Forty Under 40
BY Advocate Contributors
April 24 2012 1:56 AM ET
Andy Marra • 27 (far left in image below)
New York City
PR Manager, GLSEN
Andy Marra thanks her diverse identity for leading her to a life of activism. The Korean-American, born in Seoul and adopted by American parents, was bullied in middle school when she came out as transgender. But it was after the gay son of a family friend was assaulted that Marra was introduced to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. Now, as GLSEN’s public relations manager, Marra looks for innovative ways to make people aware of her organization’s efforts to keep LGBT students and their allies not only safe but inspired. In addition to her day job, Marra is an advocate for Korean reunification. She’d like to see LGBT Koreans recognized for their positive contributions to that effort.
“We all share a common stake in reunification,” Marra believes, “regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Lyssette Horne • 27 (center left in image below)
New York City
Production Coordinator, In The Life Media
Lyssette Horne was one of many LGBT youth rejected by her parents and forced to leave home because of her orientation. At one point the homeless teen thought suicide might be her only way out, but mentors stepped in to help. Now, as a public speaker and TV producer at In the Life Media, behind the first and only national LGBT issues-oriented television program that airs on public television, Horne has become a mentor herself.
Horne’s stories have ranged from studies of LGBT youth homelessness to the criminalization of HIV. She also recently told her own story in the Emmy-nominated documentary Invisible: Diaries of New York’s Homeless Youth, which she coproduced. “I take the shame away, stand in my truth, and bridge a gap to create a family of socially aware and conscious youth who want more than what was given to them,” she says.
Toyce Francis • 38 (center right in image below)
New York City
Toyce Francis grew up loving the kids’ show The Magic Garden, but “it was also the first time I realized that everyone doesn’t always get to see themselves in media. [When] they called the names of children watching at home, they never called ‘Toyce’ no matter how close I sat to the TV or how frantically I waved. Watching The Magic Garden was the first of many years of feeling that there was no one else out there like me.” Last year Francis decided to launch his ISeeGayPeople.TV, an online television network that features quality LGBT Web series and films all in one place.
“But it’s much more to me,” Frances says. “It’s a magic mirror that reflects those who are often neglected by mainstream media.” Next up is a Web show based on his life as a late gay bloomer: “I will finally be able to see myself reflected back at me, literally,” he says.
Zachary Barnett • 30 (far right in image below)
New York City
Founder, Abzyme Research Foundation
Though Zachary Barnett is HIV-positive, his interest isn’t in finding a cure. As the founder-director of the Abzyme Research Foundation, Barnett is putting his energies into a vaccine. He believes abzymes, a type of antibody, can help lead to the end of AIDS. After becoming aware of the abzyme research by the University of Texas’s Sudhir Paul, Barnett used his experience in event planning and public relations to throw a fund-raiser for Paul’s work. That led to Barnett forming the nonprofit organization the following year. Today, Barnett is utilizing celebrity-driven PSAs and grassroots campaigns to raise money for the first human trials of an abzyme vaccine. “If we can just get to the first human trial and it reduces the viral load of an HIV-positive person, it will be such a breakthrough,” Barnett says.
- WATCH: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Sees 'No Crying Need' for SCOTUS to Take Up Marriage
- WATCH: As Marriage Equality Spreads, Judge Rules NOM Can't Recoup $700K in Legal Fees
- #TBT: They Died in the Closet
- Op-ed: How The Way He Looks Will Open Your Eyes
- 'God's Not Afraid of New Things,' Pope Tells Antigay Bishops
- WATCH: CNN's Cooper, Lemon Explore Their Roots in Special Program