We invited some of our favorite activists, writers, community organizers, and content creators to share their perspectives, answer a few questions, share some of their favorite recommendations, and shine a light on organizations, activists, and causes they care about.
We spoke with:
Corporate Learning and Development — @hellomrholly on Instagram
Ryan Hollingsworth is a 29-year-old located in Orlando. His passions include diversity/equity/inclusion initiatives, queer representation in mainstream media, and Pop-Tarts.
Julia Kaye is the award-winning comic artist best known for her memoirs, “Super Late Bloomer” and “My Life In Transition.” Her webcomic, Up and Out, has garnered hundreds of thousands of readers and wide critical praise. Her commitment to activism has led to collaborations with nonprofits such as The Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline. Her work has appeared on Webtoon, GoComics, Buzzfeed, and the Disney animated show “Big City Greens.”
Sam Slupski is a writer, creator, and community organizer living in Austin, Texas. Their work illuminates stories about mental health, centers empathy and compassion, and explores reparenting, ancestry, self-care, and how a body survives trauma. They were a finalist for the 2019 Button Poetry Chapbook Contest, and their writing can be found in Recenter Press, Pass/Fail, and more. They believe being well is something that we practice and pursue with a tender tenacity and want to know what your favorite soup is.
AC Dumlao is a queer/bi+ transgender non-binary activist and educator who focuses on centering and uplifting underrepresented communities. They are the program manager at TLDEF (where they manage the Name Change Project, which connects low-income trans and non-binary people with volunteer lawyers to represent them during the legal name change process), and the creator of the Facebook social justice community page “Call Me They.” In 2019, they were named an NYC/WorldPride Community Hero during the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
Haley Jakobson is a writer living in Brooklyn. In her work, Haley explores mental health and wellness, queerness, sex and trauma, and bodies. A poet in the digital era, she reaches an audience of 20K readers on Instagram. Haley is the co-founder of Brunch Theatre Company, an inclusive platform for emerging theatre artists. Haley is currently working on her first novel. She is a gemini, and yes, that does matter.
Freddy Rodriguez is a lifestyle blogger. In 2011 he founded his blog, Blue Perk, which is an ever-growing lifestyle brand that focuses on happy, self-loving, uplifting, and colorful moments. He manages Blue Perk full-time and lives between Los Angeles and New York City.
What’s your favorite thing about the LGBTQ+ community?
Haley: How we destroy societal norms. Being queer allows you to imagine the most beautiful, expansive life of your dreams.
Freddy: My favorite thing about the LGBTQ+ community is how we are all so inspiring, so many have overcome difficult challenges, and we continue to stay fabulous despite so many odds.
Ryan: The freedom to be exactly who you are. The underlying understanding for consent in all senses of the word. And the sense of family that comes with the community is beautiful.
What do you wish more people understood about the LGBTQ+ community?
Julia: That folks who are trans are just people doing what they need to in order to live comfortably in their own skin. We just want social acceptance, support, and to have the protection of full civil rights. That's all — it's really that simple. I wish more people listened to us speak our truths.
Freddy: I still wish everyone would accept the LGBTQ+ community as equals, not only accept us when we're a cool trend.
Sam: I wish people could deconstruct that you cannot assume someone's gender or sexuality just by looking at them. We have been so conditioned to assume who someone is just by what they look like or what kind of relationship they are in, and I really believe that we can recenter to a more connection-based mindset that makes us more understanding, mindful, and empathetic toward each other.
What's the best piece of good news you've seen in the last 12 months?
Haley: My partner became a trans-affirming therapist and (though they'd never say it) has fundamentally changed the lives of the clients they are working with. They are the most patient, loving, healing person I know, and I couldn't imagine a better therapist for trans and queer folks.
Sam: Gosh, these have truly felt so few and far between, but I have been feeling good about seeing more open conversation about mental health. There have been a lot of things in the media that I think have illuminated the importance of mental health advocacy and conversations, and I am hopeful that it will permeate into a more compassionate future.
AC: The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund has worked with insurance carriers, labor unions, and public and private employers to increase nationwide access to transgender health care for millions of people. This gender-affirming care can be life-saving for transgender and non-binary people. Earlier this year, we worked with Aetna to announce that they are expanding coverage of gender-affirming surgery to include breast augmentation for transfeminine members of most of its commercial plans.
When you're old and you look back on your life, what kind of impact will you hope to have made on the world or in people's lives?
Freddy: When I'm looking back at the impact I've made on other people’s lives, I would like to think I helped inspire a little boy or girl living in a rural region anywhere in the world to believe that they too deserve to be happy for who they are despite their sexual orientation or sexual preference. I want to believe I helped others believe in themselves to be the best version of themselves.
Sam: I hope to create a more compassionate and empathetic world through my own actions. I hope that the impact I leave is to invite others to think more critically about how they are showing up to conversations and relationships, how we can honor boundaries, how we can be self-honoring, and overall just more welcoming and thoughtful individuals.
Julia: To have made people within the LGBTQ+ community feel seen and to have helped foster a better understanding of us to both allies and potential allies. I want to help people feel like they have the capacity to create the change in their own lives needed to be happy as themselves, in whatever form that may take.
What’s one piece of media you’ve been loving recently?
Sam: I recently listened to Brené Brown's podcast, “Unlocking Us,” and there were two episodes that were so nourishing. First, the episode with Hanif Abdurraqib (who is my favorite author of all time), where he speaks about grief, gratitude, and his new book about Black performance. The second episode was with Samin Nosrat, where they talked about gathering, connecting during this time of disconnection, and so much more. Both of these episodes made me feel less alone and put words to things I was feeling in my body, which is something I am always grateful for.
