16 Inspirational Voices for LGBTQ Equality in 2016: Time to THRIVE

As 2016 comes to a close, there is no doubt that this year was difficult for many in the LGBTQ and allied community. After a year of such celebration and momentous progress in 2015, 2016 was a shocking wake-up call to many about the realities that LGBTQ people face. From the rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation to the horrific shooting at Pulse, from the incidents of anti-transgender violence to the election of a presidential ticket that threatened to undermine equality and justice, we know that our job is more important now than ever before.

However, through these difficult times, we witnessed countless moments of inspiration. Throughout the year, time and time again, we saw people stand up and do what was right. Whether they were celebrities, politicians, a friend or just an acquaintance, we saw people stand up for equality and inspire us all. Their stories made us cry, gave us hope and reminded us that love will conquer hate.  

In February, hundreds of youth-serving professionals, including K-12 educators, professional counselors , pediatricians, religious leaders, recreational athletic coaches, youth development staff and LGBTQ youth, gathered near Dallas, Texas, for HRC Foundation’s third annual Time to THRIVE Conference, co-presented by the National Education Association and the American Counseling Association.  

Time to THRIVE is the premier national convening of educators and youth-serving professionals to build awareness and cultural competency, learn current and emerging best practices, and gather resources from leading experts and national organizations in the field. This year’s conference featured 72 workshops by more than 45 national and grassroots organizations dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ youth.

The Honorable Julián Castro, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, was the featured speaker at the conference’s opening event. Emmy Award-winning John Quiñones, anchor of ABC’s powerful What Would You Do? news magazine, and Bob Harper, best known for his role on NBC’s hit show The Biggest Loser, received HRC Foundation’s Upstander Awards.

Other speakers and guests included Brendan Jordan, a YouTube star who has become an inspiration and role model for LGBTQ youth around the world; activists Dennis and Judy Shepard; Betty DeGeneres, mother of Ellen DeGeneres; Jane Clementi of the Tyler Clementi Foundation; transgender teen Jazz Jennings, an HRC Foundation Youth Ambassador featured in the TLC reality program I Am Jazz; and New Jersey high school history teacher, Nicholas Ferroni.

Andreja Pejić, the first transgender model featured in American Vogue; Cynt Marshall, AT&T’s  Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President for Human Resources; and transgender activist Blossom Brown were also featured. David Hernandez, a finalist from season seven of American Idol, provided entertainment during the conference.   


Each year, we are so inspired by these advocates for change from around the country. They are all constantly striving to improve the safety, inclusion and well-being for LGBTQ youth and we are proud to call them allies in the fight for full LGBTQ equality.

The fourth annual Time to THRIVE Conference will be held from Friday, April 28 – Sunday, April 30, 2017 in Washington, D.C. We will begin to announce our 2017 keynote speakers and honorees soon, but we are excited to announce that Erin O’Flaherty, who made history this past summer as the first openly LGBTQ contestant to compete for the title of Miss America, will attend the conference. We hope that you will take advantage of early bird discounts and register today!

Follow along with HRC’s blog in the coming days as we recognize the people who inspired us and gave us hope, courage and strength in2016.