The LGBTQ+ community in Pennsylvania is filled with vibrant leaders who are changemakers both in the workplace and among their peers. Whether they’re directly fighting for equality on the front lines or simply being themselves, these individuals actively create safe spaces and remove limits for current and future generations.
This year's Pride 100 List was compiled and researched by City & State staff and freelance writer Jeremy Rodriguez, who also wrote the profiles.
We would love to hear your thoughts on our list. What do you think of our rankings? Did we miss anyone? Let us know at email@example.com.
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta continues to break barriers. In 2018, he was the first LGBTQ+ person of color to be elected to Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, and in 2022, he was the first openly gay person of color in history to run for Senate. Losing that election set the stage for his latest campaign: to become state auditor general in 2024. He was recently named by President Joe Biden as chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.
In her two roles at UFCW Local 1776 – secretary-treasurer and chairperson of UFCW OUTreach – Michele Kessler advocates for inclusivity and encourages members to get involved. Kessler organizes and represents 35,000 members in fields ranging from supermarkets to nursing homes. Her leadership also includes previous positions as the International Chair for the UFCW International Union’s constituency group for LGBTQ+ members and allies, and acting Chair of the IUF Global Union LGBTI and Allies Group.
Mark Segal is a key figure in the LGBTQ+ community, not least for his efforts in establishing the Philadelphia Gay News in 1976. Initially a monthly publication, the paper has evolved into a weekly and digital platform for LGBTQ+ news. Segal is also a co-founder and former president of the National Gay Press Association and the National Gay Newspaper Guild. As president of the dmhFund, he works to create affordable housing for LGBTQ+ seniors.
State Rep. Jessica Benham is the first openly LGBTQ+ woman and the first openly autistic person to serve in the General Assembly. Benham, who chairs the legislature’s LGBTQ+ Caucus, championed legislation to expand access to a tuition waiver program for kids in kinship and foster care. She is also a co-sponsor of the PA Fairness Act, which is rapidly moving through the state House. Benham recently brought back approximately $10 million to her district to invest in gun violence prevention programs.
Rich Askey has held numerous positions within the Pennsylvania State Education Association, where he encourages a culture of inclusion at all levels of the organization. As PSEA president, Askey guided PSEA members through the challenges of COVID-19, ensuring that students could continue learning while protecting everyone’s health and safety. Askey also prioritized addressing the school staff shortage crisis and advocated for legislation to set minimum salaries for educators at $60,000 and support professionals at $20 per hour.
Matthew Yarnell has advocated for health care workers since he began working as an organizer with SEIU Healthcare PA in 2001. He has helped thousands of workers to improve their working conditions and build unions. Most recently, this included a strike of about 700 nursing home employees across 22 locations in Pennsylvania. Additionally, Yarnell’s leadership led to the launch of the SEIU Training and Education Fund as well as transgender-inclusive benefits for members of the SEIU Health and Welfare Fund.
Mel Heifetz’s activism stretches back to 1959, when police raided his first business, Humoresque Coffeeshop, for welcoming interracial and gay couples. The American Civil Liberties Union successfully defended his case and Heifetz continued fighting for LGBTQ+ people. He became a successful businessman who has donated money to many organizations, including sending $16 million to the Philadelphia Foundation to support LGBTQ+ organizations and giving $20,000 to the Democratic National Committee in the name of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community.
Ismail “Izzy” Smith-Wade-El fought for social justice long before getting elected to Pennsylvania’s legislature. During his four years on Lancaster City Council, Smith-Wade-El helped secure affordable housing, championed decriminalization of cannabis use and increased police accountability. He also worked in Lancaster’s nonprofit sector to provide resources for vulnerable populations. During his time as vice chair of the Lancaster County Democratic Party, he supported striking Kellogg’s workers, fair funding for public schools and abortion access, and denounced racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.
Micah Mahjoubian brings more than 25 years of experience working in public policy and political campaigns to state Sen. Sharif Street’s office. Previously, Mahjoubian worked in the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office, the state Senate and Congress. His political roles also extend into the technology sphere. He has created databases and other initiatives to make information more clear to voters and to connect citizens to city services. In 2009, he founded the political consulting firm Soapbox Solutions to advance this type of work.
Zachary Wilcha is the first-ever CEO of the Independence Business Alliance, the LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Under his leadership, the IBA has experienced growth in diverse membership and innovative, award-winning programming, including the Intersections initiative and TransWork – the nation’s first trans economic uplift program run out of a Chamber of Commerce. Wilcha is a nationally recognized speaker, panelist and writer on many issues, including LGBTQ+ affairs, diversity and inclusion, fundraising and nonprofit program development.
Ronald Hicks is an experienced trial and appellate lawyer who has handled commercial litigation disputes for more than 35 years. In his current position, Hicks represents LGBTQ+ clients across many industries, often serving as their outside general counsel. He advises on corporate, employment and real estate issues, including entity formation and operation, contract drafting and review, trade secrets and intellectual property, and realty sales and leases.
Michael Newmuis serves as head of impact at FS Investments, a pioneer in the democratization of alternative investments with more than $35 billion in assets under management. Newmuis leads the firm’s philanthropic and civic engagement efforts in Philadelphia, New York City, Orlando and Kansas City. Most recently, Newmuis led a ceremony celebrating the renaming of a portion of South 13th Street in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood as Jeff Guaracino Way, named after the LGBTQ+ civil rights icon.
