> Courage Awards > Profiles
Past Honorees: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000
JEREMIAH BEAVERLY, 19 Originally from Chicago, Jeremiah grew up in an adoptive family who cast him out once he identified as gay at age 18. He has since spent most of his life as technically “homeless” and has... more...
TEMPEST CARTWRIGHT, 17 Coming from a long line of rural Oklahoma natives, Tempest is a voice for the voiceless in a less visible and conservative part of the country where being LGBT is especially discriminated against. With her... more...
JAZZ, 11 is a transgender girl who was born a boy and insisted from age two that she was really a girl. Jazz is credited in starting the “Transkids’ Movement”. Her website, www.transkidspurplerainbow.org, has given many... more...
CYRUS SINAI, 18 is from Santa Clara, California. Cyrus comes from an Iranian immigrant family and was actively attending the Mormon Church as a young person. Cyrus describes the battle over his sexuality as a young person and... more...
PHUONG TSENG, 19 was born and grew up in a biracial and bicultural family in Vietnam. Phuong came to San Francisco, CA when she was nine years old – questioning and exploring her sexual orientation and gender identity in middle school... . more...
Daunasia Yancey, 19 is self-described as an “African-American, Aggressive-Femme, Lesbian open to other possibilities, peer sexual health educator, public speaker, poet and activist.” Daunasia was born to a sex worker and an incarcerated man in Boston, MA... more...
[D' ANGELO] D' ONTACE KEYES, 20 - Born into an African American family in Chicago, D' Angelo learned the sting of the slurs "faggot" and "gay" coming from his classmates and his mother beginning at age 6. At age 12, D' Angelo escaped his abusive home only to encounter even more ... more...
PAULA "SEAN" MCCUSKER, 20 - Growing up outside Baltimore in a multicultural family and strict Baptist community, Sean fought to come to terms with their* gender and sexual identity. At 16, after coming out as Queer, Sean experienced widespread rejection, and was subsequently ... more...
VERONICA TIRADO, 18 - Due to financial hardships experienced by their mother, Veronica's family became homeless when Veronica was 13 - a critical time in her life when she was struggling to define herself and take pride in her identity as a Queer-Fem. ... more...
FRANCISCO "FRANK" ARMENTA, Jr, 21 - Battling homophobia on a daily basis in East Los Angeles, Frank was routinely harassed and called a "faggot" throughout high school. After being kicked out of class by a teacher for "gay" artwork on his binder, Frank called a parent-teacher meeting, only to learn that his Mexican-Catholic family would not stand up ... more...
LANCE HICKS, 19 - Born female in the Metro Detroit area to a white mother from the suburbs and a Black father from the city, Lance moved back and forth between communities divided along race and class lines, struggling intensely to come to grips with being biracial and questioning his gender identity. At age 15, ... more...
TERRA TEMPEST MOORE, 22 - Terra grew up in a large multiracial family in Maryland and DC, the middle son of five children. Labeled gay at 14 - an identity forced upon her - Terra began to feel disconnected from her family, and faced abuse from her older brother. Feeling suicidal, ... more...
DEVON BEARDEN, 16 - Devon has spent her life living for extended periods of time with her nana when her chronically ill mother was unable to care for her. While living with her nana, an out lesbian and activist who is the co-founder and current director of the Center for Artistic Revolution, CAR, in Little Rock , Arkansas , Devon searched in vain for resources for LGBTQ youth... more...
KYLE RAPINAN, 17 - Raised in Seattle Washington, Kyle ran away from home his freshman year of high school to escape his older brother, whose beatings were so severe that Kyle - whom he called "little faggot" - was hospitalized several times each year. While homeless and fighting in
the courts to gain protection from his brother and an agreement from his mother to allow him to transfer into foster care, Kyle began... more...
PERRE SHELTON, 20- Hailing from Calumet City, Illinois, Perre was a three sport athlete his freshman year of high school when he became the target of a group of ten boys, who began regularly "bashing" him on his way home from school, leaving him bruised and bloodied. Not ready to be out to his family, Perre hid his injuries, telling his mother they were from sports.
