Nine intersectional LGBT artists were honored Monday at the White House as “Champions of Change,” reported the Washington Blade. The event is billed on the administration’s website as “One Voice Can Change the World.”
“Champions of Change is really my favorite event that we have here because it makes me hopeful,” said Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama. “Sometimes in Washington, you can lose that hopefulness and what it is all about, honoring ordinary people who’ve done just extraordinary things.”
Also among the White House officials at the event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House was Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Julian Castro, who praised the artists for contributing to progress:
“I’m convinced that Heaven and history hold a special place for those who are willing to speak out and act out in the service to justice,” said Castro.
Two panel discussions about LGBT issues followed, as did screenings of the Focus Features film The Danish Girl, starring Eddie Redmayne, and the season two premiere episode of the Amazon Studios show, Transparent. Members of the cast and its creator were on hand.
And thanks to Instagram, the world got its first peek at Transparent showrunner Jill Soloway’s own trans parent, fondly known as Moppa, the inspiration for series lead actor Jeffrey Tambor.
Soloway's Moppa (above, left) and Emmy-winning actor Tambor (right) were photographed side-by-side in Washington, D.C., before the special screening of Transparent and The Danish Girl.
Here’s a list of the nine LGBT activists recognized by the White House, as described on the official website:
Marco Castro-Bojorquez of Los Angeles, Calif.
Marco Castro-Bojorquez is the Community Educator in Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, Calif. Marco is responsible for the coordination and implementation of Lambda Legal’s various educational and advocacy efforts. He has produced and directed several short films and documentaries, including the award- winning documentary Tres Gotas de Agua (Three Drops of Water, 2013), a short film about Latina immigrant mothers and dthe impact of their children’s coming out process. In 2015, he premiered El Canto del Colibrí (The Hummingbird’s Song), a documentary about Latino immigrant fathers and their LGBT children as they come out of the closet. He was named one of 15 HIV Advocates to Watch in 2015 by our sibling publication, Plus magazine.
Fiona Dawson of Silver Spring, Md.
Fiona Dawson established TransMilitary to promote transgender equality through media that educates, entertains and inspires. The project intimately shares the lives of U.S. transgender military personnel who served under the threat of discharge. Having co-directed and produced the short opinion documentary Transgender, at War and in Love, commissioned by The New York Times, she is now working on the feature length version of the film. Dawson thanked The Palm Center research institute, its director, Aaron Belkin, who nominated her, and the trans military organization SPARTA for its cooperation and support. An American immigrant, Fiona lived in Houston, Texas, for more than ten years working in the nonprofit sector and was voted the city’s Female Grand Marshal for the 2010 LGBT Pride Parade. She is a proud member of the bisexual community and has served on the National Board of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign. Fiona is currently on the Board of Directors for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.
Jess Dugan of St. Louis, Mo.
Jess Dugan is an artist whose work explores issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and community. She has been photographing within LGBT communities for the past decade and is deeply committed to the transformative power of photographic portraiture. Her work is regularly exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collections of several major museums. Her current project, To Survive on this Shore, combines photographs of transgender and gender-variant older adults with interviews about their life experiences in regards to gender, identity, age, and sexuality, and provides a nuanced view into the complexities of aging as a transgender person in the United States.
Joanna Hoffman of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Joanna Hoffman is a 12-year veteran of slam poetry. Her full-length book of poetry Running for Trap Doors was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and featured in the American Library Association’s list of recommended LGBT reading for 2014. She has performed her one-woman poetry show, The Personal is Political: These Simple Truths, on topics of bullying, homophobia, racism and mental health, and conducted poetry workshops with youth at LGBTQ community centers, performance venues, high schools and colleges across the country. She works at the nonprofit organization Peace is Loud.
AJ King of Washington, D.C.
AJ King serves as the Founder of Breaking Ground. Formerly known as “Brother 2 Brother,” this program targets men and trans youth of color in Washington, D.C., to tell their life stories through musical theatre, and identify non-violent conflict resolution. The program began as a fellowship project and blossomed into a full program presented at the national HIV/AIDS conference, NAESM. This program incorporates social justice trainings, leadership development, and a safe space for the participants to disclose their life stories and then present those stories onstage. This program concluded its last cycle with two sold-out shows at the Anacostia Arts Center in October 2014.
Pidgeon Pagonis of Chicago, Ill.
Pidgeon Pagonis, M.A., is an intersex activist. They are the former Communications & Operations Manager and Youth Leadership Coordinator for Inter/Act, an intersex youth project, at Advocates for Informed Choice–an organization that fights for the legal rights of intersex children and their families. Since 2006, they have made an effort to expand the visibility of issues related to the intersex community by facilitating workshops and presentations around the world.
Lee Levingston Perine of Washington, D.C.
Lee Levingston Perine is the Founder of Makers Lab in Washington, D.C. Through Makers Lab, Lee has built and supported queer communities by creating spaces that celebrate life, art, and queer culture. Since launching in August 2015, the Lab has produced and been a collaborator in the production of 35 cultural events in the region. The Lab recently received a grant for the Last Night Project, a story-collecting project that explores Black queer space in Washington, D.C. Previously, Lee founded and ran Lovebus Events & Design, a boutique event planning company that specialized in wedding planning for LGBTQ couples.
LJ Roberts of Joshua Tree, N.Y.
LJ Roberts is a visual artist who creates large-scale knitted installations, detailed embroideries, screen prints and collages. Their work investigates overlaps of queer and trans politics, activism, protest, craft and the ongoing AIDS epidemic through an intersectional feminist lens. Among their upcoming projects are a collaboration with Visual AIDS to create a sex-positive woman-centered safer sex kit as part of the forthcoming show Agitprop! at The Brooklyn Museum .
Steven Romeo of Birmingham, Ala.
Steven Romeo is the founder, executive director and primary artist for The Change Project based in Birmingham, Ala. The Change Project is an arts and storytelling organization that seeks to transforming discrimination against all LGBTQ people into acceptance through the art of photography, social media campaigns, educational resources and partnerships with social justice organizations. Steven’s first fine art installation is “Our Bodies. Our Lives,” which engages viewers to consider what LGBTQ people want to be called versus the labels that society places on them. Steven currently studies at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, working towards his master’s degree in Public Administration with a focus in non-profit management.
Watch the panel discussions as recorded by the White House and uploaded to YouTube, below: