ASHLEY 'RHETT' LINDSAY
30, SPECIAL EVENTS COORDINATOR
Ashley 'Rhett' Lindsay, a native of Mill Creek, W. Va., came to Chicago in 2000 after graduating with a degree in public relations from West Virginia University. Since his arrival in the Windy City, he has served as trade-show coordinator for a large trade-show management company; account executive for a public relations agency; and coordinator of student orientation programs at a local college.
He currently serves as the development associate/special events manager for Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN), and has played an integral part in the creation of TPAN's newest fundraising event, Chicago Takes Off, which debuted in February 2007. He also coordinates the logistics and fundraising efforts for TPAN's Ride for AIDS Chicago and annual gala. In addition to major events at TPAN, he also coordinates and serves on TPAN's program events committees, including Man Alive, a gay men's health summit; Women Living, an HIV/AIDS event for women; PULSE at NorthEnd and Positively Aware at Hydrate, two social events hosted by TPAN; and other outreach programs and events.
Rhett is also the new director of Chicago's award-winning Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps (ROTC), a campy, all-male, 30-member volunteer, rifle-precision drill troupe that performs at Chicago's LGBT events. This is his third year of performing with the group. As director, he manages the group's visual design group (choreography), fundraising efforts, scheduling, membership recruitment and retention and represents the group at events such as Chicago's Pride Fest, the Pride Parade and Northalsted Market Days. The group has also performed in cities throughout the United States and Canada, and plans to join other U.S. gay color guards for Sydney, Australia's Mardi Gras in March 2008.
DID YOU KNOW? Rhett has also volunteered for Chicago Human Rights Campaign's gala dinner, working primarily with production and logistics. He has also been employed part-time at Banana Republic since 1999.
25, FEMINIST ACTIVIST
A Bronx native, Christina Santiago has been working for the Lesbian Community Cancer Project and Howard Brown Health Center as the women's health patient navigator for the past year and a half doing exacly what she loves—working with lesbians to address their health needs.
As a self-identified Puerto Rican lesbian and feminist activist, Christina tends to have many things she is passionate about: breast cancer advocacy, access to healthcare and empowering the lesbian community, just to name a few. Annually, she touches the lives of over 250 lesbian and queer women from the time they walk in the front door until after they receive their care.
Educated at the University of New York at Albany, Christina was very active in the feminist community and holds her degree in women's studies and sociology. She is also a certified domestic violence advocate.
Christina is looking forward to continuing her work here in Chicago as a healthcare resource and guide for the LBTQ community.
DID YOU KNOW? Prior to going to college, where she inevitably 'came out,' Christina considered becoming a nun.
27, LEGAL EAGLE
Ryan Kerian serves on Center on Halsted's board of directors and chairs the Center's associate board. This board of young leaders serves the underrepresented 18-to-35-year-old LGBT community. The board hosts events, develops programming, raises money and promotes inclusiveness. Under his leadership, the associate board has raised over $75,000 since its March inception.
As a young lawyer at Latham & Watkins, one of the nation's most LGBT-friendly legal employers, Ryan recruits LGBT candidates and coordinates meetings addressing LGBT issues. Through his efforts, Latham has become a major sponsor of Center on Halsted. Ryan was also recently featured in a Crain's Chicago Business article on issues affecting openly gay professionals in the workplace.
Ryan began his activism by co-founding an LGBT support group in college. He later served as co-chair of Outlaw, the University of Chicago Law School's first and only LGBT student organization. He promoted awareness of LGBT issues and helped develop the school's efforts to increase student body diversity, leading to school initiatives to recruit gay and lesbian candidates. During his tenure, Outlaw hosted prominent speakers, including Kenji Yoshino, author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Human Rights.
Ryan also led a team of students who helped to write an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief supported a first amendment challenge to the Solomon Amendment, a regulation withholding federal funding from universities prohibiting campus military recruiting. Additionally, Ryan co-founded Bundle Up, a quarterly social event for LGBT graduate students that continues to bring students together today.
