The gay rights movement has its roots in New York, where the Stonewall uprising occurred more than 50 years ago. Decades later, New York has made its mark as a leader in passing legislation protecting and supporting the LGBTQ community. After repealing the “walking while trans” ban in 2021, state legislators and the governor set aside $12.5 million for LGBTQ health and human services and created a $1 million fund for organizations helping transgender New Yorkers in this year’s budget. And New York’s political landscape has also been increasingly representative of the LGBTQ community. The New York City Council, for example, boasts an expanded, more diverse LGBTQ Caucus.
But while progress has been significant, anti-LGBTQ backlash has been on the rise nationally, translating into state-level legislation that largely targets trans people. New York has the dual challenge of combating anti-LGBTQ measures introduced elsewhere, while also fighting back against hate and prejudice that still proliferates locally.
City & State’s 2022 Pride Power 100 – written by Tim Murphy and Jason Abrams in partnership with City & State’s Kay Dervishi – highlights the LGBTQ New Yorkers who serve in local and state government as well as lead the organizations, nonprofits, companies and other institutions shaping the region’s landscape, in the LGBTQ community and beyond.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents much of lower and midtown Manhattan, has advocated successfully for legislation like the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which protects transgender people, and a ban on gay conversion therapy for children. Hoylman was the only out gay person in the state Senate until Jabari Brisport’s election in 2020. The father of two daughters via a surrogacy arrangement, he also pushed hard for years to end the state’s ban on commercial surrogacy, finally getting it overturned in 2021. The prolific lawmaker recently opted against a bid for Congress.
When Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney was elected chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in late 2020, things were looking up for him. But now, the Hudson Valley lawmaker is contending with the president’s unpopularity, the tossing out of Democratic-friendly congressional maps in his home state and a furor over a newly drawn district that pitted him against fellow Democratic and LGBTQ Rep. Mondaire Jones. Maloney’s abrupt announcement that he’d run against Jones rankled some Democrats. And while Jones ultimately opted to run in a different district, Maloney will still face battles in the primary and general elections.
Rep. Ritchie Torres’ time in the New York City Council and in Congress has been informed by his experiences growing up in public housing in the South Bronx. While a New York City Council member, Torres led oversight of the New York City Housing Authority and pushed local and state leaders to do more to improve conditions for public housing residents. Since heading to Washington, D.C., as the first gay Afro Latino person elected to Congress, Torres has pushed for greater federal funding for public housing.
As head of New York City’s public health network of 11 hospitals and dozens of clinics since 2017, Dr. Mitchell Katz has steered the system – and the city – through the COVID-19 pandemic, during which intensive care unit capacity quadrupled, a telehealth platform was launched and systems changed on the fly. He also shepherded the pandemic-era launch of NYC Care, for New Yorkers shut out of other health coverage options. In March, Katz announced that the once-floundering system looked to be financially sound through the coming fiscal year – and Mayor Eric Adams renominated him to the post.
Universal child care access was top of mind for state Sen. Jabari Brisport during this year’s budget negotiations. Those efforts bore fruit, as the state budget significantly expanded child care subsidies, though Brisport expressed disappointment that undocumented children wouldn’t have access. The Democratic Socialists of America-backed legislator – who is the first out gay Black member of the state Legislature – joined other left-leaning legislators in criticizing public safety measures included in the budget.
Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, who spearheaded New York’s historic law legalizing same-sex marriage about a decade ago, has recently focused on supporting transgender and nonbinary New Yorkers. Last year, the Gender Recognition Act he sponsored was signed into law. The measure allows people to change the gender marker on their driver’s license to “X” and to more easily change the gender and name on their personal documents. O’Donnell has also joined other state lawmakers in calls to establish a $15 million Transgender and Gender Nonbinary Wellness and Equity Fund.
Economic growth and workforce development are among Assembly Member Harry Bronson’s priorities. The Rochester lawmaker helms the Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry, and also has spearheaded legislation fighting child poverty and expanding mental health support. Bronson, the first out gay upstate legislator, also recently sponsored a bill that would expand labor protections for freelancers in New York.
Assembly Member Deborah Glick has kept a close eye on developments in higher education. Glick has pushed for increased funding for teaching hospitals under the State University of New York system and last year called on then-SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras to resign. Glick, who made history as the first out LGBTQ member of the state Legislature, will face off against a primary challenger this year who has criticized her past opposition to the full decriminalization of sex work.
Rep. Mondaire Jones made history as the first Black representative elected to his district and as one of the first out gay Black men elected to Congress. In Washington, D.C., Jones has taken a balanced approach to both pushing forward progressive priorities and focusing on local issues in Westchester and Rockland counties. Last year, Jones was the most active freshman representative introducing legislation in Congress. This year, he opted to jump into the 10th Congressional District primary rather than face fellow Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney after new redistricting maps put them in the same district.
The New York City Council’s LGBTQ Caucus is helmed by two first-term members with long track records as progressive advocates. Tiffany Cabán, who made headlines for nearly winning the Queens district attorney race in 2019, has taken strong stands in favor of more funding for housing, education and social services, and against incarceration and Mayor Eric Adams’ desire to beef up policing. Previously, she was a public defender and an organizer with the Working Families Party. The other co-chair is New York City Council Member Crystal Hudson, a Prospect Heights native who is part of the progressive flank pushing back on Adams’ pro-business and pro-police stance. She has introduced a bill to demand a wintertime minimum heat level in New York City apartments and supports the so-called People’s Plan to direct more city resources to housing and services for working-class New Yorkers.
Randi Weingarten heads the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, which represents educational professionals across America, as well as workers in the health care and government sectors. Weingarten has pushed for greater investment in, and reform of, education and teaching in the U.S., including the raising of entry standards for teachers. The past year has seen Weingarten take a leading role in developing standards for opening schools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and opposing the Florida legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics.
As the leader of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, Kiara St. James is a key advocate for the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming people. In Albany, St. James championed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and opposed the profiling and detention of transgender people, joining with allies to push successfully for the repeal of New York’s loitering law, which disproportionately targeted transgender people. She also serves on the New York City Commission on Gender Equity.
The founder of Transgender Equity Consulting and a longtime advocate who has worked with a number of LGBTQ groups, Cecilia Gentili emigrated to the U.S. from her native Argentina, living as an undocumented sex worker until eventually winning asylum. A leading proponent of LGBTQ rights, Gentili has been focusing on the movement to decriminalize and destigmatize sex work, lending her voice to the campaign to repeal New York’s loitering law. Gentili has also appeared on the Emmy Award-winning FX drama “Pose.”
After last year’s busy election cycle in New York, Allen Roskoff is now focused on this year’s statewide races. His influential Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club threw its support behind Gov. Kathy Hochul’s reelection bid yet joined other progressives in backing Ana Maria Archila’s bid for lieutenant governor. Roskoff has criticized Mayor Eric Adams’ decision to appoint officials who have a history of making homophobic comments – but has also found ways to continue working with the mayor, including speaking out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Seventeen years ago, Valerie Berlin teamed up with business partner Jonathan Rosen to found BerlinRosen, which today has become a leading communications firm with an impressive record of success in advising left-of-center political campaigns and organizations. With roots in the world of Democratic political campaigns, Berlin regularly appears on lists of the most influential women and LGBTQ individuals in the country. Her firm’s roster of high-profile clients has featured Bill de Blasio, Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams and Carolyn Maloney.
Emily Giske is a longtime leader and public face of the government relations and public affairs firm Bolton-St. Johns, which she has positioned as a top-three lobbying firm in New York City and Albany. Long active in Democratic circles, Giske was instrumental in the passage of New York’s Marriage Equality Act in 2011 and has garnered a reputation as one of the most effective lobbyists in the state. Giske also serves on the board of Eleanor’s Legacy, which works to elect female candidates.
An adviser to a number of federal, state and local campaigns over several decades, Ethan Geto has helped launch some of the nation’s leading LGBTQ organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG. He has also been an effective strategist and advocate for gay rights legislation and policies for years. Geto also leads Geto & de Milly, a public affairs and strategic communications firm with a roster of highly prominent government, corporate and media clients. He serves on the boards of the New York City AIDS Memorial and the American LGBTQ+ Museum.
Last year, Erik Bottcher, the former chief of staff to New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, won Johnson’s old seat. Having spoken openly about attempting suicide as a teen in upstate New York due to homophobic bullying, Bottcher has prioritized improving mental health services citywide, while in his Manhattan district he has focused on sanitation, matching job seekers with employers and getting much-needed renovations for the New York City Housing Authority’s Fulton Houses complex.
David Carr is the first out gay New York City Council member elected from Staten Island – and the body’s first out gay Republican. Previously chief of staff to Assembly Member Joe Borelli and then to Council Member Steven Matteo, Carr ran on a strong pro-police platform. He opposes congestion pricing and vaccine mandates, and is among a handful of Council members demanding that the city rehire workers fired for not getting COVID-19 vaccines.
Poet, democratic socialist, police abolitionist – and now a member of New York City Council – Kristin Richardson Jordan has drawn more attention than many of her colleagues early on as she has pushed back on what she calls Mayor Eric Adams’ “austerity” budget, demanding less money for the NYPD and more for social services. She also blocked a proposed development in her district, arguing that it didn’t include enough affordable housing.
The youngest person ever elected to New York City Council, Brooklyn native Chi Ossé, 24, was drawn to politics after getting involved in the Black Lives Matter movement following the 2020 murder of George Floyd. Ossé, a practicing Buddhist and democratic socialist, has criticized Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed budget, which would increase policing and reduce human services. Ossé, who has introduced a bill that would distribute the overdose-reversing drug Narcan in nightlife settings, is beloved by fashion and beauty websites for his chic looks.
Representing the 29th District in Queens since the start of 2022, Lynn Schulman, a borough native, chairs the New York City Council’s Committee on Health and is a member of its LGBTQ, women’s, Jewish and progressive caucuses. Having formerly worked in the NYC Health + Hospitals system, she is focused on expanding hospital access in her district. She also supports shutting down Rikers Island but has opposed construction of a new jail in Kew Gardens, which is also in her district.
Stefan Ringel, a longtime aide to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, is now one of the highest-ranking LGBTQ officials at City Hall. Ringel has worked for Adams since 2013, serving as his communications director for nearly six years and as senior adviser to the then-Brooklyn borough president before taking on the same role once Adams took office as mayor. Ringel previously was a spokesperson for then-New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams and worked on state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s 2010 reelection campaign.
