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In honor of those who came before us: SGN names 15 "All-Stars" who have shaped our future

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Pride in Seattle is an event full of community, fun, and celebrating identity. Yet this hasn't always been the case, and we owe the freedom we feel now to many people who did the hard work to get us here. They worked tirelessly, standing up against prejudice and hate to create a community that is welcoming and accepting. They risked their own safety and comfort to fight for a world where LGBTQIA+ people have access to resources, places to feel safe, and dignity.

These pioneers deserve to be recognized for their work in paving the way for future generations. While there are many more inspirational leaders in our community, these are just a few that have paved the way for Queer rights in Washington State and farther. This list of living people is not intended to be exhaustive or to imply that any individual has contributed more to LGBTQ+ equality than others.

Join us as we honor the people, nominated by the SGN staff, that have fought relentlessly for our rights and have helped to create a culture in which we can celebrate Pride.

Roger Nyhus
Roger Nyhus is the US ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean; he was confirmed unanimously in 2023. A Gay man who came out in 1988, he has spent much of his life fighting for marriage equality and equal rights for Queer people. He launched a successful campaign for marriage equality in Washington State and has worked with various organizations, including GSBA, Lambda Legal, and the Human Rights Campaign.

"I am very proud to represent President Biden as a US ambassador in a region not historically supportive of our rights," Nyhus said. "I believe he and his team sent me here for a reason: to open hearts and minds for all disadvantaged people."

Beth Reis
Beth Reis has worked tirelessly for years, fighting for marriage equality and for Queer youth.

For her, coming out was a long process, which culminated in joining Legal Voice's lawsuit for marriage equality. She helped to author the Family Life and Sexual Health Curriculum starting in 1985 and helped it become increasingly Queer-inclusive over the years.

Reis was also involved with the Safe Schools Coalition, a group dedicated to making schools a safe space for LGBTQIA+ youth and authored or coauthored many of its publications.

"I just look forward to a day when Trans and gender-expansive people have the same legal rights and are afforded the same respect and dignity — and places to pee at work and at school and access to gender-affirming health care — everywhere in the country, if not in the entire world, as cisgender people have," Reis said.

Mattie Mooney
For Trans people, navigating healthcare can be a complicated and stressful process. Mattie Mooney is working to change that. Through advocacy, education, and legislative advocacy, they have helped Trans youth feel seen and accepted.

They have also worked to support Trans women of color with financial stability and housing, as well as having co-founded Taking B(l)ack Pride.

With the rise of anti-Trans laws in many states, their work has become invaluable to the Trans community, especially for youth and their families.

"It's one thing to discuss the impact of these laws on our community and the parents and families of Trans children [in the] abstract, but it's another to see children and their families fighting to access healthcare, fleeing hostile states, [and] hiding details of their care, [and help] them to create emergency plans against government persecution of children who are just wanting to exist in a way that is true to them," said Mooney.

"It really highlights why I do the work that I do (there is a moral and human imperative to make sure Trans kids and youth live to adulthood and beyond in their truth and as a beacon of hope for the Trans kids and youth after them) and how dangerous our government has made our authentic experiences."

Marsha Botzer
Since coming out in the '70s, Marsha Botzer has worked tirelessly to advocate for LGBTQIA+ people. She is the founder of Seattle's Ingersoll Gender Center, as well as a founding member of Equal Rights Washington and Seattle's Out In Front Leadership project. Throughout her career, she has been a part of countless other organizations dedicated to securing rights for Queer people.

"I am very proud to be a part of a community passing laws to protect us here in Washington State, to change things at the national level through that work and always toward the idea of winning gender identity and expression," Botzer said. "Those are thrilling, and also heartbreaking moments. But the wins are absolutely worth it."

Dave Horn
Dave Horn has fought for legal representation and rights for Queer people since the '90s. He has been a part of Hands off Washington and the Legal Marriage Alliance, among numerous other organizations, and helped to found the attorney general's civil rights division. He's worked on the anti-bullying law, which prohibits bullying based on sexual or gender identity.

"We need to fight hard against the tide of fascism sweeping the globe and our own country," said Horn. "We especially must redouble our efforts to achieve understanding and acceptance for our Trans friends."

Bryher Herak
Bryher Herak, a proud dyke, came out in 1971 and moved to Seattle a year later, where she began to find a community with other Lesbians, with whom she created support groups, one of which was Women Out Now, for primarily Lesbians in prison. During this time, she also was an attorney investigating Queer discrimination cases.

In 1984, she helped start the Wildrose, one of the oldest Lesbian bars in the nation (and still operating). After selling it, she continued her work as a mediator for the Montana Human Rights Campaign and fought for Queer rights across the state.

"I love Queer people," Herak said. "I love the LGBTQIA+ community. I want us to walk proud. I want young folks to be able to be fully who they are without fear. I want our world to accept us, and I want us to continue to be the outrageous loving beautiful people we are."

Grethe Cammermeyer
Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer was outed as a Lesbian while in the military in 1988, which led to her being discharged. She went on to challenge that discharge and ensure that Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual people can serve in the military. Later, she also helped repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which prevented service members from being open about their sexuality.

