GOMAG.COM
100 Women We Love: Class of 2006
by Winnie McCroy
July 9, 2008
This year, we expand our celebration of out women making a difference by spotlighting 100 movers and shakers from across the continent. These entrepreneurs, artists, politicians and activists continue to shape and redefine what it means to be proud. Presenting the Class of 2006.

Christine Quinn

Quinn made history this year by becoming the first woman and openly gay City Council Speaker for New York. Since she joined the City Council in 1999, she has worked for comprehensive health care, better schools, tenants’ rights and equality for the gay community. Quinn led the passage and subsequent veto override of the Equal Benefits Bill, which mandates that all corporations contracting with the city for more than $100,000 provide health care to all partners, including same sex couples. Quinn continues to fight for marriage equality, saying, “Whenever you have  a right that’s bestowed by government that some people can have and other people can’t have, it’s discriminatory, and you have to strike out against that.” Among her many accomplishments, she has worked toward funding for HIV prevention services and has increased access to mammograms for New York women.

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Beth Ditto

Fat, fabulous and fantastic are all descriptors that the Gossip’s lead singer Ditto embraces. This Olympia, Washington indie rocker is proud to be a lesbian and a spokesperson for large and lovely women. She attributes her big, soulful singing style to being raised Southern Baptist and Pentecostal, and admits that as a child, she was heavily into singers like Mama Cass and Gladys Knight. She has unabashedly called skinny chicks like Britney Spears “hideous,” and says of fat women, “You know what’s funny is they treat it like a minority, but it’s actually the majority and I always wonder why we haven’t gotten it together….[When] I went out [in] Olympia, I met people who were part of a bigger movement—no pun intended—but a bigger movement, and it was really one of the most powerful things in my life.”

Rebecca Drysdale

Comic on the verge, Drysdale seemed to have come out of thin air to steal the spotlight at last year’s Aspen Comedy Festival. In truth, she had been honing her craft for years with the legendary Second City in Chicago. She has recently taken root in New York City, performing her hilarious and controversial solo show, Rebecca Drysdale: One Woman In Several Pieces, at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Chelsea. She is also negotiating a deal with HBO. Her comedy is funny, edgy and personal, and at only 27 years old, Drysdale has taken the short road to what is sure to be a long and famed career. She also gives back to her community, teaching comedy and improv at her old summer camp “in the same room where I fell in love with [comedy] as a teenager. I directed two original sketch shows with about 60 12 to 16-year-olds. Seeing them come off stage, I’d trade Aspen for that any day.”

Rose Troche

Filmmaker Troche first caught our attention in 1994 with her runaway indie hit Go Fish, starring Guinevere Turner. In 1998, she followed up with Bedrooms and Hallways, the story of a British gay man whose 30th birthday spurs a crisis of sorts. In 2001, the quirky film The Safety of Objects, starring Glenn Close, Patricia Clarkson and Dermot Mulroney, cemented her reputation. Next, she began writing for TV, penning episodes of Six Feet Under, Touching Evil and The L Word. “Working with the same crew over a period of years is amazing,” said Troche of working on The L Word. “There is such familiarity; it makes it a pleasure to work.” Currently Troche is casting the film In A Country of Mothers and directing Potential, an adaptation of Ariel Schrag’s comic book.

Lisa Sherman

When Sherman became senior vice-president and general manager of LOGO, she brought with her decades of experience. She served as a senior executive at Verizon Communications for 17 years, and senior vice-president at New York agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopoulos. Of her work at gay cable channel LOGO, Sherman said, “I think it’s another milestone for the LGBT community securing its place in the American experience. Our stories are rich, vibrant and convey not just the human emotions of love, loss and hope, but the uniquely American values of freedom, independence and diversity.” In addition to Sherman’s work at LOGO, she is proud to have fulfilled her childhood dream at her 2003 “big Jewish wedding day with me and my partner Sophie elevated on chairs above the crowd during the traditional Hora dance.” She advises aspiring execs to network respectfully, hold on to your beliefs, and “do something that’s meaningful to you.”

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Ellen DeGeneres

When DeGeneres (and her character Ellen Morgan) came out as a lesbian on her sitcom, Ellen, in April 1997, she made history as TV’s first openly gay lead character.  Instead of fading quietly into the annals of TV history after the show’s cancellation, or becoming a punch line when her split with “call me crazy” Anne Heche hit the tabloids, DeGeneres shot back to the top with her sensitive hosting of the post-9/11 Emmy Awards. Now DeGeneres hosts one of the country’s top TV talk shows, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and continues to prove that being out, loud and proud can co-exist with success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Alison Bechdel  

Since the mid-80s, Bechdel has illuminated us with her seminal comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. Through the lives of Mo and her friends, understanding of the lesbian community has deepened along with Bechdel’s personal artistry. “My drawing has improved about 900 percent, for one thing,” Bechdel said. “And because I draw better than I used to, I’m able to tell more intricate and nuanced stories.” Bechdel will be at The Center on June 20 to promote her graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, about the life and death of her closeted gay father during her college years. “The book is an attempt to sort out that very confusing period of my life. It’s also a portrait of my father, who was a pretty interesting character.”

Sheryl Swoopes

Houston Comets basketball star Swoopes made WNBA history in October 2005 when she came out as a lesbian. She was the first women’s basketball player to have a Nike shoe, the “Air Swoopes,” named after her, and currently serves as a spokeswoman for Olivia Cruises. Swoopes and her partner, former basketball player and Houston Comets assistant coach, Alisa Scott, are raising Swoopes’ son, Jordan (named after Michael). She is the second player in WNBA history to win both the regular season Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and the All-Star Game MVP award in the same season, and she is the first in WNBA history to record a playoff triple-double. This three-time Olympic gold medallist (1996, 2000, 2004) told ESPN, “Male athletes of my caliber probably feel like they have a lot more to lose than gain [by coming out]. I don’t agree with that. To me, the most important thing is happiness.”

