The Young People Building Tomorrow’s Queer World

A glimpse into queer America's multiracial and incredibly dynamic future.

By Ramon Johnson Jun 30, 2010

This June marks 41 years since the Stonewall riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The round number of last year’s anniversary prompted lots of looks back at history. So this year, ColorLines is looking forward. We spoke with three queer bloggers who have built thriving online communities. Today, we’ve put together a slideshow of young movers and shakers who are building the community’s multiracial future. They are activists, professionals, scientists, athletes, performers and artists. The list claims to be neither definitive nor comprehensive. Rather, these young folks are representative of the community they’re all working to build.

Dakarai Larriett, M.B.A.
St. Louis, Missouri
Vice President, Bronx Community Pride Center Board of Directors

"I was born to address the uneven playing field for our gay youth."

BCPC provides HIV prevention and services, mentoring, legal services, career counseling and "even just a fun place to hang out," says Dakarai. The Birmingham-native was "immediately intrigued" by the Bronx Community Pride Center, so much so that he joined their board, now serving as its vice president. What empowers Dakarai? Seeing the fruits of his labor. "My pride is my community," Dakarai says. "We bring so much color to this planet."

Swarnima Chaundhary
Forth Worth, TX
Student/Activist, North Central Texas College

"My faith in humanity’s goodness inspires me."

The recent 20-year-old hails from Varanasi, India, one of the "holiest city in Northern India," and now settles in Forth Worth, Texas. Nima, as close friends call her, began her LGBT advocacy writing about life as a South-Asian lesbian in the U.S. In high school, she joined gay-straight alliance COLORS and organized several Days of Silences–cathartic moments, she says, that helped her straddle "a vast cultural divide." "It is exhilarating to be a part of something bigger than yourself–to know that my actions and words and enthusiasm can help make the smallest difference in achieving a safer world for LGBT people."


The Lost Bois (A.O. and B Steady)
Washington D.C.
Hip-Hop Duo

"Our music speaks to the weird, the queer."

The Bois, an "awkward" and "sillysoulful" duo, found their friendship and musical solidarity at ages 12. After sharing the stage as vocalists in a jazz band, the crew teamed to form The Q Crew, an all-female queer rap trio. The Q’s fell, but in the summer of ’09 A.O. and B.Steady reunited "with a fierce determination to challenge the sexist, racist, and homophobic hot-mess that is mainstream music." Their favorite lyrics? The ones that talk about how race is nothing more than an idea, a word, says A.O. "And yet, it dictates everything about our society." Queer love is a favorite topic for B.: I couldn’t believe the way you turned and smiled at me cuz fireworks blew and butterflies flew, and girl I fell so hard for you.

Paul Mpagi
Brooklyn, NY

"Photography is just a medium–it’s not an end–in an attempt to answer basic human needs to have resolution."

Paul Mpagi’s friends are the "fertile ground" of the Brooklyn-based artist’s photography and videos. "I am definitely motivated by and completely in love with my friends," Paul says. Close relationships are platforms for the examination of life; the "very place between the desire and need to fix definitions," from which he draws his art. Paul’s work wouldn’t exist if he weren’t queer. "It directs my gaze, it influences the people I spend time with. Queerness lets you glimpse the margins and ask questions where the majority have taken answers for granted." (Photo: Johnny Misheff)


Brayden McCarthy
New York, NY
Board member, Hetrick-Martin Institute

"America is meant to be a society of boundless opportunities."

"Everywhere I look I see inequality," which is why Brayden says he stays committed to helping at-risk youth and connecting young LGBT professionals. At 24, Brayden is the youngest person to serve on Hetrick-Martin’s board in its 31-year history. In 2009, he co-founded the Young Professionals Council, where he currently sits in addition to the Young Leaders Council of the LGBT Community Center in New York. "No one hands you a script for your life; you write your own script with your actions and your results."


Joe Osmundson
New York, NY
Biophysicist, Rockefeller University

"I am drawn to the ability to ask new questions, and the chance to produce entirely novel information."

