important thing I want to give is a sense of hope for people. Also, I want to make sure that people laugh," he says.
Peterson is accomplishing this mission as part of Old Gays, a quad of TikTok stars bringing global visibility to a demographic historically erased from (even queer) media: gay senior citizens. Over 8 million people follow Peterson, Robert Reeves (age 79), Bill Lyons (78), and Jessay Martin (69) on social media, with 1.5 billion cumulative views of the friends sharing stories from their past amid viral dances, skits, lip-synching, and colorful costume reveals. Comparisons to other famous (female) foursomes like The Golden Girls and Sex and the City abound in the comments.
Out producer JoAnn Alfano has had an impactful career in Hollywood that has contributed positively to the quality of LGBTQ+ representation on television. Currently, Alfano is the executive vice president of Scripted Current Series and the Head of International Business Development at Universal Studio Group, an organization she has been with since 2013. Before that, Alfano was president of Brillstein Television, where she developed and executive produced ABC's Resurrection. Earlier in her career, she was also the president of her own production company called Tray Entertainment, which had a first-look deal at NBC Universal Media Studios.
In her current role and over the course of her career, Alfano has worked on many LGBTQ+ shows, including Tales of the City and Will & Grace. Alfano also worked as an executive producer on 30 Rock and Project Runway, which garnered her an Emmy win for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2007 and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Reality Competition Program in 2011.
"My job allows me to have a producing hand on many of our shows, and I really enjoy the broad range of series I get to oversee," she says. "Throughout the years, I've helped develop seminal LGBTQ+ series, such as Tales of the City for Netflix and both incarnations of Will & Grace for NBC. I never forget how lucky I am to have a role in creating great television that resonates with the queer community."
More recently, Alfano worked on the new Queer As Folk series with Stephen Dunn and Jaclyn Moore, which she describes as a "terrific experience."
"As a fan of the original Russell T Davies series and the Showtime remake, being a part of this new iteration -- and bringing another positive example of LGBTQ+ television to audiences -- has been an honor," says Alfano.
Kenneth Russell DeGraff
It's a good time to be Kenneth Russell DeGraff. As senior policy advisor to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, DeGraff is riding a wave of recent Democratic wins. "I take a lot of pride in playing whatever part I can in enacting as much of President Biden's vision into law as possible," DeGraff says. "We have had a lot of success -- and the Inflation Reduction Act's historic climate investments are obviously close to my heart."
As part of his role as senior policy advisor, DeGraff helps the Speaker craft, promote, and pass bills with a special emphasis on technology and the environment. In practical terms, he helps disparate Democrats -- and even some Republicans -- coalesce around legislation by smoothing over disagreements, finding common ground, and employing just a bit of horse trading. His deft hand has helped Democrats expand low-cost broadband internet, boost America's scientific leadership and technology production, and ensure the new 988 suicide prevention hotline serves LGBTQ+ youth via a partnership with the Trevor Project.
DeGraff's ability to get things done and keep the Speaker happy has turned him into one of the most powerful gay men in Washington -- yet he stresses altruism over ego. "Whether we're tackling the climate crisis, addressing energy prices or investing in cutting-edge research, I have the amazing privilege of working with some of the nation's most talented, devoted public servants," he says. @russelldegraff
With her signature wide-rimmed glasses and baseball bat-shaped cane, 95-year-old former All-American Girls Baseball League player Maybelle Blair knows how to make a statement. And that's exactly what happened when she came out publicly as gay during a panel for the new Prime Video series A League ofTheir Own during Pride month this year.
A former pitcher for the Peoria Redwings who went on to play for the National Women's Softball League in Chicago during the 1950s, Blair was a consultant for the series created by Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham. The show expands on the stories Penny Marshall told in her 1992 film about female athletes in the middle of the 20th century. And Blair, who says she and the hundreds of other queer women in the league formed a family of sorts, is a part of that previously untold history of the league.
This year, Blair became part of the press tour for League, but her biggest accomplishment has been overcoming trepidation to finally tell her whole story.
"I opened the door and came out of the closet at 95 years old and told the world I was gay. That was my proudest and happiest moment," she says. "I wanted to give younger people the chance to know that it's OK to come out of the closet and they don't have to hide, but I was worried that my family would reject me when I did this. Instead, they showed all sorts of love and understanding."
Following her banner year, Blair has big plans. She's working on building the International Women's Baseball Center in Rockford, Ill. She describes it as "a museum and education and activity center that celebrates all women in baseball and shows their achievements and gives them opportunities to learn and to play on the same field as the Rockford Peaches."
"I want them to have a home of their own," Blair says, directing potential patrons to donate to the museum at InternationalWomensBaseballCenter.org.
Karine Jean Pierre
American political advisor Karine Jean-Pierre made history this year when she was appointed as the White House press secretary in May. In addition to Jean-Pierre being the first Black person to assume this role, she is also the first out LGBTQ+ person to do so.
Jean-Pierre says it's among her proudest accomplishments to have become part of "the most diverse administration in history. And honestly, [one that] is delivering.... This president is delivering results for the American people. You just look at policy after policy after policy -- they are historic, and they lean in on equity. They lean in on not leaving anybody behind."
"And we are tackling problems other administrations have only talked about," adds Jean-Pierre. "Lowering prescription drug costs, investing in the fight against climate change, bringing student debt relief to millions and millions of people.... I know I'm on the right side of history."
Despite how far she's come in life, Jean-Pierre admits that self-doubt has been an obstacle for her at times -- but explains it can also be a gift.
"I actually think that sometimes we could be our own worst enemies, you know? We could be the ones that get in our own way, especially as women," she says. "I always am trying to break through that obstacle, making sure that I'm not the one that's getting in my own way.... We are our harshest critic -- but because we are our harshest critic, it makes us the best at what we do. It makes us so much stronger; it makes us so much better."
Born in Fort-de-France, Martinique, and raised in Queens, NYC, Jean-Pierre now lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her partner, CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, and their daughter.
"I want to continue to be visible," says Jean-Pierre. "I will continue to be visible. I will continue to be public. I will continue to call out the bad behaviors from radical Republicans that we're seeing. And I will say that this country is stronger when we're united, and everyone has a seat at the table." @kjp46
Some of the world's biggest gay stars are represented by Joe Machota. Ricky Martin, Ryan Murphy, Billy Porter, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jim Parsons are all in the hands of the power agent, who heads the Theatre department at Creative Artists Agency, the influential entertainment agency known more broadly as CAA. His other A-list clients include Scarlett Johansson, Eddie Redmayne, and Aaron Sorkin.
Machota, a Boston Conservatory graduate, began his career as an actor. He's now one of the biggest behind-the-scenes names on Broadway and beyond, so much so that he was name-dropped on Smash, NBC's long-gone-but-beloved musical drama about the Great White Way. ("Get me Joe Machota at CAA!" demanded Anjelica Houston, who played a producer.)
Why call Machota? "My job is two-fold. I am fortunate enough to be in a position to support and foster new talent and mentor the next generation of agents and executives, in turn, supporting and giving a platform to new artists and voices. As an agent, I am lucky to help my clients realize their visions and celebrate their unique gifts and stories," he says.
This year, Machota is proud of the accomplishments of his clients; he cites Porter's trans teen romcom Anything's Possible, Harris's Netflix show Uncoupled, and Parsons's upcoming dramatic film, Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, as among the highlights. In addition to helping foster LGBTQ+ representation, he fights for acceptance in the workplace. When he began at CAA in 2006, he was the New York office's first out hire, and he resolved to always be out in professional settings. He helped found the agency's LGBTQ+ Alliance, and he cites to out CAA cochairmen Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd as key role models. "If I can follow in their enormous footsteps in helping to pave the way for others...it would be an honor." @joemachota
Heartstopper: Yasmin Finney
While the two do have plenty of challenges to overcome, such as bullies, trauma and pain aren't at the center of Heartstopper, which is probably why it was such a hit amongst audiences young and old who want to see queer characters find happy endings. Due to its popularity, the series was renewed for a second and third season shortly after the first season's release.
Filled with multiple LGBTQ+ characters, the success of Heartstopper can also be attributed to the performances of out cast members like Locke, who says he is proud of "the impact the show has had around the world," and Yasmin Finney, who plays Charlie's best friend Elle, a young, trans schoolgirl who gets her own love story in the form of her friend Tao (William Gao).
"We've been waiting for so long to have representation like Elle in Heartstopper and to be that representation gives me hope for the future of this industry," Finney says. "There's so much more queer joy coming to your screens, get ready!" @heartstoppertv
Heartstopper: Joe Locke
While LGBTQ+ fans were blessed with much queer content this year, one of the standouts productions that will be added to the canon of classic queer television shows in the years to come was Netflix's Heartstopper, a live-action adaptation of author and illustrator Alice Oseman's LGBTQ-centered web comic and graphic novel series of the same name.
A British coming-of-age story that details the budding romance between gay teen Charlie Spring (played by young, out actor Joe Locke) and his bisexual classmate Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), the series was praised for its realistic depiction of what's it's like to navigate being out and queer in a modern-day high school and the wholesome way it portrays love between young folks of all different sexualities, gender identities, and races.
Winning a seat to the Minneapolis City Council five years ago, Jenkins became the first out transgender African-American woman elected to office in the nation -- as a woman who identifies as bisexual and queer, she made history for those communities, too. This year, with the backing of her peers and constituents, Jenkins was elected council president, with a focus on fixing the institutional racism and disparities that led to the murder of George Floyd, killed by police officers two blocks from Jenkins's home.
"I consider the work that I do to be bridge-building, I work within systems to effectuate systemic change," she says.
Jenkins and Mayor Jacob Frey are currently vetting police chief candidates for a hire who will be tasked with moving the MPD in a more humane direction. The council president is also working to make the city carbon-neutral and defend Minneapolis against the effects of climate change.
Jenkins was first steeped in activism in 1960s Chicago, where she grew up, became involved with the Black Panther party, and developed a love for writing and art -- which flourished in the city's Black enclaves. She moved to Minnesota in 1979 to study at the University of Minnesota (she now has a master's degree in Community Economic Development, an MFA in Creative Writing, and, in 2018, completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University). Her political ascent -- she worked as a staffer for the Minneapolis Council for 12 years before her 2017 election -- did not equate to a shirking of her identity. Jenkins was named curator of the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota's Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies in 2015.
Jenkins considers her biggest accomplishment this year her election as council president, but also beams over receiving the Pauli Murray Award from Duke University.
"An award bearing the name Pauli Murray is such an incredible honor," Jenkins says of the priest and civil rights leader. "They revolutionized and embodied the idea of intersectionality prior to Dr. Kimberlee Crenshaw coining the phrase." @shesgotgame1
For most of Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride's life, politics and government have been at the forefront. At just 14, McBride volunteered on a political campaign and when she was a student at American University, she served as the institution's student body president. From there, McBride came out as transgender and landed an internship at the White House, where she was the first out transgender woman to work there in any role.
Since then, McBride's life has continued to include many firsts. In July 2016, McBride spoke at the Democratic Party Convention and became the first openly transgender person to address a national party convention. In 2020, she was elected to the Delaware State Senate, and became the first openly transgender state senator in American history.
Her decision to run for state senate was personal, as she lost her husband Andrew Cray to oral cancer in 2014. "When Andy ultimately lost his life, we were both lucky because he had the insurance necessary to get the health care he needed to live as long as possible and we both had access to benefits that allowed us to take time to focus on him, his care, and one another," shares McBride. "Those things shouldn't be a matter of luck or privilege; they should be the law of the land."
Since McBride was elected, she has had much success. Earlier this year, her Healthy Delaware Families Act became law, which establishes paid family and medical leave in Delaware and is the largest expansion of the social safety net in modern state history.
"[I hope to] do as much good as I can for as many people as can for however long I can," says McBride. "Elected people can't stop all loss or all pain, but we can make life a little bit easier for people when hard times hit." That she has certainly done. @sarahemcbride
After voicing the buff middle sister Luisa in Disney's Encanto, Jessica Darrow and her deep, husky voice became a star. The queer Cuban American actress, singer, cat parent, and "emo 4 lyf" also released a song and music video this year titled "Make it Clean" and was able to take her family on a much-needed vacation.
Darrow also became a star on sapphic TikTok, as girls around the world got crushes on both her character and on Darrow herself. Girls all over who felt bad about their deep voices, body size, and mental health struggles saw someone they could relate to.
"I believe my purpose in life is to always use access that is granted to me as an artist to tell stories that seldom get heard -- important stories that may not always be the easiest to embody but the most fulfilling to bring to life," Darrow says. "I believe it is my purpose to do this while practicing self-love as dutifully as possible, to always lead with love so that I can hopefully inspire others to do so by example. And to convince the world that it's queer as fuck and kick the patriarchy's butt."
After reuniting with her Familia Madrigal again this November at the Hollywood Bowl, where she'll be performing Encanto Live, Darrow also has a role in an upcoming Amazon Prime series where she gets to play a "sexy queer sports publicist" that she's "so excited about." We are too. @jessdarrow_
In April, former NCAA champion alpine skier Anouk Patty joined U.S. Ski & Snowboard as its chief of sport, a post in which she develops and implements the organization's athletic strategic plan. She comes to the organization after 30 years of corporate experience in finance and tech, including roles at Dropbox, Hewlett-Packard, and Intuit.
Over the course of her life, Patty has overcome many obstacles. At age 12, she suffered a serious skiing accident that broke both of her legs, leaving her in bed for about four months and causing her to miss a year of school. The doctors told her she would never ski again, but Patty was able to return. In 1991, she graduated from Dartmouth College, where she became an NCAA champion, a three-time All-American, and captain of the women's alpine ski team.
But as for the greatest challenge in her life, Patty says it was not her skiing accident but getting divorced and coming out. "In life, [my biggest obstacle was] probably getting divorced from a great guy who was my best buddy," says Patty. "Blowing our family up and then coming out...was not easy. But I knew I had to do it."
Because of the difficulty she faced coming out, Patty seeks to make U.S. Ski & Snowboard as inclusive as possible. "I'm an openly gay woman, but I was not when I was on the team," she told Women's Sports Alliance earlier this year. "Quite frankly, back then it was pretty close to being homophobic -- but the culture has changed tremendously. I want to build on that, make sure all our athletes and staff feel psychologically, emotionally, and physically safe to be their true selves [so] we're at our best." @anoukpatty
Brian Michael Smith
Brian Michael Smith makes such a hot firefighter on 9-1-1: Lone Star that last year he became the first Black transgender man listed in People's Sexiest Men You Can Watch on TV Now list. And this year, Smith was able to truly shine on the Ryan Murphy Fox show, taking trans representation on network TV to new places.
"The third season of 9-1-1 Lone Star put my character, Paul Strickland, in the spotlight more throughout the season," Smith says. "That challenged me creatively, emotionally, and physically, and I felt like I was able to deliver some of my best performances to date."
"As an actor, I like to get into stories that allow me to explore my sense of self; that test and expand my ideas of being human through living truthfully in imaginary circumstances," he says. "As an artist, I like to tell stories that challenge others to feel and to consider other ways of being. I like to take on projects and characters in stories that get people to question what they believe about themselves, and what is possible in their lives and the world around them."
But his performance on the show wasn't the only thing Smith was proud of this year. He also joined the Human Rights Campaign's board of directors, which is especially important in this time when anti-trans and anti-equality bills are being proposed and passed in record numbers. @the_brianmichael
Dexter Mayfield is a true multihyphenate. He is "thriving" as a dancer, body-positive influencer, model, content creator, and host of CBS's Come Dance With Me -- roles that spark "so much joy and a divine purpose," the 37-year-old attests.