"[I] hope we don't lose the hard-fought-for rights we now have," Cammermeyer said. "VOTE to protect those rights."

Lisa Love
Lisa Love began her work to make schools a more inclusive place while she was in graduate school, after coming out to her unsupportive family. She went on to become a high school teacher, where she facilitated the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and later came to oversee all LGBTQIA+ programs in the Seattle School District. Throughout her time there, she has supported students, staff, and families who are facing bullying or discrimination for their identity, and helped to develop training so that schools can become a safer, more welcoming environment for Queer students.

"I hope all young people can go to school and bring their whole selves," Love said. "I hope students have enough empathy and awareness to be loving, kind, and supportive of their LGBTQ+ friends and classmates, that there is no bullying or harassment, and that all students experience school as a safe and welcoming space. If we can establish this early in the lives of young people, they will grow up being more empathic humans who will create space for all people to live honestly and openly as they are."

Laurie Jinkins
Laurie Jinkins is the first woman and Lesbian Speaker of the House of Representatives in Olympia. She has spent her time in politics fighting for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people and has worked on many campaigns to defeat anti-Queer ballot measures. She helped to pass antidiscrimination ordinances in Tacoma, and hopes that she can pave the way for other Queer people to enter politics.

"We still have so much work to do to elevate the voices of those who are so frequently unheard within our community: Queer and Trans people, especially those from BIPOC communities; youth; seniors; those with disabilities," Jinkins said. " For those of us who've seen many of our needs met, I hope we continue to advocate and follow the leadership of those whose voices have still not been heard. Well, that and CELEBRATE OUR PRIDE!"

Taffy Maene-Johnson
Taffy Maene-Johnson is the founder of UTOPIA Washington, an organization dedicated to the support and well-being of Queer and Trans Pacific Island people. She works to blend cultural and Queer identities in a way that celebrates their intersection. As a fa'afafine, a Samoan cultural gender identity, she has a deep understanding of how intersectionality can impact the experiences a Queer person has.

Under her guidance, UTOPIA Washington provides access to medical care, food, and support while also pushing for changes in the system so that Queer and Trans Pacific Island people can feel welcome and thrive in the Pacific Northwest.

"I aim to establish robust support systems that provide continuous resources, education, and advocacy for future generations of MVPFAFF+ and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals," Maene-Johnson said. "These sustainable support systems will ensure that our community remains strong and that every person has access to the help they need to thrive."

Emma Moreno
Emma Moreno has worked with multiple organizations in the Queer community since 1994, to raise funds for the education and prevention of HIV at a time when it was rampant, especially within the Latino community. She was the first executive director of Entre Hermanos and won the title of Ms. Gay Latina in 1994. Moreno has also created a scholarship fund in honor of her Trans son, which has assisted 27 Latinx LGBTQIA+ students.

"My hope is to have barrier-free healthcare for all Trans people," Moreno said. "My hope is to strive to talk to more people who have different beliefs and ideas from the ones that I hold, and initiate conversations with strangers about transphobia, working on creating a world that works for everyone."

Aleksa Manila
Aleksa Manila is a genderqueer drag queen who combines her background in drag with her work as a behavioral health therapist and drug counselor. She has been recognized for her work in the Queer and Filipino communities, and was recently featured in a PBS documentary entitled Caretakers. She has a thriving community of drag daughters, giving them support and a second family.

"I dream of a world that's full of love where we celebrate each other's hopes and wishes to better versions of ourselves, authentically and magically," Manila said.

Peter Shalit
Dr. Peter Shalit has been working in healthcare since the 1980s, attending to Queer people's unique healthcare needs. In 1990, he started his own practice in response to the lack of appropriate care for LGBTQIA+ people in general medical care. In it, he strives to provide respectful, appropriate, and knowledgeable care for Queer people, and he also helps to educate other medical practitioners on the needs of the community.

"I would love for Seattle to have an ongoing, full-service, public, nonprofit medical clinic that focuses on our community, and I hope that will come to pass before too long," Shalit said.

Louise Chernin
Louise Chernin is the former CEO of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), an LGBTQIA+ chamber of commerce based in Seattle, and a founding member of the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce. Through her work, she has helped Queer-owned small businesses thrive and access resources so that they can continue operating. She has worked to change systems that prevent them from national certification.

"My hopes are that we can all live our lives openly and joyfully, to be who we are and all we can be, without fear of discrimination, harassment, and violence, in Washington, across the country, and globally," Chernin said.

Dennis Coleman
Dennis Coleman founded the Seattle Men's Chorus after losing his job at a conservative church, and quickly became an active member. The chorus brought together Gay men and allowed them to celebrate identity in a safe, substance-free environment. During the AIDS crisis, the SMC sang at memorial services and provided a space to grieve and remember those who died, even as the chorus lost dozens of its own members. Coleman helped to found other LGBTQIA+ choruses worldwide, sharing his love for music and community.

"Today, [the SMC and Seattle Women's Chorus] are stronger than ever and continue to sing about issues (new and old) that illuminate the LGBTQ experience," Coleman said.