The Torch Awards recognizes distinguished achievements and honors individuals whose work has impacted the lives of TGNC communities across the nation. This work includes areas related to activism, practice and policy, journalism, education, as well as programs and service.
The Torch Awards are named after the extraordinary fallen leaders whose contributions championed the National Trans Visibility March’s mission to dismantle all social structures that oppress and disenfranchise the transgender and gender non-conforming community.
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Torch Award Categories
Lois Bates Award
Lou Sullivan Award
Cheryl Courtney-Evans Award
Marsha P. Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. Ron Simmons Community Pride Awards
Lois Bates Award
Dee Dee Watters (she, her and hers) a Black Transgender Woman who is a leader, teacher and performer. A passionate public speaker, who aims to educate, empower and entertain. Dee Dee is a performing artist of spoken word, monologues and storytelling. She has been listed in various magazines, like the Huffington Post, the Ambassador, OutSmart, About Magazine and many others! She’s also been featured on TLC, HBO Vice, travel channel, AJ Media and Ripley's Believe It or Not. Dee Dee was one of the 4 honorary Grand Marshals for the Houston Pride Parade 2019! Dee Dee is an entrepreneur presently airing 2 Facebook LIVE shows LNK Nail Talk LIVE and Lunch with Dee Dee LIVE which features TransGriot weekly with Monica Roberts. She is Madam Chair of Black Trans Women Inc. (BTWI)
Dee Dee Watters
Aryah Lester is the Deputy Director at the Transgender Strategy Center. Aryah worked on the National HIV/AIDS Prevention Plan; opened first trans organization for Miami-Dade County and provided $3 million in grant funding dollars to trans-led orgs nationally. She has also provided leadership and professional development for trans leaders across the US and assisted trans-led orgs with organizational foundation and capacity building.
Taylor Lianne Chandler is the Transgender Health Coordinator for Us Helping Us, People Into Living, Inc.in Washington, DC. Taylor is a national facilitator with the Human Rights Campaign for their 2020 fellowship, Elevate. Taylor has written 3 books, the most recent, TRANScestors Volume I having just come out in September 2020. She is also the President of FLUX-AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) in DC, and part of the Capital Pride Alliance Marketing team. She has appeared in everything from Cosmo, Glamour and Time, to Howard Stern, Entertainment Tonight and E! News. She is a national speaker on Intersex and Transgender rights, and champions for Mental Health Awareness, living with Borderline Personality Disorder. She hosts a monthly podcast, "Taylor Chandler Gives Good Radio Show" speaking on pop culture and how it pertains to the Trans experience. She is married to a secret service agent, Matthew Meagher-Walker and has two kids, Rowan and Grayson.
Lou Sullivan Award
Melissa is the Legal Director, Decriminalize Sex Work and Co-Director SOAR Institute. Melissa has been a sex workers rights activist for over 20 years – she went to law school to fight for full decriminalization of prostitution. Broudo was a senior staff attorney at the Sex Workers Project for nearly 10 years, and is currently the Co-Director of the SOAR Institute and Legal Director of Decriminalize Sex Work (both sex workers rights organizations). There is synergy between sex workers rights and LGBTQIA rights (especially TGNC rights) – the fight for sexual and personal liberation, sexual freedom/autonomy, bodily freedom/autonomy, and fighting against gender norms.
JT is a Prevention Educator at Alianza of NM. He has volunteered his efforts in the local LGBTQ community since 2010. He has been out as transgender since 2013 so that younger people, especially those in grade school, middle school and high school can see that there was a trans individual (adult) who lives in their community. It’s important to JT to be out so that those younger than you can see that we survive. Since working at Alianza of New Mexico (an HIV organization), JT has become aware of the HIV stats related to trans people, even with the limited amount of data that we have on trans guys or GNC individuals. It’s his main reason to have continued in the HIV field.
Cheryl Courtney-Evans Award
SaVanna is the Executive Director of TransPride DC & May Is? “All About Trans.” Savanna has impacted the lives of Tran’s people, GNC, and the Non-binary community by being a community activist that has never given up on community. As the Executive Directive and founder of 2 of the largest events here in the Nation’s Capital that attracts thousands of participants throughout 31 days of May each year. She is still fighting for the betterment of human rights issues for the Transgender Community and GNC individuals all over the world. In 2007, SaVanna founded TransPride DC and May Is? “All About Trans” in 2017. During the month of May we learn from each other, celebrate each other, empower each other, feel each other’s pain, help each other,
mentor our youth, celebrate our history and culture as being loved and being treated as human beings.