Mayfield inspires much joy in his fans as well. For Out's 30th anniversary, he recreated a vintage Swimsuit issue of the LGBTQ+ magazine, just one example of how he has redefined sexiness and possibilities for queer men of size.
"I would describe the work that I do as a joyful act of resistance through existence," he explains. "To live at the intersections of being Black, fat, femme, and queer can definitely get extremely overwhelming at times." And it's the work he does and the representation he brings to the landscape that gives him meaning: "I believe my purpose in life is to lead with love, spread joy, and make sure everyone has a seat at the table."
Mayfield cites hosting Come Dance With Me as a major accomplishment this year -- particularly after twice being rejected at auditions for So You Think You Can Dance. Now, he can help pass his lessons and light on to others. "To not only get the opportunity to share all that I've learned throughout my dance career with young up-and-coming talent, but to also be able to help their parents unleash their inner dancer as well was a beautiful blessing that I will absolutely cherish forever," he says.
Mayfield was raised in the United Methodist Church, and he continues to live by its creed: "Open hearts, open minds, open doors." He works to "demolish the divisive and destructive hate-filled delusion that fuels racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and any other 'ism' that continues to plague our society systematically in all its forms." @dexrated
Radclyffe is the nom de plume of award-winning lesbian author Len Barot, the former surgeon who gave up medicine in 2004 to focus on creating and preserving lesbian literature. She has over 50 novels under her belt as an author, has edited more than 20 anthologies of lesbian literature, and is president of the queer publishing house, Bold Stroke Books.
One way Barot has sought to preserve lesbian and queer literature is by helping grow the next generation of queer and lesbian authors. Another? Her work with the Old Lesbian Oral History Project (OLOHP) where she will be interviewed as part of the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. It's a project and a responsibility she doesn't take lightly.
"I feel extremely lucky to have lived through some of the critical periods of LGBTQ+ history, from Stonewall to the early days of the GLF [Gay Liberation Front], as well as the parallel emergence of a queer literary community during the same era," Barot says. "I hope that sharing my experiences via the OLOHP archives will help preserve those moments for members of our community who have come later."
Barot says she'll shortly begin work on her new paranormal romance series, The Midnight Hunters, with the first installment, Primal Hunt, due out next year. As a publisher, she promises to continue making Bold Strokes Books "a place where authors of all identities can grow their craft and reach readers worldwide."
She has equally lofty aspirations when asked how she would change the world for the better. "I would replace the fear of the 'other,' whether the difference is based on species, race, religion, gender, sexual expression, ability, class, or any of the myriad ways humans differ," Barot says, "with the credo that we strive to live a life that harms no one and respects the choices of others that do likewise." @radclyffebsb
Heavy is the head that wears the crown -- but someone's gotta do it! For two seasons, Netflix's period hit Bridgerton has been enticing audiences with its swoonworthy romance, its sweat-induing sex scenes, its piping-hot gossip, and its can't-keep-your-eyes-away drama. And one of the anchors of the whole series is none other than the all-mighty Queen Charlotte, played by lesbian actress Golda Rosheuvel.
While LGBTQ+ fans are still waiting for the beloved show to offer a full-fledged out character to follow along and root for, like with Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) in season 1 and Anthony Bridgerton (gay actor Jonathan Bailey) in season 2, we don't need Lady Whistledown's society papers to declare that having an out-and-proud lesbian actress play a key role on one of the biggest streaming services in the world is a major step towards industry visibility, especially with queer stars not always getting the same opportunities as their straight peers. And with a prequel series in the works that focuses on the early years of Queen Charlotte, we can't wait to see more of Rosheuvel in the ever-expanding Bridgerton universe. And she's proud of her role in it.
"There are many ways to describe the work of an actor, I think that's the beautiful world we live in and create in, it's ever-changing," Rosheuvel says. "We interpret the work of the writer, expressing many emotions, deep diving into the characters we advocate for. Creating the space for imagination, a space to connect with audiences."
"I live in the truth of the characters I play," she continues. "They are part of me and I am part of them. No matter who or what I'm playing, we walk hand in hand." @goldarosheuvel
Actor Leonardo Nam gives off smart, chill L.A. vibes -- but don't mess with his family. While living in San Diego with his husband, internet exec Mike Dodge-Nam, and their two sons, someone slipped a note under his front door, calling his rainbow family offensive and suggesting they shut their blinds. Nam ran outside and burned the note in the street; soon after, he bought a giant Pride flag and hung it from the house.
Nam had to be determined, thoughtful, and tough to make his family and career dreams happen. Born in Argentina to South Korean parents, Nam moved to Australia as a child, studied architecture in college, and eventually moved to the U.S. to work as an actor -- enduring numerous warnings about how uninterested Hollywood was in Asian actors, especially gay Asian actors. Still, he made a name for himself in movies like The Perfect Score, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift before his big breakthrough in Westworld. This year, Lam starred on the Hulu series Maggie and became part of the Marvel universe with his role in Werewolf by Night.
His biggest success of 2022 wasn't work-related, but rather his kids "starting kindergarten, Korean school, and soccer this year."
It took a lot of work for Nam to finally believe he deserved his life. "One of the largest obstacles I had to face was my own internal struggle to celebrate being a married gay man with kids," he says. "For more than half my life I was told by society that because I was gay, I would never be married to a man I love openly and have kids.... I had to work on unwinding the old ways of thinking and that only came through deep private soul-searching, and the courage of self-reflection through therapy and meditation."
Theo Germaine is a rising star in Hollywood -- and now, one of Tinseltown's most prominent trans and nonbinary talents. Their past credits include Netflix's The Politician, Showtime's Work in Progress, and HBO Max's Equal. And this year, they queered the horror genre with They/Them (pronounced "they slash them"). In the groundbreaking Peacock film, they portray Jordan, a trans and nonbinary teen who takes on the head of a conversion therapy camp portrayed by Kevin Bacon.
Acting isn't just a means of paying the bills for this Illinois native. They see their art as "as a way of exploring the world and healing myself, hoping to help others to navigate the same." These forms of art include music and writing. In fact, they completed a writing project that has been "a dream of mine to do since I was a child" and is excited to share more news of it shortly.
For Germaine, being trapped in a conversion therapy camp wasn't the only terrifying part of 2022. The actor contracted a serious case of COVID-19 earlier this year. "I couldn't walk for about three weeks, could barely eat, I really thought it was going to destroy me," they share. "A way I overcame it was by receiving really amazing care by my partner -- their name is William Rusan -- and by having a lot of conversations with myself about mortality, to be perfectly morbid. Some of my friends also Zoom-called with me over my birthday, because that's the time that I was sick. Not being alone is what helped me get through it."
Community is important to Germaine, who believes their purpose in life is "to be a good person to other people, through the relationships I have and that I foster, and through creation. I don't know anything else as well besides trying to make or create." @theogermaine
Amy Schneider became one of the most famous transgender people in the U.S. with her 40-game winning streak on Jeopardy! That was the second-longest winning streak in the show's history, and Schneider is in fourth place for all-time regular season cash winnings with $1.382 million. She became the first woman to pass the million-dollar mark and went farther than any other out trans contestant on the venerable quiz show, qualifying for the Tournament of Champions (which had not yet aired when the Out100 went to press).
The year also saw Schneider, who is bisexual, announce her engagement to Genevieve Davis and quit her job as a software engineer. As to what comes next, Schneider says, "I'm still trying to figure that out! I'm writing a book, but I've also been going around and speaking at different events. Mainly, at the moment, I'm trying to figure out what the best use of my unexpected platform would be."
For her proudest accomplishment of 2022, she notes, "I got a couple pieces published on Defector. I've loved the writers on that website for years, and to know that they considered my work worthy of appearing on their site is so encouraging."
Fame also brought some challenges. "My partner and I had been dating for less than a year when Jeopardy! happened and turned our life upside down," Schneider says. "I suddenly had so many different things going on; we were traveling a ton, getting recognized in public. It was definitely a trial by fire for our relationship. But we were very intentional about making sure that we gave our relationship the attention that it needed, that we kept communicating, and that we made the adjustments that we needed to. Her emotional intelligence and honesty is what drew me to her in the first place, and it's why I never doubted that our relationship would survive this change."
"I don't think that people have purposes in life, because that implies that if you don't achieve that purpose, you've somehow 'failed,'" says Schneider. "I think we have many different purposes throughout our lives, and all we can do is pursue whichever seems the most valuable at the time."
One thing we should do if she could change anything about the world, she says, is "remove all the carbon we've pumped into the atmosphere."
As for what's next, she says, "I'm excited to find out!" @jeopardamy
If you haven't seen Billy Porter's directorial debut Anything's Possible, you are missing out on one of the sweetest (and most groundbreaking) movies of the year. This coming-of-age film stars Black transgender actress Eva Reign as Kelsa, a trans high school senior who falls for a shy, cisgender boy named Khal.
"Every day I get DMs from people who really enjoyed the film and took in the key message of love from it. That always warms my heart," says Reign. "I'm also beyond grateful to kick off my film career with the legendary Billy Porter. He's changed my life for the better, and I cannot wait to see all the good he continues to do with his immeasurable talents during this new chapter for him as a director."
Though Anything's Possible was Reign's first feature film, it isn't her first time in front of the camera. Earlier this year, Reign won a Peabody Award and a GLAAD Media Award for her work as a correspondent on the Vice News docuseries Transnational, which explores the experiences of trans people around the world. Reign hosted Transnational's premiere episode, "Love Us in the Light," which celebrated the life of Kelly Stough, a Black trans woman and member of the House of Ebony, who was murdered by a local pastor.
"My purpose in life is to create," says Reign. "When I'm not being creative, it takes a toll on my physical and mental health. Whether that means giving it my all on set that day, doing a sketch of the New York City skyline, singing my favorite showtunes, writing a new screenplay or an essay, or even just dancing around with my friends -- expressing myself is a daily practice. Creating something bigger than myself and creating for change, that's my purpose in my life." @msevareign
Sometimes you must let go of one dream to go after another -- especially when that other dream is to live as your authentic self. And no one knows this more than professional skateboarder, artist, musician, and entrepreneur Leo Baker.
Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story, now streaming on Netflix, documents Baker's decision to give up his shot at skating for the U.S. Women's Skateboarding team in Tokyo due to gender identity struggles. Directed by Giovanni Reda and Nicola Marsh, the film premiered at the 2022 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Documentary Feature.
Born in Covina, Calif., and now living in Brooklyn, New York, Baker has beat the odds to become one of the biggest stars in the previously cisgender male-dominated sport. Now 30, Baker has even recently become immortalized as a playable video game character in the latest version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.
In addition to the release of Stay on Board, Baker says that filming a video for Spitfire to promote his own line of skateboard wheels and "growing Glue Skateboards, the company I started with Stephen Ostrowski" have been his proudest achievements this year.
Baker, who identifies as transmasculine, queer, and bisexual, says if he could wave a magic wand he would "end colonialism."
"My purpose feels very centered around creating -- art, music, space, etcetera," says Baker. And as for what's next, he adds, "more skating, more music, more art, more Glue Skateboards." @leo_baker
Ariel Foxman wants a word with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Foxman, the former editor in chief of fashion bible InStyle, is living proof that second acts do occur in American life (contradicting a famous quip from The Great Gatsby author). The married gay dad was named general manager of the Boston Seaport late last year, a 33-acre mega-development of housing, offices, shops, parks, and hotel rooms that sits on the edge of the Atlantic.
Overseeing day-to-day operations, marketing, and coordination with city officials seems a far cry from placating advertisers and convincing Jennifer Aniston to wear colors, but Foxman sees his old career as a precursor to his current -- it's all about storytelling and selling, he says.
Still, it's "equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. I am proud that I have been able to bring my expertise and experience to a new sector -- from publishing to placemaking -- and grateful that I continue to have the opportunity to learn new things every day."
Though he remains a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, writes for Architectural Digest, and publishes the parenting newsletter Abbapapa on Substack, Foxman is now guided by his family's best interests -- husband Brandon Cardet-Hernandez got a job in Boston before Foxman took the seaport position -- rather than the Manhattan media rat race.
His main purpose in life is raising "my son to be exactly who he is, and to feel supported in his feelings, ideas, and choices. And to raise him to be proud of and connected to his Jewish and Cuban heritage -- and proud of his 'rainbow family.'" @arielfoxman
Michael R. Jackson
Over the last several years, 41-year-old playwright, composer, and lyricist Michael R. Jackson has been in a not-so-strange loop of success. In 2019, his musical A Strange Loop, which revolves around a Black gay man writing a musical about a Black gay man writing a musical, premiered off-Broadway. The show subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, making it the first musical written by a Black person to win and the first musical to win without a Broadway run.
In 2022, A Strange Loop premiered on Broadway, and its success didn't stop there. Earlier this year, the musical earned 11 Tony nominations -- the most nominations of any 2022 production. The show ultimately won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical.
Working in the industry hasn't always been easy for Jackson, who has been developing A Strange Loop since 2002. At the time, Jackson had recently graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and written a monologue about his post-grad confusion called Why I Can't Get Work, which later turned into A Strange Loop.
Years later, Jackson has made peace with some of the hurdles he has encountered along the way. "The largest obstacle I have faced is myself -- my propensity for self-doubt and self-loathing has historically been a fearsome adversary and not easy to overcome," says Jackson. "It was years of writing A Strange Loop and going to therapy to get more into my body that helped me overcome those demons."
With that self-work, Jackson has found clarity about his goals. "I believe my purpose in life is to tell stories on stage and screen with clarity and eloquence," he says. "I once heard this described by Kate Bornstein as the telling of truth to ease suffering."
Jake Wesley Rogers
Clad in a leopard-print suit, Jake Wesley Rogers joined Brandi Carlile on stage at Elton John's Oscar party to pay homage to the glam rock godfather with a cover of "Rocket Man" last March. A week later, Rogers performed at the GLAAD Awards in Los Angeles to a roaring crowd. It was a good year for the 25-year-old gay, gender-fluid singer-songwriter as he performed his queer-themed and often celebratory songs like "Middle of Love" and "Momentary" on increasingly larger platforms. And as Rogers's star continues to rise, he's remained true to himself and his queer roots.
"I experienced a lot of growth this past year and dreams coming true, but I think I'm most proud of not losing who I am in the process and holding on to why I started making music in the first place," Rogers says. "There were a few times this year where people tried to tell me to be less authentic in order to be more successful. I overcame that by simply not listening and remembering that authenticity is always universal."
Rogers, who hails from Springfield, Mo., and grew up in a religious environment, continues to imbue his work with religious iconography, often turning it on its head. The "Momentary" video includes a resurrection narrative while paying homage to queer revolutionaries like Marsha P. Johnson and Oscar Wilde.
While this packed year has already brought Rogers and his message increased visibility, he's about to reach even more audiences on a fall tour with Panic! At the Disco. And he's recording his first full-length album.
"I believe my purpose in life is to tell the truth. I love the Toni Morrison quote, 'the function of freedom is to free others' -- I really hope that by sharing my story openly it brings freedom to others," he says. @jakewesleyrogers
OurFlag Means Death premiered on HBO Max this year, a funny and exciting new pirate comedy featuring Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby. What viewers didn't know initially was that it was also going to be one of the best queer love stories on TV, and that it would have a brilliant supporting cast filled with scene stealers like Lucius, the ship's sassy scribe played by British comedian Nathan Foad. The show features a gamut of queer characters, but Lucius is perhaps the most relatable. While everyone around him is a complete disaster, he sighs, rolls his eyes, draws nude portraits of other pirates, and says what we're all thinking.
