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 2021 Champions of Pride from the Last Two. Be sure to check back each day as we roll out the rest of the regions of Champions.
After realizing that their home state of Alaska lacked spaces where Indigenous LGBTQ+ and two-spirit folks could gather and be celebrated, Jenny Irene Miller and cofounders Will Bean and Tuigana McDermott created Aurora Pride. “We wanted to create a space where Indigenous LGBTQ2+ and our allies could come together and be their full selves,” Miller says. “Some queer spaces can often be unaware of the realities Indigenous folks face and go through, so we felt it was necessary to have an Indigenous-centered group.” Being Indigiqueer also informs Miller’s art, which is grounded in their storytelling, identity, and community. Miller is getting their master of fine arts degree, and their practice is informed by Indigenous writers, policies that impact Indigenous peoples, and special collections that contain materials made by their ancestors and those from the Old Bering Sea culture. “In my practice, I am figuring out how to then turn this research and knowledge that has been found and shared into works that inherently speak to ways of reframing the past, what it presently looks like to me, and what the future can hold,” Miller says. “How can I make tangible the memories and stories of kin?” They hope that sharing their art and their story “will show other Indigenous LGBTQ2+ folks who don’t have the same privilege I do to be fully out as a queer person that they are not alone and that they matter.”
Quinn Christopherson ends his song “Erase Me” with a scream. The Ahtna Athabaskan and Iñupiaq singer-songwriter says, “We have to be loud sometimes. It’s OK to be loud.” The song was inspired by seeing just how differently the world treated him after he transitioned and features the lyrics “I’ve got a voice now / I’ve got power / I can’t stand it.” He explains, “I wasn’t prepared for the way people began to treat me differently as a man. Better. I didn’t really think I was being treated poorly before, until I experienced the other side. And I hated that. I hated that for my sisters, my mother, and every woman in my life.” In 2019, Christopherson won NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, chosen out of thousands of applicants. Soon after, he signed with a label, and this spring he recorded his debut album. “When I write songs I don’t get wrapped up in following rules like structure or length or anything,” Christopher shares. “I just focus on what I’m trying to say. My grandma always told me words are powerful and no one can take that from you.”
Hawaii State Rep. Adrian Tam already has some very impressive wins under his belt at the age of 28. Not only did he become the only out legislator in Hawaii when he was elected last year, but he did so by beating a local leader of the right-wing hate group Proud Boys. Tam’s victory was a long time coming. As a legislative staffer, he helped ban conversion therapy and the gay panic defense in his state. Now, as a legislator, he’s vice-chair of the House Committee on Health, Human Services, and Homelessness; and a member of the House Committee on Finance. Tam uses those positions to work with those in the LGBTQ+ and HIV+ communities.
When 34-year-old fashion designer Ari South saw that the world was shifting she created a line of stylish, handmade-in-Hawaii facemasks. Her fashion line, available at AriSouth.com, honors her Hawaiian culture and history through its styles. The line of shirts, blouses, dresses, and masks features elegant designs, floral patterns, and plaids. And it’s available in three collections: The One Hānau Collection is inspired by her “birth sands,” the Huaka’i Collection by her travels, and the Palaka Collection by Hawaii’s Paniolo (cowboy) past. South herself models many of her gorgeous clothes — a wonderful elevation of her identity as a Southeast Asian, Hawaiian trans woman celebrating her culture and her transness. South says she feels blessed to be able to live the life she does. “For whatever reason, light has been shone on me in this lifetime,” she says. “I can do my best to honor that and live to be just one more reason someone else didn’t give up on themselves.”