A record number of LGBTQ+ people are serving as judges in the Court of Common Pleas, and many of them broke barriers to get this far.
Wade Albert, a lawyer at Stevens & Lee, P.C., where he practices employment discrimination, zoning and election law, is in a Democratic primary dogfight for a seat on the Court of Common Pleas – at press time, his race was too close to call. In addition to his work as an attorney, he was a former board member and endorsement chair for Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club.
Daniel J. Anders
In 2009, Daniel J. Anders became the first openly gay man to be elected as a judge in the state of Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he was an attorney for Pepper Hamilton LLP, where he donated hundreds of hours of pro bono work to LGBTQ+ civil rights issues. Now, Anders is the supervising judge in the civil division.
Ann M. Butchart
Ann M. Butchart became the first openly gay person to be elected in the state upon winning her race for the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. Before taking on this role, she handled civil matters as a sole practitioner in her own private practice. Butchart has also sat on the boards of the William Way LGBT Community Center and Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club.
When he was elected to the bench for Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in 2015, Dan Clifford became the first openly gay county official elected outside of Philadelphia. Clifford was also included as one of the Best Lawyers in America in 2015 and 2016.
Then-Gov. Tom Corbett appointed Abbe Fletman to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in 2014. In 2015, she was elected to a full term. Prior to her work as judge, Fletman practiced law – both in her private practice and at major firms.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Idee Fox began her tenure in the family court division before moving to the civil trial division. In 2018, she was elected president judge, where she implements court rules, assigns newly elected or appointed judges, and supervises election court.
Chesley Lightsey was one of the big winners in the Philadelphia Democratic primary for Court of Common Pleas judges, virtually ensuring she will be clad in robes come January. She spent almost two decades at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where she handled cases involving children and women as victims and witnesses.
Prior to his 2015 election to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, Chris Mallios worked in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office as chief of the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, and for Aequitas, where he trained criminal justice and law enforcement professionals across the country about properly handling sexual violence cases.
Barbara McDermott works in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas' homicide unit. Previously, she ran a criminal defense firm and served on various committees. McDermott also worked as the district director for the National Association of Women Judges for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Tiffany Palmer, who won election in 2019, previously worked as a family law and civil rights attorney. For more than two decades, she handled several custody cases and finalized more than 500 adoptions for LGBTQ+ families. Palmer is also a former director of the Family Law Institute, a joint venture of the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
In the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, Tiffany Sizemore primarily presides over juvenile matters. Prior to joining the court, Sizemore worked as an associate professor of clinical legal studies at Duquesne University School of Law and as a trial attorney and supervisor at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.
Upon his swearing-in as judge in 2022, Greg Yorgey-Girdy became the first openly gay person of color to hold this role in Philadelphia. Previously, Yorgey-Girdy worked as an assistant city solicitor for the City of Philadelphia. He was also co-chair of Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club and an organizer for the Philly Queer March for Black Lives in 2020.
As the executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, Celena Morrison is the first openly transgender person to lead a department in the city. In this role, she has helped with initiatives such as the Employee Self Identification Census, policy guidance for transitioning city employees and an LGBTQ+ leadership pipeline workshop series. Additionally, the office played a significant role in the decision to allow nonbinary runners to qualify for prizes at the 2023 Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run.
David Bubas is the senior director of the Center for Engagement and Inclusion at UPMC, a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. In this role, he leads efforts across UPMC to sustain national leadership as a best-in-class organization for diversity, equity and inclusion while monitoring how to best meet the evolving needs of the organization and community. In addition to this role, Bubas teaches human resources at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.
If elected to Philadelphia City Council later this year, Rue Landau will be the first out LGBTQ+ City Councilmember to serve there. Landau, who just celebrated a landmark victory in the Democratic primary, has continually fought for social-justice issues throughout her career. She helped add protections and opportunities for marginalized communities as the executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and the Fair Housing Commission, and also helped low-income renters avoid eviction as an attorney at Community Legal Services.
Preston Heldibridle began his work with the Pennsylvania Youth Congress in 2017 as its state policy director. In this role, he helped defeat a bill that would have removed health care coverage for transgender youth enrolled in the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program. His work led the Harrisburg Area Community College student to being named PYC’s executive director. This made Heldibridle the first transgender person to serve in this type of role for a statewide LGBTQ+ organization in Pennsylvania.
A few government officials in Pennsylvania have LGBTQ+ people to thank for their successes. Here are some key staffers who have been working behind the scenes.
Director of Scheduling, Office of Gov. Josh Shapiro
Since graduating from Temple University, Damien Bower has been working his way up the ladder. This includes positions at his alma mater as well as with then-Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. His latest job is also his most high-profile: director of scheduling for Gov. Josh Shapiro.
Senior Adviser, U.S. Sen. John Fetterman
Bobby Maggio has had quite the career in electoral politics – as well as in state and federal government – ever since he graduated from Slippery Rock University with a degree in political science. He has been a longtime aide to Pennsylvania’s junior U.S. senator, John Fetterman – first as chief of staff during Fetterman’s tenure as lieutenant governor and now as his senior adviser.
Political Operative, McCaffery for Supreme Court; Lance for Superior Court
Laura Shadle has had a successful career running numerous political campaigns, as a consultant and as a communications professional. In 2019, she was Jason Moser’s campaign manager during his successful run for Centre County Controller and is working as campaign chair during his bid for reelection. In addition to working with Moser, Shadle worked on Rep. Scott Conklin’s successful reelection campaign in 2022.
Chief of Staff, State Sen. Lindsay Williams
As state Sen. Lindsey Williams’ chief of staff, Megan Winters tries to make state government more accessible for everyone. She has worked to provide benefits for LGBTQ+ people, including making it easier for trans people to change their names and adding protections for LGBTQ+ students and their families from discrimination. Prior to this role, Winters worked on then-Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2018 reelection campaign and with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.
Ben Allatt is an active community servant, activist and human resources professional who has worked in the HR industry for more than 20 years. He also served eight years on Harrisburg City Council before retiring from that role in 2021. His body of work has been recognized by several organizations and publications over the years and he has been a regular speaker on subjects pertaining to LGBTQ+ issues, diversity and inclusion, and political engagement.
With a focus on utilizing open-government laws, Terry Mutchler assists clients in obtaining and protecting public records while navigating complex transparency laws. She also educates clients on how to derive value from these laws, as many are unaware of how to navigate them for commercial and media contexts. Most recently, Mutchler was an Attorney of the Year Finalist in The Legal Intelligencer’s 2023 Professional Excellence Awards.
Sean Meloy is the vice president of political programs at the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, where he led efforts to increase the number of LGBTQ+ people elected in the country. The Pittsburgh native recently sought to become the first openly gay member of Congress to represent the Keystone State. Meloy previously worked with the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, the Democratic National Committee, and the state Democratic Party’s LGBTQ Caucus, the latter of which he currently serves as chair.
After 23 years in the banking industry, David Skerpon joined Capital Blue Cross in 2007. Now, as senior vice president of sales and marketing, he leads the team’s branding efforts and several other initiatives. Additionally, Skerpon volunteers with organizations such as the United Way of the Capital Region, the Cultural Enrichment Fund and the Allied Arts Fund. He is also a board member of PA STEAM Academy and Joshua Group, and is the board chair for Capital Region Arts.
Eric Gutshall holds a variety of leadership roles, including at the Pennsylvania Higher Educational Facilities Authority, the LEAGUE Foundation, MUNI PRIDE and Government Finance Officers Association’s LGBTQ+ affinity group. Previously, he worked for several politicians, including State Rep. Patty Kim, then-U.S. Rep. Todd Platts and former Gov. Tom Wolf. He was also the Democratic nominee for Dauphin County controller in 2015, chair of the Capital Region Stonewall Democrats PAC and served on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team.
As co-chairs of Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club, Tariem Burroughs and Rachele Fortier help build political power for Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community and promote candidates that are aligned with the advocacy organization’s shared values. Both co-chairs bring a wide variety of leadership experience to the table. Burroughs is the director of experiential learning and career services at Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health and Fortier is the state director for Family Friendly Pennsylvania, a statewide organization dedicated to advancing a family-friendly economic agenda, and a former campaign manager for Helen Gym.
Anne Wakabayashi, who currently creates ads for The Win Company as their media strategist, has more than a decade of experience in politics. As the founding executive director of Emerge Pennsylvania – and then as national political director for Emerge – she trained women to run for office. Wakabayashi has also managed campaigns at all levels, from City Council to the state Supreme Court, and served as Pennsylvania senior strategist for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign.
After becoming the Philadelphia Bar Association’s executive director in 2019, Harvey Hurdle Jr. led the organization to a budget surplus. He also oversaw the organization’s strategic planning process and overall rebranding. Prior to this role, Hurdle held leadership roles with Leap Strategy LLC, Sellers Dorsey and the Human Rights Campaign. He also worked on the boards for LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, the AIDS Information Network and Equality Pennsylvania.
Prior to leading the nonprofit Philadelphia 3.0, Alison Perelman worked in the office of Philadelphia City Councilmember-At-Large Bill Green, where she focused on business tax reform and public health policy. In addition to her work at Philadelphia 3.0, Perelman is a Democratic committeeperson in the Second Ward and is a member of Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club, Greensgrow Farms, The Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Education and the Bella Vista Neighbors Association.
Tyrell Brown served as deputy director before their appointment as executive director of galaei, a radical social justice organization. Under Brown’s stewardship, galaei has ramped up its community outreach efforts. This includes hosting initiatives for monthly food distributions, outreach efforts around survivors and victims of violence, and addressing resources for Black and brown queer and trans communities. Brown also co-organized Philadelphia’s 50th annual Pride festival and spearheaded the “Pride 365” program for ongoing Pride and National Coming Out Day festivities.
Michael R. Komo combines his work as an attorney with LGBTQ+ advocacy. At K&L Gates, he works as an attorney, as a professional development manager and as chair of the firm’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group. Komo has also held several other positions within the LGBTQ+ community. This includes starting the Pride Night Series for Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams and co-founding the LGBTQIA+ Anti-Human Trafficking Initiative with the FBI.
Brian Patchcoski is the assistant vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion in student affairs at Penn State. Patchcoski’s recent accomplishments include securing more than $10 million for renovations of community-related spaces. He also created a network of colleagues supporting equity-based student success and fostered a network for resource sharing and collegial support. In addition, he supported the revision of the “preferred name” policy to a “chosen identity” process for all students, staff and faculty.
