Rebel Girls: 20 Autostraddle Community Members Who Are Changing the World

Header by Rory Midhani

Header by Rory Midhani

It’s Tell Us Everything week on Autostraddle, and to join the celebration I wanted to take a break from our class schedule to spotlight some of the amazing community members we have right here reading this very website every day who are revolutionaries, activists, and advocates. We heard from so many people that we weren’t able to include all of them in this post, which is really just even more evidence of how many of y’all there are and how amazing your work is. If you’re also an activist, tell us a little about your work in the comments! We’ve included people’s Autostraddle usernames in the list so that you can get to know them here even better. Let’s do this thing!


Aida / @neuronbomb

aida

In Her Own Words: I’m a bilingual sexuality educator, speaker, and budding therapist with roots in LGBTQ activism who is currently pursuing her Master’s of Social Work at Boston University with a focus on aging populations. I have a BA in Gender & Sexuality Studies from Brown University.

About Her Activism: While in college in the states from Puerto Rico, my activism exploded — I worked with other students of color on diversity issues, basically spearheaded all the Gender and Sexuality Things (most notably the Queer Alliance and the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council, including Sex Week and the infamous SexPowerGod). I endured controversy and angry emails from conservatives and won multiple University Awards, once involving a full rainbow outfit and a megaphone.

My past projects include years of sexual health and LGBTQ work at Sojourner House, digital literacy instruction and board of directors leadership at the Olneyville Neighborhood Association, crisis-response with victims of sexual assault at Day One RI, and leadership on a number of national and regional coalitions on HIV prevention, comprehensive sexuality education, and LGBTQ anti-violence. I’ve also been with The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health since 2010, where I now work on a consultant basis on educational initiatives, and I currently serve on the Executive Committee for the Women of Color Sexual Health Network, a badass group of women working to uplift women of color and address our sexual and reproductive needs while also kicking White supremacy right in the face. My biggest focus right now is on school and various LGBTQ and racial justice initiatives at Boston University, including the Social Workers for Racial Justice Coalition I co-founded this year.

Connect with Her: Website | Newsletter | Twitter


Aria & Clare / @clarejkenny

11720045_10153035756478358_1905644820_n

In Clare’s Own Words: I’m an Academic Council Representative and member of the Women’s Volleyball Team. I graduated with Honors in Gender Studies from Skidmore College. and plan to work as an LGBTQ advocate and activist in the fields of development, fundraising, outreach, and education in New York City.

In Aria’s Own Words: I’m a native of Olympia, Washington who captained the Women’s volleyball team while studying photography and graphic design at Skidmore College. I work as a graphic designer and live with my girlfriend, Emily, in Seattle.

About Their Activism: As senior members of the Skidmore College Women’s Volleyball Team and Student Athlete Advisory Committee, we created a media campaign and campus movement to build awareness of and compassion for Skidmore’s LGBTQ athletes and allies. The Show Your Sport Campaign had two parts: First, Clare led a lecture to all interested student athletes regarding queer issues and the importance of allyship in sports; afterwards, Aria photographed the over 130 participants, allowing them to contribute their own feelings about the project. Their quotes were included on campaign posters on campus and a Facebook Page that now has over 500+ “Likes” and thousands of hits.

In addition, Clare organized a coalition meeting between Skidmore’s Pride and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Although the campaign was primarily meant to affect the athletic community, one non-athlete mentioned at the meeting that seeing the posters made her feel safer and more accepted as well.

We were able to receive both financial and community support from our Athletics Department, so the campaign will continue next year with new directors we intend to advise, and we hope to carry the campaign forward to other institutions. Our plan is for student-athlete representatives to collectively decide on a social issue of national and/or personal concern to address as a community each calendar year. Although the topic will change, the message and legacy will remain the same: The Show Your Sport Campaign believes in the power of student-athletes to create positive change.

Connect With Aria: Instagram


Asher Targaryen / @Asher-Jak

11025787_10152614237986331_3507563838618210313_n

In Her Own Words: I’m a 26-year-old queer squiggle trying to figure out how to navigate through the world. I enjoy spending time playing video games and tabletop games with my partner and can usually can be found in one of St. Louis’ many coffee shop drinking tea and plotting with my best friend about ways to crush patriarchy, white supremacy, and cis supremacy. Big parts of my identity include being a skeptical atheist, feminist, queer, activist, humanist, Nigerian, black lesbian who is anxious and frequently femmey.

About Her Activism: I guess I’ve always been an activist to some extent. When I was a junior in high school I started a Gay Straight Alliance in my school; in college I got my degree in a Women and Gender Studies field, and after college I started taking my activism beyond my schooling.

