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This article shared 9227 times since Wed Jun 25, 2008
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Ali Abbas is an American by way of Lebanon. He was born in the Western suburb of Carol Stream, Ill., after his parents fled their invaded home country. Abbas came out during his senior years of high school, and faced objection by his parents and alienation from the LGBT community. This inspired him to do volunteer work that focuses on raising awareness of LGBT issues on a global scale and raising awareness of hateful policies within the LGBT community.

In 2007, Abbas was named a Point Foundation Scholar. The Point Foundation is the country's largest publicly supported organization that grants scholarships to LGBT students.

Abbas is a philosophy major. His areas of interest range from inter-community identity politics, economic analysis and foreign policy. A student at DePaul University, his current projects include a piece on 'The Boondocks,' using the television show as a case study for the analysis of communities and applying that to the current identity crisis facing the LGBTQ community in terms of marriage 'equality.' Another project focuses on ending the occupation of Palestine and Iraq and working towards economic equality in trans-continental labor industries.

Abbas is also a published writer. His work, which aims to advocate for greater acceptance within the LGBT community, among other issues, has appeared in several local newspapers.

DID YOU KNOW? He is a fan of 'The Boondocks' and Pugs. He also secretly makes digital music in his free time.



T.C., 25, has been with Broadway Youth Center (BYC) a year now, working on the Life Skills project. Life Skills is an HIV Intervention for young transgender women, which Taylor co-facilitates and does massive recruitment and retention work for.

Since being at BYC, T.C. has become even more involved, serving on numerous community committees, doing speaking engagements and co-facilitating trans-inclusion trainings for schools, businesses and other non-profits. In addition, she has become an integral part of the Trans Youth Resources and Advocacy (TYRA) drop-in team, providing a weekly safe space for trans youth of all varieties to come, socialize and build community together. Her work, her passion and her commitment have made her a central figure in Chicago's LGBTQ youth community. Her mission, within all of this work, is to promote healthy attitudes about gender expression, including the idea that one does not have to aim to 'become' a woman or a man—that being trans (or anywhere along the wonderful gender spectrum) is beautiful all by itself.

DID YOU KNOW? Before Life Skills, T.C> was very active within the LGBTQ community, serving as a mentor to many young trans people.



Bethany Minor is a 2008 graduate of Northwestern University, where she majored in history and political science, with a minor in Asian-American studies.

She is originally from Senatobia, Miss., but grew up in Memphis, Tenn. She has been a resident of Chicago for about two and a half years.

Minor was a counselor with the LGBT Center at Duke University in Durham, N.C., before moving to Chicago. She first became active in LGBT organizations in the Chicagoland area with the Rainbow Alliance at Northwestern. She served as social chair, which gave her the opportunity to get better acquainted with other collegiate LGBT organizations around Chicago, such as DePaul and Loyola. Continuing her social activities, she also has done promotional work throughout Chicago.

Beginning in the summer of 2006, she began a very productive relationship with the Lesbian Community Care Project(LCCP) as an intern. Sin ce then, she has had the honor of spearheading outreach efforts for LCCP at events like Northalsted Market Days and the Andersonville Midsommarfest. She also served as a board member for the 2007 LCCP Ball, which is the largest event for LBT women in the Midwest. She has recently been asked to further her commitment to LBT women health issues in Chicago by joining the LCCP advisory board.

She plans to attend graduate school next year, where she hopes to pursue a degree that will allow her to continue her passion for advocacy work in women's health.

DID YOU KNOW? She has 10 tattoos and is planning her next one as you read this.



Madsen Minax, 25, is a multimedia artist, musician and activist. After growing up in the scenic woods of northern Michigan, he trained as a filmmaker at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and classical quartet composer at Hogeschool voor Muziek en Technologie in Utrectht, The Netherlands.

Minax spends much of his time playing upright bass in the duet music project Actor Slash Model, utilizing songwriting and vaudevillian performance to address political issues, identity, queerness and kink. In addition to music performance, Actor Slash Model also collaborates in other media; the duo are currently producing an experimental documentary exploring trans and gender variant identities as they related to music and performance, wherein Minax is directing his first feature-length film, scheduled for completion in 2009.

The project has received two consecutive Chicago Artist Assistance Program grants through the Illinois Arts Council and Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as the Crossroads Fund Fire This Time Grant 2007.

Minax's films have screened nationally and internationally in cities including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Berlin, Germany, Copenhagen, Denmark, Sydney and Perth, Australia.