Chicago became Perre's home as an activist and artist... more...
ALI ABBAS, 19 - born and raised in rural Illinois, the son of Muslim, Lebanese parents, experienced anti-Arab harassment throughout his childhood, which intensified after 9/11. When Ali came out his senior year, he was rejected by his friends and came under the scrutiny of his parents. more...
Ryan Bowker, 20 - Ryan grew up on a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation in South Dakota and was raised by his grandfather. At age nine, Ryan came out to his sisters and to his homophobic community at age twelve. His grandfather shunned him and put him into counseling "to make him straight." more...
KIYA (Mack) MORTON, 20 - Kiya, born a biological male child to teenage parents in urban Philadelphia, was beaten and emotional abused by older relatives throughout her childhood. Her mother found out she was gay and sent Kiya to a mental institution, which drugged her to make her straight. more...
Raquel Evita Saraswati, 23 - once named on Syria's hit list of "Woman who Shame Islam," has always defied expectations and challenged assumptions. At 15, she stood up for and defended her openly lesbian teacher who was being harassed by fellow students - despite the fact that she hadn't yet realized that she, too, was a lesbian. more...
Christopher “Cree” Gordon - Born to a white mother and black father into a homophobic and racially divided community in rural Louisiana, Cree struggled to be black enough for black people and white enough for white people. Coming out to his parents at 14, his mother tried to accept him, but his stepfather eventually threw him out of the house at 19, following his first semester of college. more...
Ana Lopez - Ana endured a lonely and isolated childhood in East Los Angeles when she was outed at 14. Rejected by her family and friends because of their strong Catholic beliefs and disregarded by her teachers, Ana remembers, “I had no one.” more...
Captain Young - Growing up the eldest of ten children to a drug-addicted mother and a father in jail, Captain Young of Sacramento never experienced a true childhood. Raised in poverty by his grandmother, by the age of 14, Captain had already served six months in a juvenile detention facility before being released into a series of foster homes. more...
Eva Georgia - Born and raised in South Africa, Eva Georgia saw many of her friends shot to death or "necklaced" (burned alive in a ring of tires) for being gay. Neither these horrific sights, the severe beatings she received from her family or the violence of vigilante groups, stopped her from speaking out as a lesbian and supporting other queer youth and their families. more...
Andy Marra - A twenty-year old transgender Korean adoptee, Andy Marra responded to the conservatism of her adoptive family and the town in which she was raised by becoming a leading voice for transgender rights in New York and across the country. As a high school student Andy organized a statewide summit with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA). more...
Michael Shackelford - Coming out of the closet in the rural town of Sandy Springs, Oklahoma, was more than difficult for Michael Shackelford. Not only was he sent to a camp in order to "make him straight," his home and school were picketed by followers of homophobic Baptist pastor Fred Phelps. more...
Steven Alicea - At a time when it is crucial that all voices be heard, Steven Alicea has risen above the adversity around him to educate and promote equality. As a gay foster child, many families tried to "cure" his homosexuality. more...
Stephen Funk - Stephen Funk, knowing the backlash he would have to face, stood up for his beliefs and now tells his story to empower others. Not willing to die for something he did not believe in, Funk took a stand. more...
Louay Ghonaym - At a time when it is crucial that all voices be heard, Louay Ghonaym has risen above the adversity and hostility around him to educate and promote equality. Being gay is illegal in Lebanon, so when Ghonaym came out to his parents, he feared someone would kill him, even his father. more...
Sylvia Guerrero - Sylvia Guerrero has endured unthinkable tragedy, yet still finds the strength to make a difference in the lives of others through her advocacy work. For Guerrero, her 17-year-old transgender daughter, Gwen Araujo, was murdered just a few houses away from her home in Newark, Calif. more...
LaJoya Johnson - At a time when it is crucial that all voices be heard, LaJoya Johnson, an African-American lesbian has risen above the adversity around her to advocate for change. Through her influential voice, she's working to bridge the gap between people of color and the LGBTQQ community at MSU. more...
Ramirez - At 16,
Vianey came out as lesbian. Coming out is a challenge for most youth,
but because of the cultural and religious traditions in her community and family,
for Vianey it was especially difficult.