Foad is a comedy writer, an actor, a showrunner of his own sitcom Newark, which aired on UKTV Gold this year, and is a self-proclaimed "full-time scamp." He says his purpose in life is to "make comedy so good people are just like, giggling at funerals," and that if he could change one thing in the world, he'd "make it illegal to list calories on restaurant menus."
Clearly, his sense of humor is impish and cheeky, and definitely fun. Yes, he's a rascal, but he's one of the most lovable rascals in the world. So, what's next for Foad? Well, according to him, "I'm filmin', I'm writin', I'm eatin' snacks." Sounds like a pretty good time. @nathan_foad
A fan favorite from Our Flag Means Death is nonbinary pirate Jim, played by the wonderful Vico Ortiz, a nonbinary, genderfluid, pansexual Puerto Rican actor also known for Vida and The Sex Lives of College Girls. When we first meet Jim, he's in disguise, and it seems like the character is going to be a classic "woman disguised as a man." But when Jim takes off the fake beard and false nose, they make sure everyone else on the crew knows they're still Jim.
Jim is a character we've never seen before on TV but has always existed in real life. Trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people have always existed -- especially in outsider communities like pirate crews -- and now, we're finally seeing that.
Ortiz is using their new platform to advocate for change, authenticity, and visibility as a queer and trans Latine. "By existing and taking up space [that belonged to me to begin with], I show the world that queer folks are just as human as everyone else," they say. "We belong in every space just like everyone else."
One fight they're still fighting is trying to get their identity recognized in the Spanish language in mainstream media (their Spanish pronouns are elle/le/e).
"Some interviews do use neutral pronouns for me after I've explained how to use them, however, some other outlets have chosen to not recognize my identity and stick to binary language when they talk about me, saying they won't use it until the royal academy of Spanish has approved it," explains Ortiz. "I challenge this by saying that language is alive and in constant change and evolution, and the only way new words get recognized is by using them. Soy no binarie, soy Puertorriquene y mi identidad vale mas que un pedazo de papel. [I am nonbinary, I am Puerto Rican, and my identity is worth more than a piece of paper.]" @puertoricaninja
Rob Garrett Smith
As a (former) major merchandising officer, Rob Garrett Smith once helped lead companies like Macy's, Victoria's Secret, and Nike to greater sales and profits. But his career and life trajectory changed in 2018 when he launched the Phluid Project.
A third-generation Native American from the Ojibwa tribe, Smith was seeking a way to honor his Two-Spirit ancestors as well as today's LGBTQ+ youth, particularly those who are transgender and nonbinary. The Phluid Project, which Smith self-funded, accomplishes this goal as a fashion brand by offering gender-free clothing and accessories. It does so by leveraging Smith's past Rolodex to bring big-name companies into partnerships and collaborations, thus paving the way for a queerer, binary-breaking future in fashion. Young people demand more diversity. And the Phluid Project offers an education program, Get Phluid, that trains enrollees in the tastes of Gen Z consumers.
This year, Smith is proud to have launched another arm of his vision, the Phluid Phoundation. This nonprofit has raised about $750,000 since June 2021, and these funds are directed to support diverse nonprofits and initiatives, particularly those that help LGBTQ+ youth and are helmed by trans, gender-nonconforming, and BIPOC leaders. Beneficiaries include the Ali Forney Center, the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, the Utah Pride Center, and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.
"I believe my purpose it to encourage folks to be open-minded, curious, and imaginative," Smith shares. "I work and speak around the world to teach folks to unlearn and relearn. To encourage people to explore and connect with their authentic selves by breaking free from binary constructs."
"I recognize my privilege to be a part of this cultural zeitgeist as we all learn to free ourselves of the past and move toward the future...free to be." @robgarrettsmith
The Boulet Brothers
The Boulet Brothers -- renowned horror-oriented drag performers and nightlife hosts-- recently completed their first world tour and struck a deal with Shudder, an on-demand video service owned by AMC, to expand the Dragula cinematic universe in 2022 and beyond. Clearly, they are well on their way to achieving "total world domination."
Moreover, they are currently working on new music, developing a scripted film, expanding their legendary Boulet Brothers Halloween Ball, and producing two new seasons of The Boulet Brothers' Dragula, their hit reality competition of drag artists. In fact, the Boulet Brothers recently announced the show's first Titans spin-off, which will feature some of the best contestants in Dragula history competing once again.
At their core, the Boulet Brothers always aim to provide a safe haven to those who feel like outsiders. "The world can be a lonely place when you feel like you don't belong," they explain, "and everyone needs to know that they have friends out there and that there are others like them in the world."
Though it's always been a challenge for the Boulet Brothers to "fit in" with other mainstream LGBTQ+ figures, they also consider this outsider perspective their greatest strength. The two horror icons remark, "We've always done things our own way, and while that was a huge obstacle when we were just starting out, we've learned that standing out among the masses is a boon when you do it authentically." @bouletbrothers
One would imagine that after becoming a New York Times bestselling author and a Pulitzer Prize nominee, you could rest on your laurels. Not so for Dr. Eric Cervini, author, producer, historian, and avowed homosexual. His first book, The Deviant's War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America, uncovered the story of Frank Kameny, an ousted government astronomer who filed the country's first-known federal civil rights claim around sexual orientation. Cervini, who lives in L.A. with his drag queen boyfriend and their dog, Moo Bear, topped that by making history -- well, fun -- as the creator and executive producer of The Book of Queer, a comedic and music-filled docuseries about LGBTQ+ history, which premiered on Discovery+ in June.
For the author who aspires to be the Ms. Frizzle of queer history (Frizzle is the famed teacher from The Magic School Bus), creating The Book of Queer, the world's first queer history variety show, fits right into his mission "to get folks excited about our past, and to learn from our successes and failures as a community. Plus, if there's anything I've learned about studying history, it's important to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy."
The Book of Queer featured the largest all-queer cast in the history of Hollywood, Cervini boasts, "and we had the opportunity to tell dozens of enthralling stories from our queer past -- with comedy, music, dance, historian commentary, and lots of fun. The cast and crew included some of the most talented queer folks in the world, and it was the honor of a lifetime to work with them to create the queerest -- i.e., best -- show in the world."
Next stop? Channeling Frizzle, he and his partner Adam Powell are raising funds for a Rainbow Book Bus, which will drive LGBTQ+ books across the country. @ericcervini
David Barta made reality TV waves this year when the health and fitness instructor came out as pansexual during the fifth season of MTV's Ex on the Beach. "A big thing that has been going on for me, behind closed doors, in the past year and a half or so, has been my sexuality," he told castmates during his coming-out episode. "Talking to guys is still pretty new for me. I've been interested in men for years now, I just haven't been honest with myself."
Not only did Barta come out, but he also confessed to having a crush on his bisexual castmate Mike Mulderrig. It was a moment -- not just for his legions of (thirsty) fans but for Barta himself, who has been on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth ever since. It's one that Barta says has been good for his body, soul, and business.
Barta's business as a health and fitness coach in the Beverly Hills and Los Angeles areas has taken off this year and he's in the best shape of his life, he says. Even more importantly, he's gotten real about every aspect of his life, even when it meant making hard and painful choices. "I was in a serious relationship for the last year, choosing to end that relationship and moving on was the greatest obstacle in my way of achieving those things, as hard as it was to walk away," he explains.
Now Barta is intent on letting nothing stand in his way, and he sees a bright future now that he's out and proud. "[I'm] continuing to grow and come into my own self and continue to grow my training business here in L.A.," he says.
"I believe that my purpose in life is to contribute to other people's lives: physical training-wise and emotionally," he shares. If that weren't enough, well, heavy lifting, he also wants to help make the world a better place with his openness. "If I could wave a magic wand, I would erase the presumptions and stigmas about bisexuality," Barta says. That's a reality we all can embrace. @davidbartatraining
In June 2021, queer and nonbinary poet, author, and touring spoken word artist Andrea Gibson committed to writing a digital newsletter. Entitled Things That Don't Suck, it would be published multiple times per week and centered the importance of finding positivity in life. Gibson (they/them) was fresh off writing their latest book, You Better Be Lightning, and had been spending up to six months each year giving spoken word performances in rock clubs around the world. "Probably not what most people envision when they hear 'poetry show,'" Gibson says wryly.
In the age of COVID, the thought of a new adventure closer to home was appealing, but the newsletter and their life soon became far more emotionally entwined than they initially envisioned.
"A week before launching the project, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer," Gibson says. "My first thought was: No way can I write that newsletter now. But the thought that soon followed was far more expansive: This is exactly the time to write that newsletter. This is exactly the time to shift my lens and my attention toward what does not suck."
In July of this year, Gibson took to social media to announce they were canceling the remainder of their tour due to a recurrence of cancer. As in the past, they accepted and prioritized the diagnosis before moving on.
"As someone who had previously lived with a lot of fear, I never imagined I could grow and thrive during a cancer diagnosis -- but my heart has never been so open," Gibson says. "Through this time, I have learned to see people with a compassionate, loving, and technicolor lens. I have learned to live in the present."
True to character, Gibson is sharing their experiences for all the right reasons. "Although I've identified with multiple purposes throughout my life and career, I'd say that what's most potent to me now is to teach people how to cultivate inner joy and peace regardless of external circumstance," Gibson says. "Recently I wrote, 'What kind of poet would I be if I could only make hard things beautiful on paper?'" @andrewgibby
At just 24, nonbinary designer and artist Jacques Agbobly has already embarked on an impressive career. In 2020, Agbobly launched Black Boy Knits, an independent design studio that seeks to emphasize Black, queer, and immigrant narratives. Recently, their work caught the eye of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), who named Black Boy Knits a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Finalist in 2022 and allowed Agbobly to show a collection at New York Fashion Week.
An immigrant who grew up in Togo, West Africa, Agbobly sees their brand as an extension of their identity. "My creative interests stem from my roots in Togo, Africa, and my immigration to the United States at an early age," says Agbobly. "In my work, I explore narratives of the Black immigrant experience to examine the connections between past and present realities that help inform Black futures."
He adds: "With these themes in mind, I've strengthened my design focus in unisex clothing and silhouettes that subvert gender expectations and realities to portray the multiplicity of the Black identity."
Aside from the brand's unique design perspective, Black Boy Knits sets itself apart because it is run entirely on a made-to-order basis. Agbobly also only uses natural fibers that are biodegradable and eco-friendly in order to minimize waste and reduce energy consumption.
"As a young Black and queer creative, I used to feel this pressure to save the world, to cause impact in some large form," says Agbobly. "Over the last couple of years, stepping into my artistry and adulthood, I've learned that a small gesture goes a long way, and that by being my authentic self and sharing my story, it allows others to feel the love and to connect. This is my purpose -- to share my story and build family along the way." @illinoize
The readers of Vogue and GQ and fans of Puma and Beyonce's Adidas X Ivy Park know Yves Mathieu as a New York-based model and performer. But it's what Yves, 28, does off the clock that truly sets this queer leader apart. He is a tireless advocate, consistently fighting for marginalized communities, particularly trans and cis women and LGBTQ+ youth.
The self-described "broken-hearted artist" heals by doing extensive work involving social justice (like LGBTQ+ youth runaway centers and homeless shelters). He also rescues pit bulls from fight rings on the streets and does extensive rehabilitative work so they're ready to be adopted by a loving home.
Mathieu has tattoos on 90 percent of his body, which means most people don't see fashion or queer when they "read" him. No matter, this summer and fall, Mathieu went on a self-funded, grassroots abortion rights protest tour, working hand in hand with every major organization at high-risk since the new Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. His biggest accomplishment this year is escaping a two-year-old assault charge on a police officer, which, he says, "in actuality was me trying to protect a woman who had been struck in the face by a police officer during a protest I was at."
Though his largest obstacle ("being Black in this country") remains, he says, "I look that challenge in the face every single day and I actively make the choice to live, even on days when I don't want to." Though he's recording a new album, he'll "continue to venture wherever injustice is happening and do whatever I can in those moments, by any means necessary."
Mathieu knows what would make him truly happy: "Pay Black women; legal abortion in every state; health care for our trans youth and adults; no more old, white presidents; and community cookouts every weekend." Model, sure, but he's the true definition of a justice activist who shows queer kids they can survive, thrive, and fight back when needed. @the_yvesdropper
As a drag performer, Kim Chi wants to "tell a visual story for the audience through the art of makeup and costuming." As the owner of the KimChi Chic Beauty company, Chi's goal is to "create and market makeup products people can use to create their own fantasy."
Since founding KimChi Chic Beauty in the digital space, Chi has expanded her makeup brand; her products are now available at select CVS stores in the U.S. and Shoppers Drug Mart locations in Canada, thus making history as the first drag queen-owned company to be sold at major physical retailers.
Since appearing on season 8 of RuPaul's Drag Race, Chi has been pursuing her dream of owning a successful makeup brand and is now making all of her other dreams come true. Though she sometimes struggles with people's opinions about her, Chi keeps pushing forward in order to "show representation and hopefully, make the world a better place." @kimchi_chic
Bryan Ruby, 26, is a jack-of-all-trades who is making an impact as an out gay man in baseball and country music -- two environments that typically do not have much LGBTQ+ representation. In September 2021, Ruby made history when he came out and became the only out gay active professional baseball player in the United States. Shortly after, he founded Proud to Be in Baseball, a nonprofit organization that supports and encourages young LGBTQ+ athletes.
"I'm most proud of the progress we've been able to make with our new nonprofit," says Ruby. "We are advocating and creating mentorship programs for LGBTQ+ youth in the sport. I wanted to create the thing that I didn't have, yet could have used the most as a young queer athlete."
When Ruby is not on the field, he's making a name for himself as a rising country music artist. In 2020, he won season 7 of the Nashville Rising Song talent search competition. Since then, he's garnered more than 20 professional cuts as a songwriter, including a new single called "Left Field," whose proceeds will be donated to Proud to Be in Baseball. He's also collaborated with producer and sound engineer Chris Connors (John Legend, Kanye West) on several projects, including commercial music for the New England Sports Network.
But Ruby admits the road in the country music game has been bumpy at times. "[Over] the past three years, I've tried to make a name for myself as a songwriter in country music. Nashville is already full of songwriters and the genre is a notoriously tough arena for LGBTQ+ people to crack," says Ruby.
"What I first thought was my weakness might just be my superpower," he adds. "Being queer gives me a different perspective than the majority of country writers, and that has helped me tremendously." @bryanrubyofficial
Shing Yin Khor
This year, Shing Yin Khor's middle-grade graphic novel The Legend of Auntie Po, about a queer 12-year-old Chinese camp cook "navigating both her feelings for her best friend and the tensions of existing as a Chinese person after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion act," won an Eisner and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
But Khor isn't just a graphic novelist; they describe themself as a "maker of things and stories," and that's the truth. They also design indie games, make fortune-telling cabinets, build "odd little fish marionettes," "send weird narrative mail horror stories through the USPS," run a mail LARP called Space Gnome Space, and -- along with their friend Leslie -- put together a hand-dyed bandana fundraiser and event for abortion rights that raised $10,000. Out of all these talents, what is Khor best at?
