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Activists are Hot! - 10 Women Who Make a Difference from the Advocate's 40 Under 40

Activists are Hot! - 10 Women Who Make a Difference from the Advocate's 40 Under 40

The Advocate, rolled out its annual 40 Under 40 list of LGBT up and comers today, and we thought we'd pick 10 women under 40 who are looking to make a difference through activism. But you can check out the full 40 Under 40 at

The Advocate, rolled out its annual 40 Under 40 list of LGBT up and comers today, and we thought we'd pick 10 women under 40 who are looking to make a difference through activism. But you can check out the full 40 Under 40 at

Jama Shelton
38 / Los Angeles
Director, Forty to None Project

When True Colors Fund cofounder Cyndi Lauper announced the appointment of Jama Shelton as the first director of the fund’s Forty to None Project — the only national organization focused solely on bringing an end to LGBT youth homelessness — the expert on trans youth homelessness felt the weight of responsibility upon her.

“After nearly 10 years of working directly with gay and transgender youth experiencing homelessness, I’ve seen firsthand the barriers that they face,” says Shelton. “My work will focus on making sure that those young people… have a voice that is sorely missing in society today.” For more than a decade, Shelton, who identifies as transgender, has worked in services for homeless LGBT youth. She’s also a professor at Hunter College and the New York University School of Social Work. @fortytonone

Joanne Lohman & Lianne Sanderson
30 & 25 / Washington, D.C.
Professional Soccer Players and Philanthropists

Money often becomes the first — and only — line of defense when it comes to helping underprivileged people. But when professional soccer players Joanna Lohman and Lianne Sanderson, partners in business and life, decided to help poor girls in the U.S. and abroad, they knew the most powerful currency they could give would be confidence. Toward that end the couple founded the JoLi Academy, which gives girls a place to learn soccer skills and play in a supportive environment. They believe if you give a young girl a chance to not only play a sport but excel, she will gain an unparalleled sense of self-esteem and confidence that could eventually help elevate her out of poverty.

Sanderson’s experience running a soccer academy in her home country of England and Penn State–educated Lohman’s business acumen have helped the duo take JoLi Academy (which is headquartered in Washington, D.C.) to small schools, universities, and girls’ soccer leagues across the U.S. as well as to train girls in Jamaica and India. Their workshops give children something nearly as important as financial help: time and moral support. The work is exhausting, but Sanderson says working with her partner makes it worthwhile.

“We’re so lucky that we have each other,” Sanderson says. “There’s times when we’re in India where we find it hard to just keep going. I might feel hungry, or tired, or run-down, but Joanna is just there for me, to remind me to keep going.” @joannalohman  @liannesanderson

Somáh Haaland
19 / Albuquerque
Political Record-setter

Most college freshmen don’t manage to make history, but most aren’t Somáh Haaland. The University of New Mexico student was the youngest LGBT delegate at last year’s Democratic National Convention. “I’ve grown up around politics,” she says. “And it’s made me realize just how important they are.”

Haaland started pitching in for President Obama’s reelection early, cofounding the Bulldogs for Obama group at her high school. Now a theater major with plans to join the Peace Corps after graduating, Haaland has a girlfriend and identifies as bisexual, but says she’s still exploring her sexual identity.

“I just met my father recently, and my whole life I thought I was supposed to like guys,” she says. “After meeting my father, I’ve kind of stopped caring about attention from guys.” @somahmarie

Terra Tempest Moore
25 / Washington, D.C.
Activist and Healer

Last year Terra Tempest Moore was honored with a Metro Weekly Next Generation Award for her work as a peer educator with the STIGMA (Spreading Truth Is Gaining Mass Appeal) project at Metro Teen AIDS as well as her ongoing efforts with the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League. “I think it’s because I just never said no,” she says. But after her mother died she went back to school for massage therapy — a different kind of helping profession — and now has her mind set on opening an LGBT-specific spa one day. Moore also works with the DC Trans Coalition and Transgender Health Empowerment, and she is on the national advisory board for the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, which is based in San Francisco, where she hopes to move for her gender reassignment surgery. @esoterra

Lauren B. Beach
29 / Minneapolis
 Ph.D. Student

One glance at Lauren Beach’s LinkedIn page and you’ll wonder where she finds the time to sleep, much less hang out at the White House. But Beach, who spends her days doing HIV/AIDS research and studying for her doctoral degree in biology and genetics from the University of Minnesota and just received a law degree from that institution, has done just that. Due to her work with the Bisexual Organizing Project — where she’s spent years as the board chair and since February has been secretary — she’s been to the president’s LGBT Pride Month Reception and learned a great deal at the White House.

Most of that education came from attending policy briefings on issues of interest to LGBT Americans. She also met with a White House liaison earlier this year at Creating Change, as part of her participation with the Bisexual Leadership Roundtable.  “Often people assume that policies benefiting gay, lesbian, transgender, and/or straight people will automatically benefit bisexual people too, but this is not always true,” she says.