I started out with internet activism on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. I did a bit of volunteering at the local LGBT center, but it wasn’t until Mike Brown was murdered twenty minutes from my home that I got involved with protesting and doing more work on the ground. In the months following Mike Brown’s murder and for a while after Darren Wilson’s acquittal, most of my activism involved being in protests in Ferguson and other areas of St. Louis and doing education work online when I was not doing that. I got burn out pretty badly, and for a while my activism looked like giving myself self-care. After taking a much needed break, I got back into the local Black Lives Matter movement and began working with a local trans advocacy group, Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG). The most recent action I took part in was the crashing of Pride to hold a funeral for Black Trans people who have died. 

Connect With Her: Facebook | Tumblr


Ava / @conradkcat

1463061_550099191731708_1465864172_n

In Her Own Words: I’m a queer teen in one of Sydney’s hippiest suburbs. I like art, cooking and becoming a better person. I run a couple of tumblrs but most of my time is spent on fashion or feminism – or ideally combining both.

About Her Activism: In 2014 I became involved with Wear It Purple, an Australian organization that aims to create safe and supportive environments for young LGBTQ+ people. It started originally with a focus on preventing youth suicide, and works in the place where young people reported the most bullying – school.

I’m helping to organise Wear It Purple day, where we encourage schools all over the country to wear purple and show their support for queer young people. I help run stalls at fairs, march in Mardi Gras, and was part of a panel speaking about the experiences of queer young people. As well as showing support for queer young people, we also raise awareness of issues within the LGBTQ+ community and show others how they can show support for their peers in a meaningful way. We look at school curriculums, anti-bullying policies and staff responses to bullying so that we can unsure every student feels comfortable and safe at school.


Carolyn / @theknockturnalproject

xN5IZ7H15GHUcxwFqVUYVzlQCFLMmxieGiECcfWL3Co

In Her Own Words: I was born in Oakland, California. I was raised in DeRidder, Lousiana and later Richmond, California. I graduated with my BA in English from California State University, Long Beach. I received my MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University-Los Angeles. I currently live in Oakland where I’m trying to make it in one of the most expensive areas in the country as a writer. I’ve contributed to Autostraddle, Black Girl Dangerous and Everyday Feminism.

About Her Activism: I started working in the LGBT community just promoting events. I started with a one of LA’s best open mics, “The Indigo Lounge,” in 2008. (I also promoted NFL Sunday Funday, which was an event for women that love women and also FOOTBALL!) I started attending and later volunteering for the Black Lesbians United retreat, which is like A-Camp for black lesbians. I led workshops at the BUTCHVoices National Conference and later joined their Steering Committee. I also went through the Leadership Long Beach training program, which sat me next to the top civic, community and non-profit leaders in the city of Long Beach, became an Executive Board Member of the Long Beach Lambda Democratic club, and trained as a community organizer under the California Endowment’s Advanced Organizer Institute.

When I moved to the Bay Area, I was appointed to the Human Rights & Human Relations Commission of the City of Richmond, worked as a staff adviser for the QPOC Youth Group at El Cerrito High School, and became a member of the San Francisco LGBT Speakers Bureau.

Oh, and somewhere in there I wrote a book.

Connect With Her: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr


Cleo / @AbbyCadaver

11219598_10105823624536609_4638575681857700244_n

In Her Own Words: I’m a glitterloving pusher of buttons, a queer woman of color, teaching artist, feminist, poet and general rabble rouser. I got my start in feminism from a book of feminist nursery rhymes when I was six, and my start in pop culture analysis came from nine years of homeschooling (translation: TV and movie watching). A firm believer in queering the collective consciousness, I strive to inspire people to redesign their idea of normal and step out of their comfort zone. I takes inspiration from Gertrude Stein, Angela Davis, Faith Lehane, Audre Lorde and bell hooks. My words to live by are: “Have no filter, give no fucks.” Also, someone once described me as “the love child of Angela Davis and Ru-Paul.”

About Her Activism: I teach applied theater to middle school students. Each semester I take students from never having spoken in front of people to writing, costuming and performing their own original plays. The topics range from the power of laughter to rape and self-harm. I teach the next generation of activist how to speak their own truth to their own power. And I was also an intern at GLAAD for 10 months! I helped sort through tons of media for diverse imagery as well as problematic imagery. I help compile data for the Studio Responsibility Index as well as the Where We Are On TV report, both of which are used by major news sources when writing about LGBTQIA issues.


Creatrix Tiara [email protected] Tiara

unnamed

In Her Own Words: I’m a creative producer, media maker, artist, writer, activist, digital native, life-long traveller, rabble-rouser, and fangirl.