DID YOU KNOW? Ryan was a little sunburned following the Pride Parade last year after running from float to float shirtless and giving high fives to everyone who would let him. This summer he is soaking up the sun by training for the Chicago AIDS Marathon.
28, SOCIAL WORKER
Erik Roldan was born and raised in Chicago and grew up in Lakeview. After graduating college in 2000, he has dedicated his daytime to social work, helping adults with disabilities and recently, doing outreach for people who live in public housing.
In September 2003, he launched Think Pink with co-host Alison McDonald as an outlet for his queer politics and love of music. (Since December 2006, Think Pink has been co-hosted with Ruth Batacan). His passion for sound has also led to rabid vinyl collecting—he owns over 3,000 records. Currently, he is trying to expand the scope of Think Pink through a queer music blog and promoting queer events in Chicago. Look for upcoming shows/events at www.myspace.com/thinkpinkradio amd spot him hosting the new monthly party at Kitty Moon in Rogers Park.
DID YOU KNOW? Erik's parents immigrated to the United States from Guatemala, and Erik speaks fluent Spanish.
Luna is a queer Latina activist who is focusing her energy on creating positive change and awareness within and between the LGBTQ and Latino communities. She is the first administrative assistant for Amigas Latinas, an organization that empowers Latina lesbian, bisexual and questioning women by offering safe spaces and resources. She also is the bilingual women's advocate for Sarah's Inn, where she provides individual and group support and advocacy for victims/survivors of domestic violence.
Prior to her work with Sarah's Inn and Amigas Latinas, Jacqueline was a case manager at Rainbow House, a domestic violence agency that provided shelter, until May of 2006, to survivors of domestic violence. During her time there she initiated several changes, including the beginning steps to transition the shelter to becoming transgender accessible.
Jacqueline graduated from DePaul University in 2004 with a major in psychology and a minor in Latin American and Latino/a Studies. She is an active member of the Chicago LGBTQ Immigrant Alliance (CLIA), was a volunteer Coordinator for Noche de Arco Iris: Queer Prom 2007 and is a member of the organizing committee for this year's Chicago Dyke March.
Recently, she was accepted to University of Illinois at Chicago's Jane Addams College of Social Work, where she will pursue her Master's with a concentration in community health and urban development. During her first year, she will be interning for Center on Halsted's Mental Health program.
As a result of limited resources for queer people of color in the South Side of Chicago, Jacqueline and her best friend, Felicia Ramos, are in the beginning stages of creating a safe space for queer people of color that will be focused on health and healing.
DID YOU KNOW? She is also the proud mother of Freakin' Cat and Mole, her two cats.
Jenny Urban is a leader in the culinary training field as Head Chef of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and in previous jobs, where she trained the homeless and refugees. She brings diversity to each leadership position. Jenny created a gay-friendly atmosphere at the Uptown restaurant that she opened, Café Too. As executive chef, she created a partnership with the Gay Games to establish a meeting space for the Gay Games' committees, as well as catering for the volunteers and employees of the event. During her time there, she helped Café Too become a gay brunch hotspot after winning the Free Press 2005 Golden Spoon Award, which named Café Too as the best neighborhood addition. Jenny's work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Windy City Times, Dykediva.com, Time Out Chicago, The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times.
As a leading queer drummer, Jenny plays with 2005 Out Music Awards musician of the year Scott Free., with the Scott Free Trio playing at such venues as Jackhammer, Schuba's and Homolatte. The Trio also played The Windy City Radio Show (Windy City Media Group) and on TV as the musical guest for OUT-TV's Queer Eye with Jack E. Jett. When Jenny is not busy touring with the Trio, she can be heard playing as the founder of the lesbian-based Foster Avenue Beach Sunday drum circle.
DID YOU KNOW? Jenny was expected to be part of the opening act for the Chicago Gay Games on the night that her partner went into labor with their beautiful daughter, Isis.
