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    Awardees to Be Honored at NCLR’s 2019 Anniversary Celebration

    The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) each year presents Courage and Vanguard awards to recipients during the organization’s Anniversary celebrations. At this year’s event, which will take place on May 18 at The Marriott Marquis (followed by an after party at the Metreon), the following individuals will be honored:

     Courage Award: Katherine McCobb

    On July 13, 2019, NCLR and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP filed a complaint on behalf of Katherine McCobb against California-licensed marriage and family therapist Lloyd Willey. Willey told McCobb that being a lesbian is unnatural and pathological and that her sexual orientation could be changed using therapy. The practice of conversion therapy has been discredited by the American Psychological Association and other professional counseling organizations as ineffective, unethical and dangerous. McCobb paid Willey more than $70,000 for eight years of therapy based on fraudulent, harmful lies.

     McCobb began paying Willey for therapy when she was 25 years old. Although she did not seek out therapy because of her sexual orientation, Willey fixated on McCobb’s lesbian identity and began to pressure her to become straight, telling her that being a lesbian was unnatural and that she could “rewire” her brain. He publicly shamed her during group therapy sessions and urged her to change her appearance to be more stereotypically feminine, including losing weight, growing out her hair, changing her wardrobe and wearing make-up. Willey additionally pressured her to begin dating a man who was also Willey’s client. (Kate McCobb shares her story on page 4 of this issue.)

    Courage Award: Danny Zins

    A year ago, NCLR sued Danny Zins’ school district for refusing to allow him to use the boys’ facilities. At that time, Zins struggled to eke out a D average and was in danger of failing his Sophomore year of high school. Despite those dire circumstances, the Court refused to order the school to allow him to use the boys’ facilities because it did not feel there was enough of a direct connection between his lack of access and his academics, and even if there was, the Court was not convinced that it would make enough of a difference to warrant an injunction.

    Zins figured out a way to barely pass his Sophomore year. Over the summer, the school district agreed to settle the lawsuit. He is now thriving in school, engaging with his peers, improving his grades and blossoming as a person.

    Courage Award: Sthefany Galante

    Born and raised in Mexico, Galante struggled as a trans woman and faced severe discrimination despite being well educated and having a good job. Growing up she knew that she was different—more feminine than what was expected of her. She came to the U.S. three times in order to have a better life; the first time living in North Carolina and ultimately returning to Mexico, and the second and third times coming to California. Upon arrival to the U.S., she was scared and confused. She did not speak the language and turned to sex work and drugs.

    Eventually she made her way to San Francisco. It was a sanctuary for people just like her. In San Francisco she became connected with El/La Para TransLatinas ( ), which a safe space and holistic support organization for transgender Latinas. Through the support group, she heard about NCLR and how they could help her.

    With NCLR’s support and help, she was able to win her asylum case and now has the privilege of working on outreach for other women in the community and helping them through the very process she struggled with.

    Vanguard Award: Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, PA House of Representatives

    Malcolm Kenyatta was elected to serve as state representative for the 181st Legislative District, Philadelphia County, on November 6, 2018. He is a product of Philadelphia public schools and a 2012 graduate of Temple University.

    His legislative priorities include raising wages to overcome systemic poverty, improving the educational system across the Commonwealth and improving access to quality healthcare for families. As the first openly LGBT person of color elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, he is deeply committed to creating an equitable and inclusive society. Rep. Kenyatta believes that maintaining a healthy democracy requires the involvement of every citizen.

    Rep. Kenyatta, 28, is a third-generation North Philadelphian and was born to the late Kelly and Malcolm J. Kenyatta. He was raised alongside three siblings, and is the grandson of Muhammad Kenyatta, a noted civil rights leader, minister, Harvard graduate and political candidate.

    Rep. Kenyatta got his start in community activism when he ran for junior block captain at age 11. Since then, he has dutifully served as a member of numerous nonprofit and political organizations, including Liberty City Democratic Club, Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, the Philadelphia Chapter of National Organization for Women’s Education Fund, and Equality PA.

    He led the Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives for the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, and worked in Graduate Medical Education at Hahnemann Hospital and food service for a number of years.

    In 2016, he was elected as a delegate to the Democratic Convention (PA 2nd), garnering the second highest vote total of any delegate in the Commonwealth. He has also appeared on local and national media outlets to discuss systemic poverty, affordable education and childcare, and how to make government more accountable to citizens.