Jaclyn B. Ward aka Beyonsláy & Max Barnhart aka The Twisted Fister
The fierce and fiesty women of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby prove their power in and out of their legwarmers. Barnhart (The Twisted Fister) is a blocker and manager for the Bronx Gridlock. When she’s not blocking other skaters, she’s working as the Director of Anti-Human Trafficking programs for the International Rescue Committee. “I’m proud to have been the first lesbian on GGRD,” Barnhart said, “and to be part of the growing number of lesbian derby skaters. Ten percent is not enough, recruit recruit recruit! Giving my all to the game with a talented, committed group of strong women in front of an adoring crowd is the best thrill ever.” Also a lesbian teammate, Ward (Beyonsláy) once cut it up as a competitive figure skater. Now she too is a blocker for the GGRD and she’s proud to own a home with her partner.

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Judy Gold 

Comedian Gold bills herself as “6 feet 3 inches of pure Kosher USDA Choice Lesbian,” and truly towers over her competition. Gold hosts HBO’s At the Multiplex with Judy Gold and has done comedy specials for LOGO, a show on Comedy Central and a TBS special from the Aspen Comedy Festival. Most recently, she got serious with her one-woman show, 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, which she called, “A labor of love that I’ve worked on for over 5 years with Kate Moira Ryan [that] encompasses every aspect of my life. The impact that this show has had on other people has been the most profound experience for me.” This mother of two counts giving birth among her proudest accomplishments. She advises young comedians to “do your work, get on stage, tell the truth, have a point of view and never, ever steal a joke.”

Eva Sweeney

At only 23 years old, Los Angeles college student Sweeney has made incredible strides to bring visibility to the gay disabled community. She went from president of her high school Gay-Straight Alliance to form Queers on Wheels, a group that provides information and support for the disabled LGBT community. Sweeney, who has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and speaks with a laser pointer and letter board, but doesn’t let that stop her from “addressing in any way the concerns and needs of this population,” which sometimes even faces discrimination from other gays. Sweeney urges disabled queers to join this movement, saying, “We are always looking for new places to do our workshops, so if people are interested please contact us!”

Stephanie Blackwood

Blackwood made history in 2001 when she teamed up with Arthur Korant to create Double Platinum, the first gay- and lesbian-focused marketing agency founded by a lesbian and a gay man. “We believed that the LGBT communities were being misrepresented and underserved. Double Platinum has helped raise the awareness of corporations and brands,” said Blackwood. Among their clients are PricewaterhouseCoopers, Passport Magazine, GLSEN, Lambda Legal, and The Center. Blackwood said that understanding the needs and dreams of her clients, along with helping them achieve their goals, has helped Double Platinum win the clients’ loyalty. Blackwood advises aspiring marketing reps to “use what you’ve learned as a minority person to strengthen your understanding of diversity markets. Be true to yourself always.”

Marga Gomez

As a comedian, Gomez has thrilled lesbians from Los Angeles to her hometown of New York as an openly lesbian Latina comedian B.E.—Before Ellen. This talented comic recently closed a limited six-week Off-Broadway run of her solo show, Los Big Names. “It was an amazing experience not just artistically but emotionally,” said Gomez. “The people who came to the show were from every walk of life: Latino, Anglo, straight, gay and all ages. To have them all relate to my story, to hear them laugh and respond as a group, confirmed the power of performance in bringing people together.” Gomez was recently nominated for a NY Drama Desk Award and a NY Outer Critics Circle Award, both for outstanding solo performance. Her show will start touring in July.

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Norah Vincent

Journalist Vincent has written for everyone from The New York Times to Salon, but her greatest recent accomplishment came in the form of some literary gender-bending. Vincent went undercover for 18 months as a man, Ned, to write her book, Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back. In her journey, she discovered that not only is gender a social construct, but that for men, the role is a very limiting one. Vincent wrote that “through Ned I learned the hard way that my gender has roots in my brain, possibly biochemical ones, living very close to the core of my self-image.”

Erin Greenwell

When Greenwell decided she wanted to make lesbian-themed films, she set up a mailbox and a phone number and founded her own independent company, Smithy Productions. She’s now the writer/director/producer of Mom, a new buddy road movie featuring Julie Goldman. It premieres at festivals this summer. “My proudest moment is always the first day on a shoot,” said Greenwell. “You realize that a tremendous amount of creative things are going to happen because everyone on the cast and crew is taking the risk together. Feeling positive energy on a shoot is the best thing to be a part of.” In the meantime, Greenwell teaches production, editing and layout in NYC through her own business, LearnStuff101. Currently, she is co-writing a comedy script with Julie Goldman based on her folk-rock character, Indigo Etheridge.

Trey Anthony

Before Canadian comedian and playwright Anthony wrote the play (and later made-for-TV movie) Da Kink in My Hair, she faced her own deadlock with dreadlocks, so to speak. Through her comedic drama, which looks at the stylists and patrons of Novelette’s, a hair salon in Toronto’s Eglinton Ave West Caribbean neighborhood, Anthony sought to “validate black womyn’s experiences… and reinvent and challenge the media portrayal of who black womyn are.” Wanting to redefine beauty, she cast women “of all body sizes, different shades, [and] different hair textures.” Through her writing workshops, Anthony helps women of color express their voices.“ Usually we are not given many platforms or opportunities to speak. Many times the only ‘womyn’s voice’ which is heard and validated is usually very white, mainstream, heterosexual, able-bodied, middle class, and that is the ‘voice’ which is used to define all womyn…leaving many womyn silent and invisible.” She encourages women to “write your truth,” as she has done; Anthony said her proudest accomplishment was coming out publicly.

Roberta Munroe

Up-and-coming writer/filmmaker Munroe is pulling out all the stops in bringing the black lesbian experience to the silver screen. This LA-based Toronto native has worked for the past five years programming short films for the Sundance Film Festival, and her own short, Dani and Alice, is in heavy rotation on LOGO. Munroe said the 12-minute film, which depicts lesbian domestic violence, was important because “it doesn’t get talked about really, and I wanted to take a look at a relationship that was more complex.” Munroe’s debut film has been accepted in 60 film festivals. She teaches a class at USC for aspiring filmmakers for the Innercity Filmmaker Group, and will soon release her new book, An Insider’s Guide To Short Filmmaking.

