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Champions of Pride 2021: The West Coast
The Advocate's Champions of Pride 2021 are the unsung heroes who are making inroads for LGBTQ+ people in their fields of work and in their communities every day despite the risks or challenges. More than 100 changemakers (two from each state, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Territories) have been named to the list.
With trans rights and safety under siege across the country, it's imperative to amplify and elevate the breadth of LGBTQ+ identities. The Champions of Pride print and digital editions and virtual event is our way of honoring the diversity and dedication of so many in the LGBTQ+ community.
Join us in honoring our West Coast 2021 Champions of Pride. Be sure to check back each day as we roll out the rest of the regions of Champions.
Catch the Midwest Champs here. And the Rugged Midwest Champs here.
Dr. Ali Mushtaq - California
A Mr. Leather title holder, Dr. Ali Mushtaq describes himself as a cisgender gay Muslim, "South Asian mutt" and "inequality activist." He's also a professor, influencer, entrepreneur, and journalist. "I raise awareness around racism and other aspects of marginalization in LGBTQ communities. In the past, I've fundraised for multiple HIV/AIDS charities...and served as senior leadership to a nonprofit that serves racial and sexual minorities." He's also a peer educator around sexuality and empowerment, and teaches classes about LGBTQ+ issues and intersectionality. This year, Mushtaq says he has "continued to raise awareness around LGBTQ issues, racism, and social inequality by serving on panels and giving (online) talks." He's proud to have "finally" submitted for publication a book he co-authored on Black women AIDS activists "after several years' worth of work."
Kimberly Eaton - California
A longtime advocate for LGBTQ+ people with her activism, fundraising, and mentorship, as senior manager in Brand Social Media, for Freeform Network, Kimberly Eaton is in a position to share her unique voice with hundreds of thousands of people across platforms. Eaton describes herself as "6-foot, 3-inch bisexual BBW (big beautiful woman) and charming troublemaker." In her role at Freeform (the network behind Good Trouble and The Bold Type), she is able to "amplify news and stories in the community that deserve a wider audience, and [goes] a step further for the fans who appreciate our programming by recognizing the lives they lead unapologetically to make this world better," she says. Mentorship is a big piece of Eaton's mission. "Not without my share of confrontation and struggle, I have been afforded a very encouraged life. That is what I want for others, especially the young folks while they still believe in a world of such immense possibility," she says. "It never feels like a burden to offer myself in that way. ... I am a Black bisexual woman in a country and a world with a history of relegating those identities to positions of disadvantage. I was raised with love of self to defy that," she says. "Being someone to talk to, showing up for other folks when it counts, even when you can't speak personally to their experience but are ready to do the work of being a legit ally, not letting the difficult conversations disappear into the ether because they make people uncomfortable, and just reminding people to smile, laugh, dance, exhale...these are the spaces where I show up for others."
Leila Haile - Oregon
Leila Haile likes to joke that if they hadn't seen the 1996 film Foxfire, where Angelina Jolie's character, "Legs," tattoos a flame on each of her friends, she might never have become a tattoo artist in Portland, Ore. "That was the first example I had of body modification being an intimate act of reclamation after communal trauma," Haile recalls. "Later on, I saw an amazing chest piece on a woman who had a double mastectomy, and it clicked that this was how
I wanted to use my art, this was the type of healing that I felt drawn to do." The queer tattoo artist specializes in melanated skin, is accessible to all levels of mobility, and describes tattooing as an intimate act of service. "Even if you're just tattooing a dick on someone's ankle, you're still interacting with a body that has its own history of healing, joy, trauma," they say. They further note, "Much of the industry is still rooted in white supremacy, colorism, homophobia, anti-blackness, transphobia, and all their trappings." Transitioning tattooing into a culture of care is at the heart of their work. With Maya Vivas, Haile is also the cofounder of Portland's Ori Gallery, where they created a radical art space for their many intersecting communities. Now the pair are passing the space down to a new generation of Black creatives. "It's both exciting and terrifying to hand off our baby," Haile says. "But knowing the talent that is taking over, amazing things are ahead."