Ryan: As an escape from our current state of global crisis, I recently became a new Star Wars fan. It has been great to immerse myself in a world that is completely separate from our own. But even so, still fighting against oppression and still winning. I find the lore and characters of the TV shows “The Mandalorian” and “The Clone Wars,” fascinating because of the diversity, representation, and the continued pursuit of equity for all.
Haley: I just read “Milk Fed” by Melissa Broder — powerful, queer, and about body liberation. I read it in a day. TW: for disordered eating but hopefully very healing as well.
What’s a cause you care deeply about outside of the LGBTQ+ community?
Haley: I have obsessive compulsive disorder, and I am totally obsessed with other people who have it. Folks with OCD are the most brave, incredible people, and they deserve so much love and compassion. I want more than anything for there to be a mass education about OCD and for it to be totally normalized. If anyone is reading this who has OCD and is doing ERP: I am so fucking proud of you, every single compulsion or intrusive thought you have is OK, now go do your exposures like it's your fucking job.
Ryan: As a Black man I, of course, deeply care about Black Lives Matter and the mainstream conversation that has been long overdue about police brutality in the Black community. We have been murdered repeatedly over the past five hundred years by law enforcement, and no one ever stopped to consider the great implications of this previously: that America and its system of justice is built upon racism and the murders of Black people.
AC: I don’t think there’s any cause outside of the LGBTQ+ community, actually! All causes are LGBTQ+ causes because LGBTQ+ people are not a monolith and hold many other experiences and identities as individuals. I do care very deeply about mental health awareness, particularly for LGBTQ+ youth. According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth with at least one – just one – accepting adult in their lives were significantly less likely to report a suicide attempt. As someone with diagnosed depression and anxiety, I hope that my experiences as a trans person of color can provide an example of experience and hope. Also, when it comes to discussing healthcare, access is a huge issue for all, and we need to do all we can to reduce barriers to accessing both physical and mental healthcare.
Who are your favorite LGBTQ+ activists you admire and think readers should learn more about?
Sam: ALOK (@alokvmenon) is a writer and activist who is doing a lot of really amazing work around de-gendering clothing and fashion. They also put together book reports on Instagram that creates a more accessible opening to larger, necessary conversations around race, gender, sexuality, and more. I also really admire Schuyler Bailar (@pinkmantaray) who is doing incredible advocacy and education around trans rights and more. He is an incredible writer and speaker and is someone I think everyone needs to be following on Instagram.
Haley: Omg so many too many — @gabalexa (Black polyam writer, activist, and hot human), @jenerous (bisexual writer and activist), @mikaela_mp3 (Black non-binary director, writer, activist fighting for abolishing the police and community care), @jordallenhall (trans, non-binary fat activist, performer, and model), and @jamesissmiling (trans, non-binary artist, performer, writer, and activist).
What organizations making a difference for the LGBTQ+ community should our readers know about?
AC: I’m so proud of the work we do at the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. We help hundreds of people every year to legally change their names to reflect who they are. We are successfully expanding access to life-saving transition-related healthcare. And we fight every day to change policies that harm trans people.
Julia: The Trevor Project is a fantastic nonprofit organization focused on crisis prevention services for LGBTQ+ youth. They have a crisis hotline (and text-based chat for nonverbal communication), as well as a social network for LGBTQ+ youth ages 13–24 called TrevorSpace to help provide a safe community online.
Freddy: It Gets Better is my favorite organization for the work they do which focuses on helping LGBTQ+ youth learn from an early age that life really does get better. The more role models we have within our community, the more youth will have a role model to turn to as a light of hope for their life as they grow up.
What is one question you hate being asked?
Ryan: Because I am a Black, muscular man, that is oftentimes fetishized within the queer community. I am often openly asked if I am a "top" or "dominant" just because I'm Black. 1. That's none of your business. 2. My sexual preferences are not tied to the color of my skin.
Haley: How did I "know" I was gay?" Please, I have enough internalized homophobia and biphobia and sexual orientation OCD fueling that question in my own brain at all times — don't make me prove my identity to you.
Sam: I hate being asked about my "coming out" story because I don't feel like I did or ever will get one. I am not close with my family, and they just aren't simply safe people to be out to. I entered a community of people where "coming out" wasn't a big thing — bI just was who I was, and that was that (which I know is a huge privilege).
The media gives this picture that "coming out" is this big part about being queer, but the truth is we are all coming out every day in new ways all the time, and normalizing that is more important than anything. Coming out stories are valid and necessary to share, but I also think there are other affirming stories that people have to offer as well.
What makes you hopeful?
Freddy: To be honest, the pushback in 2020 against all of the hate which had been bubbling for years gives me hope. We are a divided world, but there are many who continue to dream for a better world. Those who dream have always been the ones pushing us forward. I am hopeful to see where we are in another 20 years.
Julia: The younger generation is coming up in a world with increased LGBTQ+ representation, leading them to be better equipped to understand themselves at younger ages and see a greater societal understanding of LGBTQ+ identities. I'm hopeful this is paving the way to a better future.
Ryan: The fact that mainstream conversations now include not just equality but equity encourages me that we are finally moving the needle on issues that never really went away, just appeared under another name. I also feel that we have no place to go but up from 2020.