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Zulema Griffin  

Before New York native Griffin launched into fame this year on Project Runway, she spent her days as a fashion model for the Ford modeling agency, and her nights as a hostess in a New York City restaurant. Her training at Parson’s School of Design paid off when a patron took note of her self-designed outfit and hired her as a costume designer for several small films. The rest, as they say, is history. But for all her accomplishments in fashion, Griffin said her proudest moment was “Getting married. I met a wonderful woman online, believe it or not, and we went down to City Hall and got a domestic partnership.”

Eleanor C. Nealy, CSW 
 
For the past 25 years, Nealy, the Director of Mental Health and Social Services for The Center, has worked extensively in substance abuse recovery, mental health and HIV-related fields. “My role is to make sure LGBTQ New Yorkers have access to the emotional and concrete resources they need to live proud, healthy and whole,” said Nealy. This “out, proud lesbian in recovery” is laying the groundwork for the state’s first licensed outpatient substance abuse treatment program specifically designed for LGBT New Yorkers. She anticipates it will open at The Center by early fall. “Caring for our community is integral to The Center’s mission, and this program will offer a whole new range of services for those who are struggling with drug and alcohol use, as well as LGBT folks in recovery,” said Nealy.

Julie Bolcer 

As Vice President of the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, founded in 1978, Bolcer is responsible for increasing LGBT visibility. Through  outreach events and educational panels, registering voters, screening and endorsing candidates for public office and lobbying elected officials, Bolcer enacts change. According to Bolcer, “We are living in the optimal time to make change, reach an audience and identify and attain our common goals.” This activist, who in her spare time also serves as GO NYC’s News Editor, has been involved with LID since January 2005. She said, “As LGBT individuals make gains in the 21st century, it remains imperative that we still mobilize for change, in the first place to reinforce progress and address the conservative backlash that inevitably arises in response to our high profile advances, and secondly to assist those who might not have benefited from the initial round of positive developments.”

Paula Vogel  

Playwright Vogel made history as the first out lesbian to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for How I Learned to Drive, a play that deals with child sexual abuse and incest. She picked up an Obie Award for The Baltimore Waltz, a play about a man dying of AIDS who takes his sister on a trip to Europe. Vogel said it is important to write about these topics and to be openly lesbian as a playwright, “because we must be vigilant about our rights. I remember what the closet looked like, what it felt like, and at my age, I can’t go back there. If we are not out, we can’t pursue our ambitions, our happiness and our wholeness.” Vogel said her proudest accomplishment was “getting married, legally, in Massachusetts to my partner of 17 years,” Anne Fausto-Sterling. Vogel is currently working on A Civil War Christmas, to be produced at Arena Stage this November.

Patricia Logue

Senior council for Lamba Legal’s Chicago office, Logue helped win Lawrence v. Texas in the Supreme Court, decriminalizing sodomy. “The decision is lyrical and powerful and will stand the test of time,” said Logue. She also works to “keep children from being torn from their parents, and parents from their children,” said Logue. “We are seeking marriage equality to secure families, but also work hard to advance non-marital protections such as second-parent adoption, domestic partnership rights, birth certificate recognition and custody and visitation rights for LGBT people who raise children, regardless of labels.” Though marriage equality may be the hot-button issue, Logue said, “the underlying issue of being legal equals...entitled to [being] lifted from the legal limbo and insecurity in which we live as individuals and families,” is just as important.

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Sonya Hemphill   

After her mother’s death from cancer in 2002, Hemphill found a way to help heal from the grief. She followed her mother’s lifelong dream and opened Clouds in My Coffee, a coffeeshop/arts space with poetry and performances. This New Yorker and CUNY grad moved to Florida when her mother got ill, and said of the café, “Her legacy lives on in all of the lives that are touched by the theatrical works that we produce each year at Clouds.” Now as a member of Orlando’s LGBT community, Hemphill took part in GayDays. “In fact, this year I [produced] the first lesbian play in the 16-year history of GayDays Orlando,” said Hemphill. ”It [was] the first, but I hope that it will inspire others so that it is not the last.”

Chavela Vargas

A legend in Mexican ranchera music, Vargas came out officially as a lesbian at 81 years old in 2000. Also that year, Spain awarded her their highest artistic honor, the Great Cross of Isabel la Católica. While flattered to receive the Great Cross, Vargas said she is “most proud of being able to give up drinking and smoking. I felt like I saved my own life.” Born in Costa Rica in 1919, Vargas did not record her first album, Noche Bohemia, until 1961. She was notorious for dressing in men’s clothing, smoking cigars and carrying a gun. Vargas’s other claim to fame is her love affair with bisexual artist Frida Kahlo. “When I saw [Frida’s] face, her eyes, it seemed like she was from another world,” said Vargas of Kahlo. “I sensed I could love that being with the most pure love in the world.”

Kerry Pacer

As a junior at White County High School in small-town Cleveland, Georgia, Pacer took a stand to found a gay-straight alliance, because, as she told us, “there is lot of harassment all the time toward minority groups…and things need to change to get to where they need to be.” Her actions spawned controversy with the school board and local fundamentalist churches. Georgia’s ACLU took on the battle for the group, called PRIDE (Peers Rising in Diverse Education). Her parents, Savannah and Bill Pacer, were supportive of their daughter’s cause. For her activism, Pacer was named the Advocate’s 2005 Person of the Year and received a 2006 Respect Award from GLSEN. “It shouldn’t be that amazing or that big of a deal to start a gay-straight alliance, but it is,” said Pacer. She graduated from high school this May, and in the fall, will start at Georgia State University for political science.

Rosie O’Donnell

From her ambitious beginning as a 16-year-old working the tiny stages of Long Island comedy clubs, to her breakout role as a foul-mouthed third baseman in A League of  Their Own, to her eventual legacy-making run as the host of The Rosie O’Donnell Show, O’Donnell has never disappointed in her unofficial role as the lesbian spokesperson. She came out publicly in 2002, and as an adoptive parent of four, has worked tirelessly against Florida’s anti-gay adoption laws. O’Donnell said, “Kelli and I are constantly reminded as we raise our two sons and two daughters that the joys, challenges and frustrations of family life are universal.” O’Donnell brings joy to other gay families through her cruise line, R Family Vacations, and helps kids through Rosie’s Broadway Kids program, Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, and Cure Autism Now. This April she announced she would become the newest co-host of ABC’s The View, replacing Meredith Vieira. She is also filming a sketch-comedy show, The Big Gay Show, directed by lesbian actress Amanda Bearse.

