Celebrating Changemakers:

Stories from the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community 2023-2024

Read from changemakers of our Trans Justice Initiative’s programs in their own words.

There are an estimated 1.6 million transgender and non-binary people living in the United States. Many have found themselves facing discrimination, transphobia, and limited access to healthcare, education, and more, as the transgender and non-binary community faces a national emergency in state houses, and a rise in attacks and hate speech.

At the same time, many transgender and non-binary people are living happy, healthy, and supported lives within their communities and (chosen) families.

Existing programs like HRC's Trans Justice Initiative's ACTIVATE, ELEVATE, MOTIVATE and ELÉVATE programs further empower and support the changemakers who participate, while also creating opportunities to establish prosperity and progress in their lives and those of their communities.

Our changemakers share their experiences with TJI's programs, and the impact these programs have had on their daily lives. We share their stories not only to uplift their successes, but also to ensure there are positive representations of the transgender and non-binary community and its resiliency, further combating transphobia, stigma, and anti-trans violence.  


Alex Santiago (He/Him)

Alex Santiago is Chief Operating Officer of Destination Tomorrow based in Bronx, NY and Founder of the I Am Human Foundation based in Atlanta, GA. Alex has been involved in the LGBTQ+ community for over three decades as a board member and supporter of various non-profit organizations. Alex serves on the Metro Atlanta Ending the HIV Epidemic Advisory Board. Alex is a member of the ballroom House of Comme des Garcon where he serves in a professional community advocacy role. Alex also serves on the City of Atlanta’s Mayors LGBTQ+ Advisory Board and the Satcher Health Leadership Institute HIV-AIDS Health Equity Task Force.

Brayland Brown (He/Him)

Brayland Brown, an unapologetically Black transgender man, serves as the Board President of TransInclusive Group, advocating for Transgender and LGBQ equality in South Florida. Additionally, he co-founded and co-directs The Smile Trust, an international nonprofit dedicated to fostering Community Resilience, Housing & Food Security. Brayland holds a master's degree in marketing from Nova Southeastern University and is an alumnus of Howard University. He is a serial entrepreneur specializing in Black-owned startups and small businesses. Beyond his professional pursuits, Brayland is a sneaker connoisseur, LEGO collector, and accomplished writer.

He is also the founder or Visibility365. Visibility365 exists to share and preserve the stories, experiences and history of the BIPOC Transgender, Nonbinary and Gender nonconforming community while fostering connections among youth, individuals, communities, accomplices and allies by offering fresh, insightful content and creative programming that cultivates understanding, empathy, solidarity and empowers the TGNC community while shifting the negative narrative perpetuated by unauthorized storytellers.

Ja'Mel Ashely Ware (He/Him)

Ja'Mel Ashely Ware is an entertainer, entrepreneur, and educator renowned for his significant contributions to HIV awareness and entrepreneurship in the LGBTQ+ community. Born with HIV, Ja'Mel has been an inspirational figure, traveling the nation since the tender age of seven, sharing his life story and instilling hope and compassion in countless individuals. Ja'Mel attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning a degree in Social Work. He founded Intellectual Ratchet (IR), propelled by his passion, establishing himself as an entrepreneur. Ja'Mel currently devotes his energies to Project Innovate, a micro-grant program affiliated with THRIVE SS teaching young aspiring Black queer entrepreneurs how to leverage their brands to combat HIV stigma. Committed to positively impacting the world, he lives by the motto "Live Life Whole. Be your complete self, and live life fully." Ja'Mel is currently pursing an MBA at Emory University Goizueta Business School.

Our Transgender Justice Initiative works with community-based advocates across the country to make impactful changes for trans people.


An annual fellowship that advances the leadership of transfeminine people.

See our 2023 Cohort!


An annual professional development fellowship designed for trans and non-binary leaders of color.

Meet our 2023 Cohort!


HRC is offering free Lyft rides in select cities for medical appointments, job interviews, and more.

Learn more today!

For more information on our work with our transgender community, visit


A new convening of transmasculine leaders coming next May 2024.
A new convening of Spanish-speaking trans leaders coming soon in September 2023.