About Her Activism: I kinda figure that my existence as a queer sex-positive migrant minority woman is in itself a feminist statement. But more specifically: I produced and performed a number of burlesque performances that dealt with race, gender, and sexuality, and I also wrote a great deal about how racism plays into burlesque and sex-related arts and media; I was VERY active with Slutwalk — I spoke at SW Brisbane 2011, marched in SW Sydney 2011, helped out with SW San Francisco Bay Area 2011, and then organized SW Brisbane 2012; from 2010 to 2012 I co-produced and co-presented Megaherzzz, a weekly community feminist radio show on 4zzz Brisbane (another Straddler, Rae/ @wingshummings is on Megaherzzz too!).

I have lately been very involved with Yoni Ki Baat, a theater production inspired by the Vagina Monologues but everything is written, produced, and performed by South Asian women about their lives. It started in the Bay Area in 2003-ish and it’s now across the US, though I’ve mainly been involved with the Bay Area show — as a writer in 2012, performer in 2013 and 2014, and producer/performer/writer in 2015. I’m also trying to launch a feminist startup, which you may or may not have heard of righty here on Autostraddle!

Connect With Her: Website | Vimeo | Writi


Devlin / @amber-mccrey

devlin

In Her Own Words: I’m a trans woman who began her transition at 30. As a child, I knew that I was different, but quickly learned to suppress that. I joined the Navy right out of high school, not really having a frame of reference for who I was. I learned about being transgender from Jennifer Finney Boylan’s She’s Not There. My original plan was to finish my time in the Navy and start transition when I got out, but it took another eight or nine years got that to happen. I’m 31 now, still in transition, but trying to help others. Amber is the name I thought I was going to change to before deciding to keep my birth name, Devlin.

About Her Activism: I facilitate a support group for my local LGBT resource center, The Uniting Pride Center of Champaign County. I also handle questions from people who reach out to the UP Center with trans specific questions. For our local Pride Celebration last year, I organized and ran a clothing drive and clothing swap for transgender people. I’ve given interviews and spoken on panels here in central Illinois helping to spread awareness and understanding of transgender people.

I often hesitate to call myself an activist. I feel like I haven’t done enough. Struggling with depression sometimes holds me back, but I know for certain that I have helped some people, and that is where I find fulfillment.

Connect with Her: Facebook


Dominique / @domo

dominique

In Her Own Words: I’m a nursing student and secret musician of all kinds of string instruments. I’ve lived in many corners of these United States, but St. Louis has been a good home for the past eight years.

About Her Activism: I was involved in the movement that started in Ferguson, first as a protester, then as a street medic. I went to the protests during those two weeks of turmoil and love in August. The conversations I had about racism, classism, sexism, systemic oppression, lost social history, the power of the Internet, violence and nonviolence — they made me feel so many things. Anger, guilt, ignorance, but then enlightenment, solidarity, and pride too. I went to different meetings of various activist organizations, and eventually I met the street medics — a group of radical healthcare workers. They march with the marches, chant with the chants, and, when shit goes down (police start using violent/intimidation tactics), are there for emergency first aid. I was treating lacerations from broken glass, burn wounds from throwing back tear gas canisters, aiding asthma slash panic slash heart attacks, wrapping sprained ankles, cleaning off the chemical agents of pepper spray.

Then, this year at PRIDE parade STL, there was a group of queer and trans people of color who were directly involved with the Black Lives Matter movement who decided to march — unofficially — in the parade with signs that said “BLACK TRANS LIVES MATTER,” “BLACK QUEER LIVES MATTER,” “WE DO THIS FOR LONDON CHANEL,” and, my favorite: “MY PREFERRED GENDER PRONOUN IS FUCK THE POLICE.” The Pride board was not happy with us, the police were not happy with us, the big company sponsors were not happy with us — but the people on the sides who saw us march past were very moved. Many people applauded, cheered — some just flat out cried.

I don’t see what I do as bold, but as necessary. I am one small part of a whole living breathing creature of a movement that involves all of the aspects of intersectionality and the oppressions that follow. I’m queer, Latina, Indigenous. I can’t ignore how fucked the system is, it enrages me and depresses me all the time. But! Getting involved with like minded folks who decide to disrupt society for a demonstration has cracked my world open to a whole other dimension of optimism and light that I didn’t even know existed. That dimension doesn’t yet exist, actually, but one day it might. That’s what I’m fighting to create, I suppose.