Dowega Blake & Fleshia Ingram

Jersey City personal trainer Ingram and her partner, media communications and PR expert Blake, used to wonder why gay men tended to stay in better physical shape than lesbians. This curiosity led the duo to the decision to open a gym catering specifically to gay couples. One year ago, “Fee” and “Dee” opened Find a Way Fitness, a 24-hour gym located in the heart of Journal Square in Jersey City. Through a program called Project Gay Outreach, they offer two-for-one training for gay couples on Sundays. “One of our most famous mottos in our gym is ‘Find A Way’,” said Ingram. “We at FAW Fitness would like to see more gyms such as ours thrive.” The women are currently raising funds to open another location.

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Julie Goldman 

If laughter is the best medicine, Brooklyn-based comedian Goldman is a comic surgeon. Her unapologetically out comedy meshes cultural commentary with biting sarcasm that never fails to put the audience in stitches. Goldman quipped sarcastically, “Being a lez comedian is simple. There’s no misogyny, or pressures to conform to the ‘mainstream,’ the fraternity mentality of comedy clubs and networks is just totally welcoming and amazing at every step.” In her personal life, said Goldman, “having a big lezzie wedding” in Toronto, and later Massachusetts, ranks high among her proudest moments. This, combined with getting her new dog Russell, has made her life “a big lezzie Jewey dream.”

Kim Stolz

Openly lesbian hottie Stolz gave Tyra Banks more than she bargained for, as a contestant on the UPN reality show American’s Next Top Model. The Wesleyen College alumna may have only ranked fourth in the competition, but she won first place in our hearts—and a cameo on the TV show Veronica Mars. Native New Yorker Stolz dished out loads of lesbian drama with her limo hijinks, but when it came to smashing gay stereotypes, she got serious. “I got across the notion that people who are born with feminine body parts don’t have to act feminine all the time. The show started a conversation that made my experience worthwhile.”

Rebecca Ahuja   

As field organizer for the Organizing and Training Department of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Ahuja demands that gays and lesbians fight for their rights. “I’m not asking them to come to crafts night at the Center,” she said. “I’m asking them to fight back and to have the courage to tell strangers why it’s important we are seen as equals.” As anti-gay attacks and ballot measures rise, Ahuja hits the trenches and recruits people to fight. Ahuja’s proudest moment was organizing hundreds of people and defeating a legislative vote to ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. “The need to organize is a reality we cannot ignore,” said Ahuja. “Now more than ever, we need to wake up, stop being complacent and make change happen because we are right in the middle of the civil rights movement of our time.”

Kim Fountain   

In her six years with the New York Anti-Violence Project, Fountain has worked to educate the mainstream community and service agencies about anti-gay bias crimes. “We still see lots of attacks in the city, and other organizations don’t deal with LGBT issues like homophobia and heterosexism,” said Fountain. This January, Fountain was promoted to director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy, arranging educational training sessions for various groups. Recently, she helped form the Coalition Against Hate Violence, a citywide coalition of community groups gathering to discuss bias crimes and formulate ways to combat them. “The biggest challenge is that nobody in the department has been there longer than six months, so we have a lot to do,” said Fountain, adding that she is dedicated to keeping their work at the level it has been in the past. Fountain lives in Brooklyn with her partner, Theresa Jefferson.

Rev. Dr. Cindi Love  

Executive director of the inclusive Metropolitan Community Church, Rev. Dr. Love provides safe spaces for gay people to gather and worship in over two dozen   countries. Recently, Love completed the requirements for ordination as a minister for MCC and launched her own personal “crownfire” ministry as an advocate for LGBT people of faith. She has also legally married her partner of 25 years in British Columbia and watched the college graduation of her two children. Love’s work proves that religion and sexual orientation don’t cancel each other out. “Don’t be deceived by heterosexist doctrines or oppressed by the fears of people who do not understand that you are a beloved Child of God. Homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender persons are created by God as people of equal worth and equal access to God. Have your own direct relationship with the Creator.”

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Tiffani Faison 

Some say that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, but that sentiment rarely applies to four-star restaurants, where men rule the roost. That’s why the accomplishments of Faison, controversial first runner up on the Bravo reality show Top Chef, are so remarkable. This fiery redhead was honest and unapologetic about her bisexuality in her pursuit of culinary acclaim. Before appearing on the show, which she said, “inspired a lot of people to have conversations about food that they might have not had,” Faison worked in some of the finest establishments in Boston and Las Vegas. To succeed, Faison said, “Focus on the food and professionalism, because being excellent speaks for itself. It is very difficult to make an issue of anyone’s sexuality when they know their craft.”

Leisha Hailey 

The L Word’s first out lesbian actor, Hailey has made us smile as bisexual journalist Alice Peiszecki. But this Okinawa-born blonde beauty caught our eye long ago as half the rock duo The Murmurs (changed to Gush in 2001). Hailey says The L Word’s work “humanizes us. It makes us real. Every time people get to see gays on TV, it’s a step in the right direction.” While she’s been rocking the small screen, Hailey tells us she hasn’t left our ears quite yet. “On my next break from the show, after we film the fourth season, I will definitely without question do something with my music again. Whether that is a solo thing or getting the Murmurs back together is still undecided, but no question that one of those things will happen next year. It’s time.”

Irshad Manji
 
Manji, a Canadian author, journalist and activist, manages a unique balancing act: being a Muslim feminist who is a critic of Islamic fundamentalism. “I could have been dishonest and hidden that part of myself,” said Manji. “But as a creature of Allah, I decided it is better to pay tribute to God’s wisdom. I acknowledge that the Quran contains passages implying that homosexuality cannot be tolerated. It also contains passages implying that Allah knows what He is doing when he designs the world’s breathtaking diversity.” Her best selling book The Trouble with Islam Today has been translated in more than a dozen languages and she travels the globe lecturing about the liberal reformation of Islam. Oprah Winfrey honored her with the first annual Chutzpah Award for “audacity, nerve, boldness and conviction,” and Ms. magazine chose her as a “Feminist for the 21st Century.”

