The Advocate's Champions of Pride From the Pacific West Come to Life
Champions of Pride: Pacific West
For the first time in The Advocate's history, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march, we're spotlighting our diverse, queer-identifying Champions of Pride with the help of Snapchat's stunning Augmented Reality and Lens creator community.
The AR experiences occur via Portal Lenses. These Lenses allow Snapchat users to enter a portal or doorway into another world by being able to move freely around the entire scene as they get to know our Champions.
How to view the "Champions" through Snapchat's custom Portal Lenses:
Desktop: Open Snapchat on your mobile device and point your phone's camera to the Snapcode (the special images for each region found on the left) on your computer screen. Then, press and hold on the Snapcode on your phone's screen to scan it. Finally, follow the pop-up prompts to view the Lens!
Mobile: If you're reading this article on a mobile device that you're also signed into Snapchat on, simply tap the region link below and you will immediately be directed to the Snapchat Lens. From there, feel free to snap away and send to friends. Click HERE to read the full list of Champions as well as the other regions!
Circle back to Advocate.com throughout the month of June as we profile each Lens creator and roll out longer versions of our Champions of Pride.
Meet The Creator: Brielle Garcia
Lens creator Brielle Garcia, 34, proudly represents the Pacfic West, hailing from Seattle, Wa.
"I love the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest," says the bisexual transgender artist. "There's nothing quite as refreshing as looking out over the Pacific Ocean to one side and the mountains to the other."
In a statement about the inspiration behind her unique Lens, which displays a rainbow mural as our Champions pop up from the colorful landscape, Garcia says, "I wanted to work on a Pride lens that was not just a celebration of the past, but a celebration of our future. I hope these lenses can be an encouragement to everyone in the LGBT community. Encouragement that people as unique as you can have success in business, politics, art, or anything you can dream of."
"This message is important to me because this kind of success has not always been available to us," she says. "So many amazing people have come before us to pave the way and this is a celebration of their success and a guide to what you can achieve."
Alaska: Julie Schmidt
Julie Schmidt (right) is the director of SAGE, a program for seniors at Identity, Inc., the Gay and Lesbian Center of Anchorage. Schmidt and her wife Gayle Schuh (left) were the plaintiffs behind a 2014 decision that ruled that the had state acted unconstitutionally by refusing to grant same-sex couples a special property tax exemption afforded senior citizens and disabled veterans living with their spouse in their home. She's now inspiring the next generation with her activism. -- David Artavia
Alaska: Will Kusiq Bean
"Pride, to me, means learning about your entire Identity and how it comes together," says Anchorage activist Will Kusiq Bean. "For me, I take great pride in being an indigenous queer person. I find ways to bridge these seemingly distant identities to be proud." Inupiaq, Aleut, Athabascan, and Yupik by heritage, Bean identifies as indigiqueer, while explaining their identity as gay and nonbinary to those unfamiliar with the indigiqueer term.
Anyone familiar with Bean, however, can see a dedicated advocate for a variety of causes. Bean is on staff as a community organizer for Native Movement, which works for economic, environmental, and gender justice, and has a long list of other activist efforts. These include cofounding Aurora Pride, a support group for young indigiqueer people; assisting with the youth summits held by Alaska LGBTQ+ center Identity Inc., where they're also a board member; working with the Alaska Humanities Forum to facilitate community conversations on how culture shapes concepts of gender and sexuality; and involvement with numerous other groups, such as Poor People's Campaign-Alaska, which addresses issues affecting low-income people, and Choosing Our Roots, which seeks to provide safe and supportive housing for indigenous LGBTQ+ young people.
Bean's activism was influenced by their grandfather Joe Upicksoun, a leader in the Alaska Native land claims movement. "He was a very outspoken man with a booming voice you couldn't ignore with strong opinions he put into action," Bean recalls. The young advocate also credits an "amazing indigenous mentor" in college, LGBTQ+ activists, and especially other indigiqueers with helping them overcome internalized racism and homophobia. "I think pride is about knowing your whole self," Bean says. -- Trudy Ring
Washington: Vicci Martinez
Musician and actor Vicci Martinez, 35, became nationally known as a gay finalist on the first season of The Voice nine years ago. Two years ago, she landed a recurring role on Orange Is the New Black, where she became politically involved with issues the show tackles. Last summer, she worked with Freedom for Immigrants and through that work with Christina Fialho, the National Immigration Detention Hotline got "back up and running." she says. "I was 13 when Ellen DeGeneres came out, and because of that, I was inspired to live my truth," Martinez says about being out throughout her career. -- Tracy E. Gilchrist
Washington: Marko Liias
Marko Liias is a member of the Washington State Senate, representing District 21. An out gay man, last year Liias sponsored and passed the VOTE Act to expand access for young and first-time voters to make their voices heard.