Teo Drake is a spiritual activist, educator, practicing Buddhist and yogi, and an artisan who works in wood and steel. A blue collar, queer-identified trans man living with AIDS, Teo’s activism exists at the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, class, ability, and spirituality. He is affiliated with Off the Mat, Into the World and Transgender Law Center’s project Positively Trans. His writing appears in the anthology Yoga and Body Image and in the adflog rootsgrowthetree.com.
Marsha P Johnson Lifetime Award
Andrea is the Vice President, Minneapolis City Council. She founded the “Trans Equity Summit” an annual event sponsored by the City of Minneapolis, it is currently in its’ 7th year. The summit
brings Trans-identified and Gender Non-Conforming individuals together to network, learn about opportunities and resources available in the community and hear from national speakers and influencers from around the country. Andrea’s colleague Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham and I successfully passed a ban on Conversion Therapy in the City of _Minneapolis.
Marissa Miller was the lead organizer of the first National Trans Visibility March on DC, which took place Saturday, September 28, 2019, in the nation’s capital. Thousands attended the march down Pennsylvania Avenue, which was preceded by a rally at Freedom Plaza. Miller is also a2019 POZ 100 honoree. Miller is currently the CEO of Transsolutions Consulting, a global resource center that advocates for safety and universal health access for transgender, gender nonconforming and nonbinary people across the country. For more than a decade, she has worked in public health with a focus on HIV.
As a Black transgender woman living with HIV, Miller has both personal and professional
experience with the virus. She has worked with such groups as Howard Brown Health, AIDS United, Positively Trans and the Transgender Law Center.
Monica, AKA the TransGriot (Gree-oh), is a native Houstonian, GLAAD award winning blogger, writer, and award winning trans human rights advocate. She's the founding editor of TransGriot,
and her writing has appeared at the Bilerico Project, Ebony.com, The Huffington Post and the
Advocate. She works to foster understanding and acceptance of trans people inside and outside communities of color.
Dr. Ron Simmons Award
Alphonso joined the Human Rights Campaign as president in August of 2019. One of the first acts as President was to establish the Transgender Justice Initiative, with a focus on economic empowerment; capacity building programs; targeted task
forces in communities hardest hit hard by the epidemic of anti-trans violence; and
expanded public education campaigns. Alphonso also launched an impact litigation program, so that we can expand LGBTQ right through the courts. We filed the first case earlier this summer -- a challenge to the Trump-Pence administration’s attempt to roll back non-discrimination protections in health care for transgender and gender non conforming people. HRC filed the suit on behalf of two transgender women of color, Tanya Walker and Cecilia Gentili, and won a preliminary injunction against the new rule the day before it was to take effect, in August 2020.
Earl is the President/CEO, Center for Black Equity, Inc. Earl has a long history of supporting the Trans and Non-binary community. Earl was one of the first Executive Director who lead Damien
Ministries (a DC based AIDS Service provider) to provide housing vouchers, placement in Damien House (palliative care) and participation of Trans and Non-binary individuals. As President of DC Black Pride, he recruited the first two Trans women on the Board of Directors
(Toni Collins and Earline Budd). Each year, the "Earline Budd Transgender Activism" award is presented during DC Black Pride which is now a program of the Center for Black Equity. As the President/CEO of the CBE, Earl has been a strong advocate to Trans & Non-binary rights with five Black Prides being run by Trans & Binary individuals.
Earl Folwkes Jr
Lee is the Founder of Makers Lab. Lee has been creating spaces for queer and trans folk since 2012 when he hosted the first public event which was a day party called freak OUT. freak OUT inspired me to launch Makers Lab (makerslabdc.co) which is an arts collective that creates zero
proof/sober spaces that celebrate life, art and LGBTQ culture. The Lab’s latest project is Black in Space (blknspace.com) which celebrates the diversity and resilience of Black LGBTQ+ communities through media, storytelling and technology. Lee has produced and/or been involved in the production of 100+ events and all of these experiences center Black queer, trans and non-binary folk. Not only does Makers Lab offer platforms and network resources for
marginalized creators, we work hard to ensure that they are compensated for that work.