Toshi Reagon  

Reagon’s honey-smooth voice and expansive musical versatility have made this Atlanta-born, DC-raised R&B sensation renowned. Since Reagon dropped out of college to join Lenny Kravitz on tour, she has performed with numerous artists, including Ani DiFranco, and has gone on to receive the 2004 NYFA award for Music Composition. Often performing with her band BIGLovely, Reagon participated in tributes for artists including Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Prince. Reagon says the best part of life is “being here—in this world inside of my family and friends—doing my work and doing it well, and finding time to enjoy my life.” Currently Reagon is touring her new album, Have You Heard, and will perform at the Brooklyn Bandshell in Prospect Park on July 8 for Celebrate Brooklyn.

Dr. Eliza Byard 
Tiye Lasley 
When Lasley discovered that there was no organization for women of color in New Jersey that met her needs, she decided to start her own. Now, almost 10 years later, the African Asian Latina Lesbians United has grown into a vibrant organization. As co-founder and executive director, Lasley is dedicated to providing women of color with educational and networking opportunities. She counts as her proudest accomplishment AALLU’s annual conferences. “This culminating event provides the opportunity for the best of the best to be presented to our constituents,” said Lasley. “The camaraderie and knowledgeable information exchanged is the epitome of sisterhood. We are currently planning our 10th Anniversary conference and we are very excited!”

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Tiye Lasley 

When Lasley discovered that there was no organization for women of color in New Jersey that met her needs, she decided to start her own. Now, almost 10 years later, the African Asian Latina Lesbians United has grown into a vibrant organization. As co-founder and executive director, Lasley is dedicated to providing women of color with educational and networking opportunities. She counts as her proudest accomplishment AALLU’s annual conferences. “This culminating event provides the opportunity for the best of the best to be presented to our constituents,” said Lasley. “The camaraderie and knowledgeable information exchanged is the epitome of sisterhood. We are currently planning our 10th Anniversary conference and we are very excited!”

Judy Dlugacz    

More than three decades ago, Dlugacz formed the indie record label Olivia. From modest beginnings, Olivia catapulted into a multi-million-dollar business, and in 1990 Dlugacz took her success one step further, developing a line of luxury cruises and resort vacations for lesbians. The popular cruises have become a part of the lesbian social psyche; they feature world-class entertainment, and one served as the backdrop for an episode of The L Word. Dlugacz has been recognized for her commitment to the community with a 2005 Vanguard Award from The Center. She is also currently a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year from Ernst & Young. “Two percent of all women’s businesses are over a million dollars, and if you then take the fact that we’re a lesbian business, that’s a pretty extraordinary position, and I’m very proud of that,” said Dlugacz. “As we grow, our whole purpose is to find new and better ways to serve the community.”

Janis Ian  

In 1975, songwriter Ian won five Grammy nominations for her seminal hit, “At Seventeen.” She has written hits for everyone from Cher to Mel Tormé, and Ella Fitzgerald called her “The best young singer in America.” Legendary guitarist Chet Atkins reportedly replied to Fitzgerald, “Singer? You ought to hear that girl play guitar; she gives me a run for my money!” This year, Ian releases her 20th major-label album, Folk is the New Black. She hopes this album will impart the message “that people need to be thinking, and to be speaking out.”

Yetta Kurland

With her Park Avenue law firm Kurland & Associates, Kurland has fostered many victories for LGBT civil rights. One of the firm’s biggest accomplishments was setting a precedent in New York allowing same-sex couples to change their last names based on their status as domestic partners. Kurland has sued the city and state on issues of discrimination against LGBT people. She works with same-sex couples to protect their families in state and domestic partner planning. Kurland is very politically involved, saying, “I think it’s important to address issues concerning our community on a legal and political front. We as a community really have to embrace diversity and have a feminist perspective in the work we do, irrespective of our gender.” Kurland is currently involved in organizing a women’s event on June 20 for Stonewall Democratic Club, for whom she is a board member.

Rosie Lopez 

Every time you slide the new Chavela Vargas release or The L Word soundtrack into your CD player, you can thank Tommy Boy Records’ marketing and international rep, Lopez. Forty-year-old Lopez started out as a DJ and worked in promotions,  merchandising and publishing before joining Tommy Boy’s gay-focused Silver Label. “The great thing about Silver Label is we’re not stuck in one genre, like it’s not just dance or alternative or indie, it’s really everything that we think the gay community loves,” said Lopez. As an entertainment executive, Lopez “learned early on that you’ve really got to deliver in the boardroom.” She gives similar advice to aspiring lesbian musicians: “You can be cute, but you have to deliver at the end of the day. If you don’t write good songs, find a songwriter that’ll write them for you, but don’t try to sell crap. Practice your art, and perfect it.”

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Francine Ramsey  
 
As executive director of the Zuna Institute, an organization founded in 1999 to help the black lesbian community establish a national presence, Ramsey works to eliminate the barriers the community faces on a daily basis. She fights for a systematic change in the social and political landscape and against “the disproportionate impact of social discrimination and stigma on black lesbians.” Ramsey feels that her most important work was the strategic report on black lesbians, developed at the Institute’s first National Black Lesbian Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. “Organizations intent on serving the LGBT movement and African American social initiatives need to include the perspectives and needs of the black lesbian community in their funding and program priorities,”she proposed.

Amy Deneson

Multi-talented Deneson preserves our history with her new book, Amazons & Sirens: A Visual History of Lesbianism, which she describes as, “a photography book, traveling exhibition and online collective…that promises a cornucopia account of the past, present and future of women loving women.” Deneson hopes it will help create a community of lesbian photographers. She also launched her own New York production company, Amy Deneson Productions, Inc., last December. “Branding my brain and beliefs has been soul and ego exfoliating to say the least,” said Deneson. She encourages aspiring artists to “create our own ‘ole birds club’. Don’t even think about trying to manifest a vision by your lonesome. Dream, believe, high-five, cry, develop and share with other women who can help you birth your vision and bring her up right.”

