Yesterday, The Advocate released their list of Forty Under 40. To quote the website and mag, “these budding powerhouses, leaders in media, politics, sports, and science, are facilitating our future. Meet the architects of the next decade.”
The list contains a few familiar faces including Andrew Christian model, singer and dancer Mike Munich. He’s been seen dancing behind the likes of Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert and I recently saw him bring the heat with Kwanza Jones at this year’s White Party during her pool party performance.
Another notable name is Liz Feldman. You may not recognize her name but you’ve probably laughed out loud at her hilarious comedy writing from one of my favorite new shows, 2 Broke Girls. Liz worked on The Ellen Degeneres Show prior to her gig with this new comedy, earning 4 Emmys. Check out more of the Advocate’s list below.
Brian Sims • 33
Candidate, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
The state that spawned the political career of Rick Santorum may be seeking a little redemption on the national landscape. And Pennsylvania may find it in Democrat Brian Sims, who, in an April 24 primary, is attempting to unseat a Democratic incumbent in the state House. There’s no Republican challenger in the race, so the victor will likely take office. If that’s Sims, he’ll be the state’s first openly gay legislator.
The son of two retired Army lieutenant colonels, Sims is widely credited with turning around Equality Pennsylvania, a once-floundering LGBT group that has since pushed successfully for municipal LGBT protections around the state.
But Pennsylvania woefully lacks comprehensive LGBT rights laws. Sims is fighting to change that. “Pennsylvania is not an archaic state,” he says.
Jazz • 11
Cofounder, TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation
If Jazz looks familiar, that’s because in addition to starring in her own documentary, I Am Jazz: A Family in Transition, which debuted on OWN last year, she has also discussed being transgender on CNN, 20/20, and Good Morning America.
A preteen who likes to sing and dance, Jazz (whose parents keep their last name and exact location private for safety reasons) uses her newfound fame to help other gender-variant kids. With her parents’ help she’s launched the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, a nonprofit that supports trans kids and their families, even offering grants for medical needs not covered by insurance.
“I want to help other transgender people be true to themselves,” says Jazz, who is the youngest person ever to be honored in our Forty Under 40. “A lot of transgender kids don’t have the support of a family like I do, and I just wanted to share that it’s OK to step out of their shadows and tell their parents how they really feel inside. You can still be loved if you are transgender.”
John Carroll • 30s
New York City
“I felt like Nomi Malone in Showgirls watching Goddess,” dancer John Carroll says, recalling the moment he first saw the provocative posters for Broadway Bares, the annual striptease event in New York that raises money for HIV/AIDS organizations. “I couldn’t believe my eyes and I was determined to be a part of this organization.”
Although he grew up an hour from Manhattan, it seemed like a long journey to Broadway for Carroll, who battled both spinal meningitis and relentless bullies as a child.
“My career has taken me far beyond my childhood dreams,” says Carroll, who has shared the Broadway stage with legends including Patti LuPone in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Bernadette Peters in Follies.
Carroll also never dreamed he and longtime boyfriend Michael Gallagher would became one of the first same-sex couples to legally wed in New York last summer. “From being run out of school for being gay to standing hand in hand with the man I love, being part of LGBT history was a full circle blessing for me.”
Alexis Pauline Gumbs & Julia Wallace • 29 & 32
Historians, Mobile Homecoming
In 2009, Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Julia Wallace were at a conference in North Carolina, attended primarily by black lesbians, and realized they were the youngest people there. Listening to the older women, “it became very obvious that the choices they had made and the things they had done had made things better for us,” Gumbs says. Adds Wallace: “We became very excited about the experiences they had.” That led the partners in life and work to get on the road and seek out African-American LGBT elders (basically, anyone older than they are) around the nation for a project called Mobile Homecoming. Gumbs and Wallace are documenting their subjects’ lives through video and audio interviews that they plan to assemble into a documentary film by the end of next year, and they are also holding intergenerational events and collecting photos, manuscripts, and other artifacts for an archive of black LGBT life.
The effort “has been affirming and sometimes overwhelming,” Gumbs says. In some cases, “people have been waiting all their life for someone to listen to them.” Wallace says the project made her realize “we have a responsibility to our elders and our ancestors to take care of each other.” In addition to Mobile Homecoming, Gumbs’s projects include BrokenBeautiful Press, a website where activists can share resources, and Brilliance Remastered, which offers online seminars, individual coaching, and other assistance for scholars. Wallace is founder of Queer Renaissance, which uses the Internet and other media to connect artists, activists, entrepreneurs, and others. Soon the busy duo will be collaborating on a children’s book as well.
For the full and complete list, check out Advocate.com.