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    “My Generation Lives in the World That She Created”: Reflections on the Leadership and Legacy of NCLR’s Outgoing Executive Director Kate Kendell


    At the end of this year, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Executive Director Kate Kendell will step down after 22 years. For more than two decades, she has positioned NCLR at the forefront of the national fight for LGBTQ equality.

    Kate has inspired countless LGBTQ community members, including many of her own staff:

    The Honorable Donna Hitchens, NCLR Founder

    “Kate Kendell’s charisma, passion, and vision have resulted in NCLR becoming one of the most creative and effective advocacy organizations in this country. Every LGBTQ person has benefitted because of her incredible leadership.”

    Shannon Minter, Legal Director

    “Working with a leader of such fierce intellect and unfailing compassion has been the greatest privilege of my professional life. I speak for all of NCLR’s staff in saying that we are more dedicated than ever to fulfilling Kate’s vision of a world in which no one is left behind.”

    Cathy Sakimura, Deputy Director and Family Law Director

    “The first time I met Kate I had just started as a law clerk intern at NCLR in 2004. We had just finished an event at City Hall and loaded our extra materials into her car. She insisted we squeeze in, telling us stories and making us laugh during the short trip back to the office. Kate is a person who you can never forget meeting. As anyone on staff will tell you, wherever we go, there is always someone who says, ‘Oh I love Kate!’ when we say we are from NCLR. No matter how brief the encounter, everyone who meets her is touched by her, and she has reached and impacted so many lives.”

    Amy Whelan, Senior Staff Attorney

    “Here is a secret about Kate—people might think that such a dynamic speaker and leader must have flaws hidden from public view. Nothing could be further from the truth. Working with her the past seven years has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. Kate is an incredible person who brings out the best in those around her. In the office, she is just as hilarious and down-to-earth as she is during public appearances. Leaders like Kate come around once in a lifetime and her incredible impact will shape NCLR’s work for years to come.”

    Noemi Calonje, Immigration Project Director

    “I arrived at NCLR in mid-1994, and Kate came on board approximately three months later. Twenty-two years of leadership is no easy task. Kate has been a friend, mentor, leader, and co-worker for most of my time at NCLR. I am thankful for the immense support of our work with our immigration community, our transgender community, our brothers and sisters who are challenged for their very existence.

    When my father passed away 3 years ago, I notified the office about his funeral. The day we were to bury him, things just felt extremely overwhelming to me. I went outside the funeral home for a moment, and then I saw Kate walking across the parking lot. I walked toward her, and she just held me and let me cry. No words were needed. I will never forget that moment. And that is what makes Kate special.”

    Ming Wong, Supervising Helpline Attorney

    “What a privilege it has been to work with Kate!

    The things I love most about her are her vision and integrity. Because of her vision, we were able to create the sports project and immigration project, both of which have now become mainstream issues for the LGBTQ movement, but at the time seemed (to borrow a sports metaphor) out of left field.

    And for somebody so incredibly smart and celebrated, Kate also has a great sense of self-deprecating humor.”

    Darren Arquero, Butler Koshland Fellow

    “I remember the NCLR staff meeting when Kate announced she was stepping down as Executive Director after 22 years. After hearing the news, my mind immediately flashed back to Kate on the steps of San Francisco City Hall in 2008, and again in 2015, and then to her rallying the crowd at SF Pride 2016. She has been such a cornerstone for our movement for so many years.

    To see the tremendous outpouring of love and support from LGBTQ leaders and organizations across the United States is a testament to the impact Kate has had on the movement, as well as the impact she’s had on people’s hearts.”

    Alexander Chen, Equal Justice Works Fellow

    “Kate began her work at NCLR when I was five years old. Growing up, I never imagined I could live the open, free, and authentic life I do now. Through all those tumultuous and eventful years, Kate has been at the center of driving the unimaginable progress that LGBT people have experienced in this country. My generation lives in the world that she created.”