Sara Quin & Tegan Quin

Twins and lesbians, rockers Tegan and Sara are almost too good to be true. They cameoed on The L Word last season and their newest album, So Jealous...so hot. Sibling rivalry rarely comes into play, according to Sara. “For us the pros outweigh the cons! With the other people in our band, if I feel angry at them I find myself keeping it inside and finding ‘productive’ ways to deal with it. But with Tegan, we can just hash it out like animals.” Regarding being out, Sara said, “When I was 18 two things seemed very important to me. First, not spending my entire life/career answering ‘How does your boyfriend feel about your music?’ And most importantly, making a real connection with our audience. We love our fans, and being honest about who we are is a huge part of what we do.”

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Kristin Hurd    

Hurd creates a home for New Jersey’s LGBT community in every possible sense, working both as a realtor and as a powerful community activist. She helped build a multi-million dollar real estate office on the Jersey City waterfront with Weichert Realtors, and also serves on the board of directors as the executive co-chair of fundraising for Chilltown, the new GLBTI Center in Hudson County, for which she has raised thousands of dollars. “Both accomplishments reflected personal achievement,” Hurd said, “But Chilltown also reflects my deep belief that we need to give back what is given to us.” She said that for lesbians looking to buy a home, it’s imperative to find a good realtor. “You need to work with someone you trust and who you know cares!”

Samiya Bashir 

Bashir is an author and activist working to bring visibility to lesbians of color as communications director of Freedom to Marry, and formerly for the non-profit HIV/AIDS organization, The Balm in Gilead. She is a board member for the National Black Justice Coalition, and the founding member of Fire & Ink, a writer’s festival for LGBT people of African descent. Bashir is editor of Best Black Women’s Erotica 2 and co-editor of Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Art & Literature. Astraea awarded her their Lesbian Poetry Award in 2002, and last year, RedBone Press released her latest work, Where the Apple Falls. To aspiring poets, Bashir advises, “To be able to check out and find some space for silence and find yourself is the most important thing you can do.”

Laurel Hester & Stacie Andree 

When New Jersey native Hester discovered she had inoperable lung cancer, she wanted what anyone in her position would: to provide for her spouse. Hester, who was an investigator with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office for 23 years, sought to leave her pension benefits to her partner, Andree. The couple registered as domestic partners in October 2004. New Jersey’s Domestic Partnership Act allows benefit sharing, but the county board denied Hester’s request. After 12 months of fighting, the couple finally won their battle. Since then, other counties and several municipalities added domestic partner benefits, and the state legislature dramatically expanded these benefits. Hester sadly passed away this February. “I know Laurel is proud of what we did,” said Andree. “That’s why Laurel became a cop, to help people, and this helped a lot of people.”

Cherry Jones

Stage and screen actress Jones is celebrated not only for her work in theatre, but as an advocate for gay rights. This Tennessee-born talent studied drama at Carnegie Mellon University and helped found the American Repertory Theatre. She has been out and proud since her professional debut at 21. Jones made headlines when she thanked her same sex partner from the podium when she won her Tony for The Heiress. Jones is currently starring as Grace in the Broadway play Faith Healer.

Tammy Baldwin  

In 1998, Baldwin was elected to Congress and became the first woman from Wisconsin to serve in the House of Representatives. She was re-elected in 2000, 2002 and 2004. While in Congress, Baldwin advocated programs combating violence against women, stood up for farmers by repeatedly calling for the permanent enactment and expansion of Chapter 12 bankruptcy protections, and championed civil liberties, calling for changes in the PATRIOT Act.  “As the first out lesbian in Congress, I’m well aware of both the symbolic and substantive roles I play that affect public policy and opinion. They are equally important,” said Baldwin. “I hope to be known as the Member of Congress who helped ensure health care for all, and who just happens to be a lesbian.”

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Rachel Venning  & Claire Cavanah

Frustrated by the lack of women-friendly sex shops in Seattle, Cavanah and Venning founded Toys in Babeland in 1993. “It was our way of being feminists,” said Venning. “We wanted to create a place where women could get information and support around their sexuality and get quality toys to play with.” The combination of sex-positive ideology and high-quality products soon made the business a raging success. The women opened up a mail-order business in 1995 and launched their website the following year. In 1998, Cavanah and Venning opened a New York store, and in 2003, a posh new branch in SoHo was awarded Zagat Survey’s “the best shopping experience in New York.” Now simply called Babeland, the store offers helpful information and holds classes. “Sex drive is one of the vital channels of life energy—letting it flow and expressing it are a way of being more alive,” said Venning.

Melissa Carter 

Blond beauty Carter made history as Atlanta radio’s first out morning show co-host of The Bert Show on AllTheHitsQ100, and recently joined on as co-host of Twist, a nationally syndicated gay commercial radio show. “[I’m] excited to be the first in something this progressive....however, I am also sad it is only now a first,” said Carter. “[Being out] forces straight (and some gay) people to see that gay women and men are real, active, ambitious, and successful human beings.” Carter is a kidney transplant recipient who also works with several organizations in promoting organ donation awareness. “Facing death was the best thing that happened to me, since it forced me to make more of an attempt to contribute to myself and my community,” said Carter.

Marjorie Hill 

As interim executive director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Hill has a big job—and the recent AIDS Walk is the least of it. Hill listed among her challenges finding resources to sustain the programs GMHC offers, providing advocacy for individuals living with and affected by HIV and, “most rewarding—running a support group for long term HIV positive women.” GMHC provides testing, prevention, education and legal services to every borough, including the LGBT community, plus meals and an AIDS hotline. Hill said she is proud to lead “this incredible agency, and of establishing the first syringe exchange program in Queens, which was also the first new syringe exchange program in New York City in over nine years.”

Maxine Wolfe    

Since 1984, as coordinator and Dyke March organizer, Wolfe has shared the mission of Lesbian Herstory Archives, a group dedicated to preserving multi-cultural, multi-generational lesbian history and culture, and is the self-described “oldest living continuous volunteer.” The Archives moved to Brooklyn into the city’s only building owned by a lesbian organization and the group has managed to function as an all-volunteer organization and collective. “This just proves that leftist, feminist politics can work,” said Wolfe. “We can see an image of ourselves in the world—not the narrow image they paint us in, as deviants or all white women, or whatever. Our goal is for every lesbian to see an image of herself in the world.” June 9 marks the opening of their new exhibit, “Snatches of Lesbian Activism, 1970-2005,” and June 10, Brooklyn Pride, is their annual Book Sale.