"Surveys show that young voters overwhelmingly support LGBTQ equality, so we need to make sure they show up at the polls and vote for an inclusive future," he says. "Being a champion means outlasting your opponents, having the perseverance, patience, and drive to go all the way. I am not in the fight for myself, I am standing up for thousands of Washingtonians who are counting on me to fight for them. And when we win, it means we have created a more inclusive place for everyone."
"It is not enough to shake our fists at the TV or comment on social media, each of us has to take action," he adds. "Whether you're using your feet, your voice, your talents, or your wallet, the challenges we face as a community require each of us to do our part to organize, advocate, and win."
Oregon: Kat Cunning
A triple threat dancer, singer, and actor, Kat Cunning returned not long ago to their native Oregon to shoot the very queer Netflix series Trinkets in which Cunning plays the love interest of Brianna Hildebrand's lead. Long out as queer, Cunning spoke publicly about being nonbinary in a video this spring. Now in their late '20s, Cunning, a recurring character on HBO's The Deuce, has always been out in their acting career and in their music.
"[I want to] normalize the fact that queer people come in all shapes and sizes and while you may assume otherwise about me," Cunning says about being out. "I'd like to be an example of how we are all around, and sometimes shining examples of cis couples are actually a beautiful trans man and a trans woman or whatever." -- TEG
Oregon: Maya Vivas
Art can be a spectacular vessel for activism and Maya Vivas lets that energy swirl through them and their work. "I walk through the world in a body that has so many meanings & assumptions assigned to it," they tell The Advocate. "I am simultaneously invisible, hypervisible, & available for consumption. I am a black queer femme. The most radical thing I can do is love myself."
Sick of fighting to be included in other studios that didn't value their voice, Vivas created their own art space for Queer, Black folk to thrive. Alongside another artist, Leila Haile, the two created the Ori Gallery in Portland, Oregon, and host exhibits, lectures, classes, parties, and more for the local community.
The multidisciplinary artist says their statement is to "navigate questions of diasporic body memory and space as filtered through the senses" through "sculptural gesture, absurdity, carnality, speculative fiction, and body horror." They work to uplift their community through their practice.
It's shame that Ori Gallery is so rare, their work could benefit LGBTQ+ folk all over the country, let alone all of Portland. But we have to support black and brown, queer artists to make that a reality. And how can we build up the more marginalized members of the LGBTQ community?
"Just ask them what they need, and do it," says Vivas simply. "Join a community lead organization. Pay reparations. Familiarize yourself with the work of Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks & James Baldwin. Do the work. No strings attached. No pats on the back." -- Taylor Henderson
California: Jasmyne Cannick
Political consultant Jasmyne Cannick, 42, was elected in March to the Democratic Party's Los Angeles County Central Committee. This was after Cannick was credited with applying the public pressure needed to finally bring Ed Buck -- who faces trial for his part in the drug-related deaths of two Black men at his home -- to justice.
"I'm looking forward to finishing my book...and of course seeing Ed Buck sent to prison for the rest of his life," says the lesbian activist. -- Neal Broverman
California: Ditchi Manley
When Ditchi Manley and her wife Claire moved to Riverside County from San Diego's Hillside gayborhood to accommodate their growing family, they noticed one thing lacking from their new suburban surroundings -- any hint of an LGBTQ+ community. So, the already-busy Chinese-American mother of six (two adopted sets of three siblings) founded the first LGBTQ+ Center of Riverside County in the heavily right-wing Inland Empire.
"My inspiration [to start a center] came from the time I left my Chinese home and fiance because I knew I was gay," says Manley. "I did not even know there were LGBTQ cities or LGBTQ centers, and the community saved my life and gave me a family after being disowned. So, starting a Center in my opinion is a necessity."
Though the conservative backlash against early projects like an LGBTQ+ prom and an ally sticker campaign was initially shocking and disappointing to Manley, she says it only fueled her fire to proceed with creating a center.
"My vision is to create spaces for LGBTQ people that is their own. No more couch surfing in conservative towns where we always have to live by how they want us to live." -- Desiree Guerrero
Nevada: Danielle Jablonski and Ashley Arnold
When the beloved lesbian character Lexa was unceremoniously killed off after consummating her relationship with the bisexual lead, Clarke, on CW's The 100, fans revolted at the tired "kill your queers" trope.