Ron Zacchi entered the political arena years ago as the executive director of Marriage Equality New York. Zacchi, who also served as director of external affairs for the New York State Division of Human Rights, spearheaded successful efforts to expand the Gender Recognition Act and boost funding for LGBTQ organizations in the Hochul administration. Prior to her current post, Chanel Lopez was the transgender communities liaison for the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Lopez, who was also a youth counselor for the Ali Forney Center, an LGBTQ youth housing nonprofit, was the first transgender woman to be honored by the Dominican Day Parade.
Darren Walker is a leader among progressive philanthropists, not just in New York, but across the globe. He oversees $16 billion in assets as president of the Ford Foundation, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in grants toward social justice projects and other initiatives across the United States and abroad. Walker has been outspoken in calling for fellow philanthropists to put a greater emphasis on “justice and inequality.”
While workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island geared up for a successful union drive, Stuart Appelbaum was busy rallying workers in Alabama for a second vote. That tough campaign also led the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to file objections with the National Labor Relations Board that Amazon illegally interfered in the election. Meanwhile, in New York, Appelbaum helped rally a successful unionization effort at an REI store – the first union at the company. RWDSU in May endorsed Rep. Mondaire Jones, one of the two first out gay Black members of Congress, for reelection in a new district.
Fighting family homelessness has been Christine Quinn’s mission since joining Win, the largest provider of family shelters in New York City, in 2015. The former City Council speaker expressed disappointment that Mayor Eric Adams recently proposed budget cuts to the Department of Homeless Services despite her having previously urged the mayor to dedicate $3.3 billion in additional funding to combat family homelessness.
As CEO at Tusk Strategies, a role he assumed last fall, Chris Coffey has created media campaigns for companies including Uber, Latch and Bloomberg. In 2017, he was senior strategist for Corey Johnson’s successful bid to become speaker of the New York City Council. He also helped run Andrew Yang’s 2021 mayoral campaign. Coffey previously worked for Mike Bloomberg on his three electoral campaigns, in City Hall and at Bloomberg LP. He is chair of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and is on the board of The Trevor Project.
A prominent Black public policy professional and lobbyist, William Floyd has cultivated Google’s relations with state and local elected officials and opinion leaders since 2012. A veteran of New York City government, Floyd served as executive director of the New York City Districting Commission before joining Google. Floyd also serves as a vice chair of the board of the Citizens Budget Commission, a fiscal watchdog in New York, and on the board of the New York City Economic Development Corp.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center has partnered with Equality New York and the New Pride Agenda in advocating for policies such as the decriminalization of sex work and the creation of a new Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Wellness and Equity Fund – just a few ways the organization has been trying to support LGBTQ New Yorkers. The group’s executive director, Glennda Testone, also oversees its health, arts and economic programs.
Jon Del Giorno manages the law firm Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno’s government relations practice, advising and representing a prominent roster of public and private sector clients on such matters as campaign finance and election compliance, government contracting and regulatory, legislative and policy matters. Active in LGBTQ rights and political circles, Del Giorno was head of public affairs and communications for the New York City Board of Elections for 15 years. He serves on the boards of the Stonewall Community Development Corporation and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.
When Assembly Member Catherine Nolan announced she would retire at the end of the year, Émilia Decaudin’s name was floated as a possible candidate to replace her. But Decaudin opted not to run for the seat and instead will run for reelection as a Democratic district leader in Queens. Decaudin, who became one of the first two out transgender Democratic district leaders in 2020, also previously spearheaded a successful push to make the state Democratic Committee’s rules more inclusive of nonbinary people.
In 2018, Melissa Sklarz ran an unsuccessful primary campaign against Assembly Member Brian Barnwell. This year, she played a role in deciding what candidate would replace him on the ballot after Barnwell announced he would not run for reelection. Sklarz has made history twice, as the first out transgender person to win an election in New York and as one of the first two out trans Democratic district leaders in New York City.
The New York Women’s Foundation reached a new milestone this year under Ana Oliveira’s leadership: It has distributed more than $100 million in grants since its founding 35 years ago. Since becoming the foundation’s president and CEO 16 years ago, Oliveira has spearheaded funding initiatives focused on helping women, girls and gender-nonconforming people in New York. That includes supporting organizations such as 21 in ’21 and the Sex Workers Project.
This year’s state budget included plenty of health provisions that pleased the Greater New York Hospital Association, with additional funding allocated to increasing workers’ wages and to improvements for health care facilities. An executive vice president with the association, David C. Rich plays a key role in advancing such legislative advocacy on behalf of hospitals and other members. His work is informed by his past experience handling health care policy in state government under then-Gov. Mario Cuomo.
Bruce Richman is the founder and leader of Prevention Access Campaign, which carries out advocacy, activism and education on HIV prevention and treatment and works to improve the quality of life for HIV-positive individuals, most notably through its efforts to spread the word that “undetectable equals untransmittable,” or U=U. But while that campaign has enjoyed considerable success, Richman remains focused on combating the stubborn stigma against those with HIV.
Alan van Capelle leads this 133-year-old nonprofit on the Lower East Side, which offers early childhood programs, after-school programs, services for older adults and addiction prevention services. He has served as the organization’s president and CEO since 2014, bringing with him past leadership experience at the Empire State Pride Agenda and Bend the Arc. He recently joined other nonprofit leaders as a member of the city’s task force to improve contracting for nonprofits.
Preexposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP, is medication that has played a major role in driving HIV prevention globally. James Krellenstein has made it his mission to ensure widespread, affordable access to the lifesaving drug. That work has seen some success: The Biden administration established rules requiring health insurers to cover PrEP and put forward a proposed budget that would invest $9.8 billion in expanding PrEP access over the course of 10 years.
Renee Campion, who was reappointed as the first female commissioner of the New York City Office of Labor Relations by Mayor Eric Adams in February after three years in the role, has been with the department for two decades. She handles every facet of forming and enforcing agreements with public sector workers, covering 150 collective bargaining units that represent some 360,000 employees. She also manages health insurance plans and benefits funds for hundreds of thousands of city workers.
A victim of taunting and bullying in his youth, Kevin Jennings went on to found the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, which works to end discrimination and harassment in schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He has taken on leadership roles in a number of other organizations involved in promoting LGBTQ rights, including Lambda Legal, where he is now CEO, and the Arcus Foundation, the world’s largest foundation supporting LGBTQ rights organizations. Jennings also served as an assistant deputy secretary in the Department of Education.
Long active in political campaigns and government, Charles O’Byrne was a speechwriter for Howard Dean and a trusted adviser to then-Gov. David Paterson. O’Byrne was ordained as a Jesuit priest, but left the order in 2002, around the time he openly criticized the sexual hypocrisy in the Catholic Church. Since 2012, O’Byrne has served as executive vice president for policy at the real estate powerhouse Related, where he handles government relations with federal, state and local authorities.
Brian Ellner is a top executive at BCW and leads U.S. public affairs work at WPP, where he also leads the LGBTQ employee resource group. The former senior strategist for the Human Rights Campaign who helped secure same-sex marriage in New York is also continuing his advocacy work, including teaming up with the Adams administration to criticize Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and partnering with HRC on a visual campaign depicting an American flag with missing stars that reflect a lack of LGBTQ rights in many states.
Jawanza Williams – who describes himself on Twitter as “Black Leftist. Queer. Writer. Socialist. Christian.” – is a leading voice on New York City’s progressive left, speaking often in support of more services and housing for homeless people instead of increased sweeps. Publicly HIV-positive, he calls for more funding of social and community services instead of increased policing. Williams was a key figure during the city’s George Floyd protests and was among those who organized the activist camps outside City Hall in support of defunding the police.
Political candidates, companies and nonprofits seeking expertise in strategic and crisis communications number themselves among Andrew Kirtzman’s clients. His work at Kirtzman Strategies is informed by his past experience, having served as a vice president at Global Strategy Group and as a well-known political reporter in New York City. His firm recently worked with Yeshiva University students who filed a lawsuit against the school for refusing to recognize their LGBTQ student club.
Editor’s Note: Andrew Kirtzman is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
The Ali Forney Center provides a lifeline for LGBTQ youth facing homelessness. Under Alexander Roque’s direction, the organization connects 2,000 LGBTQ youth to housing and social support every year. The nonprofit is also spearheading a workforce initiative, coordinating with New York City officials to help LGBTQ young adults experiencing or at risk of homelessness to find employment and pursue education.
Housing Works is focused on ending homelessness and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. And Charles King wants New York’s leaders to step up to do more to further both ends. The organization denounced Gov. Kathy Hochul for omitting from the state budget $10 million in funding to house New Yorkers living with HIV. And while King was pleased to see the Adams administration invest more in safe havens and stabilization beds, he has also pushed for greater funds for permanent housing and for the city to stop sweeping encampments.
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center plays a vital role in delivering affordable health care to LGBTQ New Yorkers in need. One-third of its clients are uninsured and rely on the organization for mental health services, HIV/AIDS treatment, gender-confirming care and other support. Wendy Stark has worked to ensure those services have continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, while also advocating for state legislators to protect funding for community health centers and safety net providers.
Elisa Crespo, a transgender Puerto Rican politician and advocate, has served for nearly a year as the executive director of the New Pride Agenda, which works to promote the rights of marginalized LGBTQ people. NPA has worked to protect LGBTQ youth and trans women and promote sex worker rights while also targeting housing and workplace discrimination. Prior to joining NPA, Crespo became the first trans woman of color to be on the ballot for a New York City Council seat.
With election season heating up, political clubs are beginning to endorse their favored candidates – and among the most coveted endorsements in the five boroughs are those from several LGBTQ clubs, including the Stonewall Democrats of New York City, the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens and Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn. While not nearly as experienced as the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club’s venerable Allen Roskoff, the presidents of these clubs – SDNYC’s Justin Sanchez, LGDCQ’s Patrick Yacco and LID’s Derek Gaskill and Nick Tamborra – have plenty of political clout thanks to their leadership positions.
LGBTQ seniors face unique challenges, including dealing with discrimination, social isolation and higher poverty rates. Michael Adams heads SAGE, a 44-year-old nonprofit dedicated to meeting the needs of LGBTQ older adults by providing supportive services to them across New York. Adams has also been a staunch advocate for federal and state-level legislation that would protect LGBTQ seniors from facing discrimination when seeking housing or elder care.
Jacquelyn Kilmer is dedicated to advocating for quality health care for the poor. Since 2015 she has led Harlem United, which works to ensure access to health care, housing and social services and has expanded its work under Kilmer’s watch. Kilmer also chairs the board of Amida Care, a nonprofit community health plan that provides coverage to Medicaid members with HIV/AIDS and other chronic conditions. She has testified a number of times before the state Legislature on matters relating to health care access.