JD Samson 

Ever since Samson joined the band Le Tigre in 2000, she has been the hottest thing in genderqueer rock. Yet Samson remains humble, saying, “It has been a real pleasure to ride the line between the queer art scene and the mainstream music scene. It has let me maintain my relationship to my own community as well as to create visibility for us in a broader context. It has been extremely difficult, however, to become a public figure so quickly in a community never meant to have an unequal distribution of power.” This RV enthusiast is a role model for women who proudly sport facial hair, and she encourages unity, saying, “I would love to see more large groups of women making noise together.”

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Angel L. Brown

When New York writer/filmmaker Brown became frustrated with the shortage of queer black films in film festivals, she decided to do something about it. So she launched Queer Black Cinema, a “monthly film series dedicated to screening Black LGBTQ filmmakers’ works along with premiering trailers, public service announcements and an array of original music.” Brown also produces her own films under the name Our Stories Productions, LLC, founded in 2002. She produced the short film Desperate For Love, and is working on two documentaries. She is also working on a screenplay, For the Love of Hip-Hop. “All too often lesbians of color…in films lack depth and culture and it’s rare to see two women of color in a relationship together, thus making us mediocre and/or invisible,” said Brown. “If we don’t tell our own stories, who will?”

Lisa Cannistraci 

Our own “Mayor of Hudson Street,” Cannistraci is parlaying her 20 years of activism into politics with a run for Democratic State Committee, District 66 (which includes Greenwich Village, SoHo and TriBeCa). “It’s a small race,” says the owner of Henrietta Hudson, but fitting for this multiple Hudson Street business owner and Community Board 2 member. Cannistraci’s involvement in the neighborhood dates back to 1985, when she began bartending at the original Cubbyhole. Later, she and some friends rented the original Cubbyhole space, and Henrietta Hudson was born. “I feel that this was kismet, my fate to continue the tradition of a lesbian bar on Hudson and Morton Streets,” she added. Lisa has recently opened two more businesses on Hudson: children’s boutique Disco Lemonade and most recently a new Italian restaurant Setacci. In addition to her entrepreneurial endeavors, Cannistraci is extremely active as a volunteeer for PFLAG, Empire State Pride Agenda and Village Reformed Democratic Club.

Amber Hall

Hall took the five years of experience she gained from a career in design and technical theatre and put it to work for the gay community as production coordinator for In the Life.  And it is no easy job. Hall said of In the Life’s programming, “There are so many stories that need to be told both to and about our community, the biggest challenge is choosing which ones will have the greatest impact.” Hall also said she would like to see the newsmagazine tackle more of the legal issues facing our community, because, “it’s important to expose these issues on a national platform in order to educate the community about our rights, or lack thereof, from state to state…By putting a face on the issues and telling our stories we become harder to ignore and oppress.”

Lupe Valdez  

The Democratic daughter of migrant workers and an out lesbian, Valdez is the sheriff of Dallas County. Her election in 2004 marked the first time a Latin American or an openly gay person was elected to a countywide office. Outside law enforcement, Valdez pursues spiritual growth as a lay minister for Metropolitan Community Church. She has 24 years experience in her field, including serving as a senior agent for the Department of Homeland Security; an agent for the U.S. Customs Service; and a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves. “My biggest challenge so far has been to invigorate, improve and strengthen one of the biggest law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas, while making the Dallas County Jail safer and more efficient,” said Valdez. She is also involved with civic and community organizations, including the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, Big Brother/Big Sister Programs and the Women in Federal Law Enforcement Association.

Candace Gingrich  

Gingrich, the half-sister of conservative former Representative Newt Gingrich, made waves when she came out as a lesbian. Now as HRC’s senior youth outreach manager, Gingrich works to empower youth to fight for gay civil rights. Gingrich’s career has been varied and meaningful. She’s worked as liaison for the gay and lesbian community for Coors; written an autobiography called The Accidental Activist; and traveled the country on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign to urge Americans to vote for gay equality. “I am proud to have inspired and motivated young queers and straight allies to take action and be part of the movement for equality,” says Gingrich. She lives in Washington, DC.

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Rosie Jones 

Although the stereotype of the lesbian professional golfer endures, in reality, few members of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) are actually out. That makes LPGA player Jones all the more a true champion. When Jones signed on as a spokesperson for Olivia Cruises, she simultaneously penned an open letter to The New York Times coming out as a lesbian. Jones wrote, “I came out to my family when I was 19 and my friends and associates on the Tour are all aware that I am gay. I have never, until now, felt the need to discuss it in the news media. I have reached a point in my life, at age 44, when I have the financial stability and emotional and intellectual wherewithal to make this leap.” Despite announcing her retirement due to pain from a herniated disk after her amazing 8 under par finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Jones continues to hit the links.

Leslie Cooper 

Working with the ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project in New York as senior staff attorney, Cooper protects the rights of gay families, specializing in custody and visitation issues for non-biological parents. She worked as lead counsel in an Arkansas state case where the court struck down a regulation disqualifying foster parents who are gay or have gay family members. The evidence overwhelmingly dismissed the State’s degrading characterization of gay people. “These cases can be emotionally demanding because people’s family relationships are at stake, as is our dignity as human beings when gay people as a group are labeled unfit to parent,” said Cooper. “That makes losses especially painful but victories all the sweeter.”

Jenny Shimizu

Shimizu put a tough, androgynous face on the Calvin Klein ad campaign; appeared in the 1996 cult classic Foxfire; and thrilled us with her   bicep tattoo of a pinup girl straddling a crescent wrench that reads “Strap-On.” But Shimizu said, “I never dreamed of being a model or wearing pretty clothes. I wanted to be a gas station attendant my whole life and that’s how I related to work—no blisters, no grease meant you weren’t really working.” Shimizu is infamous for her decades-old friendship with the likes of Madonna and affairs with everyone from Angelina Jolie to Ione Skye. She helped Ellen DeGeneres come out in the infamous “Puppy Episode,” and now lends her talents to Jamie Babbit’s new film, Itty Bitty Titty Committee, slated for release in 2007. However, Shimizu said her greatest accomplishment “is leading a spiritual life. I take care of myself, so that I may help others.”

