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Thirty under thirty
Part 1of 2
2003-06-25

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Aaron ( Alex ) Alexander Agudo, 16

Adrian Earl Williams, 29

Brenna Conley-Fonda, 20

Rohan Barrett, 18

Jane Palmer, 24

Dylan Rice, 27

Gwen Lis, 30

Hector Salgado, 21

Jennifer A. Helton, 21

Joe Hollendoner, 22

ML Mann, 22

Nikki

Roger Jordan, 29

Searah Deysach , 29

Shira Hassan, MSW, 29

Sven Soderberg, 24

Tina Fakhrid-Deen, 29

Urzula Urzua, 30

Virgil L. Roberson, 21

David Thayer

Brett Smiley, 24

Elizabeth Castaneda, 18

This Lane Tech High School sophomore works both inside and outside of his school for GLBT teens. He has participated in youth

seminars with GLSEN ( the Gay, lesbian and Straight Education Network ) and DePaul University. He has worked to make sure Lane

has hate-crimes prevention, and is involved in the Vietnamese and volleyball clubs. Alex is also a Youth Representative for the 19th

District of YouthNet, a city of Chicago Department of Human Services-sponsored coalition to assess the needs of youth. He helps get

info about what 19th District youth need, not just LGBTs, but straights. 'We get people from high schools to come to our place to learn

and tell us what they need,' he said. The 19th District covers roughly from California to Clark and from Fullerton to Lawrence. Alex

also participates in the larger Teenology, when all the districts from around city come together. Just 16, Alex has been out for a year.

Born in the U.S. ( his father is Pilipino, his mother is Mexican, his step-father is Ecuadoran ) , Alex said he has experienced some

problems from his parents. 'I want to see the LGBT community more involved in getting strength from straights and we can all live

together in a good space,' Alex said. 'Slowly, we are starting to see people come together. All these movements need to work more

on it so they can be even better.' Amelia Lopez, who nominated Alex, said he was instrumental in organizing a Safe Night event,

bringing in families to celebrate New Year's Eve. Alex also took the lead in organizing a youth forum entitled 'Fashion speaks louder

than words.' This forum discussed how adults judge youth by their appearance and how many types of stereotypes exist. Alex also

took part in organizing and participating in the National Community Service Project in April. His committee was selected to do a

'Senior Prom' event for senior citizens. Alex also was on a forum about Homeless GLBTQ youth.

Tony Alvarado-Rivera, 21

One of the area's most highly visible youth is Alvarado-Rivera, a three-time 30 under 30 and columnist for En La Vida. We normally

disqualify people who write for our papers, but Tony does so much more. He is Educational Programs Assistant at About Face

Theatre, and is the first About Face Youth Theatre ensemble member to join the AFT staff. He is also the Program Coordinator of

ALAS, a social/support group for Latino men 18+ who identify as GBT at the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association ( OPALGA ) .

Tony entered the gay activist scene in 1999 with active involvement in his high school's Gay Straight Alliance at Morton East High

School in Cicero, and has since continued his work with GLSEN and the Coalition for Education on Sexual Orientation ( CESO ) . Tony

was the recipient of the Barajas/Reese scholarship for Latino Gay activism. This year, he and friend Emmanuel Garcia established

the Alvarado/Garcia Scholarship Fund and Mentorship Program with the assistance of the Association of Latino Men for Action

( ALMA ) . Projects also include Chicago's Day of Silence/Night of Noise, and the Youth Speak Out: Safe School Report, a national

report on safety in schools. Tony is shooting a film exploring gender and drag performance. 'My heroes include Brian Goodman, my

'crazy Lesbian aunt,' Toni Armstrong, Jr., Evette & Mona, my coworkers at About Face, the love of my life, Emmanuel Garcia, and my

mother,' Tony writes. 'I feel there is still a lot of oppression within the GLBT community. It is not enough to believe you understand

minority status because one is Queer and is a minority. It is important to every day check yourself on your power and privilege. As part

of the youth community, we are coming out in full force as change agents. There is so much excitement in the Queer youth

community. If we can build an intergenerational setting, there is so much change we can all make for the next generations to come.'