"I think that the thing I am best at is creating empathy through quiet but persistent narratives," the nonbinary Malaysian-Chinese artist says. "I don't often feel cut out for the outspoken activism I admire most, but I think that the slow and tenacious work of establishing new narratives that reshapes the world in the image of people like us, who have previously been excluded from them, is important too. Myths are important because they create a common language that societies use to communicate and understand each other, and we can make new myths filled with people who look and live like us." @sawdustbear
A true film industry multi-hyphenate, writer, director, producer, and actor, Elegance Bratton is using his platform to tell stories that matter.
Partnering with Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson for her Disney+ anthology docuseries Growing Up, which presents coming-of-age stories of 10 different youths from diverse backgrounds, Bratton directed an episode of the show focusing on a young gay musician named Amiri and his struggles with racism and rejection in his community. Britton used Amiri's episode of Growing Up to highlight what it's like being brought up in the world as a Black gay teen, an important perspective that still does not get the spotlight it needs in the media.
"The biggest obstacle I faced was believing that my sexuality made me an abomination," Bratton shares of his own challenges. "I've overcome it through true love, community, and my work as an artist."
But Growing Up was not Bratton's only accomplishment this past year. Making his directorial debut with art house film company A24 at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, Bratton wrote and directed The Inspection, another Black gay coming-of-age story that centers on a young man named Ellis (played by out Pose and Hollywood star Jeremy Pope) who faces homophobia both at home and at a South Carolina Marine Corps boot camp. The film, which also features an ensemble cast that includes Looking alum Raul Castillo and screen legend Gabrielle Union, was inspired partly by Bratton's real-life experiences and, as he puts it himself, is his greatest professional accomplishment so far.
"My purpose in life is to remind people that they are enough," he says. "That you are more than the circumstance you may find yourself in, and that you can change the world." @elegancebratton
Austin Allan and Tom Smallwood
Across the world, naughty dessert shops have opened their doors in places like Bangkok, Paris, London, Copenhagen, New York City, and Toronto. Earlier this year, New York City found itself with a new addition in SoHo called Sugar Wood, where customers can buy "Woody" (penis-shaped) or "Kitty" (vagina-shaped) waffles.
One half of the brains behind the bakery is marketing guru Austin Allan, who was the founder of a company that sold drinkable soup. Allan also spent several years doing marketing for a variety of food and beverage companies, including Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods. "I believe my purpose in life is to spread joy and equality through food," says Allan. "This is the first time I have been able to do both in the same project."
While it was Allan who came up with the idea for Sugar Wood, it was celebrity baker Tom Smallwood who helped with the culinary, design, and operations aspects of the business. Smallwood started his career in the pharmaceutical industry but pivoted to baking in 2016. Since then, he's worked at various bakeries in New York City, including the famous Magnolia Bakery. Earlier this year, he also competed on the Food Network's Spring Baking Championship.
"I think I was put here to bring smiles to people's faces with the things I create or do," says Smallwood. "I love watching people eat one of my desserts and giggle because it reminds them of childhood or smile with anticipation of the next bite."
What's next for this queer, sex-positive dessert shop? Allan says he hopes to launch Sugar Wood stores in Las Vegas, L.A., and beyond. As for Smallwood, he's itching to get back on television.
"[Being a] Spring Baking Championship semifinalist on Food Network just wet my palette and I want more," Smallwood says. "Maybe my own show? Who knows!" @sugarwood.us
Don Mancini has perfected the art of the horror-comedy. The gay writer of every Child's Play movie has now moved his beloved killer doll to TV with Chucky, which airs on Syfy and the USA Network, and things couldn't be better. The series that follows Chucky (played by his original voice actor, Brad Dourif) as he terrorizes a young gay teen isn't just a great horror show or a great comedy -- it's also truly a great queer show.
"I'm very proud that the queer characters and relationships from season 1 of Chucky have been embraced by our community," he says, "and by young people in particular."
And embrace them we have. Not only do fans love the gay teen romance between Jake Wheeler, who initially finds the Chucky doll, and Devon, his classmate-turned-boyfriend, but they're going nuts over the queerness of Tiffany, Chucky's lover (also played by her original voice actor, Jennifer Tilly). In the franchise's lore, murderer Charles Lee Ray's soul was transferred into a Chucky doll -- but in this series, he sometimes possesses the body of Nica Pierce (played by Fiona Dourif, daughter of Chucky's voice actor), a female human -- and Tiffany does not have a problem with that at all.
Mancini says his life's purpose is "to tell stories." But he's doing so much more than that. He's shining a light on marginalized people who have historically been confined to allegory and allusion. He's highlighting queer kids and showing the world how great they are. He's making one of the funniest, most delightful, and most frightening shows on TV. And he's doing it all with a red-haired child's toy. @realdonmancini
New York City-based publicist and graphic designer Andy Reynolds's company, Popular Publicity, "represents a broad spectrum of unique LGBTQ authors, photographers, and artists." Projects and clients over the last 20 years include the first Cazwell album, the Miss Gay America pageant, photographer Ron Amato, the Black Party, and this year, the extraordinary queer artist Eva Mueller and queer memoirist Jonathan Alexander.
But Reynolds's interests expand beyond public relations. "As a graphic designer, I'm channeling my energy into my love of book cover design, a series of T-shirts for the HRC [Human Rights Campaign], and my online fashion and home accessories shop, the Tee Service," says Reynolds.
Reynolds says his two proudest accomplishments this year are raising over $1,000 with his "Say Gay" merchandise -- to help fight the "don't say gay" bills cropping up across the country -- and launching his #AgeismSucks merchandise, or what he calls "battle gear for the war on ageism."
"I took this frank little hashtag to the streets to raise awareness of ageism, convey the pain and frustration it inflicts, and cue others to be mindful of their own attitudes towards people of different ages. And it's working!" says the 61-year-old gay man. "The T-shirts and totes reliably elicit thumbs-ups, positive comments and, as intended, actual conversations about ageism with strangers of all ages."
And the best part is, 10 percent of the proceeds from Reynolds's #AgeismSucks merchandise benefit SAGE -- a nonprofit that advocates and provides services for LGBTQ+ elders -- and the American Society on Aging. Reynolds's "Say Gay" and #AgeismSucks merchandise is available for purchase at theteeservice.com. @ageismsucks
Everyone wants a little bit of Saucy Santana -- some of them, a lot. For the past few years, the 28-year-old, Connecticut-born, Florida-raised rapper has been going it alone, hitting the ground hard and making the internet shake with his quotable phrases and addictive tracks. Every few months another song was going viral (usually on TikTok), telling fans to "walk him like a dog," scream "Period!," or declare themselves "Material Gworls!"
But in 2022, Santana went harder. "Performing with Madonna during Pride Month, touring with Latto and Lizzo, performing at the BET Awards and MTV VMAs pre-shows, signing to RCA Records," Santana says when asked about his proudest moment. "Too many to count!"
And there's still more to come. With singles like "Booty," "I'm Too Much," and "Bop Bop" having all dropped this year, and his next project on the way, it's only a matter of time before no one remembers that he got his start as a makeup artist to his close friends, rap duo the City Girls. And with good reason: It's not just the internet that the lacquered and bearded star is able to move, it's actual crowds. As he often says, "a hit is undeniable," and he's been serving hits to the world time and time again while providing a new vision of what it means to be a pop star by simply being himself. And that authenticity has awakened a growing legion of fans that doesn't plan to disband any time soon. @the1saucysantana
The Q Agenda
LGBTQ+ Latinx representation is still lacking in mainstream media. Thankfully, there's The Q Agenda, a talk show that centers the voices and issues vital to this community. These conversations are guided by its four diverse and discerning hosts: transgender activist and actress Juliana Joel, lesbian comedian Lianna Carrera, gay celebrity makeup artist and entrepreneur Victor Ramos, and gay multihyphenate media personality Enrique Sapene.
"If The View and The Real had an LGBTQ Latinx baby, it would be The Q Agenda," the group explains. "With topics on everything from politics to religion to sexuality, our goal is to provide a platform for members of the LGBTQ community to speak their minds and be heard, which is not always easy in conservative, traditional, machismo Latin culture. We believe that by sharing our stories, we can break down barriers and make our community stronger."
It's been a banner year for The Q Agenda. The LATV show (available to stream on LATV.com, Amazon Prime, and Revry TV) celebrated its eighth season, cohosted the Outfest LGBTQ+ Film Festival where the hosts interviewed luminaries like Billy Porter, and worked with the Tourist Office of Spain to promote LGBTQ+ travel in Barcelona. The hosts' stars are also growing: Joel made TV history as the first out trans character and actor on the Disney Channel with Raven's Home and has upcoming appearances on Showtime's American Gigolo and Netflix's Absolute Dominion; Carrera is a full-time writer and creator for Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's multimedia company Westbrook, Inc.; Ramos is blowing up as a social media content creator and TV host; and Sapene is the executive producer of Canela TV's hot new reality series Secretos de Villanas.
And of course, coming up, there's season 9 of The Q Agenda, which will continue the show's vital role of advocacy and visibility. "If we could wave a magic wand, we would want to change how the Latinx community is represented in the media," the hosts say. "We are underrepresented and often misrepresented, and it's time for that to change." @theqagenda@thejulianajoel@liannac@vicmram@enriquesapene
Together, Michael Rogers and John Byrne run Raw Story, the largest independent LGBTQ-owned news site in America that focuses "on investigative journalism and progressive politics...known for its groundbreaking coverage of social justice and domestic extremism."
Byrne founded Raw Story Media in 2004, serving as Raw Story's primary writer, editor, and publisher until 2010 and now acts as CEO. He is also the founder and executive director of Prevention305, a Florida nonprofit that raises awareness around the HIV-prevention treatment PrEP. He's also the owner of AlterNet Media.
Michael Rogers first joined the Raw Story staff in 2005 and by 2009, had become a partner and vice chairman of the company alongside Byrne. Rogers holds the same roles at AlterNet, which publishes content on Alternet.org and TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com. He is also co-host of The Raw Story Podcast with Mike Rogers & Shannyn Moore and founded Netroots Connect in 2008, a nonprofit that works to bring community leaders together to create change.
Before his work with Byrne, Rogers was known for his controversial blog that focused on exposing the hypocrisy of antigay politicians who were themselves closeted LGBTQ+ individuals -- and his boldness has not dwindled over the years. The media partners say that "producing quality news is harder than ever as advertisers avoid 'controversial' topics.' This means reporting on gun violence, police brutality, and abortion access.... [Our readers'] loyalty has allowed us to continue our fearless reporting."
One of their proudest accomplishments of 2022 has been "expanding our original team with a focus on racial justice and Capitol Hill. Our reporting has already uncovered hidden video from a racially motivated killing and has held 50 GOP Senators accountable in their reaction to the January 6 insurrection." As for the future, the two say they're "tremendously excited about our original journalism and bringing light to issues like choice, LGBTQ rights, and racial equity." @rawstorymedia
Angel Olsen has hit the Big Time. After a decade in the music industry, in 2021 she came out as queer, and this year released the best album of her career so far. She's reaching creative highs she's never reached before.
Just days after Olsen came out to her family, her father died. Then, two weeks after she introduced her partner to her family at his funeral, her mother passed away as well. She was able to channel her heartbreak and growth into one of the best albums of the year, the classic country-tinged Big Time.
The album and accompanying film dive deep into the triumph of being free to be your best self and also the tragedy of not having the people you love the most be there for it. She says making the film that shares its name with the album was the biggest obstacle she had to face this year, as it forced her to confront her parents' deaths directly. She used the filmmaking process "as an exercise to process and let go of memories and fears from the past."
"So far, I feel my purpose has been to make music, make art as a medium for deeply communicating subjects most people don't talk about, and always aspiring to create a space for others to connect and search further for themselves within, too," she says. But she doesn't want to stop there. She also wants people to know what's possible if we can all follow love.
"Love is possible and powerful," Olsen says. "And can change us from the inside. We can be anything with love if we let ourselves." @angelolsenmusic
When Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham set out to create a series about the women who played baseball in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II, they saw an opportunity to expand on the stories Penny Marshall began telling in her 1992 film. With their eight-episode first season of A League of Their Own on Prime Video, the out creators gave space to queer women and Latinas who played in the league but were forced to hide, as well as the Black women who weren't allowed to play but who eventually batted in the Negro leagues.
Previously best known for being one half of the hilarious, lovable duo in Broad City, Jacobson also stars as catcher Carson in the breakout series that already has viewers making fan art of her onscreen romance with D'Arcy Carden's Greta. "I'm most proud of putting League out into the world finally. I'm really proud of the show and the stories we are telling," Jacobson says of her accomplishments in 2022. @abbijacobson
"I make things that are, in one way or another, centered on joy -- and I'm queer, so naturally I'm drawn to queer joy, which we don't get enough of," says Will Graham, A League of Their Own's co-creator who was previously the showrunner and executive producer of Mozart in the Jungle.
"I try to tell historical or contemporary queer stories that we haven't heard before, in genres that we aren't usually visible in, and in ways that can have an impact. I believe queer stories are universal," they say.
For Graham, League is the shining achievement of their year: "Abbi [Jacobson] and I and our whole team put years of research, love, and work into A League of Their Own, and immersing myself in those histories for years was really life-changing."
"When former AAGPBL player Maybelle Blair came out at 95 at our premiere in June, it put everything into perspective for me -- getting to see her live through the telling of her story a second time and this time having queerness included," Graham adds.
As of press time, Jacobson and Graham are waiting to hear if League will land a second season, but they're also both moving forward with other inclusive projects. While Jacobson is adapting a short story that she intends to direct, Graham has recently finished shooting Daisy Jones and the Six and they're directing Uncle Wick, an action comedy with a queer protagonist.
Meanwhile, they are heart-warmed by the response to League and how it's resonated with so many queer fans. "One person told me that they watched the show with their mom and came out to her midway, which made me lose it," Graham says. "I'm so proud to be a part of the team telling these joyful queer stories and hopefully connecting our community to a part of its history we don't hear too much about." @willwisslergraham
This year was Barbie Ferreira's last on the wildly successful and acclaimed drama Euphoria. Since the show launched in 2019, the actor and body positive model has been a part of the main cast, playing Kat Hernandez, a self proclaimed "fat girl who doesn't give a fuck." After appearing in Jordan Peele's Nope, one of the most talked about movies of the year, she's moving on to a bigger and brighter future in entertainment. One upcoming project? Joining Ariana DeBose in an upcoming Blumhouse and Amazon Prime thriller, House of Spoils.
But at just 25, Ferreira is still figuring out what she wants to do next. "My purpose in life is to figure out my purpose in life," she says. "Being flexible, spreading good instead of negativity, and finding myself through age and wisdom. It's been rewarding to explore aspects of myself in ways that are both public and private."
One of the ways she explored herself this year was by going to Brazil for the first time in over a decade. Her mother, aunt, and grandmother raised her in New York but her family is from that country, and she was able to reconnect with loved ones she hadn't seen in years.
"I grew up with very low resources and a single mom, limited family in the States, and not much guidance as an artist, which for sure was an obstacle at times," she says. "However, it's also been my biggest blessing because I have a lot of pride in my upbringing and perspective and how I got here. It's been a wild journey -- and it's not over yet!" @barbieferreira
For years, Antoine Gregory was known primarily for his tweets. On Twitter, he composed an exhaustive thread of every Black designer he could find. He also chronicled and contextualized major fashion moments when the industry was -- and wasn't -- giving Black creatives their due.