Connect with Her: Facebook | Instagram


Elayne / @elaynewylie

elayne_moab

In Her Own Words: I make films and work on television shows in the Pacific Northwest (and sneak in road trips when no one is looking). I’ve honed my event and stage production skills, along with film production, to a point where I can work on practically anything. I am one of 7 people living in Seattle who were actually born there. I sing, but not professionally, and attend Hedwig shows, also not professionally.

About Her Activism: I’m the Gender Justice League’s Board Chair and co-founder, as well as a long-time Seattle trans and social justice activist and community fixture. I’ve served on the board’s of both Ingersoll Gender Center and Seattle Out and Proud and am a 2011 graduate of Out in Front LGBT Leadership program. Most recently, I served on the City of Seattle Mayor’s Task Force on LGBTQ Hate Crimes, and then produced Trans Pride Seattle 2015, where 4000 people showed up.

Connect with Her: Facebook | Twitter


Emma / @emmacaterine

emma caterine

In Her Own Words: I was born in Gainsville, Florida in 1990 but spent most of my childhood in Poquoson, Virginia, a somewhat infamous sundown town in the Tidewater area. I went to the College of William & Mary and after graduating there in 2012 I moved to New York City. I am starting law school at CUNY School of Law this fall.

About Her Activism: I’ve been volunteering since I was young, with groups like The Young Democrats, The Gay-Straight Alliance, Creigh Deeds’ 2005 campaign and Mike Gravel’s 2008 campaign. In college, I joined the radical labor group Tidewater Labor Support Committee, students working in solidarity with campus staff demanding a living wage. We canvassed and lobbied for the Employee Free Choice Act and held post-bailout rallies at Bank of America. I also worked with the Maggie Walker Archives Project to catalog, digitize, and preserve the thousands of documents found in Richmond, Virginia about the influential Black womanist Maggie L. Walker.

After coming to New York City, I got involved with the Red Umbrella Project, an organization led by current and former sex workers who advocate, organize and provide support to this community. I helped organize a massive call-in to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office to ensure he keeps his campaign promise to end the practice of using condoms as evidence of prostitution (a police stop-and-frisk tactic that harms public health and disproportionately targets trans women of color). The NYPD issued a directive ending the practice for misdemeanor prostitution offenses soon after.

I also founded NYC’s Black and Pink chapter, and along with a great group of people both inside and outside of prison we organized a fundraiser that put more than $1000 in the commisaries of incarcerated queer and trans people; was a temporary staff member at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s Prisoner Justice program, where I helped trans and gender nonconforming people in prison with issues such as accessing hormones, getting out of solitary confinement, and receiving medically appropriate care for intersex conditions; and decided to join the political party Socialist Alternative and involve myself in the 15 Now NYC campaign, which seeks a $15/ hour living wage for all New York workers.


Heather / @hmangione

heather

In Her Own Words: I’m from Brooklyn NY and live in Worcester MA because I’m getting my PhD in psychology at Clark University. I’m 30 years old, have traveled many places in this world, and am an avid reader/dog lover/crazy cat lady. Bikes, dancing, feminist theory and glitter rule my world.

About Her Activism: When I moved to Worcester 5 years ago, the queer community was extremely disjointed and inaccessible to someone who didn’t know anyone. In response, I co-founded a queer community group called Airspray two years ago that runs monthly queer dance parties in addition to other queer community events, including art gallery events, and performances at local museums. Our dance parties average 200+ people every month.

All of this community work coincided and helped me to fully come out to myself, my family, and my social networks. I previously was not visibly queer and had a hard time finding people I wanted to date, and life was hard because of this confused identity. I never realized that part of the issue was the lack of a shared queer culture in the city around me. If there’s no gay bars, queer dance parties, and social events to meet people, how can we create and maintain a shared language of queer visibility for people to explore their identities in? Airspray has helped many people do that in the little city of Worcester.

I’m also involved in a group called FemSex, which is a 16-week long discussion-based group focused on exploring issues of feminism, privilege, and race. I both enrolled in and then facilitated the workshop at the Cambridge Women’s Center, and will be bringing the workshop to Worcester this Fall.

Connect with Her: Facebook


Jen / @JenS

JenS wide

In Her Own Words: I run a small film & video production company in Nashville, TN, focusing our work on the rights and experiences of LGBTQ in the South.

About Her Activism: This year I completed a short film, I Kissed a GIRL [a documentary], which has been expanded to become an online series. IKAG spotlights lesbians’ first knockout girl-kiss stories, the ones that helped us understand or confirm our sexuality. It’s been a wonderful way to record our histories for each other, and I optimistically believe it might even help foster understanding between our community and straight people who may not be in our corner yet.