Rohan Barrett, 18

This University of Illinois-Chicago student works with the Outreach Cast of About Face Theatre and he has been apart of their youth

theatre mainstage ensemble since January 2002. The theatre company provides 30-minute plays about bullying and harassment

against GLBTQ students and those that are perceived to be GLBTQ and reveal what goes on, 'on the down low.' 'As a member of this

fabulous cast I have been given the opportunity to try and better the GLBT community by helping younger ones gain success in their

education and to let their voice be heard,' Rohan said. 'Some of my heroes include the fabulous board members and scholars at The

Point Foundation, the fabulous staff and team at About Face Theatre, members of CESO. It is sad to see the huge generation gap

between the younger and older GLBT members of the community and the continuous stifling of the voices of youth. However, this

stifling is being battled by many different organizations that create a space where adult and youth members can work together.'

Rohan's nominator stated: 'Rohan's story of being born and raised in Jamaica—a society where homosexuality is illegal and

punishable with 10 years of hard labor—was performed on the About Face Theatre mainstage last summer. Forced to leave Jamaica

by his family, Rohan fled to the U.S. to live with an aunt who again kicked him out for being gay. Despite his drama, Rohan has

created a strong voice in politics and issues related to the GLBT community. A freshman at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and

treasurer of his pride club, he is double majoring in Political Science and Math with the goal of being a teacher. Even with all he does,

he still manages to hold above a 3.5:4.0 GPA. He has been awarded the Point Foundation Scholarship, the first nationwide LGBT

scholarship foundation granting scholarships to undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students.'

Elizabeth Castaneda, 18

Elizabeth Castaneda is an active Latina and has been involved with GLBT activism on a national level. A recent graduate of Morton

East High School in Cicero, she has been involved with the Folklore Dance Troop, Modern Jazz Dance Ensemble, school plays,

Class of 2003 Vice-President, and a member and president of her high school's GSA, MEGASA. She has been very active with the

GLSEN national team as a National Student Organizer, Illinois State Organizer, on the 2003 Day of Silence Leadership Team,

GLSEN's 2003 Jump Start Student Leadership Team, the Midwest Regional Organizer, and GLSEN's 2003 Teaching Respect for All

National Conference Team Events Organizer. She has presented at several conferences all over the country. Most recently, she was

the recipient of the Aixa Diaz Scholarship given by the Amigas Latinas thru GLSEN. 'I have also participated in many conferences

such as the National Council of LaRaza, LLEGO and GLSEN,' she said.

Brenna Conley-Fonda, 20

Brenna is enrolled in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was a member of Chicago Lesbian Avengers, and was on the

Camp Trans Planning committee in 2001 and 2002. She was a co-author of the Youth Speak Out: Safety in Schools report sponsored

by the About Face Theatre and the Princess Diana of Wales Foundation. She was also on the planning committee that formed the

GSA at her school, and was a member of the About Face Youth Theater ensemble for three years and the outreach show that travels

to area high schools for the past four years. 'My GLBT heroes are the people that I have worked alongside, specifically Tony Alvarado

Rivera, Megan Carney, and Brian Goodman,' Brenna said. 'I think that in the past five years that I have been involved with the queer

community things seem to moving in a forward motion. GSA's are sprouting up everywhere, more and more people are coming out,

and there are actually queer people on television. But there are still things like the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, which has an

exclusionary policy towards trans women that makes me feel like we as a movement aren't moving forward.'

Brian Goodman said of Brenna: 'Coming out at the age of 15, Brenna Conley-Fonda immediately became involved in Queer activism

by helping to start a Gay/Straight Alliance at New Trier High School. She was involved with the Speakers Panel of PRIDE youth,

traveling to different high schools to talk about Queer youth issues. ... Her skills have taken Brenna to lead workshops with the AFYT

to Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Palm Springs, just to mention a few. She worked to develop the first ever AFYT 'zine and

recently worked as the Project Director of the national report, Youth Speak Out: Safe Schools. Brenna is a photographer and a

student at The Art Institute of Chicago. She is very dedicated to integrating the arts and political activism. She is currently developing,

filming, and garnering financial support for a project exploring gender and drag performance.'

