In the wake of Empire State Pride Agenda’s dissolution after same-sex marriage was passed, Gabriel Blau co-founded Equality New York, an advocacy group that carries the torch in the statewide fight for LGBT rights. During its Albany advocacy day, gay state Sen. Brad Hoylman held up Blau’s legislative platform and wryly proclaimed, “This is the gay agenda!” A former head of the Family Equality Council, Blau is currently enrolled in Columbia University’s executive MBA program.
The Pride Watch List
The Pride Watch List
One goal in creating our innaugural Pride Power 50 list was to celebrate diversity, but it’s also worth noting that the people on it are predominantly white and male, with only one transgender person making the cut – an imbalance that simply reflects reality. We sought to balance that by presenting an additional – and more diverse – list of younger LGBT figures on the rise.
The Watch List.
These 10 people in the LGBT community have begun to make a name for themselves in New York’s political world – and each of them has plenty of potential to make their mark in the years ahead.
Tapped as one of the 40 Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association, Eric Lesh is the executive director of The LGBT Bar Association and Foundation of Greater New York (LeGaL). Both at LeGaL and at Lambda Legal, he has worked to combat LGBT bias and discrimination in the legal system. Boasting a law degree from Hofstra Law School, Lesh also comes armed with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and is known for his theatrical flair.
The onetime undocumented immigrant who fled transphobia in her native Mexico at the age of 15 is now a proud green card holder and was the first transgender Latina grand marshal of the Queens Pride Parade. As the LGBTQIA justice organizer at the pro-immigrant nonprofit Make the Road New York, Bianey Garcia uses her own experiences with discrimination, sex trafficking and imprisonment to push for protections and improvements for transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
Jason Walker is an activist and grass-roots organizer at VOCAL-NY, a rental assistance program benefiting New Yorkers with HIV outside of New York City. As the HIV/AIDS campaign coordinator, he has been a leading voice in the call for supervised injection sites in New York City, and has helped secure more generous and widely available housing benefits to HIV-positive homeless New Yorkers. He’s already priming the next generation of LGBT activists and organizers through a youth group called Queerocracy.
The national organizing and policy strategist at the Transgender Law Center is a gender-nonconforming, two-spirit Brooklynite who goes by they/them pronouns and is a member of the Assiniboine Nation in their native Montana. Shelby Chestnut cut their teeth as director of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, where they ramped up the group’s focus on transgender people within its local, state and national advocacy on behalf of LGBT survivors of violence.
Julian Kline is a senior vice president at Bolton-St. Johns, which recently ranked third in compensation among state lobbyists and where he boasts Emily Giske as a mentor. He hustles in Albany, New York City Hall and statewide on behalf of a portfolio of clients that includes tech, nonprofits, homeless services providers, higher education and civil rights organizations. A West Village native, Kline got his start as a staffer at the Meatpacking District Improvement Association, a nonprofit neighborhood business alliance.
The New York regional director at the nonprofit Lambda Legal, Adrian Ogle fights for the civil rights of LGBT and HIV-positive New Yorkers though public policy and advocacy as well as development and communications efforts. Previously, he served as Lambda’s national events manager, overseeing more than 80 events that raised some $5 million annually. His long history of special events coordination includes work at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, SAGE and the LGBT Community Center.
This Northeastern University School of Law graduate is a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project in New York City, where he litigates cases, lobbies governmental bodies and engages in public education nationwide. Locally, he has spent the past decade working to improve state prisons and city jails as well as access to gender-affirming state-issued IDs. Prior to his time at the ACLU, he was director of prisoner justice initiatives at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.
A government relations principal at Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, Rose Christ maintains her legacy of supporting nonprofit organizations as she pulls New York City and state levers on behalf of an array of clients. She recently helped secure city funds to support the expansion of the Alvin Ailey dance studios and for City Parks Foundation programming. An executive board member of the Stonewall Democratic Club, she has mobilized the group to organize large LGBT rights rallies in response to President Donald Trump.
A national authority on homelessness among LGBT youth, Jama Shelton works as an assistant professor of social work at Hunter College and as chief strategy officer for the True Colors Fund. Shelton, who identifies as transgender nonbinary and opts for they/them pronouns, knows of which they speak: Kicked out of the house after coming out as a lesbian after college, they spent many subsequent years struggling with housing and poverty, but ultimately secured a Ph.D from Hunter.