I’m currently working on two projects. One is a PSA for a state advocacy group called Tennessee: Open For Business, a new initiative encouraging businesses across the state to welcome all employees & customers regardless of sexuality and/or gender ID. I’m proud to be part of this project, as we are seeing “no gays allowed” signs pop up in TN. Previously, I completed two projects for this same organization, one for National Coming Out Day and one promoting the need for same sex partner employee benefits.

I’m also in pre-production on a feature length documentary called Love, Hate, Church & State, revealing religion’s strong impact on the lives and liberties of LGBTQ in TN. I am trying to discern what, if any, separation of church and state exists in our state.

Connect with Her: Twitter


Jordan

11017221_10100455064609019_1430338856341450623_n

In Her Own Words: I am a disabled, low-income transbian who went from doing a lot of policy/legislative activism in Pennsylvania to being a California-based writer for the Advocate on issues of the intersections of gender, gender identity, disability, and class.

About Her Activism: During my time in PA, I was a key figure in getting rid of gender stickers on SEPTA passes, mostly due to a city council resolution I helped author. I also worked on a TLGB omnibus in Philadelphia, which was passed and signed by mayor in 2013. I also worked on the first ever council resolution for Transgender awareness week in 2013, a mayoral proclamation for TDOR in 2012, was a contributing writer for the Hearts on a Wire zine which is made for trans prisoners in PA and beyond, and served on the Justice 4 Nizah committee, which worked for justice for Nizah Morris, a black trans woman who died under suspicious circumstances involving the Philly PD. I also helped a PA state representative draft the first ever transgender rights bills in PA history — HB303 and HB304 — and was the only trans and openly lesbian person to testify at a Philadelphia street harassment hearing.

Last December, I had to move to California, and have shifted gears to writing about the intersection of gender identity, gender, disability, and class, which have appeared in the Advocate. Two pieces — one on conversion therapy and one on the marriage equality decision and how I feel as someone on means tested benefits — have been published, and I hope to publish pieces on matters such as healthcare, gentrification, special ed, and others and how they relate to the trans community.

A common theme of my writing is investigating reporting, mixed with a challenge for LGBT people and feminists to coalition with others to address bigger structural issues that may compromise equality either way.


Karalyn / @kgrimes

karalyn

In Her Own Words: I’m a twenty year old primarily student but also intern and also part-time employee of a six-lane bowling alley. I am a pinsetter mechanic, which means I work with the machines and make them run so your pins get set down and you can have a Magical Bowling Experience. I am the ultimate Midwesterner and was spoiled by the Great Lakes growing up. I’m also bisexual, a long-time Autostraddle reader, a survivor of intimate partner violence, a rabbit owner, and a floral femme mermaid.

About Her Activism: First and foremost, my activism always takes the form of caring for myself as a low-income queer whose family didn’t go to college trying to survive elite academia and supporting my friends who are also doing so. I don’t think community care is discussed enough when it comes to activism, so it’s important to me to include that.

In addition, I founded, with four other awesome rad queer babes, my school’s Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct team which organizes prevention and response programs around sexualized violence of all forms, fights the Administration on what they need to be fought on, and demands better for people experiencing violence having to navigate TitleIX + legal systems. My focus with them is on education around intimate partner violence within queer communities and creating healing spaces for queer people who have survived or are currently living through abusive relationships.

I am also the Accessibility Coordinator for my cooperative association of 650(ish) people. With that title I coordinate privilege and oppression trainings, work with designated safe spaces (including Third World Co-op which is an eating space for people of color and Old B which is a living space for women and trans folx) planning educational workshops, actions, and community events, I have participated in BlackLivesMatter uprisings and when I was in London marched with the LondonBlackRevs for Migrants’ Rights.

Connect with Her: Blog | Twitter | Instagram


Katie / @kb103

katie barnes

In Their Own Words: I’m a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer. I serve on the Board of Directors for Campus Pride and GO! Athletes, and while at St. Olaf College, I fell in love with policy and doing the hard work in the hard places. I’m also a retired fanfiction writer. I just wrapped up my MS in Student Affairs in Higher Education, so I’m excited to explore the country and revisit some of my favorite places — like the 55 foot Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN. When I’m not fighting the good fight, you can find me watching sports, reading a good book, or watching Rachel Maddow.