But over the past few years, the tweets have reduced in regularity as Gregory has increasingly ingratiated himself into the actual machinations that make those moments. Through his work as a stylist, consultant, and founder of Black Fashion Fair, Gregory has become a leading figure promoting the advancement of Black designers in the fashion industry.
"My goal with Black Fashion Fair is to elevate the location of Blackness in fashion, allowing us to contribute to the canon in meaningful ways," he says. "All of the work I do has relation to the Black experience through history, fashion, and culture."
This work has meant everything from launching an e-commerce shop where fans could find the wares of Black designers, sometimes done as exclusives; working with brands behind the scenes to help them better maneuver the business; and creating and launching a publication that sold out upon release. This landmark fashion publication included five cover options and was 200 pages thick, akin to a coffee table book.
But Gregory also keeps his schedule packed, functioning as the brand director of Theophilio, one of the buzziest new brands in New York City. In this capacity, Gregory has helped guide the founder Edvin Thompson to a CFDA American Emerging Designer of the Year Award in 2021 and a standout Spring 2023 showing this past September. @bibbygregory
TonyTalks, aka Antonio Baldwin, is here to sprinkle some fairy dust on your day. As his over 1.2 million YouTube subscribers can attest, Baldwin has an innate ability to spark mirth with a wig (or several), a few deft edits, and some astute societal observations. Riffing on everything from exhausted mothers to cynical customer service workers to dim party girls -- in videos where he plays all the parts -- Baldwin walks the fine line of poking fun with aplomb, pointing out the ridiculous without getting hateful. His mom, sister, and aunt serve as inspiration for many of the complicated, hilarious women he portrays.
"The content I create is an escape from reality," says the Atlanta-based gay creator. "I make videos about everyday problems that we all go through but with an exaggerated twist [that] brings light and laughter to any situation."
Struggling with depression, anxiety, and insecurity when he was younger, Baldwin found refuge in '90s sitcoms and sketch comedy. After realizing he had a knack for making people laugh, like his idols on the sketch comedy series Mad TV, Baldwin found his creative outlet with YouTube. He still struggles with silencing his own harsh inner critic.
"Although I'm still overcoming it, I've learned to treat myself like a best friend," he says. "Life taught me that. When life gets lonely, you must have the ability to connect with yourself in such a loving way."
Humble and unpretentious, Baldwin resists the inflated self-promotion common with internet personalities. "My biggest accomplishment will forever be taking my family to Disney World," he says. "It's always been a dream of mine to provide new experiences for the ones I love and to be able to fully fund a trip to the most magical place on earth is an accomplishment I will never forget." @iamtonytalks
While the Madea Cinematic Universe has been entertaining folks for close to two decades, it wasn't until earlier this year that audiences were finally blessed with the first out gay character in a Madea film -- Tim, from Netflix's A Madea Homecoming.
Considering the popularity of prolific writer and director Tyler Perry's ever-expanding film and media franchise, with a lot of his titles centering around the family of Mabel "Madea" Earlene Simmons, it's hard not to get excited about the fact that an out queer character finally showed up. And what's more exciting is the fact that an out gay actor -- Brandon Black -- got to play him.
Portraying a groundbreaking character in an influential film universe is considered by many to be a big accomplishment, and Black does assure that it is one of his top accomplishments of 2022. But one of the moments that made him most proud this year was getting to take his mother to the premiere of A Madea Homecoming.
"I had an entire photoshoot set up in the hotel room we were getting ready in. My friend, Andrew Ameter, took incredible photos of my mom that I'll always have to look back at," he shares. "Her beaming on the red carpet after getting her first-ever full glam team really made me proud. I've told her she would have that moment since I was 14."
And after having an admittedly rough time in his life just a few years back in 2018, Black is grateful to get to do the work that he does as an actor and have a lasting impact on LGBTQ+ audiences.
"That feeling you feel when you read a book and see yourself in the shoes of the main character...that's my job, but just recorded on camera," Black says of his work. "I get a script and find the ways that I am this person. The harder to do...the more fun. When you have to really use your imagination and empathy to consider who you might be in those given circumstances, it can be really exciting. Sometimes the job is more simple. Sometimes it's, 'Say your lines on your mark and believe them.' Sometimes you have to do research before you can really believe them. So, it's intermittent with lots of rejection, self-doubt, self-help books, side hustles and hope. It's a ride!" @bblack
Nonbinary Salvadoran poet and abolitionist Christopher Soto (he/they) released his debut poetry book, Diaries of a Terrorist, this year through Copper Canyon Press. The book doesn't just offer beauty; it delivers a powerful message the way that poetry best can. It asks the question "Who do we call a terrorist, and why?" and forces readers to look deep inside and examine the borders imposed by society.
"My life is dedicated to anti-capitalist and anti-racist struggles," the 31-year-old writer says. "Literature is just the means by which I can best produce propaganda."
Diaries of a Terrorist has received widespread praise. But Soto isn't interested in being a "token success story." "Sometimes 'overcome obstacles' are a way to advance the idea of the American dream -- as if you too can have a chance at surviving or even thriving under American capitalism," they say. "Central American migrants in my community are still being deported; Los Angeles, where I live, is still operating one of the largest prison systems in the world; the lack of social safety net in the United States continues to force people into houselessness, and my friends in El Salvador fear the collapse of democracy. I think about struggle communally as opposed to individually." @loma_poetry
Dove Cameron can be a better boyfriend than him, and she wants the world to know it. The pansexual actress and singer released the song "Boyfriend" this year, a pop banger dripping with queerness and sexual confidence. In "Boyfriend," Cameron sings to another woman about how she "could do all the shit that he never did...plus all my clothes would fit," as she tries to woo her away from her male partner. After going viral on TikTok and earning national radio play, the song peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the Mainstream Top 40.
Cameron -- also an actor known for Schmigadoon! and Disney Channel's Descendants film series -- says that getting an overtly queer song on mainstream radio and then winning a VMA for Best New Artist due to the strength of that song were her two proudest accomplishments this year.
"That was something I also never thought would happen as I wrote 'Boyfriend,' never thinking anyone would ever hear it," she says. "I'm not the first person to ever do it, but it was something very meaningful to me to join the select few who have crossed over to mainstream radio with a queer song. It makes me feel hopeful, and it's a huge privilege."
While she historically hasn't been the kind of person to believe that people have a "purpose in life," she says she's been thinking about the idea lately. "I always thought that was a way to subside fear for people and to give their lives structure, when I believe that there is no rhyme or reason to things," she says. "But recently I found it less a restrictive definition to rely on and more a direction to go in. I have found it to be a motivator for when I feel really burnt out."
"I think my purpose in life is to unite people who feel disillusioned or lost, who feel neglected or unseen or unsafe," she adds. "I want to unite people with a sense of community and warmth and empower them to remember their value and remember that their voices matter. I want to illuminate issues I feel need a swarm of people to pay attention to or tangible translations -- whether that be through music, acting roles, or activism." @dovecameron
E.C. Pizarro III
E.C. Pizarro III is a Black/Afro-Latino queer man of trans experience who is working at the intersection of social change and digital art. An award-winning designer with a BFA from the Art Institute of Virginia Beach, Pizarro simply describes his work as "liberation through tech and design."
Currently, Pizarro is the executive director of TransTech Social, an organization founded by trans actress Angelica Ross to provide LGBTQ+ people, particularly trans individuals, with skills in technological literacy, programming, and coding. Pizarro has been involved with TransTech since 2017 and was named its executive director in 2021.
"With the work we do at TransTech Social, I feel like I can combine my passion for tech and love for my community," says Pizarro. "I do not take this opportunity lightly. I plan to continue working for our mission to employ, empower, and educate the most marginalized in our communities."
Pizarro is also the creative director of his own design firm called 1Z2R, where he works to create timeless branding for small business owners. One of his favorite projects this year was working with Minister Toya, a Black queer wedding officiant and marriage coach.
Looking ahead to next year, Pizarro is excited to grow TransTech Social and build his client base at 1Z2R. In addition, thanks to a community grant from the Transgender Justice Funding Project, next year Pizarro will launch Marsha's Web, a resource directory centering BIPOC, transgender, and intersex organizations.
"This year has been full of growth that is continuously blowing my mind. But I am ready for every new experience it brings," says Pizarro. "This is the first full year that I have worked for myself and my community. When I think of what's next for me, I simply think, 'More of this please!'" @ecapthree
With her innovative multimedia company Free Lion Productions, award-winning filmmaker Fiona Dawson hopes to "build empathy through multimedia projects that educate, entertain, and inspire."
She describes one of Free Lion's biggest and most personal projects, Now with Fiona, as a "multimedia machine," with a show, animated explainers, speaking engagements, books, a podcast, and merch. "All of our work centers on uplifting positive stories of kindness and courage from the LGBTQ+ community."
Dawson describes herself as "a 45-year-old, cisgender, bisexual, immigrant woman, and a trans ally.... I'm a yogi and I practice meditation. I believe we're all spiritual beings having a human experience."
On her proudest accomplishments of the past year, she says, "I've rented all my life and never felt a desire to buy property, but a few years back I began yearning for a home that was completely mine. I started looking into campers in 2017 and set it as an intention that one day I'd have one to live in full-time. In March of this year, that dream came true. I bought a brand-new Gulf Stream Vintage Cruiser, which looks like a 1950s diner inside. Her colors are like a Tiffany box, so I've named my camper Audrey, after my muse, Audrey Hepburn."
"I managed to get accepted to live on Pecan Grove RV Park, which was once Matthew McConaughey's digs," she adds. "This spot is the coolest, most delightful place to live!"
Dawson's new book, Are Bisexuals Just Greedy? Animated Answers for All People Who Simply Want to Understand the Spectrum of Being LGBTQ+, releases in November. "Discussions around the cheeky chapters can be heard on my podcast and social media channels," she says.
"My next larger project is getting...Now with Fiona picked up for distribution," says Dawson on what's next for her. "As your host, I journey to reveal answers to rather direct questions about gender and sexuality in an uplifting and 'edutaining' way." @nowwithfiona
Comedian and actor Jason Stuart is a pioneer in the industry, having come out almost 30 years ago, when very few comics were open about their sexualities. Over the course of his career, Stuart has developed a cutting-edge comedic style, which includes being brutally honest about his life as a single, Jewish gay man living in Hollywood.
In 2019, Stuart teamed up with Mitch Hara to create the comedy series Smothered, which revolves around a gay, Jewish middle-aged couple that has been in a relationship for over 30 years, and though they despise each other, they cannot afford to get divorced. Stuart costars in the show alongside Hara, and recently won Best Actor in a Comedy at the Indie Series Awards for his role in the show.
Though comedy has been a major part of Stuart's career, his acting certainly transcends the genre. In 2016, he played a Christian slave owner in the historical drama The Birth of a Nation, which tells the story of Nat Turner, a Black man who led the only sustained slave rebellion against white plantation owners in U.S. history. He's also acted on television shows like Entourage, The Closer, House, and My Wife and Kids, as well as films like Tangerine, Love is Strange, and Lena Waithe's The Line.
"I'm a character actor first. That is the root of who I am," says Stuart. "It's my first love and kept [me] alive as a kid."
When he's not on set or making people laugh, Stuart is the national co-chair of the SAG-AFTRA LGBT Committee, a committee he co-created. "[My purpose in life is] to use my position and notoriety to mentor LGBTQ folks to be the best they can be and let them know we got their back," he says. @thejasonstuart
Though Jinkx Monsoon describes herself as an "internationally tolerated drag superstar," RuPaul crowned her the "Queen of All Queens" in 2022 following her performance on season 7 of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars. What's more, fans consider Monsoon one of the most lovable, intelligent, and talented drag performers in the world.
Between becoming the first two-time Drag Race winner in herstory, releasing a new EP titled The Virgo Odyssey: Prologue, hosting the Hi Jinkx! podcast, launching a new comedy series called Sketchy Queens, and touring the world alongside her drag sister BenDeLaCreme, Monsoon has been the most booked and busy she's ever been in her career. Alas, Monsoon is honest about all the work she's put in to turn her personal life around over the years. Her biggest obstacle was "admitting to myself that I was in need of intervention for my mental health. Therapy, witchcraft, and mindful medication has brought me back from a personal brink. With those tools, I was able to make the decision for myself to remove alcohol from my life, which had certainly become an obstacle."
Looking forward, Monsoon believes that her purpose in life is to change hearts and minds for the better. "Ultimately, I want to dismantle the patriarchy through entertainment," she declares. "All I know is, when I'm on stage and the audience and I are intermingling in performance -- I know I'm doing what I was meant to do." @thejinkx
Puerto Rican fashion designer Joshuan Aponte has been making a huge name for himself in recent years after creating beautiful costumes worn by queens on RuPaul's Drag Race and designing clothes for huge pop stars. Namely, Aponte created the main look for Cardi B's "Hot Shit" music video, dressed Lizzo for live performances, and made costumes for Megan Thee Stallion's virtual reality concert tour.
Within the Drag Race universe, Aponte has collaborated with legendary drag performers like Shea Coulee, Jaida Essence Hall, Monet X Change, Brooke Lynn Hytes, Alyssa Edwards, Heidi N. Closet, Kahmora Hall, and A'keria Chanel Davenport, among others. Outside of his work as a designer, Aponte has a drag persona, Sheeza Woman (@sheeza_woman), which shows a passion for live performance. In addition, as an HIV activist who is proudly "undetectable since 2012," Aponte also advocates to end the stigma surrounding the virus.
Overall, Aponte believes that his biggest purpose in life is to create. "Many times during the pandemic I stopped to think that my existence was useless and that my creativeness had no real purpose," he reflected. "But I quickly learned that I was wrong. Art is as important as medicine -- we take the ugly in this society and turn it into beauty, we give the imagination time to fly and wonder. We make fantasy worlds where we are free to explore and take some time off from the reality that surrounds us." @joshuanapontedesigns
For actress, comedian, and podcaster Laci Mosley, there's no higher purpose than bringing others joy. "Laughter has always felt like a connection to me and I always want to be a part of something bigger." And that's exactly what the bisexual star brings on both her hit podcast, Scam Goddess -- which focuses on exposing fraudsters, but in a light and fun way -- and in her turn as the bisexual Harper on the reboot of the beloved Nickelodeon series iCarly.
In the first season, Harper and her crush Double Dutch (Poppy Liu) share an onscreen kiss, in a moment that was incredibly meaningful for queer fans of the original series, as it was proof of how far TV representation has come.
It was a big moment. However, for Mosley, her greatest accomplishment this year was something a bit closer to home. "My plants are still alive!" she says. "I know this sounds like a joke but I'm truly so proud. I've spent most of my life attaching my worth to what I produce, [and] I recently realized how wild that is. I'm trying to focus more on building a life that brings me peace and joy. The peaceful life is a work in progress for sure, but I got plants and they are green; I take all the wins I can."
That kind of peace is priceless, especially as she has faced health struggles recently. "I have fibroids and had to have three procedures this year to remove them while shooting iCarly and Lopez vs. Lopez and recording my podcast," she says. "Many people deal with fibroids, especially Black people. Working with great folks and the support of my family [and] friends is the only way I overcame it."
Next up for Mosely is a return to iCarly for season two, a book about scams, and "some things I'm not able to talk about just yet," she teases. @divalaci
Matt Rogers just wants to make people smile. The actor and comic extraordinaire is doing that by staying booked and busy, having recently starred in a myriad of titles that include Hulu's gay Pride & Prejudice adaption Fire Island, Showtime's I Love That For You, Netflix's LGBTQ-filled animated spy series Q-Force, and his popular podcast Las Culturistas, which he continues to co-host alongside best friend and fellow comedy pro Bowen Yang.