Alexander R. Reber is the managing partner of Miller Dixon Drake, an accounting firm in downtown Harrisburg. Reber serves on various nonprofit boards, political committees and government authorities. Recently, he was part of a group that helped elect state Reps. Justin Fleming and Dave Madsen and Harrisburg Mayor Wanda Williams. He was also one of eight national leaders in an LGBTQ+ delegation with the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange and is currently co-organizing a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. John Fetterman.
Kevin Lessard is PIDC’s vice president of marketing communications and government affairs. In this role, he drives federal, state and local government initiatives across the economic development corporation’s services and products, and leads communications strategies for financing and real estate programs. Prior to joining PIDC, Lessard was communications director for the Philadelphia Department of Commerce and a spokesperson and strategic adviser for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration. His current work also includes supporting efforts such as Ready. Set. Philly! and Philadelphia Works.
As the first elected LGBTQ+ member of Pittsburgh City Council, Bruce Kraus wasted no time pushing LGBTQ+-inclusive policies upon his election in 2008. This includes drafting the city’s first domestic partner registry in 2009 and sponsoring legislation to add gender identity and expression as protected classes for housing, employment and public accommodations in 2014. His civil rights work also extends to other sectors, including the Allegheny County Human Relations Commission.
Sultan Shakir’s work in community organizing heavily influenced his leadership approach. Before stepping into his role at Mazzoni Center, Shakir advocated for the rights of low-income Black and brown people by partnering with unions like SEIU and AFSCME. Previously, he was the executive director of SMYAL, regional field director for the Human Rights Campaign on the D.C. and Maryland marriage equality campaigns, and program director of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Project.
DeShane Hambrick and Benjamin Secka are two accomplished leaders at Comcast. Hambrick leads multiple teams in Comcast’s Keystone Region, which encompasses swaths of Pennsylvania as well as parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland, overseeing business development, customer experience and project management.
Secka has more than 13 years of experience in communications and digital marketing. As director of employee communications, he leads employee engagement initiatives for Comcast’s Northeast Division and has worked with major companies such as Apple, Samsung and General Motors.
John Brady currently serves as the political director and Philadelphia director for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. In addition to these roles, Brady, who was key to a number of primary victories this month, is an elected 21st Ward committeeperson in his Manayunk neighborhood and is a member of numerous community groups. He also volunteers his services as Pennsylvania’s national committeeman for the Young Democrats of America, as the finance chair of the Pennsylvania Young Democrats, as a board member of the Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club and as a trustee of Roman Catholic High School.
Maria Montaño made history last year when she became the first openly transgender woman to serve as Pittsburgh’s press secretary – the official spokesperson for the mayor’s office – as well as being one of the highest-ranking Latinas in city government. Montaño previously worked as a communications specialist for SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania for eight years. During her time there, she assisted workers throughout the state in forming their own unions.
The Message Agency, a digital agency assisting nonprofits and mission-driven organizations to use technology, began as a solo practice and developed into a flourishing social enterprise thanks to founder Marcus Iannozzi, who has also been a strong advocate for trans civil rights and economic justice. The transgender business owner is also on the board of Independence Business Alliance, where he founded TransWork, a program connecting trans and nonbinary job seekers with supportive employers.
Naiymah Sanchez advocates for systemic equity through an intersectional lens of racial and gender justice. The transgender Philadelphian continually advocates for service provisions and policy change. Her recent projects include providing care packages to people receiving gender-affirming care, and a clinic that offers facilitated access to identification documents for trans and nonbinary individuals. Sanchez also serves in board co-chair positions for the University of Pennsylvania’s HIV clinical trial unit and Keystone Equality.
Everyone from Fortune 500 companies to leading health organizations has called “Mr. Fixit,” aka Steve Rosen, for their crisis and issues management. At Aloysius Butler & Clark, Rosen brings more than 30 years of experience in the public relations and marketing business. Some of his notable clients include Caron Treatment Centers, DuPont, Fox Rothschild, General Mills, ING Direct, McDonald’s, Montefiore Medical Center, the National Museum of American Jewish History, Reed Smith, SCA Americas, Sprint PCS, Sungard, United Healthcare and Arco Chemical.
Upon her election as Montgomery County Clerk of Courts in 2019, Lori Schreiber became the first lesbian elected to a countywide, non-judicial position in Pennsylvania. In 2005, she was the first openly LGBTQ+ person to win an election in Montgomery County when she became Abington Township Commissioner. In the latter role, Schreiber spearheaded the passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance and sponsored a township resolution to ban conversion therapy.
Erin Cross directs Penn’s LGBT Center, where she has advocated for and expanded LGBTQ+ campus support systems for more than 20 years. She is known for her innovative partnerships on- and off-campus, working across constituencies, educational outreach and consulting, advocacy for all-gender restrooms, and creating a welcoming space where people feel they belong. Most recently, Cross secured a $2 million anonymous gift to create a residency program to bring prominent leaders to Penn’s campus.
In addition to being the mayor of Milford, Sean Strub is a longtime HIV/AIDS activist. In 1990, he ran for New York’s 22nd congressional district as an openly gay HIV-positive man and was defeated by fewer than 600 votes. A few years later, in 1994, he founded POZ, an award-winning publication for those impacted by HIV/AIDS. To this day, he continues to combat HIV/AIDS stigma and is frequently cited in the media as an expert.
