Rachel Bryk, a 23 year old transgender woman from Wall, New Jersey, jumped to her death from the George Washington Bridge last Thursday, another victim of online bullying and what she called “constant transphobia” in Internet posts she wrote in the weeks before her death. Sadly, had Bryk waited another 24 hours before taking her fateful leap, she may have had reason to experience a change of heart. The day after her suicide, former Olympic champion Bruce Jenner revealed to the world his life-long struggle with gender dysphoria, as well as his fervent desire to live life as “her”, finally, at age 65. The world responded to Jenner’s revelation to Diane Sawyer on ABC’s 20/20 largely with acceptance and support, with many celebrities and the general public lauding his courage and tweeting out love and well wishes. The onslaught of good will in the wake of Jenner’s big reveal says much about how far society has come in its acceptance of the LGBTQ community, yet there is still much work to do to prevent young transgender and questioning people from succumbing to Bryk’s fate.
Live Out Loud is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring, nurturing and empowering LGBTQ youth to build a successful future by connecting them to positive role models and affirmative experiences within the LGBTQ community. By providing youth with opportunities to interact with adults who understand the realities of living openly as a member of the LGBTQ community, Live Out Loud helps young people to achieve academic success, healthy relationships, rewarding careers and a fulfilling life. Live Out Loud forges these crucial connections through innovative, hands-on initiatives that include bringing positive LGBTQ role models into classrooms and schools; bringing LGBTQ youth into workplaces to meet LGBTQ professionals from all walks of life, and providing financial and mentoring support to young scholars and leaders.
Founder and Executive Director, Leo Preziosi, Jr., was inspired to start Live Out Loud after reading an article in Metro Source titled “The Gun in the Closet”, which told the story of two high school students who committed suicide because of societal bullying. Since its inception, Live Out Loud has had the opportunity to bring hundreds of LGBTQ role models to high schools involving renowned panelists from every field. From spiritual leaders to fashion designers to corporate powerhouse and grass-roots activists, Live Out Loud speakers have touched thousands of lives. Preziosi, Jr. was a fashion designer working for a number of companies and in 1990, he began his volunteerism by aligning with DIFFA, the Design Industry Foundation for AIDS in event promotion. After joining speciality lifestyle retailer, Fellissimo, Preziosi, Jr. collaborated with numerous organizations including the United Nations and The Rain Forest Foundation.
Live Out Loud’s 14th Annual Young Trailblazers Gala on Monday night, April 27th, at The Times Center in Midtown, was hosted by renowned architect and TV personality, John Gidding, and drew hundreds of leaders from the worlds of business, arts, politics, and fashion to honor individuals who have made a positive impact among the LGBTQ community and recognize this year’s “Young Trailblazers” with college scholarships. Five high school seniors from the NY Tri-State area were each awarded with $5000 college scholarships at the gala event for their demonstrated outstanding leadership. Also honored during the evening was Peter Staley, with the Live Out Loud Champion Award, Mitch Draizin and Philippe Brugère-Trélat with the Live Out Loud Humanitarian Award and Tony Cacioppo with the 2nd Annual Live Out Loud Educator of the Year Award. Staley left his job at JP Morgan shortly after joining ACT UP New York in 1987 to become a full-time AIDS activist. He was appointed by President Clinton to the National Task Force on AIDS Drug Development in 1994 and in 2000 launched AIDSmeds.com, a website offering complete and easy-to-read treatment information for people living with HIV. Since then, AIDSmeds.com has become one of the most popular HIV related sites on the web. Staley is a leading subject in the Oscar-nominated documentary “How To Survive A Plague”, directed by David France.
Draizin, the founder and President of Longview Capital Advisors, serves on the Board of numerous LGBTQ and other national not-for-profit organizations, and his husband, Brugère-Trélat, is Executive Vice President and Portfolio Manager at Franklin Templeton Investments. Cacioppo teaches English and Spanish at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in NYC where he is also faculty advisor to the Gay-Straight Alliance and the coach of the Speech and Debate Team. Zoe Bracken, Kaitlin Maloney, Kain “Kai” McCall, Steven McClary-Smith and Michael Nowack were the five young recipients presented with scholarships during the evening’s presentation. Past Honoree, Hal Rubenstein, introduced Staley to a standing ovation, and the Champion Award Honoree went on to give an acceptance speech wherein he expressed that he is “filled with hope for today’s young LGBTQ community, they will push for an end to AIDS” and he encouraged youth to “build diversity by celebrating what makes you different.”
Attendees to Live Out Loud’s Young Trailblazers Gala were David Hallberg, Lisa Lampanelli, Aiden Leslie, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Ariel Foxman, Mickey Boardman, Richie Jackson, Jordan Roth, Bruce T. Sloane, and Daryl Roth, among many others. For more information about Live Out Loud and its programs, visit www.liveoutloud.info.