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Major Margaret Witt

Recent headlines are abuzz with the lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Washington challenging the discharge of decorated U.S. Air Force Reserves major and flight nurse Witt, after 18 years in the service. The suit seeks an injunction against Witt’s discharge this March “on grounds of homosexual conduct.” Witt said, “There are incredibly bright and dedicated people serving quietly in the armed forces. Many have left the military to offer their talents to the civilian sector or have been kicked out because of whom they love.” In 1993, Witt was the poster child for the Air Force Nurse Corps recruitment flyer. In 2003, she was awarded an Air Force Commendation Medal for saving the life of a Department of Defense employee, and was named “Officer of the Quarter” that spring. Witt added that, “this whole ordeal is a step for someone else to be successful in repealing this horrible policy.”

Kris Franklin  

Since her early days as a Lesbian Avenger, Franklin was destined to be an organizer of the Dyke March, the annual event that is as much a protest as a celebration. “It has a unique spirit and energy that the much-larger Pride Parade cannot match. Women in this city want and need that.” The event is planned and organized without a permit every year by volunteers and Franklin hopes new women will join. “My favorite part of the march is recruiting and training new marshals,” said Franklin, a veteran marshal herself. “Over the years I have propositioned dozens of women to ask whether they want to get sweaty and hold hands with girls they’ve never met. Somehow, that seems to work.”

Sara Gilbert 

Actress Gilbert earned our grudging respect as the smart-mouthed teenager Darlene on the hit series Roseanne. She caught our attention as the prey to Drew Barrymore’s advances in the 1992 film Poison Ivy. She won our love when she came out as a lesbian, announcing her longtime relationship with television writer and producer Allison Adler. The two live a low-key California lifestyle with their baby boy. While shooting Roseanne, Gilbert simultaneously obtained a degree in photography from Yale, and reportedly requested that her character come out as a lesbian—a plan that network execs shot down. Gilbert currently stars as Mitchee Arnold on the WB sitcom, Twins.

Anne Moellering

Moellering, serving as vice president for U.S. marketing at PlanetOut Inc., manages brand marketing as well as member acquisition and retention efforts for the company’s U.S. brands, which includes GAY.COM. Moellering is also working on a new site for women. “...We’re building it so that members can shape the community as they wish.” She recently served as director of marketing at MyPoints, a loyalty points program, and has also acted as director of marketing at Sega. Moellering said her proudest accomplishment was co-founding the NorCal Women’s Surf Club, which has more than 700 members. She has surfed on every continent except Antarctica, where she said it’s too cold to surf.

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Judy Wieder

Over the past 40 years, Wieder helped launch The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler and HIV Plus. This March, Wieder stepped down as corporate editorial director of LPI Media, the magazines’ publisher. She brought visibility to gay culture and helped LPI Media become a place where “we were not eating our own or outing each other.” Wieder said, “Launching Out Traveler was my proudest thing, because…the LGBT community wants to go where we feel safe…but I tend to think we should be everywhere, and meet people.” She flattered us by saying, “GO NYC is doing the best work of all the magazines out there,” and advised aspiring lesbian media executives not to dismiss any opportunities. “The road to what you want is totally not paved….[Make it what you want, because] you are the one who has to roll down that road.”

Kate Kendell  

This Mormon-raised attorney turned her back on corporate law and became the first staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Utah. With the ACLU, she oversaw the legal department and handled cases dealing with various types of civil liberties. In 1994, Kendell joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). As Legal Director of NCLR, she was responsible for strategy and vision for the legal program, including coordination of all litigation, amicus curiae participation and litigation strategy. Now, Kendell serves as executive director for the NCLR and helps advance the rights of LGBT individuals through direct litigation and advocacy. Kendell and her partner, Sandy Holmes, live in San Francisco with their son, Julian, age 9, and daughter Ariana, age 4. Their family includes Kendell’s daughter Emily, age 24.

Jennifer Einhorn 

Since it was founded in 1977, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice has funded the community groups working on behalf of women all over the globe. It is now the largest lesbian foundation in the world, and as Director of Communications, Einhorn is its voice. “There are lesbians living in the homophobic Bible Belt who, thanks to the Appalachian Women’s Alliance, have found support and renewed self worth. There are lesbians who’ve been denied formal education in Namibia who, thanks to the Rainbow Project’s job training program, have learned new skills and found employment. Because, together, there is so much more we can do.” Meeting Astraea grant recipients inspires Einhorn on a daily basis, but she said, “my proudest accomplishment—ever—was giving birth this past January to our beautiful daughter, Julia.” Einhorn lives with her partner, Deb Krivoy, and their daughter in Park Slope.

Funky Lala

Funky Lala, née Angela Lowe, is a nationally-recognized fashion designer for Saks Fifth Avenue, Hugo Boss and Patricia Field, and for celebrities including Aerosmith, Prince and Alicia Keys. But Lala humbly got her start with her own T-shirt company. After her funky designs began to get press, she started  a website where she sold the work of independent female designers. Now, she travels the nation teaching others how to break into fashion. She volunteers for groups including The Lower Eastside Girls Club of New York and Shop Well with You, which provides fashions for female cancer survivors. She gives aspiring young designers this advice: “[You] see someone who has done their thing, and think I’m very accomplished, but the bottom line is I started with absolutely no money. If I can do it, anyone can!”

Dr. Juanita Diaz-Cotto

In 1986, Dr. Diaz-Cotto banded with eight progressive lesbians from Puerto Rico and Chile to form Las Buenas Amigas, a New York-based organization that could “provide a safe space where we could meet as Latina lesbians, share our personal, cultural and political experiences, and provide one another mutual support and encouragement.” Under the pseudonym Juanita Ramos, she published Compañeras, a literary anthology of Latina lesbians. “The need for these voices to be heard is demonstrated by the fact that Compañeras is currently being distributed throughout Latin America, the U.S. and countries in Europe as diverse as Ireland and Spain,” said Diaz-Cotto. This year, the University of Texas Press published her new book, Chicana Lives and Criminal Justice: Voices from El Barrio, which tells the stories of Chicana prisoners. Diaz-Cotto advises Latina lesbians to “know that you have something so important to contribute to the world that humanity will lose out if you hold back and do not give your best.”

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Sonya Shields

Shields has dedicate
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