Beverly Tillery has made a career of advocating for LGBTQ rights and social justice, lending her talents to such organizations as Lambda Legal, Amnesty International, 1199SEIU and ACORN. She is currently executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, which works to address and end all forms of violence, particularly that which is aimed at LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, and to provide support for victims. Tillery is also a member of the New York City Commission on Gender Equity.
Cynthia Nixon is an award-winning actor best known for her role as lawyer Miranda Hobbes in the HBO series “Sex and the City” – and its recent reboot, “And Just Like That….” In New York politics, however, she’s known for seeking to unseat then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018 and continuing to speak out in support of progressive causes and candidates ever since. Nixon, who is married to New York activist Christine Marinoni, has also lent her celebrity to advocate for LGBTQ rights and the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Matt Tracy was elevated last year to the role of editor-in-chief of Gay City News, the largest LGBTQ newspaper in the country. Tracy, who was just 30 when he succeeded longtime editor Paul Schindler, frequently pens articles in the newspaper and online, focusing on such issues as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, health care in the LGBTQ community and transgender rights and security in recent months.
New York City Department of Probation Commissioner Ana Bermúdez is a trailblazer, having made history as the first out gay and first Latina leader of the agency. Bermúdez, who was among the city’s commissioners kept on by Mayor Eric Adams, has launched innovative mentoring and support programs. She previously served as the department’s deputy commissioner of juvenile operations and as director of juvenile justice programs at the Children’s Aid Society.
Frankie Miranda, who became the first gay president of the Hispanic Federation in 2019, has been with the national advocacy group for Latinos since 2006. Under his leadership, the group’s annual gala has grown to raise more than $2.7 million annually. Miranda expanded the group into Puerto Rico, where it offers long-term disaster assistance, and Florida. Prior to joining the Hispanic Federation, he held several communications positions, including as deputy press secretary for Spanish language media for Hillary Clinton’s 2000 campaign for U.S. Senate.
Amit Bagga was appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul last September to serve as deputy secretary for intergovernmental affairs. The New York City native of South Asian descent ran for New York City Council last year on a platform including diverting funding from the New York City Police Department and expanding human services programs. Bagga also served as deputy director of the city’s 2020 census campaign and as deputy commissioner for external affairs at the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, the first Black, nonbinary head of this national advocacy group for LGBTQ students, was previously the group’s deputy executive director and interim executive director. They previously served as the program associate director of The Worker Institute at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. They were also board chair of The Audre Lorde Project, one of the city’s oldest groups for LGBTQ people of color.
An influential player in the world of lobbying and politics, Rose Christ is a senior principal at Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, where she helps her clients engage with government entities at all levels, most notably in the arts, culture and social services sectors. Christ was recently elevated to the role of co-chair of the firm’s New York practice. The former president of the Stonewall Club of NYC was also named to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ Equity Transition Committee in December.
Ronald Richter’s career has been marked by a passion for child welfare. Before joining JCCA, Richter served as commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and as a New York City Family Court judge. Now, he brings that passion to one of New York’s oldest child welfare organizations, overseeing foster care programs, mental health services and other support for youth and families. In April, Mayor Eric Adams named Richter to his Advisory Committee on the Judiciary.
With the Hochul administration in charge, Doug Wirth has been optimistic about Medicaid funding improving. That funding is vital for Amida Care, New York’s largest Medicaid managed care special needs health plan for people living with HIV, which serves 8,000 members across New York City. In October, Wirth penned an op-ed in amNewYork urging greater usage of and access to PrEP – preexposure prophylaxis – to jumpstart HIV prevention in New York.
This LGBTQ-owned consulting firm, headed by David Mansur and Allegra Scheinblum, has a number of major successes under its belt. A recent one: helping New York City comptroller candidate Brad Lander emerge victorious in last year’s election. Plenty of other major political candidates have sought fundraising and strategic guidance from Culver Place Strategies, including state Attorney General Letitia James, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Rep. Jerry Nadler.
As leader since 2009 of Rising Ground, a nearly 200-year-old orphanage-turned-human services organization for families in New York City, Alan Mucatel has overseen a number of significant changes. He spearheaded the rollout of more than $45 million worth of new programs and services, a merger with the Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families in 2018 and a major rebranding the same year, and the growth of the organization’s annual budget from $56 million to roughly $130 million.
Lucciano Reberte’s work at the Latino Commission on AIDS is informed by his lived experience as a gay Latino immigrant living with HIV. That has given him valuable insight into understanding the barriers many LGBTQ Latino people face when seeking HIV treatment. Reberte has also served on the Latino Gay and Bisexual Men Advisory Group for New York state’s AIDS Advisory Council.
A political strategist, writer and LGBTQ advocate, Richard Socarides has held senior positions with several major media companies and is currently head of global corporate communications and government affairs for Gerson Lehrman Group, a financial and global information services company. Socarides served as a senior adviser on LGBTQ matters during the Clinton administration and is a contributing writer to various publications, including The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.