28, SOCIAL-JUSTICE ADVOCATE
Will Lockett is a young activist who is passionate about creating change, ending oppression and speaking out against injustices. He is interested in public demonstrations as a means for affecting change.
In addition to being a volunteer for Sankofa Way for over a year, Will is founder of the group Black LGBT & Allies for Equality, which advocates for the Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and same-gender-loving community. The group fight for justice, respect and human rights using education, grassroots organizing, non-violent direct action and awareness raising public demonstrations. Through his work, the membership of the group has grown from four to 40 members in roughly one year.
In the past year, through his group, he has demonstrated for justice and respect for Black lesbians and gays on Chicago's South Side after a gunman opened fire at a gathering of mostly Black gay men. He has called out homophobic injustice from preachers, even in front of their churches on Sunday morning. Will has also protested the anti-gay lyrics of rapper DMX and reggae musician Buju Banton at their concerts.
In addition, he has petitioned Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to speak out against the proposed Nigerian legislation to make gay people and their associates illegal, and helped scare off a racist hate group from completing an anti-gay measure at a local Black church. His group has also called out the media emperor, ClearChannel, and their anti-gay content on their Black radio stations. His work continues, calling out anti-LGBT hatred and exclusion in the African American community. Black LGBT & Allies for Equality has enjoyed victories and success, but the struggle continues.
DID YOU KNOW? Will's favorite junk-food items are pizzas from Giordano's and Home Run Inn.
23, POLITICAL ACTIVIST
Nick Rutan, who was born in Indianapolis, is the older brother to three sisters. While in high school, he started a men's volleyball team. After graduation, Nick was recruited by Cardinal Stritch University to play volleyball, and this is where his activism began. At the university, LGBT students and allies had no group to turn to and, worse, they were becoming marginalized. It became his mission to start a support group for LGBT students in order to have a real pressence on campus.
Nick then wanted to get involved on a larger scale. He joined DignityUSA and, at a convention in Philadelphia, made a contact at the Human Rights Campaign that connected him to the organization's Youth College program, which he soon joined. There, he worked on the campaign of Congressinal candidate Tammy Duckworth in 2006.
Soon, Nick moved back to Chicago to become involved in Richard J. Daley's mayoral campaign. After meeting Alderman Vi Daley at an Equality Illinois dinner, he joined her runoff campaign. Nick feels that each candidate he has worked for has a passion for equality that the LGBT community has benefitted from.
DID YOU KNOW? Indianapolis' Holy Rosary Street Festival, which Nick's grandfather started in 1984, recently greeted over 35,000 people and grossed over $250,000.
29, LEGAL SPECIALIST
Anne Huffman, has lived, worked and played in Chicago for the past 11 years. Thanks to her childhood love of Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes, she realized that she was destined to work in the criminal justice field. Huffman received her BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from Loyola University of Chicago in 2000, and immediately began working for Con. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., where she developed her love of politics.
Huffman then worked in the child welfare and social service field at Maryville Academy and Uhlich Children's Home and Treatment Center. For the last four years, she has worked as the GLBT and Hate Crime Specialist with the Victim Witness Unit for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. She acts as an advocate for the GLBT community by attending court with victims and their families, writing orders of protection for victims of domestic violence and assisting all GLBT and hate crimes victims with the daunting challenge of maneuvering their way through the court system. In September, Anne will be speaking on two panels as an expert on GLBT domestic violence and on hate crimes at the Lavender Law Conference, a national conference dealing with the intersection of the GLBT community and the legal profession. Huffman is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Forensic Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
DID YOU KNOW? Huffman sings loudly while driving, can say the alphabet backwards, plays a mean game of poker and is a self-professed parallel parking champion.
Kevin Hauswirth got his start in LGBTA activism in the frat houses of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign by forming an organization to react to the assault of a fellow gay fraternity member on campus. The organization, Greek Allies, got the attention of The Advocate and Kevin is now a regular contributor and the most published member of the magazine's Gen Q Editorial Advisory Board. His activism and work with the Advocate earned him the Human Rights Campaign Chicago's College Student of the Year Award in 2006.
