In an emotional ceremony, Live Out Loud recognized people for making a difference to LGBTQ youth — including three of our community’s future leaders.
Live Out Loud is an organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering the young people of our community by connecting them with successful LGBTQ professionals in programs such as the Homecoming Project, which brings such community role models back to their own schools to inspire the next generation of LGBTQ people learning in those same halls.
This year, on June 11, Live Out Loud’s 17th annual Young Trailblazer’s Gala at Manhattan’s Times Center gave an appreciative audience plenty of reasons to be proud. These reasons included Jennifer Elliot, LCSW, who received the Educator of the Year Award, in part for her efforts to bring a Genders & Sexualities Alliance to Careers in Sports High School (after spending an earlier part of her career working with students living with HIV).
The stars of the evening were three young people who received scholarships from Live Out Loud. The first to speak was Ibn H. Coleman, who was his school’s first LGBTQ class president (three years running) and helped establish free SAT prep for students throughout the city of Camden. He spoke beautifully about the Imposter’s Syndrome that had led him to fear he did not deserve the scholarship but ultimately declared, “Confidence has become my new lifestyle.”
Another scholarship recipient, Ross L. Jacobson recounted his school’s lack of response to reports of him being bullied and threatened for being queer. He implored parents and grandparents in the audience to not respond to such news from schools with remarks along the lines of: it would all be easier if you’d just act more like a cisgender heterosexual. He also spoke of his efforts to “Teach the Teachers” in a program designed to help educators act and speak more mindfully when discussing issues of gender and sexual orientation.
The third scholarship recipient, Ethan W. Cepeda, revealed that he had mixed feelings about being of Dominican descent and from the Bronx – as his desire to be proud of both of these aspects of his heritage was at odds with the fact that those communities are traditionally hostile toward queer people. Now, Ethan has hope for the future; “I’m coming for ya,” he said.
Olympic star Gus Kenworthy showed up on video to introduce his Mom, Pip Kenworthy, who spoke about being proud of her gay son and introduced an emotional video of mothers supporting children (including ethnic minorities, LGBTQ youth, and differently-abled kids) in achieving sports goals and asked the question, “Imagine if the world could see what a Mom sees.”
Brent Miller accepted the Corporate Leadership Award on behalf of Proctor & Gamble and Head & Shoulders, who worked to support Kenworthy and figure skater Adam Rippon at the Olympics. Miller said he was proud that the company was able to place what he said was the first rainbow Pride flag in a national commercial, and he shared a video they had created in conjunction with Great Big Story about a gay P&G employee who had fought for the company to recognize and support people of different sexual orientations.
There were some entertainers involved in the evening, as well, including impassioned hosting by Ariana Debose, a recent Tony nominee for her role in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Hailie Sahar from FX’s Pose appeared to present an award. And Nick Adams (whose Broadway credits include Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and La Cage Aux Folles showed up to sing a mash-up of “Over the Rainbow” and “Dancing through Life” with accompaniment from John McDaniel (of Rosie O’Dinnel Show fame).
Live Out Loud founder Leo Preziosi, Jr. also took the stage to celebrate the evening’s honorees and many of the people who help make Live Out Loud’s programs successful. He also challenged the audience to be proactive in their support of LGBTQ youth. “What are you going to do next?” he challenged, asking people to consider donating their time, money and influence.
To learn how you can answer the call of Live Out Loud and more about the programs they’ve created, visit them online.
Last modified: June 13, 2018