“Sometimes evidence shows that the inclusion of bisexual and other nonmonosexual people requires specific interventions that target our populations in particular.”

Next up, she’s pushing President Obama to recognize Celebrate Bisexuality Day (September 23) and putting together the Bisexual Organizing Project’s annual conference.

Felicia Carbajal

37 / Los Angeles
Cannabis Advocate

Felicia Carbajal is the link between marriage equality and cannabis advocacy. While both causes rely on increasing visibility and challenging preconceived notions, Carbajal is the woman in the middle. After California’s Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality in 2008, Carbajal married her wife, thrusting her into a divisive battle over Prop. 8. “There were these [campaign ads] of little girls with pigtails and big puppy-dog eyes,” she recalls. “One was Latina, holding up a sign that I knew this girl was too young to even read. It said, ‘Marriage: One Man, One Woman.’ ”

That girl reminded Carbajal of herself growing up. She became a field organizer for the Courage Campaign, where she co-coordinated Meet in the Middle in her Central California hometown of Fresno. Once the flurry around Prop. 8 died down, she had a chance meeting with physician Allan Frankel, founder of GreenBridge Medical Services — which bills itself as a premier medicinal marijuana clinic. He allowed Carbajal to continue her work as a community organizer.

 “[Medicinal marijuana users are] just as important of a community to me as being LGBT and Latina.” Carbajal has met several closeted cannabis users, some of whom relied on it to treat chronic pain. Now her job is to get them and other like-minded medicinal cannabis users to keep coming out.  @docfrankel
Photography by Bradford Rogne at The Black Cat in Los Angeles

Harper Jean Tobin
31 / Washington, D.C.
Director of Policy, National Center for Transgender Equality

As a young transgender woman coming of age in Louisville, Ky., Harper Jean Tobin was grateful for her supportive family and friends within her community. But while she describes Louisville as “the least conservative place in Kentucky,” she was still aware of the discrimination and transphobia that runs deep in many Southern states. That awareness led the lawyer — recently named among the best 40 LGBT attorneys under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association — to actively fight to improve the lives, visibility, and equality of transgender people by creating inclusive federal policy. And that’s exactly what she’s done in her four years with the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“Gears sometimes turn slowly in this town,” says Tobin of the Washington infrastructure. “But we have seen tremendous progress over the past four years.”

Tobin cites 2010 revisions to federal policy that allowed transgender people to obtain passports that reflect their authentic gender without a requirement for surgical procedures. Tobin also highlights ongoing work to protect transgender prisoners and immigration detainees. Tobin says such efforts have been “quite successful” thus far, but notes that there is still much to do. She hopes NCTE’s efforts signal the beginning of “a larger and very critical conversation in our movement about the ways in which so many of our transgender youth are funneled into these harmful systems by poverty, unemployment, rejection, and discrimination.” @transequality

Photography by Tim Coburn at Number Nine Bar in Washington, D.C.

Amy B. Scher
33 / Monterey, Calif.
Health Advocate & Author

Nothing repels Amy Scher like Indian food. The smell could make her stomach churn. But she heard about an experimental stem cell therapy in India that could help heal her body’s deterioration from an eight-year struggle with Lyme disease. She booked a flight.

Prior to this journey, Scher endured hordes of doctors, pills, tests, and therapies, but nothing worked. The experiment seemed drastic, but necessary. Scher, author of This Is How I Save My Life: A True Story of Embryonic Stem Cells, Indian Adventures, and Ultimate Self-Healing, says she couldn’t help but document her adventure. With her experiences she’s now helping other people with chronic diseases as a therapist and writer.

“I learned how to let go,” she says. “I met my wife, who was there from London. I found myself. It taught me a really essential lesson of how important it is to trust that life is trying to take you where you need to go, even and especially if it makes no sense.”

Marie “Marty” B. Tracy
28 / New York
Veteran and Rider, Long Road Home Project

After two punishing deployments in Afghanistan, Air Force Reserve officer Marie B. Tracy was adrift. When her final mission ended in May of last year, she knew she couldn’t simply jump back into her old civilian life as a grant researcher at Columbia University. A friend told her about the Long Road Home Project, in which half a dozen military veterans were biking across the country to call attention to the dearth of veterans’ services. The project’s other objective was for vets like Tracy “to experience the healing power of the road and the transformative power of long-distance cycling.”

Traveling the 4,200 miles from Washington State to Washington, D.C., over the summer, Tracy, as the only gay person on the ride, spoke to dozens of Americans about what life was like for LGBT soldiers under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“I’d be talking to them about how DADT was so awful and how I want to be OK with myself,” says Tracy, who someday hopes to become a military chaplain, especially now that she can be herself. The reception she got on the trip buoyed her hopes for the future as well.

“You assume people are going to act one way and to have them be so wonderful reminds you how fantastic humanity can be.” @longroadhomeUSA

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