Biological data, like that produced in the study of life-threatening infections such as Staph and Malaria, has a positive impact on worldwide public health. That’s why young scientists, like Joe, set out to "ensure that this public good continues, and indeed become more equitably dispersed in what is an increasingly globalized world." As a doctoral student, Joe studies molecules smaller than can be seen under a microscope in order to model our bodies’ reactions to infectious diseases. "I am driven by a sense of loyalty to the communities that have supported me throughout my life and an intense desire to affect some sort of change."


Gabriel Padilla
Austin, TX
Attractivist/Student, Garza Independence High School

"I celebrate my array of identities and support others in achieving their freedom."

Gabi got involved in community organizing while in middle school. Gabi’s mother, a professor of social work, and a genderqueer sibling involved in local Austin organizing, inspire the 16-year-old. Gabi says that we have the power to transform our environment and selves. "I feel that I embody multiple identities and that I must express myself beyond the boundaries which classical romances, Valentines Day, Prop 8, and Christianity have set." Gabi addressed the 2010 Creating Change, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy conference, and is an active member of the Texas GSA network and the U.S. Social Forum.


Jacolby Satterwhite
New York, NY
Performance Artist

"I seek to transform social myth by imposing contemporary concepts onto classical ideas."

24-year-old Jacolby Satterwhite lives outside of what he calls the "heteronormative matrix," using his body as "a site to challenge and transform social myths and rituals" in performance pieces. The Columbia, South Carolina native defines his personality through a "baroque, aggressive, relentless passion" that allows him to transform his living art into both spectatorship and participation. He says: "The greatest encouragement I can give others is: Write what you want to accomplish 5 years from now, and execute it 5 days from now." (Photo: Joe Ovelman)


Travis Alexander Marchman
Maplewood , NJ
Recent Graduate, Yale

"Pride is having a sense of resilience that a lot of other people can’t understand."

21-year-old Yale political science graduate Travis Marchman is planning a career in international private sector development. But for now, he’s focusing his efforts on LGBT youth projects, namely the development of the first LGBTQ youth drop-in center in Newark, NJ. "Throughout my entire childhood, the idea of equality and rights from a racial lens were always bearing down on me," Travis says. He’s the son of a Jamaican immigrant and a Puerto-Rican and Black southerner. "My parents were always very proud of who there were, especially racially, and those lessons transferred over to me." (Photo: Ramon Johnson)


Roberto Santiago
New York, NY

"Language is often taken for granted until one is unable to understand it."

"I write from that passion that builds up when no one is listening," says 26-year-old Bronx-based poet Roberto Santiago. Since receiving his BA from Sarah Lawrence College (2009) in Poetry and Performance Studies, Roberto has worked with the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS (APICHA) as a community health educator and intergroup dialogue facilitator. It is in this position that he has come to understand the healing power of words and the importance of cultural diversity. "As a queer person of color, I am no stranger to the margins, but it is within margins where most of the ‘red ink’ that can incite change resides so… color me queer!"


Amy Elizabeth
McCarth Dallas, TX
Social Media and Communications Specialist

"We only cover and interview the bands that we truly love."

At 22, Amy McCarthy uses social media and the power of music as weapons against the "dumbing" of American culture. Determined to counter often diluted pop culture and promote music that challenges people intellectually, Amy is a contributor at The Dumbing of America, one of the most acclaimed web sites for interviews with up-and-coming and well-established bands and musicians. In addition to hailing artists from around the world, Amy is the Social Media Liason for Citizens for the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.


Troy Michael
Connellsville, Pennsylvania

"My pride is a dominant part of my character."

In its 5-year history, Pittsburg had never been represented in the Mr. Gay USA competition. That is until 22-year-old Troy Michael Smith was named second runner up of last year’s competition. Troy comes from a small town of less than 10,000, not known for many things, which is why Troy’s determined to be a big national voice for LGBT people. He’s now an executive producer of the 2010-2011 Pittsburgh Mr. Gay USA competition. "I’m a very powerful individual with tremendous leadership and communication skills," Troy says. "It ‘s necessary that I compete, so that I can help strive for what we’ve been longing for: equality."