Forty Under 40
BY Advocate Contributors
April 07 2010 4:00 AM ET
38 / Atlanta
Public defender, activist
A lot can change between generations, but for Jamie Roberts’s family, the differences are staggering. While her parents attended segregated public schools in suburban Atlanta, now their bisexual, transgender daughter works as a public defender in Georgia’s five-county Coweta judicial circuit. Since she was a child, “a lot of things have changed for the better,” Roberts says of her home state, and through her visibility and advocacy, she has played a role in that progress. Roberts provides pro bono legal services to domestic abuse victims and the elderly and is active with numerous LGBT nonprofits, including Georgia Equality and MEGA Family Project. Her confidence has helped keep her largely immune to discrimination at work, to say nothing of the fact that she’s whip-smart and ambitious. Roberts believes her gender identity informs her abilities as a defense attorney: “Being raised as a future white male leader and then transitioning to female has deepened my empathy for those who didn’t have the advantages I had growing up—I know what it feels like to be an outsider.”
29 / Brooklyn, N.Y.
Creator, I’m From Driftwood blog
“I am where I am because I was where I was,” says Nathan Manske, founder of I’m From Driftwood, an online collection of true stories by gay people from around the world. LGBT teenagers may be a little less lonely these days, thanks to the Driftwood, Texas–born Manske. He created the site last year after seeing a photo of the late activist Harvey Milk riding in the San Francisco pride parade while holding a sign reading “I’m from Woodmere, N.Y.” The image resonated with the affable Manske, who realized the hopeful message that post–coming out stories can send to isolated, small-town gay teens. The response has been gratifying. “A volunteer for the Trevor Project [a crisis prevention help line for gay and questioning youths] sent me a message saying he refers young callers to my website,” Manske says. Like the people who tell their tales on the site, Manske has had a life of ups and downs, but he takes a positive approach to the hard times. “They’ve all contributed to me becoming a stronger and better person and all led me to where I am right now, which I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
32 / Seattle
International Ms. Leather 2009
International Ms. Leather 2009 is on a mission. “So many people don’t acknowledge sex and sexuality—but once they do, it sets them free,” says Lamalani, whose name that means “heavenly light” in Hawaiian. The leather title, which she won last March in San Francisco (her successor is being selected in April), helps Lamalani continue spreading her message—speaking to varied audiences, meeting an array of people, and teaching them about sex and how to have fun with intimacy. Lamalani was just 21 when she started working at the renowned sex-toy shop Toys in Babeland (now Babeland) in Seattle, where sex education was a part of the job. “It really fed my soul,” she says. Growing up in a family with Chinese ancestry, Lamalani says she was taught not to discuss her sexuality. But as she got more immersed in S/M, she began to notice changes in herself. “For me, it was about acknowledging what I wanted and asking for it—that helped me set boundaries in all areas of my life, with my partners, with people on the street, with people in the store.” When she’s not traveling, the 32-year-old makes rope specifically used for bondage. “It’s a labor of love,” she jokes. But she’s also applying to Ph.D. programs in marine biology. “That’s my girlhood dream,” she says.
37 / Los Angeles
Jimmy Nguyen didn’t set out to destroy the credibility of erstwhile Miss California USA and conservative spokeswoman Carrie Prejean—it just happened. “I simply wanted to represent my client well,” says Nguyen, a law partner in the Beverly Hills office of Wildman, Harrold, Allen, and Dixon LLP, who defended the pageant organization against Prejean’s claim that she had been wrongfully terminated for her religious views. Prejean, of course, became the conservative movement’s poster child for a hot minute when she stood up for “opposite marriage” while answering a question in the Miss USA pageant. But the case revealed that Prejean was no victim; she had repeatedly breached her contract with the pageant and failed to reimburse the organization for her breast implants. The kicker was a story TMZ broke that found Prejean had made sex tapes for her then-boyfriend. Although Nguyen could not discuss the details of the suit and its settlement, he says, “She was being presented as a role model, spokesperson, and fund-raiser, and the events of that case helped to expose her as a hypocrite and discredit her as someone whose voice could be used against the LGBT community.”