After interning with a United Nations organization in Switzerland, and at Fleishman Hillard Communications' Asia-Pacific Headquarters in Hong Kong, Kevin earned his BA from the University of Illinois and returned to Chicago to become a political activist.
In 2006, he hit the campaign trail as a regional field director for Con. Melissa Bean, D-Ill. Working in the district's largest county, he built a county-wide field operation from the ground up and ran a winning election day operation. Kevin also supported fundraising and LGBT outreach activities for City Clerk Miguel Del Valle.
Currently, Kevin is an associate at O'Malley Hansen Communications and serves as a member of the Illinois LGBT Advisory Committee for Obama for America and Sen. Dick Durbin's Professional Steering Committee, and is co-chair of Bean's Young Professionals Finance Committee. He also drives policy and community outreach initiatives as a member of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's Junior Board.
DID YOU KNOW? Kevin recently launched www.HomosAreAHoot.com to sell shirts he made in college to draw awareness of National Coming Out Day and raise money for LGBT non-profits.
Matt Streib has always felt that a major stumbling block in correcting the ills perpetrated against gay people worldwide is that the void created by lack of information is often filled with prejudice and conjecture. To fix this, he has started a career in international journalism, working to shed light on the global gay community.
He began working in journalism when he wrote the first gay column in a major college newspaper at Cornell University in 2003. After college, he moved to Baltimore, where he worked as the news editor for Baltimore OUTloud, Maryland's largest gay newspaper, for almost two years. Before coming to Chicago, Matt spent six months working in an editorial capacity for a news service in Beirut. He is currently working towards a Master's degree in journalism and religion at Northwestern University.
Matt's columns and articles have appeared in publications in numerous countries and languages. His favorite to this day is a column critical of Turkey, which the Turkish prime minister's office translated and lambasted on its Web site. He has covered the gay experience in places such as Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria and France. Most recently, he visited the Netherlands, where he focused on the experiences of gay immigrants from the Middle East, examining how they deal with the transition into one of the world's most liberal cultures, and what they miss about their homelands. Later this year, he will travel to Bangladesh, where he will undertake a similar exploit.
In the future, Matt would like to work for a major international news organization, where he can cover the momentous events shaping our world. Hopefully, he'll be able to make sure that gay issues are incorporated in ways that current media lack.
DID YOU KNOW? Matt is 25, and still can't drive.
23, OPALGA LEADER
Andrew Walensa has been working with Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association (OPALGA) since he stumbled into their youth group at the age of 16. With the help of Susan Abbott (Youth Program Director) and OPALGA, Andrew has grown from a shy, closeted drop-in group participant to a strong, gay leader. He is an intricate part of the OPALGA Youth and Young Adult Network. Currently, Andrew is the weekly facilitator of Spectrum, OPALGA's 18 and up drop-in group.
Andrew is also one of the founders and leader of OPALGA's OUTspoken, a creative art group where youth and young adults use art to show the world from a LGBTQ perspective. The OUTspoken workshop experiments with different mediums of art (poetry, creative writing, visual art and acting) to share their stories and make social comments on society. The OUTspoken workshop prides itself in creating a community of LGBTQ artists that inspire each other to create and share their artistic work. Since its creation in 2004, OUTspoken has performed at numerous events, established a quaterly underground magazine called the OUTspoken ZINE and has held several showcases.
In 2005, Andrew was honored with a leadership award form National Youth Advocacy Coalition for the work he has done with OPALGA and the GLBTQ community. Additionally, he is a senior at Columbia College Chicago, where he is majoring in advertising art direction, and is ready to dive into the exciting world of the visual communication industry. His goal is to impact the world through art and advocacy.
DID YOU KNOW? Andrew is afraid of needles and blood, and once passed out at a piercing parlor.