A principal at this communications firm for advocacy, arts and human services nonprofits, Jeff Simmons led a team that persuaded Facebook to crack down on Holocaust deniers on the site. He hosts two shows on politics and policy on radio station WBAI as well as the “It’s In Queens” podcast for the Queens Economic Development Corporation. Previously, he was a senior vice president at the Alliance for Downtown New York, a major business improvement district.
Equality New York has been ramping up its advocacy efforts, joining other groups and activists in a successful push to get New York state to establish a new fund for organizations led by transgender individuals. The group’s work has been guided by Cathy Marino-Thomas and Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, who serve as co-chairs of its board of directors. Marino-Thomas has spent years committed to advocating for marriage equality; Walker, who founded the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, currently leads the Transgender Women’s Group at SAGE.
Anthony Crowell has led New York Law School since 2012, and he has overseen its rise from being unranked in 2013 to No. 129 in the latest annual U.S. law school rankings published by U.S. News & World Report – and No. 24 among law schools with part-time programs. In March, Crowell announced a revamped evening program making it easier for part-time law students to complete their degrees. Crowell previously was counselor to then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Lime, the global electric bike- and scooter-sharing company, hired Josh Meltzer in March, bringing on an experienced government affairs pro deeply familiar with a New York market where it’s expanding. Previously, Meltzer was Airbnb’s Northeast policy director. He has also served as director of intergovernmental affairs and then deputy chief of staff under state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In the 2000s, he was communications director at the now-defunct Empire State Pride Agenda, an LGBTQ rights group.
An Afro Latina transgender activist and former sex worker, Mariah Lopez became an LGBTQ advocate after being arrested under New York’s “walking while trans” law and facing harassment and assault by inmates and corrections officers. Lopez, who leads the Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform, or STARR, worked to open the country’s first prison housing unit for trans inmates at Rikers Island. Last fall, she also notched a legal victory requiring New York to establish homeless shelters for trans and gender-nonconforming individuals.
Real estate financier Mitchell Draizin has a long history of working on LGBTQ issues. He partnered with the City University of New York to create several LGBTQ leadership and support programs, helped launch the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s LGBT Council and now serves on the board of the American LGBTQ+ Museum. A major campaign donor, Draizin was also a backer of, and adviser on LGBTQ issues to, the Biden campaign. His Concordia Philanthropic Fund supports LGBTQ and progressive leaders.
Since losing the Democratic primary race for New York City comptroller to Brad Lander in 2021, former New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has founded his own government-relations consulting firm. The group has thus far counted as clients the Central Park Conservancy and a subsidiary of the Brooklyn Nets. He has also joined ElectReon Wireless, an Israeli charge-while-you-drive company, as a strategic adviser.
Joe Pressley is in his second year leading the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the country’s oldest nonprofit focused on helping LGBTQ youth. More than 2,000 teenagers and young adults seek its services each year, relying on programs focused on education, arts and culture, job readiness and counseling. Before joining the organization, Pressley worked for the Harlem United Community AIDS Center and served as deputy commissioner for the New York City Department of Homeless Services.
Jeffrey S. Trachtman and Norman C. Simon have been committed to taking on pro bono projects advancing LGBTQ rights. Trachtman has had a hand in landmark cases establishing marriage equality both in New York and nationally, having served as co-lead counsel in a case seeking recognition of marriage for same-sex couples in the state. A trial attorney focused on advertising law, Simon also authored an amicus brief in the historic Supreme Court case that resulted in same-sex marriage being legalized across the United States.
The self-described first Black transgender person to run an LGBTQ center in New York City, Sean Coleman oversees Destination Tomorrow’s array of Bronx-based services for LGBTQ New Yorkers and people in need including HIV testing and PrEP access, GED diploma acquisition, job readiness and financial literacy. Last year, with city funding, he opened SWITCH, a temporary residence in the Bronx for trans sex workers experiencing homelessness. Coleman also spearheaded the organization’s expansion to Atlanta, opening a new site there in May.
Correction: The profile has been updated to reflect that Destination Tomorrow has already opened a new location outside of New York.
Ann Northrop and Andy Humm have spent more than two decades together as co-hosts of “Gay USA,” the longest-running LGBTQ television program. The activist duo has been committed to not just reporting on global LGBTQ news on the show, but also, as Northrop told Slate this year, “inspiring the audience to action.” Before joining the show, Northrop was an activist with ACT UP and worked as an AIDS educator, while Humm previously worked at the Hetrick-Martin Institute for Lesbian and Gay Youth.
When Brian Benjamin resigned, progressive activist Ana María Archila appeared to be a strong contender to win his lieutenant governor post. Archila, who’s running with New York City public advocate and gubernatorial candidate Jumaane Williams, still has a shot, but it’ll be a tougher race with the state Legislature allowing Gov. Kathy Hochul to remove Benjamin from the ballot and replace him with her new lieutenant governor, Antonio Delgado. Archila is the former co-leader of the Center for Popular Democracy.
The former national campaign director for the bipartisan organization Freedom To Marry and author of the book “Winning Marriage,” Civitas Public Affairs Group Partner Marc Solomon focuses on criminal justice reform, voter registration access, and immigrant and LGBTQ rights issues. Civitas Managing Partner Katherine Grainger was assistant counsel for civil rights to then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and, in that role, helped craft and bring to fruition New York state’s same-sex marriage law. She also teaches at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Rob Byrnes is the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of six novels and several short stories focusing on LGBTQ themes. When not writing, Byrnes leads the East Midtown Partnership, a business improvement district that promotes local businesses, sponsors beautification projects and provides other quality of life services, such as homelessness outreach and trash management, in the east midtown area of Manhattan. Byrnes served as an aide to state legislators earlier in his career.