That's when Danielle Jablonski and Ashley Arnold created ClexaCon, a convention for those who "believe that it is vital to support and nurture LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary creators so that they are able to write authentic stories and push for better representation in all aspects of the entertainment industry moving forward," they said. -- TEG
Nevada: Derek Washington
Derek Washington hopes to make history as he runs again to represent the Ward 5 District on the Las Vegas City Council. If elected in November, Washington will not only be Sin City's first LGBTQ+ city councilman, he'd also be the first elected official in Nevada to be living and thriving with HIV. Ward 5 is an increasingly diverse district and the historic home of the city's Black community. -- DP
Idaho: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s Teen Supporters
In 2018, when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Brett Kavanaugh -- a U.S. Supreme Court nominee at the time -- of sexual assault, three teens, Layla Bagwell, Charlotte "Roy" Iradukunda (not pictured), and Jessica Hernandez-Garcia penned a powerful letter of support to her. The Idaho youths were 15 then, "the same age you were" during the alleged attack, they wrote in the moving Change.org petition.
"We feel connected to the 15-year-old girl still living inside of you, and are outraged by the seventeen-year-old boy still living inside of him," they wrote in the document extolling Ford's courage in coming forward. Initially, the three asked for only 2,500 signatures in support of Fort in the petition; they ended up with over 117,000.
Despite the credible accusation and an outcry from activists like them, Kavanaugh was confirmed to the nation's highest court. However, this act only further galvanized the #MeToo movement and a new generation of advocates for survivors of sexual assault.
Now 17, this trio continues to be youth activists with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence. Hernandez-Garcia, of Caldwell, and Bagwell, of Boise, also identify as queer. They hope their visibility can inspire other LGBTQ+ young people.
"I hope that I can inspire other queer folx to live and lead authentically. You have everything you need inside of you!" said Bagwell.
"I hope to inspire other young/queer folks to feel as liberated as possible, and to live their life as their whole selves and nothing less!" added Hernandez-Garcia. -- Daniel Reynolds
Idaho: Tom Nestor and Kevin Lish
In 2012, Tom Nestor (right) and his partner, Kevin Lish, founded All Under One Roof LGBTQ Advocates of Southeastern Idaho, and opened an LGBTQ+ youth center in the back of their Pocatello coffee shop. The couple are also HIV-prevention activists. When Main Steam Coffee And Desserts was shuttered for the pandemic, the couple continued giving back by launching a food drive helping those in the local LGBTQ+ community.
Nester and board member Gloria Meyer are currently working hard to establish a SAGE-type program and services for AUOR and Southeast Idaho seniors. For the last six years, Nestor has organized Christmas gift baskets for homebound seniors with Meals on Wheels, which has given the LGBTQ+ community a great service project to help seniors and give back to the local community.
"We have borrowed the AIDS United groundbreaking concept of MIPA -- Meaningful Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS," Lish explains. "AUOR's vision of MIPA has been changed to Meaningful Involvement of People Affected. AUOR would like to provide breadth for all letters of LGBTQIA to build safe and empowering spaces to allow each facet in our local community to work through and conquer the stigmas all of us face in different and varying ways."
The organization has been offering no-cost rapid HIV testing for the past five years, which includes HIV screening to the Bannock/Shoshone Men's Health Fair each summer. This testing program is the only completely free, no conditions required rapid HIV testing in Southeast Idaho.
As the state continues toward reopening during the pandemic, Nester says their services have never been more crucial.
"The first and foremost challenge must be to make sure folks who use our services are safe and not put at risk for contracting COVID-19," Nester says. "Second, AUOR and the entire LGBTQ community must be vigilant and document any attempts to criminalize COVID-19. We have a 35+ year history of criminalization from another current pandemic, HIV. Our community knows there are many intersectional points making the LGBTQ community most likely to face these prosecutions. Criminalization disproportionately targets and harms Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities; immigrants; people who trade sex; women of trans experience and other communities subject to over-policing. Bottom line our community must articulate every chance we get, Criminalization in response to infectious disease is and has never been effective in fighting the transmission of any disease. The LGBTQ community of Idaho must work together and with other like thinking communities to make sure no legislation that mirrors HIV criminalization is added to the Idaho codes. Criminalization that helps feed the carceral state must not be allowed to become the automatic 'goto,' public health must take the lead -- not the criminal justice system." -- Diane Anderson-Minshall
"It is important to me to tell the truth about the past and to keep the memories and the stories of those LGBTQ+ [people] who have come before and who have passed," says Law. "I want to remind young LGBTQ+ people to realize they are standing on the shoulders of giants so that they do not take their equal rights for granted." -- TEG
Hawaii: Kaleo Ramos
Kaleo Ramos, a teacher, activist, father, and trans man, is working hard to promote equality for people of transgender experience in his home state of Hawaii. Ramos serves on the boards of multiple LGBTQ+ organizations including the Hawaii LGBT Legacy Foundation and the Imperial Court of Hawaii. He has spent much of the last few years heavily advocating for state legislation that would allow transgender people to change their gender markers on official documentation without hassle, and prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against trans people. -- DG
Utah: Eva Lopez
On a mission to start an inclusive group that advocates for the lives and interests of queer Latinx folk in the state of Utah, 23-year-old activist and leader Eva Lopez helped found Orgullo Utah during her time as a student at the University of Utah.
