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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.  

MEET CHANGEMAKERS FROM ELEVATE

Shannon A. Walker (She/Her)

Shannon Walker (she/her) is the CEO and founder of Nu Trans Movement, Inc. and has over 15 years of successfully developing and implementing trans 101 training for various organizations, including the Dallas Police Academy and the Dallas Parks & Recreation staf. Shannon earned her Bachelor's degree in Community Health Education from Hunter College and leadership certificates from the Human Rights Campaign's Trans Justice Initiative, the Black AIDS Institute's African American HIV University AAHU, and Tulane University. In addition to her outstanding work in outreach and community mobilization, Shannon has also been an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS for over a decade.

Dezna Mundi (They/Them)

Dezna Mundi (they/them) currently serves as a Program Manager at Trans Solutions Research & Resource Center. During this year's Trans Day of Visibility, Dezna received the 2024 Marissa Miller PUSH Award for their hard work and dedication to helping the Indianapolis queer and trans community. They also serve on the board for Irvington Counseling Collective and has a passion for mental health and folks achieving gender-affirming care. In their spare time, Denza likes playing Overwatch and spending time with their partner and two cats, Toph and Sokka.

Trinitee Wilson (They/Them)

Mx. Trinitee Wilson (they/them/theirs), Rochester native now in Philadelphia, champions BIPOC LGBTQIA+ communities with 17+ years of advocacy, spanning HIV/AIDS prevention, community empowerment, and LGBTQIA+ education. They co-delivered "Unfolding the Binary" at the 2023 US Conference on HIV/AIDS. Wilson founded BLAQ5683 LLC (BLAQLOVE), offering Workforce Development, Multimedia/Graphic Design, and Sexual Wellness Consulting, prioritizing Trans and Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) BIPOC individuals. Notably, they hold the title of the first Mx. Black Trans International 2023-2024 and were honored with the 2024 Human of the Year Award.

MEET CHANGEMAKERS FROM ACTIVATE

Mo’Nique Campbell (She/Her)

Mo’Nique Campbell is an experienced Health Educator with a decorated history of working in the acute medical and mental health field. She is skilled in direct patient education and counseling, program development, effective program evaluations and grant management.

King Amani Makarim Edwards (He/Him)

King Amani Makarim Edwards holds a Bachelor's of Metaphysical Science (B.Msc.), is a licensed Minister, certified Life & Health Coach, and youth motivational speaker who is dedicated to serving youth, his community, and educational excellence. His passion is giving back to the generations to come so that they may help create a better future for their selves and their community.

Keinan Carpenter (He/They)

Keinan Carpenter is an advocate, a speaker, and brother, and a friend. He is a BSW and currently works as a case manager doing barrier reduction services at a workforce development program. Keinan is a founding member of the TMaSC, a transmasculine sports club based in Atlanta.

MEET CHANGEMAKERS FROM ELÉVATE

Samantha Rose Montemayor Morales (She/Her)

Samantha Rose Montemayor Morales: Samantha Montemayor is the On-site Property Manager at Mark Twain Hotel, a recently opened homeless shelter in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Most recently, she is part of the Community Advisory Board with The Well Project. Samantha has been part of the “ACTIVATE and ELEVATE Fellowship” workgroup of the Human Rights Campaign and co-facilitated the first ELÉVATE Spanish cohort. She has also been in the Elevate and Escalate cohorts of NMAC. She has been a community Activist since 2017. She has been the House Manager for Casa Anandrea, the only Trans Shelter in the State of Texas. She has also served as Board Secretary for GENTex, a trans led organization based in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.

Fidel Gomez Jr. (They/Them)

Fidel Gomez Jr. is a non-binary, first generation El Salvadorian. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Fidel was a professional beauty artist helping others feel like their authentic selves. Fidel is now the President of LOUD CFL (an AIDS Healthcare Foundation affinity group) and The Gender Equity Justice Lead for QLatinx.
Fidel was also featured on this year's Trans Day of Visibility blog by EVERYTOWN for Gun Safety.

Elia Chino (She/Her)

A Michoacán, Mexico born immigrant, Elia Chinó has called Houston home for over 40 years. During that time, she has forged a reputation as a determined health and wellness advocate who works tirelessly to educate people about preventable diseases, behavioral health and mental illness. After losing many close friends to HIV/AIDS, Elia Chinó decided to take action. The result of her desire to help end the devastation wrought by this disease in the Latino community was the founding of the Fundación Latinoamericana de Acción Social, Inc. (FLAS).

MEET CHANGEMAKERS FROM MOTIVATE

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.

ELEVATE

An annual fellowship that advances the leadership of transfeminine people.

See our 2023 Cohort!

ACTIVATE

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

Meet our 2023 Cohort!

LYFT RIDES

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 hrc.org/transgender