His other current projects include co-organizing 'Threat Level Queer Shorts,' a bimonthly film and video-screening series to showcase independent work made by queer filmmakers internationally. He also works with Beyondmedia Education as a videographer and editor with a current focus in HIV/AIDS prevention education.

DID YOU KNOW? Minax is an active participant in Chicago leather culture, working hard to bridge the gap between gay male leather culture and the interrelated issues of kink in queerness and trans identity through volunteer work and workshop facilitation. Minax is also a volunteer and member of The Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago.



Jasmine Thurmond, 22, is a Chicago native. She recently made her return to the city after a two-year residency in Jackson, Miss. As a student at Jackson State University, she dedicated her leisure time to the organization IamSeven, which focuses on exposing underprivileged youth to art culture.

Now residing in Chicago, Thurmond has a personal academic tutoring small business for youth in pre-kindergarten through 12th grades, where she seeks to not only educate youth, but also positively guide them into success. She is a student at Chicago State University, where she is an avid volunteer in the Gwendolyn Brooks Writing Center and vice-president of the LGBTQ organization Helping Educate Regarding Orientation (HERO). She is fulfilling a longtime dream of hers as she wears the hat of 'G-Spot Radio Show' co-host. The 'G-Spot' is an Internet radio show geared towards an audience of LGBTQQ women. On the show, Thurmond focuses on discussing issues that are relevant to the women of her community, while also including pertinent topics from popular culture.

DID YOU KNOW? In her free time, she volunteers at the Center on Halsted, performs at Pow Wow Poetry Night and attends live music venues.



Andre Brown is currently the Youth HIV Prevention Program Coordinator at the Broadway Youth Center (BYC). In his position, Brown works to provide HIV and STD testing, health education programming and a variety of outreach programs to young people ages 12 to 24 years old. He enjoys working with young people and finds the relationships he builds with them to be the most valuable and rewarding part of his job.

A native of Flint, Mich., Brown came to Chicago in 2007 after completing his Master's in public health at the University of North Carolina. He has been doing HIV prevention work since 2002, while a student at the University of Michigan. His travels to South Africa in 2003 to do HIV prevention work solidified his desire to dedicate his work to addressing the issues related to this disease.

DID YOU KNOW? Brown's secret passion in life is music. He enjoys listening to music (live and on CD), wants to learn the piano and wants to record an album.



Laura Velazquez started with Center on Halsted as the victim advocacy coordinator in 2004. Her 11 years of experience in anti-violence advocacy includes her time as a victim legal advocate at a domestic violence shelter and as a police officer in the Western suburbs, where she saw first-hand the legal issues faced by victims of violence.She has training certificates in both domestic violence and sexual assault crisis intervention, and is active nationally in prevention, education and outreach efforts that increase the awareness of violence issues in the LGBT community.

Velazquez received her law enforcement training in 2002 at the Illinois State Police Academy in Springfield, Ill., where she lived for 12 weeks of paramilitary instruction. Laura graduated as the recruit class vice president.

While serving as a police officer, she continued her fitness training and returned to boxing classes. Laura previously boxed at a gym where she and her best friend were the only females in class. During a boxing workout, Laura broke her 'gun' hand, resulting in her leaving the force shortly after. That is when Laura left her hometown of Aurora and moved to Chicago.

DID YOU KNOW? In her free time, Velazquez enjoys cheering for the White Sox and Bears, is a music and movie buff that include classics, especially Audrey Hepburn features. If you have ever met her, she will shake your hand and may ask 'How do you do?' in honor of Eliza Doolittle, Hepburn's character in 'My Fair Lady.'



Fluent in Spanish, Timothy Bechtel is currently the client services coordinator for the Mental Health Program at the Center on Halsted, providing culturally competent mental health services to the Center's Latino and English-speaking consumers. He serves as a full member of the Chicago Department of Public Health HIV Prevention and Planning Group, and he facilitates an ongoing support group for LGBT individuals with HIV.

Bechtel graduated with a master's in social service administration from the University of Chicago, where he interned at the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture and International Faces, two programs of Heartland Health Outreach that work with immigrants and political refugees. Tim also served in the Peace Corps for two years, working as a health promoter for the public school system in Guatemala. He is currently completing his hours for his license in clinical social work, which he is scheduled to receive by the end of this year.

DID YOU KNOW? Bechtel picked up the guitar about four years ago, and continues to struggle with it. Also, he has not paid for a haircut since high school!

More honorees at : .

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