Charity Crouse, 25

[ Not pictured ] A freelance journalist, Charity recently published an article in the Gay & Lesbian Review entitled 'Down & Out & Living

in Israel' about the experiences of gay Palestinians facing additional barriers to the ones they already face because of the Israeli

occupation. It caused an uproar in both queer and Arab communities ( nationally and internationally ) . She has written extensively on

global sex trafficking and militarism, and has been interviewed for radio and print. She has also given talks and sat on panels all over

the Midwest. She is former Editor of Streetwise: Under her leadership, Streetwise won multiple awards from the Black Journalists'

Association, the Women's Press Association and the Gay & Lesbian Journalists' Association. She has personally won multiple

awards from the WPA and GLJA. Charity is also Co-founder, Voices of Palestine Video Project: A video project focusing on creating

videos by Palestinians about Palestinians that is a collaboration between Chicago activists and Palestinians living in the Beit Jibrin

refugee camp in Bethlehem. She is also a member of Not In My Name, a Jewish group organizing against the Israeli occupation of

the West Bank and Gaza. She has given many talks and been on panels all over the country.

Searah Deysach , 29

Searah is owner of Early to Bed, a sex-toy shop in Edgewater. 'While I have worked with Queer, Pro-Choice & AIDS groups in the

past, currently my activism is promoting crazy good ( & safe ) sex for everyone through my shop & speaking engagements,' she writes.

'Sex education in this country is a joke and many people, especially women, grow up knowing very little about their bodies, how they

work and how to make them feel really good. My goal is to make sure that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender

identity, has access to honest information about sex in a safe, open-minded environment.' Her heroes include 'Nina Hartley: Kick-ass

bi Porn star & director, nurse and dyke sex advice columnist. Dan Savage: Superstar sex advice columnist & writer. Siegfried & Roy:

magicians, animal tamers and Masters of the Impossible!' 'The current GLBT movement needs a radical leftist sex-positive kick in the

ass,' she said. Jessica Halem said: 'I am so thrilled to nominate Searah for this prestigious award. Searah has filled such a hole here

in Chicago and we are all better lesbians because of her. And much happier too! But seriously, Searah had major zoning and political

issues to deal with to open her sex shop and you add that on top of opening your own business all before the age of 30 and you've

got the perfect candidate for this award!'

Tina Fakhrid-Deen, 29

Tina is employed at Oakton Community College as the TRIO/SSS Director. 'I am the Chicago Coordinator of Children of Lesbians &

Gays Everywhere ( COLAGE ) , a volunteer-run organization that advocates for, connects, and empowers people to make the world a

better place for children of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents and families,' she stated. 'I began the Chicago chapter in

fall of 2000. Our chapter serves teenagers with LGBT parents by providing a safe, comfortable environment for them to discuss issues

that pertain to our families and socialize with one another. I do workshops for schools, hospitals, and organizations on Providing

Services for LGBT Families, Protecting Sexual Minority Families in the Schools, and Serving Low-Income Youth. I have been

published in LGBT-focused publications such as Venus, DykeMamasGrrrl Zine, the COLAGE newsletter, and Abigail Garner's

forthcoming book, Families Like Mine ( HarperCollins ) . I was featured in the 2002 NGLTF Family Policy Institute Manual. I also direct,

perform, and write creative non-fiction for local publications and venues. My mother is my No. 1 hero as an African-American lesbian

who has weathered many storms and come out on top of the rainbow. She taught me to speak my mind, advocate for those who are

less fortunate and be ready to stand up and fight for my cause. I also honor and praise all of the LGBT parents who fight to keep our

families safe and infused with unconditional love.'