Paul Steinke serves as executive director of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, a membership-based organization whose mission is to promote the appreciation, adaptive reuse and development of the Philadelphia region’s historic buildings, communities and landscapes. Steinke sits on several boards, including William Way LGBT Community Center, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Fund for the Fairmount Water Works and National Preservation Partners Network.
Lauren Vidas, the founder and principal of the full-service public strategies firm Enact Strategies, strives to make the legislative processes and the inner workings of Philadelphia City Council more accessible and comprehensible to the general public. Vidas, an attorney and government relations professional, previously held several positions during former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration. Her years of experience navigating politics make her a trusted adviser to clients and media outlets across Pennsylvania.
At Drexel University, Patience Ajoff-Foster develops and implements diversity, equity and inclusion strategies as the assistant vice president for inclusive culture and belonging. Prior to that, she worked as Drexel’s executive director of diversity and inclusive culture and director of faculty development and diversity. Ajoff-Foster’s career also extends beyond Drexel, including work with community-based and nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and in Africa. She also serves as the board vice president of Access Matters, a nonprofit public health organization.
In his County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania role, Todd Snovel works to provide educational programs to the state’s counties. Snovel’s previous leadership experience includes work as executive director for then-Gov. Tom Wolf’s Commission on LGBTQ Affairs as well as positions in higher education, including vice president of student affairs and community engagement at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design and associate dean of inclusion and engagement at Lebanon Valley College.
Prior to serving as Esperanza’s vice president of advocacy and community development, Rafael Álvarez Febo was executive director for the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs under then-Gov. Tom Wolf. Febo was instrumental in implementing an executive order amending sexual harassment policies to explicitly include LGBTQ+ protections for state employees. He also helped secure the passage of the executive order to ban conversion therapy in the commonwealth. Febo is a member of The Friends of Norris Square Park.
Jason Landau Goodman is assistant counsel for the state Department of Environmental Protection, where he focuses on air quality, waterways and wetlands, and environmental justice. Prior to this, he organized statewide campaigns as executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, helped draft policies to advance well-being for the state’s LGBTQ+ youth, and delivered testimonies to various government committees. He currently serves as the organization’s president.
Jessica Rothchild has been passionate about the LGBTQ+ community since college, when she founded her school’s first LGBTQ+ student organization. Her work continued in 2019 when she was elected to Scranton City Council, making history as its first out LGBTQ+ member, where she passed an ordinance banning conversion therapy in the city. Rothchild is the vice chair for the LGBTQ Caucus of the Pennsylvania Democrats and an elected member of the Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee.
Iveliz Crespo works to aid Reed Smith’s efforts to promote and achieve diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal community. In their role as senior global diversity, equity and inclusion adviser, Crespo launched Reed Smith’s first leadership development program targeting diverse talent, rolled out firm-wide training to all leaders involved in recruiting and hiring, and curated partnerships with various clients to drive DEI across the legal industry.
Before her appointment as chief integrity officer in 2020, Sarah Stevenson began her career with the City of Philadelphia in 2009 as a lawyer for the Philadelphia Water Department. In that role, she held numerous positions with increasing responsibility, including as acting water commissioner. Today, Stevenson serves as a cabinet-level ethics, compliance and policy adviser to the mayor and all executive branch officers and employees.
Harry Young has held numerous leadership roles in the Keystone Business Alliance. He was initially the president and CEO of the organization when it was called the Central Pennsylvania Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Upon its rebranding in 2018, Young became its executive director and continues to link professionals with LGBTQ+ and allied business communities. In addition to his work at Keystone, Young is the association services manager at Association Independent Management.
Thanks to the help of Aversa PR & Events CEO and president Kory Aversa, companies in Philadelphia and South Jersey have the tools to communicate effectively. Aversa was also on the board of directors for Philadelphia’s chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. The award-winning professional is also a champion of the nonprofit community. This includes his work with United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Plays & Players Theatre, The Pet-People Partnership, Safeguards and DVLF.
Chris Bartlett has served as the executive director of William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia for more than a decade. Most recently, he established the center’s Arcila-Adams Trans Resource Center, which connects trans and gender-nonconforming communities to resources. Darius McLean works as the director of the center in addition to serving as the center’s acting COO. The resource center is named in honor of Charlene Arcila and Jaci Adams, two prominent HIV/AIDS activists from Philadelphia.
With Ellen Trainer as the Philadelphia Musicians’ Union president, Philadelphia was one of the only locals in the American Federation of Musicians in the U.S. and Canada to grow its membership during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trainer also helped establish its first IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Solidarity) Council. In addition to being the union’s first openly gay president, Trainer is a member of Opera Philadelphia, The Philly Pops, Orchestra 2001 and other small ensembles.
Marion Leary is the director of Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing, where she hosts the podcast “Amplify Nursing.” Leary is a member of the American Nurses Association’s Innovation Advisory Committee; a founding member of the Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs, and Leaders (SONSIEL); and a contributor to the journal “American Nurse.” Recently, she was recognized as one of Nursing Beat’s Five Female Nurses That Will Go Down in Herstory for her efforts to amplify and educate nurses.
Over the past 25 years, Jasper Liem has provided clinical support for queer and trans youth throughout the Philadelphia area. Liem’s career with The Attic Youth Center began in 2013 as a board member. In 2022, they stepped into the executive director role, and they’re proud to work with a team dedicated to increasing access to opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth to grow into healthy, independent adults.