About Their Activism: I accidentally became an activist in college when I decided to move into the St. Olaf Queer Support and Outreach House. While in college, I co-led the STOQSO house for two years as well as the LGBTQ+ organization, GLOW!. In 2012, Minnesota became the first state to successfully defeat an anti-gay marriage amendment ballot measure, and I was heavily involved in that campaign at the campus level, running volunteer recruitment efforts on campus where we were the first campus to hit our shift goal for election day. St. Olaf is a school of 3,000 people, and the only campus with more bodies involved in election day organizing was the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, which has ten times as many students. That has more to do with the culture of the school than my personal accomplishment, but it is still something I am proud of. During that year, I also chaired the Minnesota OUT! College Conference at St. Olaf. For my role in the state, I was asked to be the youngest speaker at the United for Our Future Rally put on by OutFront MN the day after the election.

While pursuing a graduate degree in student affairs at Miami University (OH), I continued to volunteer for 15 hours a week with Freedom Indiana, which fought successfully to keep a similar ballot measure to the one we saw in Minnesota off the ballot altogether in Indiana, which is also my home state.

Recently, I have found an activist home in writing. I currently write for OutSports and Feministing, and have found that pushing the boundaries in thought around the intersections of queerness, feminism, and race is where I can cause the most trouble. I love what I’m doing now, and can’t wait to see what additional trouble I can get into!

Connect with Them: Facebook | Twitter


Leslie / @nakedinasnowsuit

leslie

In Her Own Words: I work in a science-y office job that I like a lot. I read a lot and generally try to be on top of what’s going on in social justice-type news at all times. Oh, and, during election years, I get insane, like when animals all go into heat at once and stampede, except with more crying and links to ontheissues.com.

About Her Activism: In community college, I worked along with my GSA to get the first gender-neutral bathroom for students on campus. At the time I was part of the “S” in GSA, which is a fun story. Later, after we renamed ourselves the LGBTQA, I worked with the rest of my group to get us a LGBT resource center, which was actually only the second one in existence at a community college in California. Oh, and at the dedication for that, I referred to our dean as an honorary lesbian in front of many reporters, which I’m still kind of proud of, because I’ve never seen a grown man blush that hard in a situation that didn’t involve my boobs.

As an adult I’m pretty active in the trans community in my city, but much more active in Black Lives Matter events. It’s tough right now because San Diego can be very complacent. It’s a really unique situation because we’re right there next to Mexico, and most of the violence and bullshit we see is toward Hispanics, and there’s been a real struggle getting megaphones to the voices that need to be heard.


Linds / @Linds

meatrepday

In Their Own Words: I am a genderqueer human forever searching for the Ben Wyatt to my Leslie Knope (regardless of gender) and nachos that are as good or better than the ones at the High Horse in Amherst, MA. My two Catholic Republican parents had two queer kids, and my brother is basically my twin 5 years apart. I am way too excited to be a cat parent soon.

About Their Activism: I started getting involved in activism when my very conservative Catholic father said I had to go to a Christian school when he found out I was queer. So I started organizing to get an LGBTQ student organization recognized at Pepperdine University, which was something the faculty and the student body were pretty supportive of but the administration/board of regents were THE WORST. We didn’t even get full recognition after getting 10K signatures on a change.org petition, endorsements from all the grad schools, and 20+ national media hits.

That taught me I loved organizing and also that I had a problem with top-down power structures in general, so I took a job as a campus organizer with Student PIRGs, helping students run non-partisan voter registration drives and environmental campaigns. And then I got super burned out, quit, got an easy administrative day job, discovered the money in politics movement through volunteering with the Represent.Us campaign, and realized how important it was to me that we get big money out of politics. I think our government would be a lot more responsive to/representative of all marginalized groups if corporations/lobbyists weren’t buying influence. I’m now working on a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and issues of electoral accountability with People For the American Way.


Maggie / @MaggieMagpie

IMG_0067

In Her Own Words: I’m Maggie, I’m 29, and I live in Tucson with my wife*, two cats, and a dog. I’m of Mexican and Nicaraguan descent, and I was born and raised in the Southwestern United States, so my Spanish is a strange mishmash of Nicaraguan, Mexican, and border dialects. I work in education, I’m left-handed, and I have a tattoo on my back that says, “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.”

*Our wedding actually isn’t until next May, but we call each other wife because we’re basically married already.

About Her Activism: I volunteer with a Tucson program called Alitas. Our program provides assistance to immigrants who are detained and then released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We provide temporary shelter, food, water, and clothing, and we assist the migrants in obtaining bus tickets for their final destination. So we work closely with both ICE and Greyhound. It feels good being able to welcome these weary migrants to America with a hug, a home-cooked meal, and fresh clean bed.

Most of the migrants we work with are from Mexico and Central America (especially Guatemala). It feels good being able to give something back to my community. My maternal grandmother came to the US from Nicaragua so she could provide a better life for her children. She worked hard and loved us fiercely. She passed away last fall, and I feel that my work is like a tribute to her memory. Each and every one of these individuals has touched my heart with their stories, their love of their families, and their quiet perseverance.

