By Yolanda Lenge, Entertainment Consultant By GLAAD.org | October 7, 2022
GLAAD’s annual 20 under 20 list, revealed exclusively on Teen Vogue, honors young LGBTQ people who are accelerating acceptance of the LGBTQ community while shaping the future of news, entertainment, social, and all forms of media.
Now that the list has been unveiled, take a closer look at this year’s honorees from the BIPOC community – outstanding queer artists and activists that aim to inspire, uplift, and unite the LGBTQ community and its many intersections.
Early in life, Ava Aimable knew she wanted to make a difference and create safe spaces for marginalized communities. She is currently attending Columbia University on the Wells Fargo Scholarship and is now working to become a clinical psychologist to counsel POC and LGBTQ people like herself.She was raised in Queens where she mentored fellow LGBTQ+ students in order to make them feel included in a Christian school. Aimable has gone above and beyond through her advocacy to raise awareness not only on LGBTQ issues but mental disabilites, mental health issues and physical disabilities. She worked with the civil rights and social action nonprofit, Luv Michael, which trains, educates and employs autistic adults.
Aimable is also the founding member of the Student Diversity Inclusion Counsel, where she deals with all issues head on with the executive leadership. Ava is pushing for awareness and representation of the POC/ LGBTQ communities, she tells GLAAD, “As a visible LGBTQ advocate, those younger than me don’t have to go searching far and wide for representation of themselves because I make sure it’s right in front of them.”
Elva Guerra is changing the game in Hollywood and pushing for inclusion and representation for Two Spirit indigenous people in the LGBTQ community. Guerra plays cisgender lesbian, Jackie, on the hit new TX series Reservation Dogs. Guerra sat down with Native News Online and shared her perspective on her character and why representation is important, “Saying that Jackie is nonbinary or two-spirit is not who she is, but me as a two-spirit person playing her and talking through her and just being on screen for other two-spirit people to see that you can act and you can be here. It’s showing them that it’s possible.”
As a nonbinary actor, Guerra understands the influence of representation and connecting with their character. They shared “I think that was one of my hardest parts about coming to terms with being nonbinary and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and just also trying to be an actor all at once — it’s almost like all of these things could be at fault to my career,” Guerra explained. “I really did try to put a little bit of myself into Jackie, including her clothing. It’s very androgynous and her haircut, it was my haircut when I was 16 when I first auditioned. Sterlin Harjo wanting that hairstyle on me was putting myself onto the screen. It was that little bit of showing the world who I am but not really saying it.” Now an established professional with three major TV series in the bag, Guerra plans to continue to use their platform to speak out and educate the public on social issues and raising awareness for the Two Spirit Indigenous community. Be sure to catch Guerra on Reservation Dogs, or in AMC’s new thriller series Dark Winds.
Eve May is a 14 year old activist sharing her transition journey to promote gender equality and put an end to bullying. When Eve was eight years old, she bravely presented an informative powerpoint about her transition and allowed classmates to ask questions afterwards in order to raise awareness on young trans people. She went on to become a finalist in her school district wide Design Challenge, where she then gave another presentation to her community on the impact of gender discrimination, equalty and oppresion of Trans youth. Lastly, In a letter written by Eve May to Lil Nas X featured in Teen Vogue , Eve shared the impact of fashion and understanding her Trans identity through Lil Nas X’s music and platform.
“When I was 6, I lived outside of the U.S. in a country which, at the time, was not supportive of LGBT rights. I feel like being able to have had a role model like you would have made things so much easier for me. I think about all the times I wish I had somebody to relate to when I thought I was confused for wanting to wear tutus or barrettes. I remember wanting to take a purse to school when I was five. When my mom told me I’d be bullied by the other kids if I bought it, I told her, “It’s my purse, why do other people care?” But fashion has always been super important for me, and I can say the same for a lot of people across the LGBTQ+ community — including you, who have made your style your own even when people criticize you for it.” Eve May is a Gendercool Champion, a past speaker at the Out & Equal conference, and now works with Gill Foundation and continues to raise awareness and push for visibility for Trans Youth.