    Vanguard Award: Congresswoman Debra Haaland

    Congresswoman Deb Haaland grew up in a military family; her father was a 30-year combat Marine who was awarded the Silver Star Medal for saving six lives during Vietnam, and her mother is a Navy veteran who was a federal employee for 25 years in Indian education. She knows the sacrifices made by military families because her family moved throughout the country during her father’s military service. As a result, she attended 13 different public schools.

    As a single mother, she volunteered at her daughter’s preschool in order to afford an early childhood education. Like many New Mexicans, she had to rely on food stamps at times, has lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and struggled to put herself through college. Though hard work and determination, she earned degrees from the University of New Mexico and UNM Law School. Congresswoman Haaland and her daughter, who recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, are still paying off student loans.

    For several years, she ran her own small business producing and canning Pueblo Salsa and later became the first Chairwoman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, overseeing business operations of the second largest tribal gaming enterprise in New Mexico. She successfully advocated for the Laguna Development Corporation to create policies and commitments to earth-friendly business practices. Haaland is a former tribal administrator and has administered a local service provider for adults with developmental disabilities.

    She is a 35th generation New Mexican who is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, and also has Jemez Pueblo heritage. After running for New Mexico Lieutenant Governor in 2014, Haaland became the first Native American woman to be elected to lead a State Party. She used her experience reaching out to communities who are often forgotten during the electoral process during the two Obama presidential campaigns. During her time as State Party Chair, she traveled to Standing Rock to stand side-by-side with the community to protect tribal sovereignty and to advocate for vital natural resources.

    Starting in 2016, Haaland has served as an Honorary Commander of Kirtland Air Force Base. The role gives her a better understanding of its missions and effects on New Mexico’s economy.

    After a lifetime of organizing communities to stand up for New Mexico families, Haaland was elected as one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress. She is serving in leadership roles as the 116th Congress Freshman Class Representative to the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, House Democratic Region VI Whip (Texas, New Mexico and Arizona) and Deputy Whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

    For more information about NCLR’s Anniversary Celebration:


    NCLR’s Dedicated Volunteers

    Dedicated volunteers are at the core of most nonprofits, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is no exception. NCLR’s volunteers are particularly passionate about their work that, as the following statements attest, benefits them in addition to helping out the organization.

    Emma McDevitt

    “Working with NCLR as an intern has been more than a resume building experience. It has given me a way to give back to the community I call family and given me a place to call home. Their work to end conversion therapy and help trans youth throughout the U.S. is the hope queer youth around the world need to feel a part of our ever-expanding chosen family. I want to continue helping this organization work towards a world where everyone has the sense of family and home NCLR has given me.”

    Raini Chase Vargas

    “As an intern for NCLR, I have gained valuable insight into how a successful organization is run. Their values are not only reflected in legal cases, public policy, and education—but also inside the San Francisco office. I feel better equipped to perform in a nonprofit environment, and this experience has reignited my dedication to this work. I want to thank NCLR for not only providing me with a community, but also for taking on the work that is so often overlooked.”

    Sam Ludeke

    “Working with NCLR has been both an educational and engaging experience that I will, no doubt, carry with me for the rest of my life. I have spent the last year reviewing and organizing the NCLR archives. This has allowed me to bear witness to the incomprehensible influence that NCLR has had on this nation’s laws and societal beliefs. With all of NCLR’s wonderful history backing it up, I can only imagine how far it will go and how many lives they will save.”

    Carla Espinosa

    “Interning at NCLR has shown me how important and impactful their work is in protecting the LGBTQ+ community and the work they do for immigrants and those incarcerated. We need this kind of community empowerment, especially at a time when the world seems so hopeless. It is amazing to know that I am a part of a team working towards making this world a better place. Being at NCLR has shown me the necessity of policies in protecting the most vulnerable communities.”

    Erin Hanley

    “My time at NCLR was so impactful both professionally and personally. Not only did the internship give me hands on job experience, but also the actual work being done inspired me. Being even a small part of an environment where such hard-working and committed people are doing amazing work (while also always being so friendly and approachable!) made me excited to come in every day. Every day I knew that, no matter how small the task I was doing was, I would be learning and applying myself, and most importantly, contributing to such an incredible organization!”

    Olivia Godsey

    “Volunteering for NCLR at the Dinah Shore was an incredible way to bridge the gap between being a part of the community that I love so much, and ensuring it has the space and security to endure. NCLR is constantly working toward a world where everyone in our community can feel safe, loved and accepted. Being able to participate in that mission and give back to an organization that has paved the way for my rights was an incredible experience.”