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Queer Heroes of America's Territories

American Too

Activists and LGBT leaders in the American territories have to work even harder sometimes. Here are just a few leaders leading the good fight.


American Samoa: Dr. Vena Sele

Trans activist and educator, Dr. Vene Sele, has been a staple in the Samoan LGBT community for decades not only for her affable personality, but also her continuous fight for equality while expressing one of the traditional gender roles in Samoa, fa'afafine, which she told the Seattle Gay News is "men who dress, act, and do things as women." After founding the longest-running pageants in Polynesia nearly 30 years ago, the Island Queens Pageant, she became a dean of student services at American Samoa Community College. Her work continues to shine through her many students, who refer to her as "mama."


Mariana Islands: Jonathan San Nicolas

As the mayor of Tinian, Jonathan San Nicolas has made an important effort in spotlighting the contributions of LGBT community. Last year, he conducted the ceremony of the first same-sex marriage on Tinian in the Northern Marianas, calling it a "huge step for our LGBT community members."


Guam: Monaeka Flores

As a local Chamorro artist, Monaeka Flores has made it her life to tell stories through pictures. In addition to her local activism, Flores is also member of ISA Guam, a new LGBTQ nonprofit that coordinated the 2016 lighting at new American monument, Latte of Freedom. Now, as a policy analyst for the Legislature of Guam, she continues to push social causes to benefit her local Guam.


Puerto Rico: Waves Ahead

When Hurricane Maria ravaged many parts of Puerto Rico, Waves Ahead, a woman-led organization providing assistance to LGBT Puerto Ricans and other vulnerable groups, stepped in to help rebuild not only people's lives but also their communities. Co-founded by Grissel Bonilla and Wilfred Labiosa in June 2017, the organization has helped individuals and families living in the affected areas of Humacao, Yabucoa, and Vieques (a popular destination for LGBT visitors) by supplying food, toiletries, and friendship to those in need. (


U.S Virgin Islands: Lavonne Wise

As a coordinator for the feminist organization, Women's Coalition of St. Troix, Lavonne Wise has been advocating for social justice and LGBT equality most of her adult life. As an organizer for the Women's Sexuality Conference, she's led discussions on the importance of women's issues in the Caribbean and beyond.

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