Dr. Katie Dalke is a psychiatrist specializing in the mental health of LGBTQ+ people. The Perelman School of Medicine graduate established an interdisciplinary program for transgender youth and has co-authored many book chapters and articles on LGBTQ+ health. Dalke also co-chaired the Health Committee for the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs and advised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on an upcoming report on intersex health equity.
Martin Alfaro serves as the first-ever general manager of AL DÍA News, a bilingual news organization that challenges mainstream media stereotypes of the Latino experience in the United States and which highlights the Latino multicultural experience. Alfaro has also been part of several nonprofit boards, including the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Youth Professional Network, the Association of Latino Professionals For America and Graduate Philadelphia. He is currently president of the Philadelphia Falcons soccer club.
Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart has been a leader and expert on local and national matters affecting communities of faith. In October 2019, she was appointed as Philadelphia’s director of Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs, where she serves as a liaison and public-facing leader for the mayor’s office. Beyond the city, Leapheart previously coordinated efforts for faith communities while working at the National LGBTQ Task Force. She also teaches at Villanova University and Harvard Divinity School.
For more than 20 years, Jason D. Evans has been putting his skills to good use for political campaigns, universities and community relations. This includes roles as co-chair for Philadelphia’s Commission on LGBT Affairs, campaign manager and treasurer for Jonathan Lovitz’s campaign for state representative, and numerous positions at the University of Pennsylvania. Currently, Evans is TD Bank’s manager of supplier diversity and runs his own business consulting and services company, JD Evans Solutions LLC.
Michael J. Testa is a 39-year veteran of the information technology industry. His company, Testa Consulting Services, is a member of TechServe Alliance and the Three Rivers Business Alliance. Additionally, Testa is the former president of Equality Pennsylvania, as well as a board member of the TechServe Alliance and PBS station WQED. He was also instrumental in passing a law to recognize LGBTQ+ businesses as minority businesses in Pittsburgh.
Kathy Cameron established the Washington County Gay-Straight Alliance in 2005 to create a safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The alliance was officially established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2012 and now offers more than 70 days of programming. Cameron’s other leadership roles include working as an adviser for a community GSA, as a board member for GLSEN Pittsburgh, and as a commissioner for the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs.
Justin Correll currently serves as mayor of Laurel Run and as a principal in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District. He is also co-founder of the NEPA Pride Project, NEPA GAYLA and the NEPA Arts in Action Scholarship Fund, which supports local high school seniors who are majoring in a college-arts program. Additionally, he serves as chair on the board of directors for the NEPA Rainbow Alliance and as co-chair of the NEPA Pride Project’s board.
At Penn State Abington, Boni Wozolek and Aneesah Smith are leading the fight for diversity, equity and inclusion in their respective roles. Wozolek is an assistant professor and focuses on social justice, qualitative research methods, and teaching practices focusing on examining race, sexual orientation and gender identities in education. Meanwhile, Smith is a national speaker, activist and social justice educator who inspires individuals to live proudly. Additionally, she is a serial entrepreneur and advocate for small and Black-owned businesses.
With more than 35 years of experience, Kira Kinsman has put her skills in architectural design to good use at Williams Kinsman Lewis Architecture. Most recently, she was lead architect of the new Wilkes-Barre Area High School. Her projects have been honored several times by the Sustainable Energy Fund of Central Eastern Pennsylvania and the Northeast Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Design Awards Program.
Bryan Jeffers, vice president and senior product manager at Fifth Third Bank, is passionate about the business of health care and has worked for more than 25 years to provide equity and value to the industry. He demonstrates success with innovative solutions, successful partnerships and inclusive team environments. Jeffers helped start one of the first LGBTQ+ employee business resource groups in Western Pennsylvania and has held various leadership positions to help provide economic opportunities to LGBTQ-owned and allied businesses.
K Foley is the co-founder and executive director of Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition, where they launched the Homelessness Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) program in February 2021 and the Loop community hub in June 2022. Their latest initiatives include an emergency overnight clinic and, in June 2023, the coalition will launch a behavioral health and wellness program with pop-up clinics in partnership with Planned Parenthood and Alder Health.
Eli Green has been facilitating trans content for cisgender audiences since 2000, giving thousands of people the tools to understand and affirm trans and nonbinary identities as well as ways to help these marginalized individuals thrive. Green is the founder and CEO of The Transgender Training Institute – which provides trans-inclusive training and consulting services for a wide variety of audiences – and the co-author of “The Teaching Transgender Toolkit: A Facilitator’s Guide to Increasing Knowledge, Decreasing Prejudice & Building Skills.”
Joanne M. Carroll, executive director of Trans Advocacy Pennsylvania, has served on the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs and as past president of TransCentralPA and Equality Pennsylvania. Currently, she is a consultant to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and a member of the President’s Commission on Gender and Sexual Diversity at Millersville University, and she co-chairs the Keystone Conference “A Celebration of Gender Diversity.” A Vietnam veteran, she is also a member of the Disabled American Veterans and the Transgender American Veterans Association.
Since 2006, Casey Cook has led the Bread & Roses Community Fund to success through grantmaking, partnerships and other initiatives as the nonprofit’s executive director. During Cook’s tenure, grantmaking for the organization has increased from $200,000 to more than $1 million annually. Cook had similar success during a stint as executive director at Prevention Point Philadelphia, where Cook increased harm-reduction services. In addition to Bread & Roses, Cook serves on the board of directors for Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia.
