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Courageous Class Spotlight: Pride Edition

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The Courageous Class are everyday individuals who confidently overcome life’s challenges to become the inspiring role models they were meant to be. This month, in honor of Pride Week, we’re highlighting three people fighting for LGBTQIA equality.

Jesus Aguais
Executive Director, AID for AIDS

AID FOR AIDS is a non-profit organization committed to empowering both communities at risk of HIV and the general population.

What do you want to share with the world about equality?

Equality starts with making people visible, teaching them to understand, and accept who they are, giving them the tools to fight for their rights. We need to empower minority groups, whether it’s by race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity—those have been made to believe they don’t have the same universal human rights as everyone else. Equality starts with knowledge, so that people can claim it.

What people and/or events inspired you to do the work that you do today?

Soon after I moved to NYC in the summer of 1989, I went to a Latino gay bar called La Escuelita, in Midtown Manhattan, and I saw a very handsome, well-dressed doctor talking to the crowd about HIV prevention, telling us what we had to do regarding prevention and what to do if you were HIV positive. That moment had a great impact on me and that doctor became one of my role models. His name was Gabriel (Ramon) Torres, former Medical Director at the HIV clinic at St. Vincent’s Hospital. I still remember him the way he was when I met him, as one of the most generous and giving people I’ve known, someone who inspired me to try to do the same for others.

What is some advice you have for people trying courageously to change the world?

Use your inspiration to enact your changes through a plan of action. You can change the world one life at a time.

Leo Preziosi
Jr. Founder/Executive Director, Live Out Loud

Live Out Loud is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering LGBTQ youth by connecting them with successful LGBTQ professionals in their community.

What do you want to share with the world about equality?

Everyone longs to have the freedom to find their voice. I think we can all be active participants in encouraging everyone to do just that.

What people inspire you to do the work that you do today?

Our scholarship winners. Even though they experience fear and challenges every day, they continue to initiate projects that make their schools a safer place for their fellow students.

What is some advice you have for people trying courageously to change the world?

Commit to getting involved in a cause that you believe in. You’ll be met with many challenges, but the rewards you’ll experience are priceless.

Grace Manger
Content and Development Manager, Everyone is Gay and The Parents Project

Everyone Is Gay works to improve the lives of LGBTQIA youth.
The Parents Project is a first-of-its-kind digital resource to help parents understand their LGBTQIA children.

What do you want to share with the world about equality?

I think the main thing I would say about equality is that we are not there yet. It’s been almost a year since marriage equality was passed in the United States, and I fear that many people see that as the “end point,” and that is just not our reality. LGBTQIA folks are still harassed, attacked, legislated against, and victimized in countless ways on a daily basis, and face systemic barriers to success, acceptance, and community.

What people and/or events inspired you to do the work that you do today?

This is an excellent question, and yet I cannot pinpoint a specific answer to it! The works of Angela Davis and Audre Lorde have been incredibly influential for me in thinking about intersectional activism and the scope of oppression in today’s society. However, I think I am constantly inspired by people doing good, important work in the world. I’m inspired by the 13-year-olds who write to us at Everyone Is Gay, who are brave enough to live authentically against pressure to be different. I’m inspired by my sister, who is the hardest worker I know and is fighting for justice for trans folks in Chicago. I’m inspired by Kristin Russo, co-founder of Everyone Is Gay and The Parents Project, who nurtures my passion and keeps me moving forward when things get hard.

What is some advice you have for people trying courageously to change the world?

We are stronger together. You do not have to do it all. Just do something. Please.