Giiwedin (North Wind) Indizhinikaaz lives in Baagaa’adowaaning, Minnesota, otherwise known as the Land of beauty and abundance to the North American indigenous tribe, the Ojibwe. Giiwedin is a two-spirit (water protector), indigenous rights activist and environmentalist using his platform on Tik Tok to educate people on indigenous communities and issues. Giiwedin proudly represents his Native American culture to continue the legacy and reclaim Native land for generations to come.
Giiwedin began raising awareness for the indigenous people of North America on TikTok in order to share the damage legislators have caused to Native people. Giiwedin quickly gained over 400,00 thousand followers on Tik Tok, speaking on how colonization led to homophobia in America, the impact of the Dawes Act, and the sacred practices of the Ojibwe tribe that are still followed today. With every TikTok, Giiwedin invites you into their world and aims for viewers to embrace and appreciate Native American culture. They begin every TikTok by saying “Boozhoo”, which translates to Hello in Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Obijwe tribe. They even allow viewers to be a part of the sacred process of harvesting Manoomin, which is wild rice, or as they call it, the good berry, the food that grows on water. Giiwedin continues to be passionate about their culture, uplifting the community to be authentic and determined to reclaim the land that was stolen from their ancestors.
18 year old Jade LeMac is an up and coming queer pop star dominating TikTok, reaching over one million followers to share her music and start inclusive conversations about sexuality. The Canadian artist has gained millions of fans since the release of her hit songs, Constellation, Let Me, and her newest single, Aimed to Kill. In 2021, LeMac was praised by fans for the inclusive and diverse music video for Constellations, which featured an interracial lesbian relationship.
TikTok has become a safe space for LeMac as a biracial artist, who feels it is important to represent both her Asian culture as well as the lesbian community. In an interview with So Can Magazine, Jade shared the joy she feels from being a positive form of representation for the community. “I remember being younger and looking for someone to help me understand myself. I’ve received homophobic comments and it sucks, but so many people have messaged me, saying how much I’ve helped them come out to their parents. It’s the best feeling ever.”
When the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida went into law, Javier Gomez took action and led a rally against the anti-LGBTQ legislation. Gomez, 18, also became the president of the Gay Straight Alliance at Miami’s iPrep Academy, where he began his advocacy to raise awareness for students and amplify LGBTQ voices. Gomez was featured on NBC News alongside other queer Black and Latino students rallying against the bill. He shared, “I really just wanted my school to understand how pivotal and monumental their participation is, it shows Florida legislators that this is important. This is an affected community, and we need to stand for it.”
Over the summer, Javier was invited to the White House to speak during Biden’s Pride Month event where the historic executive order to push for LGBTQ equality was signed. Gomez also met privately with the Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine. In an interview with WLRN, Gomez shared the importance of representation as a student, “there was this one teacher, my fifth grade teacher, he was openly gay himself. So seeing that, and seeing him be authentically himself was that kind of notion for me to feel represented and safe. I promise you if it wasn’t for my counselors and my teachers, I would probably still be confined into this box.” The “Don’t Say Gay” bill is a dangerous attempt to dimish the rights of LGBTQ students and teachers and Gomez is leading the charge in finding support for the community.
Javier shared a special letter to his younger self on his Instagram, he shared the proudest accomplishments and the impact living authentically has had on his life. “I remember those days when you would come home holding a fractured heart. You would cry to your parents about how to change, how to fight back, on how to disassociate yourself with your authenticity. And I remember as a little kid, you continued to find glimmers of hope in designs off a journal gifted to you during a Secret Santa. You tried to see a future for yourself, a happy one, where you were allowed to be you. I write to you to tell you to thank you for never giving up on me. For continuing, no matter how hurt you were. For daring to dream no matter how much you were knocked down for it.”
Lotus Lloyd is a sex educator, social justice advocate, and community builder who is driven and emphatic in everything he does. Lloyd shared with GLAAD why it is important to him to be an LGBTQ advocate. He shared “There is a noticeable lack of living role models for Black Trans youth. When Black Trans-people are alive we are prescribed fatality, anglicized and then ignored. Visibility gives me the power to alter that narrative; by engaging in community building work I am able to serve as both a role model and a support system to local Queer and Trans youth.”
