HRC kicked off the first day of Time to THRIVE with an opening plenary filled with special guests, an advocate awards ceremony and entertainment.

During the welcome reception, conference attendees met the authors and illustrators of two new children’s books. Jazz Jenning’s from TLC’s hit reality show, I Am Jazz, and her co-author, Jessica Herthel signed copies of their book, I Am Jazz. In addition, author Tyler Curry, and illustrator Clarion Gutierrez of the children’s book, A Peacock Among Pigeons, signed books.

Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, tonight’s featured speaker, committed to protecting LGBT Americans.

“I’m proud to say that we’re now enforcing the Fair Housing Act against landlords that discriminate against transgender Americans based on their gender identity, he said. “And following recent decisions made by federal agencies and by courts around the nation, I’ve instructed my team to examine our authority to protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans in the same manner.”

Speakers at the opening plenary earlier this evening included Jazz Jennings, parent speaker Marsha Aizumi, Rich Yep, Chief Executive Officer, American Counseling Association and LGBTQ activist and mother of Ellen DeGeneres Betty DeGeneres.

Other speakers included transgender health advocate Blossom Brown, Dennis and Judy Shepard of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and YouTube stars Aaron Rhodes and Raymond Braun.

HRC presented the Upstander Award for promoting safety, inclusion and well-being for LGBTQ youth to high school history teacher Nicolas Ferroni, correspondent and host, ABC News, John Quiñones and host of NBC’s The Biggest Loser Bob Harper.

John Quinones

Bob Harper

Youth Ambassadors; Bob Harper

American Idol finalist David Hernandez also performed.

Learn more at and watch videos from today on HRC’s YouTube channel.

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