Kenneth is at the DC Department of Health. Kenneth has been working with and for the Trans Community for the last 20 years. He started working with the
Trans community when his former agency was asked to support the efforts of what we be a new agency that would be led by trans persons of color. Kenneth worked
closely with Ms. Earl Budd, a Black Trans
woman, who would pave the way for other Black trans women in the DC area, as she began creating this agency. During this time Kenneth also worked with a few pioneers in the Black Trans community to create a curriculum that spoked to their lived experiences. The curriculum would go on to become “Girl Talk”, a three-day introspective retreat led by and for Trans individuals.
Lee Livingston Perline
Kenneth J. Pettigrew
Rayceen is an entertainer and performer and advocate in the community. To say that Rayceen Pendarvis is a typical gay rights advocate would be a gross understatement. The LGBT icon is
literally a walking billboard for independent, free-spirited, open mindedness. At times, the career Pendarvis enjoys can appear to be a 24/7 non-stop gay pride parade! From the signature turban head wraps, over the head garments, and “take me as I am” presence, Pendarvis literally lives a unique personal truth. Any issues adversely affecting the LGBT community also affect
Pendarvis and many of the people the “Earthmother To The Gays” considers “family.” Being strong enough to stand tall in the mist of widespread homophobia, racial degradation, and societal intolerance, is a virtue Pendarvis is proud to possess. As a well-known Equality Advocate, Pendarvis aims to bridge the gaps that keep people from living in harmony, and sums up this meaningful life's work with one simple phrase, “I believe in bringing people together!”
Ryan has served as the Executive Director of the Capital Pride Alliance since 2012. He is an active member of the community and currently serves on the 2022 Gay Games Washington DC Bid Committee. He served as President and Vice-President of Team DC, an LGBT sports association representing sports teams in the national capital region, and is currently a member
of Stonewall Dodgeball and the District of Columbia Aquatics Club. For the previous 15 years before joining Capital Pride, Ryan had worked in higher education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, specifically handling residential life issues and supporting student leadership and residential operations. Back in his hometown of Michigan City, Indiana, he was the founder and Race Director for the Tower Run, a challenging 8K run. Ryan has lived in the Washington,
D.C. area since 1998, and is an avid runner and all-around sports enthusiast. He received his master’s in higher education at Ball State University.
Stephen is an Infectious Disease Physician at Whitman Walker Health. My name is
Stephen Abbott. In May 2016, I joined Whitman-Walker Health as an Infectious
Disease Physician with training in anal dysplasia screening and treatment. I've
worked in HIV care and primary care in DC since 2007. I attended the Medical
College of Virginia for medical school, the University of Maryland for residency
training in internal medicine and pediatrics, and Georgetown University's
Washington Hospital Center Program for infectious disease training. In 2015, I
completed advanced training in high-resolution anoscopy and have performed over 300 anal cancer screening procedures. I came to Whitman-Walker because they are committed to providing comprehensive care to the underserved, the LGBTQ community, and people living with HIV.
Twiggy is a Program Director, True Colors Fund and a member of the DocSociety Board of
Directors. As an activist, advocate, and healer, Twiggy has collaborated with artists, filmmakers, academics and policymakers to increase visibility of both creative and sociopolitical agendas. In her current role as Associate Program Director at the True Colors Fund, Twiggy leads their Youth Collaboration programs, aimed at not only elevating youth voices but also creating space for partnerships with young adults to lead the movement to end youth homelessness. In addition to her activism and advocacy work, Twiggy has worked as a model & runway trainer, performance artist and special events & talent management coordinator. She and her work have been featured in major media publications like OUT Magazine, PAPER Magazine, NY Mag, The Huffington Post, The METRO Weekly, and The Advocate among others. She was also a featured subject in Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ and HBO’s documentary feature film, The OUT List. Twiggy is the co-writer and one of seven subjects in the Sundance-selected, award-winningdocumentary, KIKI, which paints an intimate portrait of the underground kiki ballroom
community in NYC.