The good and bad of the LGBT movement: 'There seems to be little effort towards cultural diversity within the movement. Yes, we

may have slightly different agendas, but there are ways that we can support each other and become a stronger political force, making

life better for our families. However, this has to be a concerted effort, with everyone walking toward the middle, stepping away from

their comfort zones. In order for this to occur, we need to first acknowledge how racism, sexism, and classism have played a

polarizing role in the LGBT community and work towards honesty, communication, and reconciliation.'

Shira Hassan, MSW, 29

Shira works for Horizons Community Services in the Youth Services Department. She also works for the Harm Reduction Training

Institute, Upstream Consulting and she is listed as a consultant for Idealist.org . She is a former board member of the New York Peer

Education Coalition and a former steering committee member for the New York Task force for Homeless Youth. She is also a program

consultant for FIERCE, an anti-racist queer youth-led activist organization that fights for the rights of street youth and to put an end to

youth jails.

Shira Hassan is a femme-identified radical queer who brings sex radical and harm reduction philosophy to queer street youth

through organizing and education. She is a national consultant and trainer for the Harm Reduction Training Institute and Upstream

Consulting, two organizations that utilize a harm reduction ethic to improve programming for HIV prevention programs and their

clients. She has worked with LGBT youth for the last nine years, helping youth establish their own activist organizations and create

change within their own communities. Since moving to Chicago nine months ago, Shira has collaborated with the Night Ministry,

Howard Brown, Horizons and the Chicago Recovery Alliance to improve services to sex-working youth. She has also collaborated

with local Harm Reduction activists and leaders to create the Harm Reduction working group.

'I have worked at illegal syringe exchanges in three states, have coordinated a city-wide vigil in remembrance of transgender

youth murdered on the streets, I have offered therapy for homeless LGBT sex working youth in the backs of trucks, in alleys and on

payphones for the last eight years. I have been hunted by pimps and johns who want me to pay because I helped someone get an

HIV test or a condom or a meal. I don't scream at rallies anymore. I save my energy for queer youth who are fighting with every breath

to survive,' she stated. 'I think that the mainstream gay and lesbian movement has made mistakes similar to the early women's

movement. Anti-racist philosophy and liberating gender oppression has fallen by the wayside while marriage rights and making

straight people think we are 'just like them' seems to be the primary agenda. The mainstream gay and lesbian movement has

forgotten where it came from. The Stonewall revolution started with transgender women of color who fought cops and bashers with all

of their might, however the current movement has deluded itself into thinking that if we can have everything that straight people can

have the world will be just. To me, the gay liberation movement is dead. Welcome the queer revolution, which prioritizes anti-racist,

gender inclusive, feminist, grassroots community building principles into its every action.'

Jennifer A. Helton, 21

Jennifer attends school at—and works for—Loyola University in Chicago. 'I became interested in activism while attending Loyola,'

she said. 'I have served as the president of Loyola's Queer organization, Rainbow Connection, and also as their Education and Safe

Space chairs. During this time I have attended counter protests, organized awareness programs, sat on panels, and run numerous

Safe Space workshops. Through the support of the University and my fellow activists I have attempted to eliminate the No. 1 cause of

hate, ignorance. In doing so I have helped to make Loyola and the surrounding community of Rogers Park a safer and more open

environment for GLBTQ individuals. ... The worst characteristic of the movement is the fragmentation that exists between individual

groups, opinions, and goals. Though participants are extremely diverse we can accomplish a great deal more with a united front. The

diversity of the community is the movement's greatest strength. Though many groups continue to be under represented, overall the

movement can gain important insights from the many individuals coming from countless backgrounds.'

Amy Ma states: 'A year ago, as the new President of Rainbow Connection, Jennie had inherited an essentially near-dead

organization. ... Even though she was taking three classes while working full-time to pay for school, for the Fall 2003 school year,

Jennie took on the difficult task of rebuilding the defunct organization. Jennie was able to recruit and maintain a 20+ core of active

members and organize several big events. ... Jennie played an integral role in bringing the AIDS quilt to Loyola's campus as well as

organizing Safe Space training sessions for groups as large as 100 people.'


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