Richard Buttacavoli founded the Montgomery County LGBT Business Council to create networking, business and social opportunities for LGBTQ+ professionals and allies in the county. The council officially became incorporated in 2017 and the leadership expanded over the years. Among those leaders is Brittany Kohler, who quickly moved up within the council. Kohler was initially voted in as a board member shortly after moving to North Wales in September 2021 and was elected president months later in March 2022.
Ernest Owens is the CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC; president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists; editor at large for Philadelphia Magazine; and the executive producer and host of the podcast “Ernestly Speaking! with Ernest Owens.” The award-winning journalist recently published his book, “The Case for Cancel Culture.” Other notable accomplishments include covering the 2023 Philadelphia mayoral primary, moderating a televised forum on CBS3 and raising more than $250,000 for the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.
Michael Grosberg leads the board of this Philadelphia-based philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting the region’s LGBTQ+ community. Grosberg has been involved with DVLF for much of its 30-year history, including as treasurer and as an executive committee member. Grosberg is also Model N’s senior director of product management, where he is responsible for life-sciences products across the software company’s portfolio. Prior to Model N, he had roles at Deloitte, Breakaway Technologies and WellPoint Health Networks.
When Tony Brooks was elected to Wilkes-Barre City Council in 2015, he became the first openly gay elected official in the city. He immediately went to work to enact a nondiscrimination ordinance, which passed unanimously. In addition to City Council, Brooks holds roles in Diamond City Partnership, Hollenback Cemetery Association, Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wyoming Valley Art League, Osterhout Free Library and Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society.
York County Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court Bryan Tate is responsible for estate administration, as well as Orphans’ Court filings. The latter includes guardianships, incapacities, termination of parental rights, adoptions and marriage licenses. In this role, which he has served in since 2020, Tate created online systems and portals to simplify office processes and help constituents access public records more easily. He also started York County’s National Adoption Day Celebration, which honors an Adoption Advocate of the Year.
Under Michelle Dech’s leadership, the LGBT Center of Greater Reading has flourished into a full-service, federally recognized organization that continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of the community. She worked alongside Reading officials to encourage economic growth and inclusivity, resulting in a favorable Municipal Equality Index rating from the Human Rights Campaign. Additionally, Dech led the center through expansion of services, such as counseling, training, emergency funding, health care initiatives and more.
HughE Dillon is a self-taught photographer who specializes in charity events, openings and celebrity photography. His work has appeared in People Magazine, Philadelphia Style Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine, Main Line Today, CBS Philadelphia, Metro Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Tribune and his own publication, PhillyChitChat. He is also a longtime contributor to Fox 29’s “Good Day Philadelphia.” On his social media platforms, where he boasts legions of followers, he covers everything positive, pop culture and fun in Philadelphia.
Ashley L. Coleman’s activism began in her youth in the Lehigh Valley, where she led initiatives for queer youth and produced events for nonprofits in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She worked as senior events manager at Mazzoni Center, where she coordinated the world’s largest trans-specific conference, and as executive director of the social justice organization galaei. Coleman is now at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, where the board of directors appointed her as executive director in January.
Jessica Eberley is the owner and CEO of HRT Solutions. With her wide-ranging human resources experience and deep roots in talent acquisition and university relations, Eberley’s leadership and expertise is a boon for HRT clients and HRT teammates alike. Eberley is launching her newest venture, Equality Careers, just in time for Pride Month. The website is an LGBTQ+ job board focused on giving the community a safe space to look for career opportunities.
Jamar Johnson-Thompson serves as vice president of people technology for Avalara, Inc., where he oversees the software company’s digital employee experience and corporate functions. In this role, he leads technology that supports a variety of departments. In the past year at Avalara, Johnson-Thompson launched a new applicant-tracking system and an integrated candidate relationship management system globally, and was appointed to the company's inaugural Diversity Advisory Council. Previously, he served in various roles at Comcast, including as chair of its Black Employee Network.
In 2022, Sergio Cea became the first gay Latino man to serve as political director for Reclaim Philadelphia, which is a volunteer-led organization focused on building power for the multiracial working class and working poor in Philadelphia. The organization has supported and elected many progressive leaders and Cea is proud to push forward endorsements for out LGBTQ+ candidates. In addition to Reclaim, Cea is also a dues-paying member of Philly DSA and Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club.
As president of Steel City Stonewall Democrats, Lee Hill supports public policies for all people – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression – across the country, state and Pittsburgh region. The organization actively works to elect Democratic candidates who support LGBTQ+ people and promotes awareness of political issues that are relevant to LGBTQ+ citizens. In addition to this role, Hill is an MBA and doctoral student in business administration focused specifically on project management.
As the executive director of Tourism Diversity Matters, Greg Deshields leads efforts to address the gaps of ethnic disparities and provide tourism and events-industry leaders with diversity and inclusion strategies. Deshields holds many certifications related to diversity, tourism and hospitality to help him educate audiences. In addition to his work with Tourism Diversity Matters, he serves as vice president for the board of Independence Business Alliance.
In her role as executive director of PA Stands Up, Carrie Santoro advocates for building governing power for working people, aiming to empower poor and working-class people to become leaders in their communities. Before joining PA Stands Up, Santoro held numerous organizing and communications roles and even started her own Lehigh Valley chapter of the activist group Tuesdays with Toomey, which held demonstrations outside of then-U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s offices.