Mick Rose - Oregon
There aren't enough hyphens in the world to fully describe 41-year-old Mick Rose, a nonbinary Dine, Omaha, and Pawnee two-spirit Indigiqueer. The fat polyamorous femme athlete, activist, and advocate works with two-spirit youth at Portland, Ore.'s Native American Youth and Family Center. "I work hard to educate and advocate within my own community so that as two-spirit young people enter our doors, they feel seen, held, and feel free to be who they are, create who they are, and learn who they are. I wish them liberation to explore, to find affirmation in their identity and to know they are sacred." Rose is cofounder of Team Indigenous Roller Derby, the first team to reach the sport's World Cup representing Indigenous Nations "with an emphasis that we are borderless nations," Rose says. The team members (and their podcast, Off the Track) have drawn attention to the movement to find missing or murdered Indigenous women. Rose also cofounded Indigenous Food Sovereignty and is helping transform a baseball field into "a space where our community can work on our collective healing through connection to the earth, food, first foods, and our traditional plant medicines. I believe that when we heal the land, we heal ourselves. I am in a lifelong pursuit of healing from intergenerational trauma and leaning into ancestral knowledge [and] healing to find liberation for myself... and the Indigenous community. I also know that my liberation and that of my community is bound together with the Black community. It is our work to ensure we are working every day to do this collectively, uplifting our Afro-Indigenous kin and our two-spirit kin."
Dustina Haase-Lanier - Washington
When the pandemic trapped 43-yearold activist Dustina Haase-Lanier at home with her two adult sons and her wife battling cancer (she's now in remission), the trained social worker put her years of experience to good effect helping frontline workers. Haase-Lanier is a pansexual social worker with a specialty in working with trauma survivors in southwest Washington (just across the river from Portland, Ore.). The disabled Alaskan Native (Tsimshian) and former burlesque dancer -- who uses a wheelchair full-time but still performs virtually with her wife of 12 years (actress and theater director Jennifer Lanier) -- started Frontline Helpline. It's a grassroots passion project that offers frontline medical workers critical coping support via phone or Zoom one-on-ones for free. "Not that I would turn down money for sure," she jokes. "I just saw the need over and over and I know I can help." Since she's immune-compromised ("so social distancing in my family is a matter of life and death") it was a way to help the cause by using her training in vicarious trauma (previously known as compassion fatigue), a serious concern for people working in the fields of victim services, first responders, emergency medical services, social work, nursing, and other helping and healing professions. "The ongoing flood of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths may create unrelenting circumstances that medical professionals experience as vicarious trauma. Therapists, families, and colleagues are seeing their loved ones burn out, get ill, and succumb to the weight of holding others as they experience terrible illness and tragedy. Fear and pain ripple out. Mass media consumption increases exposure to suffering in the interviews of grieving nurses on TV and the reports of increases of suicides from medical professionals across the country. Without safe and healthy coping pathways, breaks, and adequate workplace or community interventions, vicarious trauma can be as toxic and lethal as acute or complex trauma."
Monisha Harrell - Washington
Seattle native Monisha Harrell is currently board chair for Equal Rights Washington and also chairs the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund. Throughout her career, Harrell, a Black-Japanese lesbian, has been focused on helping marginalized communities and is a key figure in the area's police reform efforts. Harrell has served as a fellow for Lifelong AIDS Alliance, a cochair of the Capitol Hill LGBTQ Public Safety Task Force, an appointee to the City of Seattle's 2017 search committee for the new director of police accountability, and cochair for the De-Escalate Washington campaign committee, which requires de-escalation training for all law enforcement officers in Washington State in 2018. Once named one of the "Smartest People in Politics" by the Seattle newspaper The Stranger, Harrell has also been a hero for LGBTQ+ community through her work with Equal Rights Washington. She has been a leader in the fight to ban conversion therapy for minors in Washington as well as ban the "panic defense" for those accused of violence against trans and queer people. "I don't really do direct service, but I help people and communities navigate systems and power," she says. "Even good things can be better. I believe in continual development and improvement as a way of life. We have big challenges, and I help when I can in the ways that I know how."