"I want people to feel better after they interacted with me or saw me do my thing than they did before," Rogers said of his purpose in life. "The best advice I ever got was to have more fun and not take myself too seriously. It changes everything. I want to spread that around."
"My podcast, Las Culturistas with Bowen Yang, had a live awards show at Lincoln Center that 3,000 people attended," he says of some of his proudest accomplishment this year. "I got to look Vanessa Bayer and Jenifer Lewis in the eyes and act with them for an entire season of television on I Love That For You. I was in the ensemble of Fire Island and I'm so proud of what we accomplished, and the community we had shooting and promoting that film. I binged every episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey while I had COVID. So much happened."
Like a certain Bravo queen of the Garden State, Rogers is working on harnessing love and light. "I think you never know how vulnerable and sensitive you are going to feel about your art and your work until it's being shown to people, and this year I think I showed more vulnerability than I had before and committed more of my energy to a larger audience than ever before," Rogers shares. "All you want is to be in things that people see, and then suddenly you can feel very exposed and scared. So I finally started therapy and I've learned how to navigate emotions that arise related to that." @mattrogerstho
Pamela Stewart means business. As president of West Operations for the North America Operating Unit at the Coca-Cola Company, she is responsible for over 80 million consumers. But it's her charitable work that truly pops. She has served on LGBTQ+ advisory boards with Out Leadership, former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and GLAAD, where she is the chair of the nonprofit's board of directors.
As chair, Stewart works closely with GLAAD's leadership to accelerate LGBTQ+ acceptance in the media and culture, be it through headlines, corporate policies, or positive representation in Hollywood. She knows the power of storytelling, and she collaborates with GLAAD to make sure LGBTQ+ narratives are accurate and to hold the powers-that-be accountable.
To this end, Stewart is proud this year to have made Fast Company's Queer 50 list, raising visibility for lesbian and queer women of color in the process. She also lists GLAAD initiatives she worked on tied to raising LGBTQ+ inclusion and safety in sports, video games, and corporate C-suites as among her other recent major accomplishments.
What is Stewart's purpose in life? "I am here to create safe environments where people feel more comfortable in their own skin and to stretch people beyond their own perceived potential," she declares.
"If I could wave a magic wand, the change I would want to see in the world more than anything else is for people truly to practice love, acceptance, kindness, and understanding toward all beings so that we each can see and recognize how more alike we are in our needs than different," she adds. "More pointedly, laws, legislations, and everyday cultural practices would foster these ideals to enable safety, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness." @pammiestewart
Every major journalist focused on queer issues knows Rich Ferraro. As chief communications officer of GLAAD, the nation's foremost LGBTQ+ media watchdog, Ferraro is the go-to source advocating for voices within the community, whether it's breaking news or Hollywood productions. The breadth of this work is, well, breath-taking; it ranges from combatting hate speech on social media, to programming the first LGBTQ+ event at the Super Bowl, to representing LGBTQ+ voices at the Davos Summit. Love a queer storyline on TV? Chances are, GLAAD (and Ferraro) played a hand.
This work isn't easy, and it's a job that Ferraro has been doing for 15 years. "Representation matters, but it is often an uphill battle to ensure LGBTQ people and issues are included, especially in ways that accurately depict the diversity of our community," he says. "I'm driven by this challenge. I do not accept 'no' when it comes to inclusion."
During a challenging year for LGBTQ+ people, including the proliferation of "don't say gay" bills and legislation targeting transgender youth, Ferraro and his team work to counter hateful attacks. He is proud to have brought the 33rd GLAAD Media Awards back to in-person festivities, which aired on Hulu, streaming the message of acceptance to living rooms nationwide. He is also proud of an ad GLAAD spearheaded showcasing the Briggle family, who are raising a trans teen boy in Texas, as a powerful rebuttal to anti-trans political vitriol.
"My role in bringing LGBTQ stories to audiences of all kinds and in locations around the world is something I am grateful for and have tremendous pride in. It's been a calling more than a career," he says. "GLAAD gives me a powerful platform to do this work, but I believe each of us can play a role in LGBTQ acceptance by telling our own stories and using any platforms we can access to champion each other's stories. I want to give people the tools and best practices to forward storytelling for good." @richferraro
If there were an official soundtrack to the modern day LGBTQ+ rights movement, it would be sung by Shea Diamond. The singer, songwriter, and transgender activist has given beautiful voice to marginalized people with soul and R&B songs like "American Pie," a staple of Pete Buttigieg's 2020 presidential campaign that demands a slice of equality; "Don't Shoot," which confronts the country's epidemic of gun violence; and "I Am America," the joyous theme song to HBO Max's We're Here that gives clarity to the old rallying cry: "Let me make it crystal clear, we're here."
It's been a busy year for Diamond. She notes making Billboard's Top LGBTQ Anthems of All Time list for "I Am Her," performing alongside Camila Cabello, and helping raise over $500,000 to assist organizations fighting "don t say gay" bills as her proudest recent achievements. She sees her art as contributing to a larger collective effort for progress. "I believe we are the adults we looked for when we were kids, to fight for us," she says. "This work is bigger than myself, and it's humbling to see some of our allies who just so happen to be the biggest stars in the world coming together to exact change!
"The work I do is often unseen," Diamond explains. "It s understanding the music I make has the power to save someone's life. It has the power to heal broken wounds, to encourage, to comfort, touch people all over the world without leaving my house, to inspire people that I may never get to meet. It's a job that has its own reward. You get to change the world with words."
Her life's purpose is to learn "as much as humanly possible, live fully -- as tomorrow isn't promised -- spread love, be happy, be humble, give of myself, and dare to inspire." @iamsheadiamond
T. Oliver Reid
Broadway actor and dancer T. Oliver Reid started performing as soon as he could walk and talk, and since then, he's never stopped. From performing in the musical Shenandoah in his hometown of Gastonia, N.C., as a child to his recent run as Hermes in Hadestown on Broadway, Reid has had a prolific career.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Reid's Broadway credits include Chicago, Mary Poppins, Kiss Me Kate, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and the 25th Anniversary concert of Dreamgirls. Reid is also a professor at Rider University and New York University, where he works with undergraduate musical theater actors and graduate acting students, respectively.
This year has been particularly busy for Reid, both in the world of theater and beyond. He is currently the associate movement director on the upcoming Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, which starts its 17-week run in October. He also was an associate choreographer for the upcoming Netflix film White Noise, and the choreographer for Billy Eichner's Bros, which is the first gay rom-com to be released in theaters by a major Hollywood studio.
Reid is also involved in the nonprofit world. In September 2019, he cofounded the Black Theatre Coalition, an organization that seeks to dismantle the systemically racist and biased ideology in the theatrical job space. Thanks to his work as the organization's artistic director, in the past year, the organization has placed more than 40 fellows and apprentices in every area of the theater industry.
In the future, Reid wants to continue moving the world through art. He sees his greater purpose as changing the world, "maybe in the arts, in the world, and maybe something larger."
"I want to lead the National Endowment for the Arts someday," Reid says. "I'm learning every day exactly how the universe, God wants to use me." @toliverreid
Coming out publicly is never an easy thing, but it's even more intimidating when you're part of an industry where LGBTQ+ people are practically invisible. Such was the case with country singer and Brothers Osborne frontman TJ Osborne, who admits many of his fans are "predominantly conservative."
But after publicly coming out in a profile with Time, the country crooner has been living his absolute best life. With a boyfriend on his arm and a Grammy on his shelf -- Brothers Osborne took home the award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their single "Younger Me" in April -- Osborne is basking in the glow of freedom.
"I decided to put my happiness first, alongside being fortunate to have a very strong support system being my family, friends, my boyfriend Abi, and ultimately my fans." Osborne says. Abi is no stranger to Osborne's social media -- and the comments are (mostly) supportive.
Moving forward, the musician now says his purpose in life is to "bring visibility through my music in areas that are largely underrepresented in the LGBTQIA+ community."
And as for what's next? Well, according to Osborne, that's easy. "I'm working on a new album and working on my motherfucking self!" @tjosborne
In 2022, Willow Pill became the first out trans contestant to win a regular season of RuPaul's Drag Race. From her bizarrely entertaining talent show number of Enya's "Only Time" on the premiere episode to her relatable and hilarious performance of "I Hate People" at the finale, fans elected Pill as the ultimate frontrunner to win season 14 -- which is exactly what she did.
"Winning RuPaul's Drag Race is one of the proudest moments of my life and especially doing so as a chronically ill person," Pill remarked. "My drag is a lot of jokes and levity, but it's not lost on me how big of a deal that is." Alas, life hasn't always been easy since snatching the Drag Race crown and starting her reign. The season 14 winner explains, "The biggest obstacle of this year was dealing with being in the spotlight under public scrutiny. Fame is a very unnatural thing, and when everyone wants a piece of you, it's hard to feel like you have anything left for yourself. I've had to learn a lot of self-preservation so I don't get lost."
And yet, Pill's unique perspective on life is still what drives her forward. She doesn't believe in having a life's purpose, noting that she's "perfectly happy having the opportunity to just be here, strange and beautiful." In a world where so many celebrities are seeking more fame and more power, Pill is looking forward to taking up dance lessons, going skydiving, and eating Slim Jim snacks alone in her room. @willowpillqueen
Jasmin Savoy Brown
"This one is for the gays, as everything I do is," Jasmin Savoy Brown, the star of Yellowjackets and Scream, says about her past year. Brown became a star of the horror genre this year, playing queer teens in both the popular Showtime drama about a girls soccer team that crashes in the Canadian Rockies, and in the legendary slasher film franchise. And in each role, she's defying expectations. This is one gay who won't be buried.
Both Taissa in Yellowjackets and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Randy's niece) in Scream can take care of themselves and are all too aware of the way Black lesbians like them are treated. But these are characters who won't be going away any time soon; Taissa grows up to become a politician in a power lesbian couple, and Mindy will be back for the next Scream sequel.
Brown identifies as lesbian, queer, and pansexual, but right now, she'd mostly say she's in love with her girlfriend. "Honestly, I'm most proud of myself for falling in love again," she says. "I think love is scary and hard, and to open yourself up to someone new is the best and worst thing you can do. The best because you have the opportunity to get to know someone, get to know yourself in a new way, meet new people, expand your capabilities to love and listen, to grow, to change, to laugh...and the worst because that person could eviscerate your heart in the blink of an eye if they so choose. It's terrifying and vulnerable and healing and fun. And that is all you're getting from me about my romantic life for the foreseeable future! Feast on crumbs, babes. I'm a Scorpio rising after all. A Scorpio rising in love." @jasminsavoy
As one half of a couple of lesbian soccer players lost in the Canadian Rockies, Liv Hewson (they/them) is playing one of our favorite characters on TV. In Yellowjackets, the nonbinary Australian actor plays Vanessa Palmer, better known as Van, the girlfriend of fellow soccer player Taissa Turner (Jasmin Savoy Brown). Van is the team's goalie, and never backs down from a challenge, even when it ends up in her being attacked by wolves. Still, her strength shines through, and that's thanks to Hewson's great performance.
But for the real Hewson, life this year was a lot bigger than a TV role. They also overcame their shame around letting people see the real them and got top surgery this year. "I had been thinking about it for a decade -- it's the longest I've ever thought about doing anything," they say. "I won't ever wait that long again, I think. It's changed everything in the best possible way. I used to take for granted that I'd be physically miserable, that there was no other way for me to feel. That's not true, of course. I wish I had realized that earlier. I am more comfortable than I ever believed was possible for me. I stand up straight now."
Next up for Hewson is more. "More work, more people, more experience, more life," and that includes a new season of Yellowjackets, where we'll get to meet the grown-up version of Van, played by Six Feet Under star Lauren Ambrose. Other than that, the actor will be standing up straight wherever they go. @liv.hewson
Professional minor league baseball player Solomon Bates is a scholar of the game, listing historic greats like Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson among his favorite players. Bates also made history himself this year when he came out as gay in a post to Instagram, becoming only the second active minor league player to do so. But the 25-year-old African American pitcher writes a far humbler job description.
"I describe what I do [as just being] a human who has a passion to be a professional athlete, no matter what people say," says Bates, who hails from Victorville, Calif.
Bates readily admits the decision to come out was not an easy one and says his struggle with depression "was the hardest" part of last year. But he eventually found the resolve to live openly as a gay man, and he's been using his newfound visibility to help other closeted athletes overcome their fears as well.
"I believe my purpose is to open up doors for gay athletes that love sports, to keep working hard, and be better than everyone else," Bates says, also showing his fiercely competitive side as well. "I'm opening up how great I can be in this world."
The path to greatness is also one of perseverance for Bates, who played four seasons with the Richmond Flying Squirrels of the San Francisco Giants Double-A minor league team, even briefly pitching with the major league team in spring training this year. His time with the team was marred by injury, though, and he was eventually released. He's since been signed by the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association of Professional Baseball. It's not "the show" the major league is known for, but it still keeps him on the field playing the game he loves, while also remaining an example for others. @solomonbates
When Will Hackner organized a game of capture the flag with his friend Andrew in 2007, he never expected it would lead him to a full-time career in recreational sports. Soon after the game, Hackner created Varsity Gay League, the nation's first queer recreational sports league. Fifteen years later, VGL has grown to include 40,000 LGBTQ+ athletes across 20 cities and is the largest LGBTQ+ recreational sports league in the country.
In the last year, VGL has had a lot of growth and success, which includes putting together their own Flag Football League with the support of the Los Angeles Rams, producing six tournaments, partnering with One Magical Weekend in Orlando during Disney Gay Days, and shooting a Netflix special.
The highlight for Hackner, however, was partnering with McDonald's, which made VGL the first queer group of its kind to be recognized by the company. "I grew up hunting for Happy Meal Toys, and caring McDonald's Halloween Buckets for trick-or-treating, and we ate at McDonald's 3x a week in high school," said Hackner. "Now, my friends and I can say we are part of the McDonald's family, and that's beyond exciting."
In 2023, Hackner has big plans for the company, which include renaming and rebranding the entire organization as well as more tournaments, cities, and programs across the country. He also hopes to continue building community.
"Over the past 15 years, I think what I've discovered is I am community builder who has found a different way to bridge queer people -- of all sexes and genders, non-genders -- and our straight friends to simply have fun and play together," says Hackner. "Through this process, people make relationships, friendships, marriages, births, social lives, and work opportunities all through the prism of a nonjudgmental, open community."
Wayne Ting is a gay Asian-American and chief executive officer of Lime, the world's largest shared electric vehicle provider. With operations in over 250 cities across 35 countries, Lime provides electric scooters, bikes, and mopeds that can be accessed and unlocked via a smartphone app. Ting assumed this new role as the global pandemic reached its peak and caused a 90-percent-plus drop in revenue for the company. Rather than panic and slow down operations, Ting saw the potential for growth in new markets.
"Despite the difficulty of being a green transportation provider during a global pandemic, we never gave up on our mission to decarbonize transportation," Ting says proudly. "We fought hard to serve more cities, grow our business, improve our margins, and change the way we move in cities."
In fact, Ting says Lime had its most profitable year in the company's history. Rather than focus exclusively on balance sheets, Ting has more lofty goals driving his business strategies -- namely, the battle against climate change, with fewer cars, more bike lanes, and pedestrian-only neighborhoods, and eliminating parking entirely from most downtown financial districts.