A Black transgender activist who began sex work at age 13, TS Candii was a leading player in the successful movement to repeal New York’s “walking while trans” law, which was disproportionally used to target trans sex workers of color. She is the founding executive director of Black Trans Nation, an organization that supports Black trans sex workers, and is an outspoken advocate for decriminalizing the sex work industry. Candii has also expressed an interest in pursuing elected office.
Overseeing the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, a nonprofit that drives litigation about transgender legal rights, Andy Hong Marra previously led communications at the Arcus Foundation, managed public relations at GLSEN and was senior media strategist at GLAAD. In March, when the Biden adminstration marked Transgender Day of Visibility by announcing that U.S. citizens may now mark their gender status on passports with an “X,” Marra called the administration “the most active in history” in supporting trans and nonbinary Americans.
Samy Nemir Olivares wil face off in June against Democratic incumbent Erik Dilan to represent Assembly District 54 in Brooklyn. A democratic socialist, he has been endorsed by the DSA as well as by Make the Road Action, CUFFH Action and New York Communities for Change. His platform includes universal health care, rent-control legislation, more stringent climate laws, immigrant rights, and full funding for public college and universal after-school programs.
While serving as a New York City Council member from 2010 to 2021, Jimmy Van Bramer, whose six sisters were all Girl Scouts, forged a close relationship with the organization, helping to form a troop for homeless girls, Troop 6000. In his current role since January, he has said he hopes to strengthen the organization’s public and private partnerships and grow its resources. While in the City Council serving the 26th District in Queens, he was chosen to be the body’s majority leader.
Bianey Garcia spearheads Make the Road New York’s advocacy on transgender issues, leading the organization’s Trans Immigrant Project. That includes playing a key role in successful efforts to repeal New York’s “walking while trans” law, a victory that was years in the making. She and Mateo Guerrero, who has also been active in the Trans Immigrant Project, denounced attacks against trans and gender-nonconforming people last year. Garcia and Guerrero are both members of Decrim NY, a nonprofit trying to decriminalize and destigmatize sex work in the state.
Ceyenne Doroshow advocates for the wellness and socioeconomic empowerment of transgender people – including sex workers – as the leader of Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society, or GLITS. That advocacy extends to housing, as shown when Doroshow announced in 2020 that GLITS, founded in 2015, had raised more than $1 million to provide housing for Black trans folks in the form of a 12-unit Queens building purchased by the organization. GLITS also raised money to bail LGBTQ people out of jail during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since launching her own firm in 2017, advocate and activist Andrea Bowen, who is transgender, has obtained financial support for LGBTQ workforce programs in New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as for a new LGBTQ health care navigator program in New York City and for training attorneys who take on immigration cases for transgender and gender-nonconforming clients. Bowen, who began her career as a researcher for the Ironworkers Union, has fought to improve transgender people’s access to identity documents, health coverage and shelters.
Emmy and Peabody Award-winning Imara Jones created the cross-platform project TransLash Media to bring transgender stories to a wider audience. She has hosted two podcasts for the nonprofit, one of which was nominated for a Webby Award. In 2019, she helmed the inaugural U.N. high-level meeting on gender diversity and nonbinary identities, convening more than 600 participants. She previously served on the New York City Commission on Gender Equity under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Greenberg Traurig’s Kelly L. McNamee handles complex commercial litigation, antitrust litigation, government investigations and white-collar defense work, with a specialization in energy markets and regulation. McNamee, who was elevated to shareholder in the firm’s Albany office last year, has also represented transgender clients in asylum cases. She writes on LGBTQ issues, including the participation of LGBTQ professionals in the legal workforce.
Carlyn Cowen, who identifies as nonbinary, plays a key role at the Chinese-American Planning Council, the country’s largest Asian American social services group, where they cover public policy, advocacy, governmental affairs and community engagement. They are also an advocate for reducing animal product consumption. Previously, they were a senior policy analyst at FPWA, where they led efforts on economic equity. Among their priorities at the CPC: advocating for seniors, immigrants and home health care workers.
Neill Coleman has spent the last four years driving significant philanthropic giving at Trinity Church Wall Street, first as the church’s chief philanthropy officer and now as executive director of the rebranded Trinity Church Wall Street Philanthropies unveiled last summer. In December, the church announced that it had awarded a record $46 million in grants during 2021, including investments in housing and violence interruption programs. The Rockefeller Foundation alum also serves on the boards of the Stonewall Community Foundation and Philanthropy New York.
A New York City Police Department officer since 2008 and a detective since 2015, currently assigned to the Criminal Intelligence Section, Brian Downey became head of the Gay Officers Action League in 2016. He led the group’s successful recent effort to make it optional for NYPD cops to include their sexual orientation on their employment record as a way to increase LGBTQ visibility within the NYPD. Last year, he spoke out against the NYC Pride March’s decision to ban NYPD officers from marching in uniform.
Marti Allen-Cummings fell short last year in a bid to become the first out nonbinary member of the New York City Council, but now has an even higher profile while advocating for LGBTQ rights and protections. Allen-Cummings, a professional drag artist, first garnered attention in New York’s political world for founding the progressive Hell’s Kitchen Democrats political club, which in 2017 eclipsed the longstanding McManus Midtown Democratic Club. Allen-Cummings is also a member of Manhattan’s Community Board 9.
