Meet 4 Black LGBTQ+ leaders turning purpose into power
Feb 6, 2023
4 min read
In 2021, we teamed up with NEONxGLAAD to launch Changemakers, the critically acclaimed series that elevates the stories of Black LGBTQ+ leaders who are creating positive change in their communities. We’re excited to announce that we’re back with season two, where we’ll introduce you to four new individuals working to fulfill their communities’ needs through their passion and humanity.
This season you will hear the inspiring stories – in their own words – of Mariah Moore, Braxton Fleming, Dani Lalonders and Layshia Claredon. Though their stories are unique, they are united in how they rise above the status quo and pave a way for others in a world that often holds challenges and adversity.
Episode 1: House of Tulip
Mariah Moore, a Black transgender woman from New Orleans, was told that after foster care she would likely end up in jail or a grave. However, as soon as Moore was released from the foster care system, she got on a bus and began her journey to defy the odds.
Moore wakes up every morning and asks herself, “What is it that I am going to do today to change someone’s life?” It’s that mindset and passion that lead her and a coalition of trans leaders to open the House of Tulip in New Orleans, a safe place for trans and gender non-conforming people that meet needs and creates community. Through House of Tulip, members of the community can receive housing, gender-affirming clothing, stability and a haven from the violence many face on the streets.
Episode 2: Stealth Bros & Co.
Braxton Fleming’s story is as much about fatherhood as it is about the mantra his father taught him at a young age: Find a need, fill the void.
After realizing his transgender identity, Fleming began hormone replacement therapy and, in the process, noticed a need for safe, stylish and discreet storage containers for medical necessities. He felt it was time to fill the void – and Stealth Bros. & Co. was born.
With the work ethic instilled in him by his parents, it is no surprise that Fleming found himself securing a deal on Shark Tank, allowing him to take his company from side hustle to life purpose.
Episode 3: ValiDate
Dani Lalonders’ mom didn’t exactly understand her child’s love of video games – but she saw the joy it brought them and that was enough to support their passions. For Lalonders, they didn’t understand why there was so little representation of queer people of color in the games they were playing – so they changed it.
Built by shared experiences of a team of queer people of color from around the world, ValiDate is a video game about 13 people of color navigating the realities of love and life. The game is an opportunity to tell these stories through truth and care, which creates a platform where people can feel seen. And Lalonders is already seeing the change: "With ValiDate’s success we are seeing more and more games that look like ValiDate – having people of color as the star, as the main character, as playable characters. It’s normalizing seeing people of color in these roles.”
Episode 4: Layshia Clarendon
Growing up, Layshia Clarendon’s world orbited around sports - loving sports, playing sports and feeling safe in sports. It was while playing basketball that they felt that they could be their fullest self – even before they completely understood who they were.
Through years of work, healing and self-discovery, Clarendon found themself acknowledging their true identity as a nonbinary trans person and set out on the journey to feel at home within their own body. Their first steps were to come out to family, friends and then teammates. They became the first openly nonbinary trans player in the WNBA to have top surgery.
Through their journey, Clarendon realized how difficult the process was for trans people who wanted to get gender affirming care. As a result, they created The Layshia Clarendon Foundation, which grants access to life affirming healthcare and wellness services for the trans community through education, advocacy and direct financial assistance. Clarendon said, “My story is never just about me. It starts there, but it always spreads. ... We just need to get more footsteps on the path.”
Achieving more together
Creating safe spaces, honoring authenticity and celebrating LGBTQ+ individuals shouldn't be reserved for one month a year. As allies, it is our responsibility to identify gaps, fill voids and work toward a greater tomorrow. One way to do this is to amplify their stories, voices and individuality. Let’s work together to remove bias and, foster an inclusive society where our LGBTQ+ members are celebrated – that is where change is truly made.