"With the creation of Orgullo Utah, I sought to create a space of visibility and representation for the folks with differing experiences than the current perception of queer identities," she says. "Often, our white allies take up space advocating for their experiences but there was not an organization that was focusing on queer Latinx issues. In our community there are those that identify as undocuqueer, QTPOC (queer transgender people of color), and those that have blended families across the border. 'Ni de qui, ni de aya,' a saying in Spanish that means 'not from here, not from there,' has a unique meaning when we live multiple intersections as queer Latinx people. We are different in this regard. Like the monarch butterfly, we exist beyond borders. With the politicization of queer and Latinx individuals, and the hatred spewed from national leaders, I challenged myself to find allies within existing organizations like Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center to bring attention to our experiences and start creating more space to advocate for our community."
While Utah, the state with the biggest Mormon population in the country that often has a socially conservative reputation, has a somewhat tricky past when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, Lopez remains hopeful that the challenges queer people of color face in the state can be overcome through positive change.
"Utah is a very special place to me," Lopez says. "It's where I became an adult, blossomed into my sexual identity, and learned to love life. However, it does not come without its challenges. Utah is home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a predominant religion that has historic tensions and challenges with the LGTBQ+ community. This influences the culture of their followers and conservative beliefs about homosexuality. In light of that struggle, we've seen positive bridges being built with the emergence of Mama Dragons, Encircle, and the LOVELOUD Festival."
She continues, "Many in our community have found refuge in the beautiful Salt Lake City. It is an oasis of arts and culture for those in our less diverse parts of the state. Many in our community still fight every day to exist. There is a huge opportunity to elevate the quality of life for queer folks in Utah. I believe that one day, people will look to Salt Lake City and say, 'This is a safe place to build a queer family.'" -- Raffy Ermac
Utah: Derek Kitchen
A restaurateur and a former Salt Lake City councilmember, Derek Kitchen is now an out state senator representing Utah's Second District and championing progressive causes. He and his partner Moudi Sbeity were integral figures in bringing marriage equality to Utah in 2014 when their case Kitchen v. Herbert led to the legalization of marriage in their state and in five other western states. In 2016, Kitchen and Sbeity opened Laziz Kitchen, which hires refugees, "new Americans," and primarily women. -- TEG
Arizona: Karla Bautista
Karla Bautista, a transgender woman and descendent of the indigenous Cakchiquel women who survived the U.S.-backed Guatemalan genocide in the 1970s and '80s, immigrated to the U.S. to escape rampant transphobic and homophobic violence. Today, she is a prominent advocate and activist, and is the liberation coordinator at Trans Queer Pueblo, where she organizes to free LGBTQ migrants from ICE detention. Bautista says she draws inspiration and power from her Cakchiquel ancestors' resistance.
In this photo, Bautista holds up one of the many letters she has received from migrants describing the abuses they've endured within ICE detention centers. She adds that since the outbreak of the current pandemic, she has also received many letters from migrants with chronic health conditions who are at great risk of contracting the COVID-19 while in detention, as well as from those who have been punished with tear gas and rubber bullets for speaking out about the unsanitary conditions. -- Desiree Guerrero
Arizona: Andrés Cano
Democratic State Representative Andres Cano, 28, Arizona's youngest LGBTQ lawmaker, recently made headlines when he called for his Republican colleague Anthony Kern to resign after the latter made offensive remarks about queer rights.
"If Representative Kern is openly willing to suggest that LGBTQ rights are harmful to our state's progress, then he is out of touch with Arizona's business community, our civil rights leaders, and all Arizonans who seek equity and inclusion, rather than division, from our state lawmakers," Cano said in a statement.
Elected to the State House in 2018, Representative Cano is running for re-election in 2020 to continue representing the district where he was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona.
"Arizona's GOP-controlled legislature has a decades-old obsession with passing awful, discriminatory legislation made for national headlines, but, in 2020, we are just two seats away from finally electing a pro-equality, pro-inclusion, pro-LGBT State House," says Cano. "Our greatest days are ahead because we are prepared to lead -- and legislate -- with love, compassion, and diversity as our strongest pillars. I look forward to helping write a bright, new chapter for our state one conversation, and one vote, at a time." -- DG