Originally from Ecuador, Liaam Winslet sought asylum in the U.S. in 2012 with help from Lorena Borjas, the New York City Latina transgender activist and founder of Transgrediendo who died of COVID-19 in 2020. Last November, Winslet, who took over for Borjas, led the group’s efforts to organize the Queens vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors transgender people lost to transphobic violence. The group also provides trans and undocumented people with legal and medical services, food, clothes and opportunities to participate in transgender activism.
Host and producer of this weekly TV show focusing on Empire State politics, Dan Clark has also reported for PolitiFact, The Buffalo News, the New York political TV show “Capital Tonight” and the New York Law Journal. A native of Afton, in Chenango County, Clark has lived in the state capital with his husband for more than a decade. He was among media members who complained that the Cuomo administration was not being transparent enough during COVID-19 briefings in 2021.
Prior to their current role in the Hochul administration, assumed last December, Priya Nair was associate director of gender equity for NYC Health + Hospitals, and before that was the first Edie Windsor, Marsha P. Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera New York State LGBTQ Fellow. In that role, starting in 2018, they were the policy adviser and project manager for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s LGBTQ and diversity initiatives. Prior to their work in Albany, Nair was the LGBTQ liaison for New York City Council Speakers Melissa Mark-Viverito and Corey Johnson.
In 2010, Carmen Neely co-founded Harlem Pride, a nonprofit organization that celebrates the LGBTQ community and honors “same-gender-loving” individuals in the historic Manhattan neighborhood with an array of events every June. In October, Neely joined an LGBTQ unity rally in support of Eric Adams’ mayoral campaign, and in November, she applauded the construction of an LGBTQ-inclusive affordable housing development in Harlem. She is also the vice chair of the board of the Center for Black Equity and has served as co-chair of New York City Pride and Power, a citywide political club.
A former Democratic New York City Council member who was in office from 2006 to 2017, Jimmy Vacca is an urban studies professor at Queens College of the City University of New York. Between 1980 and 2005, he was district manager for Bronx Community Board 10. In 2018, he was involved in founding the Queens College food pantry to help students experiencing food insecurity. In 2016, he came out as gay on Twitter, concluding with, “Now back to the Golden Girls!”
PJ Rivera is a senior partner at Deloitte, where he is a principal on the consulting firm’s government and public services team and also drives its diversity and inclusion work in the LGBTQ and Latino communities as the national Hispanic/Latinx consulting leader. In New York, Rivera helped expand use of the Excelsior Pass, which provides digital documentation of COVID-19 vaccination or negative tests. Rivera has also sponsored LGBTQ roundtables and hosts a gay Latino book club.
Steven Garibell has spent over a decade as an executive at TD Bank, including nearly seven years as a vice president focused on diversity. Garibell, who previously worked at Wells Fargo, is specifically focused on expanding business partnerships in the LGBTQ community. He also serves as an adviser for the Stonewall Community Development Corporation and is a board member of the Hudson County Community College Foundation.
In June 2021, shortly after receiving a game-changing $3 million gift, this network of foundations, corporations and other funders working to scale up philanthropy for LGBTQ communities named Saida Agostini-Bostic as its new head. Previously, Agostini-Bostic was vice president of member services at YWCA USA. “I have dedicated my career to movements centering the leadership and vision of Black LGBTQ communities,” said Agostini-Bostic upon being chosen to helm Funders for LGBTQ Issues. She is the author of a poetry collection, “let the dead in.”
In 2020, Ethan Felson was named head of A Wider Bridge, a decade-old, New York-based group that connects LGBTQ North Americans to Israel, where it also advocates for LGBTQ rights. Felson has also worked in national roles at the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. He founded Interfaith Partners for Peace, which convenes rabbis and pastors for discussion, and has helmed several missions to Israel. As a young activist, he helped pass hate crimes and civil rights legislation in Connecticut.
In 2020, amid an ongoing string of attacks, some fatal, on transgender women of color nationwide, Qween Jean, a New York University-trained costume designer, and Bronx-born Joela Rivera began organizing weekly Black trans liberation rallies and marches in and around Washington Square Park and the street outside the iconic Stonewall bar in Sheridan Square. (The protests have since disbanded.) “We have the right to hold and share space,” Jean told Gay City News at the time. “I do believe in my power, I believe in my voice, and I do believe that we will win, that we will create a better New York City.”
In January, the American LGBTQ+ Museum, slated to open inside the New-York Historical Society in 2024, named Ben Garcia as its first leader. Previously, as deputy executive director of Ohio History Connection, he supervised more than 50 museums and historic sites in that state. Prior to that, he was deputy director of San Diego’s Museum of Us. Upon the announcement of his new position, he said, “Together, we will tell the stories of queer peoples in this country from its Indigenous beginnings to the present.”
After almost five years leading the LGBT Bar Association of New York, Eric Lesh is departing to open an art gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He previously worked at Lambda Legal, working to reverse bias in the legal system and diversify the judicial bench and briefing federal courts on judicial discrimination and misconduct. He has authored and presented seminars for law professionals on subjects including sexual orientation and gender identity bias in jury selection and transgender legal issues for family court judges.
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