McLaughlin - When a classmate
asked 14-year-old Thomas McLaughlin if he had a crush on a
particular girl who rode the same bus to Jacksonville Junior High,
Thomas answered "No." "Well,
I know why you don't," the classmate baited Thomas. "It's because you're
Patrick Bynum - As early as second grade, D. Patrick Bynum remembers
being taunted and called a "fag" and a "queer"
by his classmates. The verbal violence escalated as he got older
while teachers continued to look the other way. Finally, things
came to a head in seventh grade when another student kicked Patrick
and punched him in the mouth. more...
Duran - Ever since she came out two years ago, Vanessa, a 17-year-old
queer African-American and Latina activist and filmmaker, has hit
the ground running to promote tolerance and support LGBT youth like
herself, jamming her days with committee meetings, public speaking
gigs, teaching, and video editing. more...
Leivas-Andino - "Ask me my profession and I'll tell you
I'm a mother," Eva Leivas-Andino laughs. Between changing diapers
for her four children and becoming a grandmother of two, Eva has
devoted a lifetime to community service since immigrating to the
U.S. from Cuba 42 years ago. more...
Warren - Starting in fourth grade, Calvin Warren remembers being
harassed by classmates for being gay. Students spread rumors about
him being a "fag" and a "sissy." He remembers
finding "nasty messages " scrawled about him in library
books. He has been cornered and bullied. One student threatened
to cut his face with a broken bottle. more...
Colín - Anthony Colín, 17, just returned from National
Youth Pride Day in Washington, DC, where he gave a speech to a crowd
of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning teens. "I'm
exhausted," he told me, laughing. "But this is what I love-spreading
the word about being proud of your sexuality and willing to battle
Hoffberg - The sleepy, southwestern artist community of Santa
Fe, NM, may seem like a safe place to grow up gay. It's not. Just
ask Colin Higgins Courage Award winner Jed Hoffberg how he survived
his high school experience. more...
Linares - Saline, Michigan, just outside of Ann Arbor, is a
typical, conservative small town. The football players and cheerleaders
are the school heroes and few challenge the status quo. But Colin
Higgins Courage Award winner Rosemary Linares is not your typical
Orraca-Parades - In 1997, Colin Higgins 2001 Courage Award winner
Olga Orraca-Parades and her partner Liz Gallardo-Martin knew they
would be featured prominently in an article for Puerto Rico's widely
read El Nuevo Dia about National Coming Out Day, but they
were a little nervous when they opened the Sunday edition to find
a huge picture of themselves splashed across the front page. Overnight,
they had literally become the poster children for the gay rights
movement in Puerto Rico and potential targets of homophobic violence.
Congdon - Greg learned the hard way that homosexuality is still
not acceptable in the small town of Troy, PA. A high school jock
on the football and wrestling teams, Greg's struggle with his sexual
orientation eventually led to a suicide attempt. While still in
the hospital, word leaked out that Greg was gay. When he returned
to school, he was ostracized, threatened and banished from sports.
Cozza - At 15, in Petaluma, CA, Steven Cozza is on a serious
mission to end the policy of excluding gays from the Boy Scouts
after the firing of a Scout Master. In the past three years, Steven
has solicited over 14,000 signatures on his petition to end the
ban, recently launching his campaign online at www.scoutingforall.org.
This straight ally's efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Boy Scouts
recently formed a "Committee of Homosexuality" and has promised
to take a closer look at the issue. more...
Merrick - Just two years ago, James Merrick was named "teacher
of the year" at the Rio Bravo-Greeley Union School in Bakersfield,
CA. But that was before he challenged the open homophobia of a Kern
County Human Rights Commissioner in the press. His support of gay
rights ultimately forced him out of the closet, causing parents
to demand that their children be pulled from his class. more...
Rivers - Few teachers earn the respect and admiration that Dana
Rivers garnered at Center High School near Sacramento, CA. But when
the award-winning teacher announced plans for a sex change operation
and name change to Dana Rivers, nine years of dedication were tossed
aside to appease a very small but vocal group of parents. more...