"I would love to make a difference in the fight against the climate crisis," he says. "And I hope I can look back on my life and feel that I lived it with intention, empathy, and purpose." @wayneting
Forty-two years ago at the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, a group of gay dads founded the Gay Fathers Coalition to fight for LGBTQ+ families. Decades later, the group changed its name to Family Equality, which has been led by CEO Stacey Stevenson since March 2021.
Stevenson came to Family Equality from Charles Schwab and Co. But working on issues of diversity and inclusion is not new for them. While at Schwab, Stevenson was the local and national co-chair of Schwab's Pride Employee Resource Group, where they advocated for safe and inclusive workplaces.
Since joining Family Equality last year, Stevenson has expanded the organization's focus from protecting LGBTQ+ youth and their families in schools to lowering barriers to parenthood in their community. But her proudest accomplishment this year was hosting Family Week in Provincetown, the largest gathering of LGBTQ+ families in the world.
"Due to the current state of affairs for LGBTQ+ families in this country, cultivating resilience in our community is just as important as the legal battles we face," says Stevenson. "So, hosting almost 2,000 people during Family Week in Provincetown...this year felt much more meaningful to our families. Nearly 600 families from nine countries and 35 states joined us this year, and the joy and tension release were felt throughout the week."
Stevenson knows that the fight for LGBTQ+ families is far from over, especially as one half of a Black, married, lesbian couple that raised two boys of color in Texas before their family moved to Washington, D.C. While in Washington, they hope to "stand in [their] power and create space for the underserved and marginalized so that no one is left behind." @staceylstevnson
In Hollywood, Rod Aissa has always made it his mission to uplift queer stories. "Early on, the biggest obstacle I faced was finding my voice in this industry," shares Aissa. "There were many times I would be the only out queer person in meetings, and it has always been important to me to advocate for queer creators and storytellers."
Aissa is certainly doing that work now as the executive vice president of Entertainment Unscripted Content for NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. In this role, Aissa oversees all unscripted lifestyle and documentary programming across NBCUniversal's entertainment portfolio, including NBC, Bravo, E!, Oxygen True Crime, and Peacock.
When asked to describe his work, he simply says: "I empower talented storytellers to share their voice and have their stories told."
This year Aissa has been involved in many projects, but what he's most proud of is the LGBTQ+ storytelling he played a part in. He worked on Catching a Serial Killer: Bruce McArthur, which tells the story of a Toronto killer who preyed on gay men. He also worked on the Real Housewives of Miami, which recently featured its first out central cast members across the Real Housewives franchise: Julia Lemigova and Martina Navratilova.
Throughout his career, Aissa has also worked as a producer on a number of reality television shows, including Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica, The Ashlee Simpson Show, The Osbournes, and Meet the Barkers. His work on The Osbournes earned him an Emmy win in 2002 for Outstanding Nonfiction Program and an Emmy nomination in 2003 in the same category.
Even though there are more queer people in the industry than when he started, Aissa says "there's still more work to be done. But it's great to see the progress the industry has made since I started my career." @jrodaissa
If you've ever wondered why gay men can't sit in chairs properly or why they like iced coffee, comedian Rob Anderson has the answer for you in his popular video series, "Gay Science." Launched during 2020, this hilarious collection explains gay stereotypes with fake science, often flipping the end result into something positive.
"The videos I make shows how stupid stereotypes can be and riffs on superior queer decision-making skills," says Anderson. "My content lets gay people laugh at themselves in a way that still makes them feel good about who they are and the special community they belong to."
Anderson also has a YouTube series called "Everything is Gay," where he takes popular characters from fictional works and explains why they are gay. So far, he has dissected several characters from the Harry Potter universe, figures from the Bible, and Disney princes and princesses including Jasmine, Ariel, Cinderella, and Belle.
"I've known since I was a kid that I'm on this earth to entertain," says Anderson. "But the kind of entertainment you're left thinking about for a while and remember often."
Earlier this year, Anderson embarked on his very own Heartthrob Live comedy tour, which includes original music, presentations, and personal stories Anderson has kept far away from the internet. Anderson also jokes that "the show comes highly recommended for anyone who's had, witnessed, or smelled gay sex -- or is doing serious research on the subject."
Since he became popular on social media, Anderson has used his platform to raise money for nonprofit organizations. His proudest accomplishment this year was producing a submissive comedy pop song called "Nothing for You." One hundred percent of the song's proceeds went to For the Gworls, an organization that throws parties to raise money for Black trans people who need help with rent and gender-affirming surgeries. @heartthrobanderson
Rebecca Hart Holder
A veteran in the fight for reproductive freedom, Rebecca Hart Holder had a sense that Roe v. Wade's overturning was imminent and made a tactical decision to take the fight to where she could affect the most change.
"I began my work in abortion access at the federal level nearly 14 years ago. However, I soon realized that protecting abortion access in the U.S. Senate wasn't going to be possible with the filibuster in place and slim Democratic majorities," Hart Holder says. "I have for a very long time believed that the fall of Roe was coming and, so, pivoted to state-based work nearly a decade ago. The power of the reproductive equity movement stems from state- and community-based change."
As the executive director of Reproductive Equity Now, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that works to "make equitable access to all reproductive health care, including abortion care, a reality for all people," Hart Holder is on the frontlines of the fight for reproductive freedom. And as a queer person, she's uniquely positioned to understand the throughline from abortion access to LGBTQ+ rights.
"For me, the movement for LGBTQ+ liberation and the movement for reproductive equity are inextricably linked," Hart Holder says. "It is not a coincidence that right after Texas banned abortion they went after trans kids. Anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ+ forces are fighting for the same thing: to control our bodies; to control if, when, and how we form families; and to control our right to determine our own future."
In the wake of the leaked Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision that overturned Roe, Reproductive Equity Now, along with a broad coalition, shored up abortion access in Massachusetts through what she calls "visionary" legislation.
"Our law includes best-in-the-nation protections for providers of abortion and gender-affirming care, an expansion of access to medication abortion and emergency contraception, and the breakdown of serious cost barriers to abortion and abortion-related care," she says. "We did this because we know a tidal wave is coming."
Hart Holder, describes herself as, "mom to two little ones, wife, advocate, and amateur cook."
"My purpose is simple: leave my square of the Earth in better shape than when I found it. I've known for a long time that I wanted to be a mom," she says. "When my wife and I fell in love, we never imagined we would be able to get married but we always knew we would start a family. I am driven by a deep desire to make the world a better, safer, more just place for my kids." @rhartholder
Nonbinary lesbian Maria Sjodin has held leadership roles at the LGBTQ+ organization OutRight International for more than eight years and recently stepped into the role of executive director. Since joining OutRight, Sjodin has made a huge impact. When the Russian war on Ukraine began, OutRight launched a fund to support LGBTQ+ people who were suffering. To date, OutRight has distributed over $1.6 million dollars to 39 organizations to support LGBTQ+ people there in need of food, shelter, transportation, mental health support, and more.
"In time of crisis, LGBTIQ people face high risks and are more likely to fall through the cracks due to bias and invisibility," says Sjodin. "But thanks to individuals from over 80 countries who have donated to the fund, OutRight has been able to "channel that solidarity and help those in need."
Before joining OutRight in 2015, Sjodin was the executive director of RFSL, Sweden's largest LGBTQ+ organization (and also one of the world's oldest). In this role, she successfully advocated for marriage equality and abolished forced sterilization for trans people who want to change their gender legally.
As for the future of OutRight, Sjodin has big plans. Currently, the nonprofit has staff in 12 countries,and is hoping to expand, especially in the Global South. OutRight is also working to end conversion therapy practices in Africa and fight against gender-based violence and sodomy laws in the Caribbean.
"I very much believe in the idea that we are here to do what we can to leave this world in a better place than how we found it," says Sjodin. "I couldn't be more proud, galvanized, and excited to take the helm of this organization, the largest of its kind that is focused on global LGBTIQ issues, and to ensure that together, we make LGBTIQ lives better." @outrightintl
Lorri L Jean & Joe Hollendoner
Lorri L. Jean is "proud" of how the Los Angeles LGBT Center has handled the leadership transition. "[Hollendoner] and I worked together for an entire year before I retired to implement a very detailed onboarding plan. I believe that we were both very effective at doing everything that was required to ensure this transition went smoothly."
Jean also reflects on her more than two decades leading the Center: "I played a prominent role as an LGBTQ community leader and spokesperson locally, nationally, and internationally. I also was responsible for helping to set and drive the Center's mission and ensured that the Center consistently met the needs of our community, all while it remained well-managed and fiscally strong."
As for what's next, Jean admits she is looking forward to pursuing passions outside the realms of LGBTQ+ advocacy, such as painting and traveling with her wife of 30 years, Gina Calvelli, a recently retired attorney. "I plan to spend my remaining years traveling, spending time with people I love and enjoy, and making meaningful contributions to building a better world." @lalgbtcenter
Lama Rod Owens
Lama Rod Owens, 43, is a person with many talents: he is a spiritual leader, Buddhist minister, bestselling author, activist, yoga instructor, authorized lama, and queen who describes his teaching as "based on supporting people in embodying personal and collective liberation through the path of contemplative practice." He is also the cofounder of Bhumisparsha, a Buddhist tantric practice and study community.
Owen's journey has been far from easy. "When I decided to train to become a lama or Buddhist teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, I did so having no role models or examples of other Black queer people who came before me," said Owens. "On top of that, the training was spending over three years in a silent cloistered retreat as a novice monk, with no access to media or communication devices."
Despite these obstacles, Owens has become a leader in his field and is especially proud of the two meditation series he created this year for the Calm app. One is about helping people experience support through grieving and the other focuses on coming out.
"I am especially proud of the coming out series because it feels like a gift that I have been able to give back to the community based on the lessons I have learned in my own journey of coming out and developing deep self-love," says Owens.
The theme of self-love carries throughout his work, as Owens believes that his purpose in life is "to help people remember they have a right to be loved and to extend love regardless of who they are." He says that "this is the most powerful path to personal and collective freedom where we all can have access to resources we need to be well, safe, and cared for." @lamarodofficial
Helen Swenson & Kurt Fulepp
This year, trusted weather forecasting service AccuWeather is predicting a rainbow with its out leaders: Helen Swenson (chief content officer) and Kurt Fulepp (president of digital).
Swenson joined AccuWeather in June 2022, after more than two decades in the industry; she previously worked at Spectrum News NY1, the Weather Channel, and CBS affiliates in Seattle and Birmingham. This year, she's feeling proud to be more out at work than ever before, in part simply because being LGBTQ+ is more accepted than it used to be. Swenson is also proud that in her current role, her work is benefitting the greater good.
"If you are in the information space, you really are here as a public service. The same applies in the weather business," shares Swenson. "We are here to save lives, help people plan their day, and to arm them with the facts about climate change. No matter what the genre, media is about informing people and communities because knowledge is power."
Helen Swenson & Kurt Fulepp
Kurt Fulepp has had a storied career in the weather industry, including five years as AccuWeather's chief product officer and several years doing digital work at Time Inc., AOL, and Microsoft. He's also been an adjunct faculty member at New York University and Columbia University, where he's taught courses on product management and digital media.
"I'm a consumer product person at heart," shares Fulepp. "I'm passionate about researching, designing, and building digital products that enrich the lives of people. It's about taking complex and overwhelming information -- in my current role, it's weather and [with] my past roles [it] has been news -- and presenting that content in understandable, contextual, and beautiful ways."
In the future, Fulepp hopes to work in public service. "I've been afforded incredible opportunities and experiences in life, and I'd like to find a way to help improve the lives of others," he says.
It seems Massachusetts State Senator Julian Cyr, 36, was destined to hold public office. At age 16, Cyr organized a student-led effort on Cape Cod to ensure that education was fully funded in public schools. Later in life, Cyr led grassroots organizing for Governor Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama's reelection campaigns in Cape Cod and its surrounding islands.
Now, Cyr is in his third term as a state senator representing Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket, and is among the youngest senators in Massachusetts.
"I'm a collaborator and a big thinker," says Cyr. "I'm not afraid to shy away from the steep challenges that face the region I represent: a $4 billion wastewater problem; the climate crisis that puts these coastal communities very much at risk; the deployment of harm reduction strategies to save lives in the opioid epidemic; [and] to the reform of a too-often racist criminal justice system on Cape Cod."
Since being elected, Cyr's determination has been met with great success. Earlier this year he introduced statutory protections for transgender people seeking access to essential healthcare, including individuals who may have to travel from out of state. These protections ensure that gender-affirming care is a civil right in Massachusetts, and were subsequently signed into law as part of a larger package related to abortion access.
Cyr is particularly proud of the work he has done for the LGBTQ+ community. This also includes his work on monkeypox, deploying hundreds of vaccines in a matter of days. He was also instrumental in orchestrating aide for the Venezuelan immigrants flown to Martha's Vineyard from Florida last summer and "calling out yet another political stunt by [Governor] Ron DeSantis going after vulnerable people."
"I represent and advocate for LGBTQ people across Massachusetts," says Cyr. "In a state known for historic LGBTQ firsts, in recent years, we've been resting on our laurels. I'm challenging Massachusetts to do better." @juliancyr
Lorri L Jean & Joe Hollendoner
Working in the community for decades, Lorri L. Jean has become one of the nation's most beloved and respected queer activists. Jean has led the Los Angeles LGBT Center as its CEO for over two decades and is now passing the baton to its new CEO, Joe Hollendoner -- a 41-year-old health specialist, husband, "doggy daddy," and former CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Among many other accomplishments during his tenure, SFAF's revenue increased by 84 percent. Now Hollendoner hopes to utilize his expertise to lead the Center into the future. "Following in the iconic footsteps of Lorri Jean is not only my proudest accomplishment this year, but I imagine it will be what I am most proud of for the rest of my life."
"My emerging vision for the Los Angeles LGBT Center is to expand our work to address race- and gender-based disparities within our community," says Hollendoner. "I intend to achieve this by group programming at our sites in East and South Los Angeles, as well as at our Trans Wellness Center. I also want to see our national work expand -- the Center's nationwide advocacy has become incredibly urgent as more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation gets passed and attacks on our equality are made within the courts.... I believe the Center is uniquely positioned to play a leadership role in the larger LGBTQ+ movement."
Hulu has always been at the forefront of LGBTQ-inclusive content, and this year has been no exception. From television series like How I Met Your Father and Only Murders in the Building to films like Sex Appeal, Crush, and Fire Island, Hulu has made it its mission to represent the LGBTQ+ community.
Decisions like these always come from the top, and this year viewers have Hulu's CEO and president, Joe Earley, to thank. Earley started with Hulu in January after more than 25 years in the industry. Most recently, he was the executive vice president for Content Creation & Marketing at Disney+. He also spent three years as president of the Jackal Group, a production company that developed programming for Fox Networks Group, and 20 years with Fox Broadcasting Company.
As Hulu's president, Earley sees his job as both "finding the path for Hulu's maximum success and creating an environment where people can do their best work and thrive."
Thus far, he seems to have achieved that. "It's been a year full of many small accomplishments, thankfully, which have had the cumulative effect of re-establishing and improving relationships among many teams, and across different companies," says Earley. "We all know to succeed in this business, it takes a village -- and now ours is bigger, stronger, and happier. That feels good and bodes well for a brighter future." @2earley
TLC has really stepped up when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation -- and viewers have Howard Lee, president of TLC Streaming at Network Originals, to thank. In 2020, TLC made history when the 90 Day Fiance franchise featured its first same-sex couple: Erika Owens and Stephanie Matto. Later that year, 90 Day Fiance: The Other Way also featured the franchise's first gay male couple: Kenneth Niedermeier and Armando Rubio.