Nora Lichtash has served as executive director of the Women’s Community Revitalization Project for more than 30 years, dating back to when the project had only a few volunteers. Today, the multiracial community development organization has built more than 282 units of housing and invested $66 million in some of Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods. Recently, the group advocated for long-term residents to not be pushed out of housing due to high costs.
Jim Sheppard and Jeff Freedman founded the Pittsburgh-based LGBTQ+ online and print magazine QBurgh in 2020 to provide LGBTQ+ news and community resources for readers in Western Pennsylvania. Freedman was one of the founders of the Steel City Softball League in the 1980s and has chaired the Pride parades for both Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City, while Sheppard served on the city’s Human Relations Commission. The duo also spearhead the annual Pittsburgh Pride Parade.
As the executive director of Central PA LGBT Center, Amanda Arbour helps foster LGBTQ+-inclusive communities through various engagements. Under her leadership, the center has expanded programming, funding and staffing while prioritizing anti-racism work and programs for transgender and nonbinary people, queer and trans people of color, and unhoused LGBTQ+ young people. When she was appointed in 2017, Arbour had a wide variety of leadership experiences, including roles at the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and Messiah College.
Stephanie Haynes has been with Philadelphia Family Pride since 2009 and has served as the group’s executive director since 2014. The organization fosters relationships between LGBTQ-led families in and around Philadelphia and provides workshops and information sessions on the various pathways to parenthood for LGBTQ+ parents. Since 2017, she has also been a member of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission for LGBT Affairs, where she has worked with the city and DHS to recruit more foster parents from the LGBTQ+ community.
Steven Preston is currently the chief program officer at Share Food Program, where he helped the social services organization grow its budget and staff. In addition to this role, Preston helped create employee resource groups for the City of Philadelphia and is a member of several boards, including the Clean Air Council, Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club and the Philadelphia Emergency Food and Shelter Board.
For more than a decade, John “Dez” Easter and Duane “Naheen” Binion have been providing a platform for the LGBTQ+ community to share resources, entertainment, art and activism through True T PGH. The co-executive directors continually build relationships through volunteer work and collaboration. The group has organized the Annual Galaxy Ball series, which has invested more than $50,000 into Pittsburgh’s ballroom community, to provide safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people of color.
Michael Mahler has been the editor of Erie Gay News, which just celebrated its 30th anniversary in December, since it was founded as the Erie Gay Community Newsletter. Mahler was also one of the first openly gay voices in Erie County when he appeared in local TV coverage. In addition to the Erie Gay News, Mahler also works with the NWPA Pride Alliance, Community Health Net, Drenched Fur and the Erie Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Council.
Martin J. Healey joined the leadership team of Persad Center, a Pittsburgh-based LGBTQ+ behavioral health agency, first as board president in 2018 and then as CEO in 2021. Healey and his team have since led the agency to record growth. In addition to Persad, Healey is the president of Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh and has been working with Presbyterian SeniorCare Network to bring the first LGBTQ+-friendly senior housing community in Pittsburgh, set to open in Oakland in 2024.
David Acosta founded Casa de Duende – which collaborates with artists and communities to commission, curate and produce socially relevant art exhibitions and performances – and now works as its artistic director. Prior to this, he fought for health care and civil rights. He is a published author and poet who has appeared in numerous publications and has curated several art exhibitions, including one at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
Tyler Titus made history twice for the Erie School Board. The first time was in 2017 when they were the first trans person elected to public office in Pennsylvania upon securing a seat on the school board, and the second in 2020 when they were elected school board president. Now, Titus – who is also a mental health professional – is running for Erie City Council. In this role, they plan to rebuild the economy and improve health and wellness, among other initiatives.
In 2021, Cyndie Williams became the first woman to lead Carpenter Contractor Trust, a Philadelphia-based labor union for carpenters. The longtime member of the carpenters union rose through the ranks from apprentice all the way up to representative for the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters and vice president of the Northwest New Jersey Central Labor Council. Williams has more than two decades of experience in the construction industry, which includes leading grassroots and community organizing efforts.
Mary Catherine Roper brought a wealth of experience in civil rights and complex litigation in state and federal courts with her when she joined Langer, Grogan & Diver P.C. in 2021. Roper previously worked as deputy legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, as a partner at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, and as a clerk for former Judge Anita B. Brody. She was the first recipient of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation Public Interest Fellowship and spent a year with the Disabilities Law Project.
Patrick Zbašnik provides advocacy, education and social justice for LGBTQ+ people and allies in Western Pennsylvania as PGH Equality Center’s board chair. In addition to this role, Zbašnik is the program director for Penn Residential, Inc. – a social services agency focused on delivering residential- and community-based support for people with behavioral health needs. He is a monthly facilitator for a cancer support group through Our Clubhouse and he holds two state licenses as a behavior specialist and professional counselor.
Sarah Rosso is the executive director of Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation and principal consultant of Elysian Consulting. They work with national organizations to improve policies and outcomes within child welfare for LGBTQ+ youth and their families. In addition to these roles, Rosso currently serves as co-chair on the Pittsburgh LGBTQIA+ Commission and provides coaching and leadership support to queer and trans leadership across the region to improve representation and access.
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