Connect With Her: Twitter


Riana / @riana

riana

In Her Own Words: I’m a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a double major in Political Science and Women, Gender & Sexuality studies. I work full-time but also hold two part time jobs at a vintage shop, Flower Child, and a pet store that only sells ridiculously unnecessary items for pets, such as doggie bowties and jackets. In my free time, I hang out with my super nerdy, super cute girlfriend, Grace Ellis; take my cat, Miss Kitty Fantastico, on walks; ghost hunt; watch really bad (and sometimes good!) queer films; browse Etsy for a gross amount of time and a bunch of other stuff like that.

About Her Activism: I’m currently developing a new program with a couple of coworkers at Ohio’s largest LGBTQ non-profit, Stonewall Columbus, called InsideOUT that specifically targets LGBTQ inmates and formerly incarcerated individuals. It’s a multifaceted program that includes support groups inside and outside the walls and will expand (soon) to include re-entry support for the LGBTQ community.

After a few visits, the group shared with us that they sought to build a community inside the walls to protect one another. They were sick of being brutalized for their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and wanted to come together over their shared identities and experiences. They’ve even created their own educational program for allies inside the walls to educate others about respecting pronouns, myths, and how to be a good ally. Aside from the importance of building coalitions and affirming identities, this group is important because it stands as a connection to the outside world: something or someone they can look to after they have served their time. That’s where the reentry support comes in. (We’re working with two formerly incarcerated, lesbian, reentry specialists, Watkins & Taylor.)

This program is basically the first of its kind in the nation and the support we have seen from our groups, the community in the Free World and officials alike is overwhelming. They all express the same sentiment: this program is needed and it is time for something like this to exist. I am looking forward to seeing how much this program will build over the next year, with the implementation of reentry support, expansion of services and a robust penpal program.

Connect with Her: Tumblr | Personal Blog | Instagram


Rebel Girls is a column about women’s studies, the feminist movement, and the historical intersections of both of them. It’s kind of like taking a class, but better – because you don’t have to wear pants. To contact your professor privately, email carmen at autostraddle dot com. Ask questions about the lesson in the comments!

Interviews in this post were edited for clarity and length.


Are you following us on Facebook?

Profile gravatar of Carmen

Carmen is the Digital Editor at Ms. , Managing Editor at Argot, a Contributor at Everyday Feminism, and Co-Host of The Bossy Show. She previously served as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor, and Social Media Co-Director at Autostraddle. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 924 articles for us.

108 Comments

  1. 0

    Yay! This was so exciting to read about! I’m especially glad that there were a few Australians that popped up. Very inspiring ,thank you for sharing 🙂

  2. 0

    You all are bad-ass. I want to thank you for the work you all are doing in your communities. Keep standing up and standing out.

    In the words of Assata Shakur – “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

  3. 0

    I love this! Can we have more community member profile columns? I already knew that AS has the best readers, but its so nice to hear the stories of a few of them.

    You’re all doing such great things, its inspiring.

  4. 0

    Um all of you are awesome! I don’t know why I didn’t put my facebook and twitter in my activist profile but you can find them in my member profile– I’d be so happy to connect with anyone, especially if you are in a state close to New Hampshire!

  5. 0

    WOW!!! So many awesome people doing really important things! It really makes me want to plan more activism related things for the self care club I run at my college. Setting up the self care club was an activism project itself but now that’s its running I should really do some education and advocacy planning. I’m so energized by this article Thank you!

  6. 0

    I’m like endlessly amazed and impressed and humbled by the people we feature on this website. Also, the diversity in experiences, and the journeys that brought these people to become bad ass activists help show me that anyone can be good at helping people, even me.

  7. 0

    So much inspirational activism going on!

    I really liked the emphasis that quite a few of you placed on avoiding or recharging from burn out, and the importance of self & community care within (or even *as*) activism. Often it can seem like the cause is more important than our own wellbeing, but our first priority should be keeping ourselves (and our friends) well and safe. Many of the activism circles I’ve been involved with didn’t emphasise this enough!

    So much love for all of you! <3

  8. 0

    @asher-jak literally sat at the breakfast table at A-Camp and used the spotty cell reception to continue an argument with people on the Facebook re: white supremacy. And it was amazing.

    Also @riana this is a personal invitation to all the Columbus Straddler events! Even though most of them currently involve chatting at bars and not a lot else. I don’t think I’ve met you…?