"I believe it is crucial to push forward diverse storytelling. At TLC, we have proudly and successfully featured unique stories of all kinds for years," says Lee. "90 Day Fiance has given us the unique opportunity to show millions of people globally all the different forms love can take, and it's so important that LGBTQ+ couples are included in that mix."
But Lee and TLC have not stopped there. Earlier this year, the company's streaming service Discovery+ debuted The Book of Queer, a television series that celebrates history's forgotten LGBTQ+ heroes. Each episode is dedicated to an LGBTQ+ historical icon and features an original song and music video created and performed by queer artists, including Betty Who and Vincint.
"At TLC, we're always striving for visibility, and The Book of Queer was one of our big efforts towards providing that representation to a traditionally marginalized group and to celebrate our minority communities," shares Lee.
Lee has been with TLC since 2008, and before that, he was vice president of Development and Production at Planet Green and vice president of Development for the Travel Channel. Under his leadership, TLC has broken multiple performance records and has consistently been ranked the number-one primetime ad-supported cable network in key demos for women. Lee also leads the network's initiatives on diversity, acceptance, and inclusion, which includes TLC's annual Give a Little Awards and a campaign dedicated to anti-bullying.
Dr. Keletso Makofane
The monkeypox, or MPV, outbreak of 2022 has disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men. But fortunately, there are many researchers, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, that are working hard to stop the spread.
One leading figure is Keletso Makofane, Ph.D., a public health researcher and activist at the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. Makofane's main research focus is the global HIV response among sexual minority men in eastern and southern Africa. But this year, he pivoted to MPV.
Earlier this year, Makofane and other activists initiated an effort to conduct community-based research to understand how to respond to the outbreak. The project later turned into an initiative to coordinate action across organizations and activists working to address MPV.
Even amid the MPV outbreak, Makofane remained devoted to HIV activism. He is a member of the governing council for the International AIDS Society and sits on the board of LVCT Health, an HIV service organization in Kenya. He also serves on the founding board of Global Black Gay Men Connect, an activist collective that aims to build power to stop discrimination and violence inflicted on Black gay men around the world.
"As an activist, I am down to do whatever I can to help queer people, particularly Africans, lead happier and more dignified lives," says Makofane. "On this front, I have done everything from helping to teach U.N. country missions about HIV among men who have sex with men in New York City to organizing a Pride festival that does not center white, rich people in Johannesburg."
Ultimately, he sees his purpose in life as learning and teaching. "I don't think there is a higher calling than teaching," says Makofane. "When you teach someone to make use of their potential, you fundamentally change their life." @klts0
Dr. Carlton Thomas
Sex education often leaves queer people out, which leads to knowledge gaps within the community. But Dr. Carlton Thomas, a Mayo Clinic-trained gastroenterologist, is seeking to change that with his sex-positive social media platform on TikTok and Instagram.
Dr. Thomas has made videos about PrEP, PEP, DoxyPEP, proper STI screenings, and immunizations. As a self-described "butt doctor" and gay man, he also lends his expertise on aspects of how to have great anal sex, including diet and douching, lubrication, and relaxation and positioning techniques.
"I feel like no one really got queer health and sex education in school and there is so much we all need to know," says Thomas. "My direct messages are always open for personal questions that people often find too embarrassing to discuss with their doctors."
Earlier this year, Thomas pivoted his work towards the monkeypox virus, or MPV. "There was initial chaos because the mainstream media and even many of our own community sources were not getting information out to where it needed to be," says Thomas. "I felt the need to step up and do my part."
Since May, Thomas has used his platform to make numerous educational videos about MPV, including a live video with White House deputy director Dr. Demetre Daskalakis. Thomas has also used Instagram to share the stories of people who were affected and post more than 1,000 vaccine clinic locations around the world.
"The biggest achievement so far this year has been seeing those case numbers drop," Thomas says. "I feel like my work is an example of the good that social media can do in this world and the difference that one person can make."
In the future, Carlton says he would "love to be the 'gay Dr. Ruth' and have an even larger platform to educate our community." @doctorcarlton
When it comes to advertising, David Lawenda has climbed the summit. As Paramount's chief digital advertising officer, Lawenda helms a team of over 500 diverse employees who drive revenue to Paramount's significant streaming empire, which includes Paramount+ and Pluto TV.
Every climb has its challenges, of course. This year, he and his team had to face "some serious headwinds" like inflation and supply chain issues in helping clients grow their business. But through listening to each's unique challenges and "leveraging a consultative approach," Lawenda is proud to declare "we're outpacing the marketplace in revenue growth right now."
But sales isn't the only priority for Lawenda, a gay Jewish man who knows the importance of inclusion. To this end, he helped form a Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Task Force that helps educate and empower Paramount employees of all backgrounds.
"We want Paramount to be not only a place where everyone can grow their career, but where team members can also enjoy coming to work as their true and authentic selves," says Lawenda, who credits the task force with helping the company's employee engagement index reach an all-time high.
"I delight in lifting others up -- whether that's friends, family or colleagues -- and I am an advocate and champion for so many around me," adds the Georgetown graduate, who previously worked at Facebook and Univision. "That means paving new ground, creating opportunity, and shining a spotlight on my team at work. It also means creating unforgettable experiences and memories for my friends and family outside of work. I am an active, generous, patient and kind listener to all in my life and I am present as a caring and supportive husband, son, brother, uncle, friend, colleague, and leader." @davidlawenda
At age 60, Sharon Callahan is doing it all: working multiple jobs, raising four children, and sitting on the board of several organizations. In 2018, she was named Industry Person of the Year by Medical Advertising News, and in 2019, the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) recognized her as its Woman of the Year. How does she do it all?
For more than 30 years, Callahan has been a leader in strategic healthcare marketing, where she developed skills in advertising, medical education, clinical programs, publishing, and digital. In 2016, she also founded her own healthcare advertising agency network: TBWA\WorldHealth.
Currently, Callahan is the CEO of CDM, one of the world's leading healthcare advertising agency networks. Since 2016, she's also been chief client officer at Omnicom Health Group, which is the world's largest and fastest-growing network of health care communications companies. But her greatest accomplishment this year, she says, is surviving her first year with one-year old twins.
In her spare time, Callahan sits on the board of many organizations, including the LGBTQ Victory Fund, GLAAD, HBA, the Arthritis Foundation, Women Against Alzheimer's, and the Coalition for Healthcare Communications. Callahan sees being a board member for these organizations as part of her greater purpose. "Aside from loving my family, my purpose in life is to use whatever resources I have to amplify underrepresented voices," says Callahan. "That's why I sit on the boards of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and GLAAD, because representation matters -- in government and in the media."
As for the future, Callahan doesn't have any plans to slow down. Truth be told, we could all use a little bit of Callahan's dedication and energy in our lives. @tbwaworldhealth
A Black queer poet, essayist, and cultural strategist, Aurielle Marie didn't always see her writing as contributing to the movement for Black lives. Though poetry saved their life as a young kid, they say they "couldn't imagine some words on a thin page doing as much liberatory work as our protesting or grassroots organizing."
But in the last 10 years, that has changed. "I believed the lie that freedom came at a cost, and my body and my safety had to be payment," shares Marie. "Nearly 10 years later, and I finally have learned the lesson that self-sacrifice is unsustainable. And more importantly, storytellers have always been the heart of every revolution."
Marie has certainly contributed to that revolution. Recently, her debut collection Gumbo Ya Ya, which explores race, gender, desire, and violence in the lives of Black gxrls, won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and the Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Poetry. In 2022, Marie also won the Georgia Author of the Year Award in Poetry.
Currently, Marie is writing an essay collection about organizing for Black liberation as a queer woman, pleasure and sex (work) as a fat femme, and Black queerness in the digital age. They're also working on a feature-length documentary on the toll the Black Lives Matter movement has had on the people and communities that carried it, which was influenced by their work as a community organizer after the killing of Michael Brown.
"I don't think of myself so highly that I can claim to be a revolutionary storyteller yet, but I hope when my work is done here, I would have told the whole truth well enough that someone can say that I got close," says Marie. "My purpose is to tell our stories honestly, no matter how intricate and complex they are. There is such freedom in all this mess." @yesaurielle
Alex Perez is an award-winning journalist and national correspondent for ABC News. The out gay Black Latino of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent describes himself as both the proud son of a single immigrant mother as well as a proud husband. And while he appreciates the visibility for the LGBTQ+ community that comes with his job, he centers the importance of honest journalism first.
"Fundamentally, I am a storyteller. I consider myself -- and hope to be -- the bridge between those I interview, the topics I cover, and the audience who places their trust in me," Perez says. "Ethical, fact-based journalism remains important. I believe in the power of every word."
The cisgender Perez has received accolades for his work, including the Marshall Memorial Fellowship. Prior to joining ABC, Perez worked at NBC in Chicago where he covered then-candidate Barack Obama's first presidential campaign. Perez has also garnered a following on social media, where his often-shirtless photos with husband, Kevin, have become popular on Instagram.
Despite his work covering major stories on national television, Perez these days is most proud of how he responded to the pandemic and resulting global economic shutdown. "I've somehow been able to find what feels like balance in my life. It's not something we Americans are good at doing," Perez says.
Part of this balance involved learning how to trust himself. "I've learned to respect, recognize, and rewire my inner voice. Most importantly, I've learned to laugh, love, and live in a way that respects who I fundamentally am as a person. [That] may not sound like much to some, but I know the fifth grader me -- overweight, constantly bullied, and terrified someone would discover he's gay -- never imagined he'd get to this place in life." @perezreports
Ever since A.J. Mayers was a kid growing up in Laredo, Texas, he dreamed of writing stories. In 2009, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in radio, television, and film and then moved to Hollywood, where he worked in the entertainment industry at MTV, Paramount Pictures, and Universal Pictures.
Currently, Mayers is a senior AV producer in the Originals marketing department for Amazon Prime Video, where he produces audiovisual content, like trailers, to attract audiences to Amazon Originals. He's also on the board of the Los Angeles chapter of Amazon's LGBTQ+ affinity group, Glamazon.
Life for Mayers in the entertainment industry has not always been easy. Seven years ago, he was battling alcoholism and ended up in the hospital, which he says saved his life and caused him to get sober.
"This new clarity gave me a new lease on life and helped me to hyperfocus on my career and goals as well as advocate and help others battling mental health issues and addiction," says Mayers. "In the queer community, so much of our social lives revolve around drinking, so navigating this space sober came with its own social challenges, but it taught me to be confident and comfortable in my own skin in a way I never could have imagined."
Aside from working in Hollywood, Mayers is a published fiction author and serves on the board of directors for the antibullying nonprofit Boo2Bullying.
"My purpose in life is to use my voice and life experiences to help others, specifically in the queer community, because growing up I did not have access to the many resources this new generation now has," says Mayers. "Oh, and I want to continue to just be a nice person. Kindness goes a long way." @ajmayers
Over the last eight years with Google, Adrienne Hayes has been "working on growing a category that the Google name hasn't historically been synonymous with -- hardware."
As the company's VP of Marketing, Global Devices & Services, Hayes's job is "to help make people think of Google Pixel, Google Nest, and Google Fitbit when they think about buying a new piece of technology, so they can get the very best Google app or software experience our company can deliver."
As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, Hayes says it is a "privilege" to also be an executive sponsor of Google's LGBTQ+ employee resource group, Pride@Google.
"I'm really proud to help shape a work environment where LGBTQ+ employees can be seen and heard and feel a sense of belonging," she says. "It also means I get to help our internal community lobby for product inclusion in places where Google can have a major impact on society. For example, being able to see in Google Maps if a local coffee shop is LGBTQ-owned, or if the wine bar on the corner is a transgender safe space or has gender-neutral restrooms. That may not seem significant in cities and places that are more welcoming, but to many people who aren't lucky enough to live in a place where they're welcomed and accepted, these tools can mean the difference for their physical safety."
Among her proudest accomplishments of 2022, Hayes lists the Super Bowl. "We partnered with Lizzo to launch #SeenOnPixel, a campaign spotlighting the history of inequitable representation of people of color in camera technology and our newly launched Real Tone technology on the Google Pixel 6 that helps change that," says Hayes. "It included a beautiful montage of intersectionality, shot on Pixel, underscored by Lizzo's new song, 'If You Love Me.' If it didn't bring a tear to your eye, I don't know what will!" @adriennemhayes
As its website states, "Andrew Christian is not only an iconic company, but it's also backed by a real designer!" The company is named after its founder, a trailblazing gay Latino man who started his men's underwear business in 1997.
Christian has truly revolutionized the undies industry as one of the first to create high-tech, comfortable designs for men that also flatter and sensualize the anatomy. From sexy jock-strap styles to booty-lifting briefs to (literal) pearl necklaces, Andrew Christian has become the go-to for many when they want to heat things up -- be it in the bedroom or on the dance floor.
"I believe my work as a designer and artist is to smash through 'walls.' I like to push beyond and break through every boundary that I can," Christian says. "Years ago, at age 23, people told me that I would never be able to start my own company, and I proved them wrong."
"Now artists like Bad Bunny can kiss a guy on stage and no one even blinks an eye," he adds. "I truly feel that, hopefully in a very small way, I helped to bring about this change being openly gay my whole professional life."
Christian is also a passionate activist and humanitarian. The company has donated over $100,000 of its proceeds to various LGBTQ+, social justice, and environmental nonprofits, including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Rainforest Action Networks, the Trevor Project, and Habitat for Humanity.
Of his proudest accomplishments of 2022, Christian says, "I'm super excited about having launched my line of sex toys this year.... I want to help remove the stigma associated with buying and using sex toys the same way I helped remove the stigma about wearing flashy 'gay' underwear and being openly gay in your professional life."
This December, look for "Unleased," his new sportwear line that "pushes boundaries and allows me to express the more artistic avant-garde side of me." @theandrewchristian
The readers of Vogue and GQ and fans of Puma and Beyonce's Adidas x Ivy Park know Yves Mathieu as a New York-based model and performer. But it's what Yves, 28, does off the clock that truly sets this queer leader apart. He is a tireless advocate, consistently fighting for marginalized communities, particularly trans and cis women and LGBTQ+ youth.
The self-described "broken-hearted artist" heals by doing extensive work involving social justice (with LGBTQ+ youth runaway centers and homeless shelters). He also rescues pit bulls from fight rings on the streets and does extensive rehabilitative work so they're ready to be adopted by a loving home.
Mathieu has tattoos on 90 percent of his body, which means most people don't see fashion or queer when they "read" him. No matter, this summer and fall, Mathieu went on a self-funded, grassroots abortion rights protest tour, working hand in hand with every major organization at high-risk since the new Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. His biggest accomplishment this year is escaping a two-year-old assault charge on a police officer, which, he says, "in actuality was me trying to protect a woman who had been struck in the face by a police officer during a protest I was at."
Though his largest obstacle ("being Black in this country") remains, he says, "I look that challenge in the face every single day and I actively make the choice to live, even on days when I don't want to." Though he's recording a new album, he'll "continue to venture wherever injustice is happening and do whatever I can in those moments, by any means necessary."
Mathieu knows what would make him truly happy: "Pay Black women; legal abortion in every state; health care for our trans youth and adults; no more old, white presidents; and community cookouts every weekend." Model, sure, but he's the true definition of a justice activist who shows queer kids they can survive, thrive, and fight back. @the_yvesdropper