In high school, Lloyd worked for Planned Parenthood as a peer educator where he served as a confidential resource for LGBTQ youth seeking support and sex education.He will be attending the College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin College and Conservatory, where he will study gender, sexuality, and feminist studies along with Education. As a Black queer transmasculine person from Michigan, he has broken down barriers to raise awareness and acceptance for trans lives, currently serving on the Planned Parenthood of Michigan Gender Affirming Care Community Advisory Board.During his time at Planned Parenthood Lloyd has guided workshops educating comprehensive sex education to LGBTQ youth and providing support to inclusive medical professionals. After college, Lotus intends to work as a continuing education sex educator that involves teaching marginalized communities about how sex, sexuality, and sex education can better serve and uplift them.
Not only does Nico Craig, 20, facilitate impeccable vibes on the dancefloor but he also aims to create a safe space for people of color in the LGBTQ community within the music industry.As one of Gen Z’s hottest Black trans DJs, Craig has always wanted to inspire the LGBTQ community to approach life authentically. Craig began living his truth after coming out as trans at 18 years old. In April, Craig sat down with Fuzzy and Quincy Harris of the Frequently Asked Questions Podcast to share his experience. Craig talked about his positive family dynamics, the impact of representation and how living his truth has helped him become an activist for the LGBTQ community.
At just 10 years old, Craig made it to the finals on “America’s Got Talent” for their DJing skills and performed at Radio City Music Hall and he currently serves as a resident DJ on iHeartRadios 92.3. At 16, Craig also sat down with GLAAD and the Recording Academy, Out Magazine and The Ally Coalition for the Grammy week panel titled “Empowered:LGBTQ+Voices in Music”. Craig shared his experiences and credits his family for his confidence. “It was the norm to be accepted. It was the norm to be different.”
Nico Craig continues to create safe spaces on the dancefloor and pushes the conversation to remind BIPOC/LGBTQ communities that true acceptance of self will lead to love and coexistence all over the world. Craig tells GLAAD, “ Being yourself is simply an act of love and joy, which is what the world thrives on. The purpose of us being here is to enjoy our presence and to love ourselves unconditionally and confidently! Never take no for an answer and find joy in becoming more of yourself daily!”
Deep in the heart of Texas, Olivia Juilana is fearlessly fighting for abortion rights, environmentalism and LGBTQ issues. Juliana, 19, describes herself as “queer, plus-size, disabled Latina” and she is unafraid to go head to head with bullies in the Republican party. Growing up in Texas was difficult for Juliana. She suffered from mental health issues, bullying and familial traumas. She shared with Teen Vogue that she had become suicidal but with faith and hope for a better world, Juliana was able to heal and found community through speaking at political events and TikTok. As a Latina activist, Olivia has raised her voice on TikTok and has now amassed over half a million followers.
Through her advocacy, Olivia became the Director of Political Strategy for Gen Z for Change. She was invited to the White House to speak on how young people including the LGBTQ community are being affected by abortion bans. Juilana also spoke at the 2021 Women’s March where she stated “If the Texas GOP is truly pro-life, they would hold all life at an equal value, they would do everything in their power to ensure that every Texan had the resources they needed for a positive and healthy existence, but they don’t.” Juilana is well acquainted with the impact of her voice and reach – she even raised over two million dollars for donations for abortion funds when Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, body shamed her on twitter. With a dedicated following of Gen Z activists and beyond, Olivia is a key element in teaching every generation the power of raising your voice.
Zuriel Hooks is fighting for awareness and accurate representation of the trans community as legislators continue to roll out anti-LGBTQ laws that are negatively affecting Black trans youth. Hooks began her journey with gender affirming care at 17 and is unafraid to share the impact it made on her life. When Alabama became the first state to attempt to eliminate legal gender-affirming healthcare, Hooks told NBC News, “This is something I know I need in my life … It really helped shape who I am as a person. It makes me keep going in life. For that to be taken away from me, I can’t describe the feeling, because it’s just horrible.”
Hooks, now 19, is the Vice President of the Knights and Orchids Society’s Youth Ambassador program and assists trans youth in various ways. Her role includes guiding support groups with trans feminine and masculine issues, connecting trans youth to free hormone replacement therapy and promoting safe sex education. Through her efforts and by sharing her personal story as a Black trans woman in the US South, Hooks is determined to create safe spaces for transgender youth to not only live authentically but without fear.
The 20 Under 20 is presented and sponsored by Delta. GLAAD celebrates LGBTQ youth and the changemakers who are shaping the future of activism and media. Check out the full list here.