  9. 0

    The bestest thing about this list is the humanity: y’all are dedicated to showing your process as well as your achievements and that makes activism way less intimidating for the rest of us. Plus geeky references (gender irrelevant!Ben Wyatt FTW!)

  10. 0

    Thank you all for showing us so many forms of what activism/giving back can look like.
    Regarding the question “Am I doing enough?”… That’s a tough one. The saying, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded comes to mind,” and I

  11. 0

    (oops. Sorry, hit submit too soon)
    …often feel like since my life has been relatively privileged compared to so many who may look like me (or not), I should somehow be doing more. And even though we have far, there’s still a long way to go and a lot our communities need. A lot we need. Somebody has to do it, so I guess we have to help each other as best as we can.
    What I’m saying, I guess, is thank you. And ¡adelante!

  12. 0

    Wow, it’s awesome to know I’m sharing this site with such lovely, talented, and passionate people!

    (My only major foray into activism so far has been getting a fossil fuel divestment campaign going at my university, although so far our efforts have been…less than successful).

      • 0

        @tessaract87 I feel that–Syracuse University just divested after some major student activism last fall (but you won’t read about that in all the articles because it’s not good for uni PR) and it was a long struggle. But take a look at THE General Body, we combined divestment activism with anti-racism, anti-ableism, and sexual assault survivor advocacy and the end result was really powerful (thegeneralbody.org). Honestly sometimes universities can be such toxic environments that any kind of anti-corporate consciousness is a minor miracle. (thanks for the connection @carmenrios !)

        • 0

          Cool! I like the approach- we’ve been pretty single-issue focused, partially because there’s only four or five of us right now, and of those, climate is the Big Thing for 2 of them (admittedly, it doesn’t help that up until recently, I was the only woman on the team- and that’s only because I came out as being trans). I like the idea of seeing if we can wield it to other movements, though that may be difficult given that we’re working at a relatively conservative rural land-grant university.

  13. 0

    Hey @riana! My girlfriend is an OSU grad and former Franklin County Public Defender (we’re Austinites now) and wants to learn more about what y’all are doing at Inside out. I’m sending her to the website but if you could message me with an email she can contact you at that would be awesome 😀

    • 0

      <3 <3 <3

      trust: deciding who to include broke my lil heart. I JUST WANT EVERYONE TO BE LOVED AND IN THE LIMELIGHT. but thank you for all you do and for kicking such ass in this world!

  14. 0

    Super awesome to see so many familiar faces on here (a special shout-out to @nakedinasnowsuit), and to meet so many new ones too!

    I guess I’m now kicking myself for not thinking I could contribute, since in the past I’ve been much more involved in the queer community but now just stick to online activism. Reading through these stories though has reminded me that even if I’m not doing anything with a fancy title attached to it, I’m still doing meaningful things as an activist.

    • 0

      “Reading through these stories though has reminded me that even if I’m not doing anything with a fancy title attached to it, I’m still doing meaningful things as an activist.”

      THIS! this is so real and true. glad you liked the piece, @paper0flowers. keep kicking ass <3

  15. 0

    Shout out to all of these AMAZING people. Keep on doing what you do. Love you all and your powerful presence in all forms and forums. Also, I spy Eli up there taking notes in a desk. Perfection!!!! 🙂

  16. 0

    EVERY HUMAN ON THIS LIST IS A TRUE GIFT. what an amazing community of activists and thinkers and doers Autostraddle is, and especially these 20 incredible individuals! I hope to meet each and every one of you some day, hopefully soon 🙂 🙂 🙂 keep doing your excellent work and being your excellent selves!!!!

    • 0

      ahh @emmeline i get this q so often! my standard answer is super basic and i’m sure you’ve heard it before, but it’s how i did it: i just dove in by finding the people i wanted to help and moving from there. whether it’s volunteering at a local org, taking up some space in an activist group (like a NOW or PFLAG chapter), starting a space because it doesn’t exist and working to grow it, or – especially if you’re on campus – simply checking in on what activism is happening in your area, it’s seriously just about making those first connections. once you’re looped in, the involvement will come and grow naturally!

      also an idea: finding an activist thingy you wanna go to / be part of and turning it into a meet-up. JUSSAYIN.

  17. 0

    We truly have some amazing people here! Great workn everyone, love your passion!

    I personally love trying to make a difference so much that I turned it into a career. I gave up computer science to become a writer and editor for a bank of liberal websites. I also love protesting. My focus in my writing and my protesting are on LGBTQ and racial equality.

    If you are ever interested, here are my author pages:

    http://www.addictinginfo.org/author/shannon-barber

    http://www.ifyouonlynews.com/author/shannon-barber

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.