(New York,NY) — It’s time to give credit where credit is due. A number of activists for the LGBTQ community who hail from New York City are quietly or more emphatically advocating or being a spokesperson for the marginalized in many different ways. They are leaders in their industry, and all have found enormous success in their full-time jobs, whether as physician, real estate agent, rabbi or theater producer outside their roles as champions for the underdog. In New York City, where they all work, they are known in their respective communities as trailblazers for gay people, and their books or speeches or performances have inspired many who have come out or are coming out or who are too afraid, even in this day and age, to come out at all. Some of these young activists are widely known while others have done their work without recognition outside of the city. To those who follow or know these people, they see a positive image of themselves, a reflection of the kind of person they want to be. So, without further adieu, here are the trailblazers who should be celebrated, recognized and known to have transformed the LGBTQ community all in their own way.
Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie
Amichai Lau-Lavie, an Israeil-born Jewish educator, writer and performance artist, was officially ordained as a rabbi in 2016, and is part of the 39th generation of his family to teach the Torah. The openly-gay rabbi is the founding spiritual leader of Lab/Shul NYC and the creator of Storahtelling, Inc. He is a member of the Global Justice Fellowship of the American Jewish World Service and the Advisory Council of ORAM, an LGBT focused organization for refugees, asylum and migration, among many other organizations.
Rabbi Amichai, 48, has a lot of accolades for his work in both the Jewish community and the LGBTQ sector. Time Out New York called him “an iconoclastic mystic” and the New York Times said he was a “rock star.” He was also named as a “maverick spiritual leader” by The Times of Israel and “one of the most interesting thinkers in the Jewish world” by the Jewish Week. In 2016 The Forward named him one of the thirty-two “Most Inspiring Rabbis” in America.
The Swedish born Eklund, 40, is one of the most successful real estate brokers in New York—he works for the prestige house Douglas Elliman—who continues to sell penthouses and units and condos and apartments in the over million dollar mark. Eklund is best known to the public as a TV star for Million Dollar Listing New York on Bravo, which is one of the channel’s most successful and lucrative show. He even sings. The multitalented Eklund, who has more than 800,000 Instagram followers, just dropped his new single called “It Gets Better,” which he co-wrote. Proceeds for the song’s sales go to the It Gets Better Project. Later this year, Eklund will star in a new show about real-estate flipping with fellow Bravo star Bethenny Frankel.
The Princeton grad producer is the president of Jujamcyn Theaters, which owns the Al Hirschfeld, the Eugene O’Neill, the St. James, the August Wilson and the Walter Kerr. Roth, 41, has had much success on Broadway and has backed “The Book of Mormon,” “Kinky Boots” and “Groundhog Day.” In fact, he is widely known in the industry for single-handedly bringing energy and vitality to Broadway by producing revivals and edgy shows, to name a few. The work closest to him is 2016’s revival “Felsettos,” which he calls a personal triumph, saying the show belongs to the LGBTQ community. He was included on Crain’s “Forty Under 40” list, The Daily News’ “50 New Yorkers to Watch,” Time Out New York’s “42 Reasons to Applaud New York Theatre” Paper Magazine’s “Beautiful People Issue,” and Out Magazine’s “Out 100” three times.
The talented Daskalakis is an HIV/AIDS doctor and a trailblazing public health leader for LGBTQ and HIV treatment and prevention in New York City. Daskalakis, 44, is currently deputy commissioner for the division of disease control for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Hailed as a true leader in HIV treatment and prevention, his work at DOHMH has helped increase access to PEP and PrEP. As an advocate at DOHMH, he tirelessly fights to end the AIDS epidemic in the gay community and constantly addresses the stigma for those who live with HIV in New York, which has led to historic decreases in HIV infections.
Daskalakis also finds time to work on campaigns, many of them groundbreaking. He is part of the health camp “Bare it All,” which fights for transparency with health-care providers. His recent work includes joining the END AIDS NY 2020 Community Coalition and Housing Works with their campaign and program Undetectable = Untransmittable, which is supported by the NYC Health Department. His next campaign will promote HIV education and prevention among grassroots agencies. He commented on this project with hope and compassion and a little bravado, saying: “We’re going to stop this epidemic by 2020.”
Daskalakis graduated from the NYU School of Medicine and received his Masters of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Mock is an author of two successful books a TV host for MSNBC, and a public face of the transgendered community. Mock, who is also a contributing editor for Marie Claire and a former staff editor for People Magazine’s website, underwent sex reassignment surgery in Thailand at the age of 18 while in the first year of college at New York University. Mock, now 34, gives many talks throughout the year, mostly at college campuses, that center on her being a tireless transgender rights activist.
Portions of her first book Redefining Realness, about her childhood in Honolulu, talks about her life in the sex trade, a move she made to pay for her gender reassignment surgery. Her sequel, Surpassing Certainty, focuses on the pains and tribulations of being a young trans woman, as well as owning her identity as a black woman.
Her surgery and her books has made her a spokesperson for the transgender community, and she has said that she hopes her readers will feel empowered in a world where those who are different are often marginalized and bullied. Her conversations at college campuses, often sold-out, attract a diverse audience of people, including women of color, feminists, white liberals and the LGTBQ community. She has said she feels fortunate that her often youthful crowd is seeing in her an image in which to aspire to when they grow up and that, often for the first time, they’re seeing a reflection of the kind of life they desperately want to live but, for many reasons, can’t.
Casals is the director of New York’s iconic Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the only LGBTQ art museum in the world. He is also an activist and face of the LQBTQ community, and is prepared to defend their rights under his administration. In a press release that recently announced his new role, Casais, 42, said, “the responsibility that comes with [being the director] is great.”
Previously, Casals was Vice President of Programs and Community Engagement at Friends of the High Line. With two decades under his belt as a high-profile arts administrator for Friends of the High Line and El Museo del Barrio, among others, Casais promises his new role will work to “expand conversations surrounding LGBT identity.”
As both a gay man and a Latino, he has often had identity issues, wondering if he should be labeled both or else do away with such labels while still being an activist. He hopes his work will help the marginalized, saying, “I want the museum to really bring up issues of postculturalism and make sure questions of ethnicity and intersectionality are explored.”
As for Pride, Casals told the New York Post, “In Queens, where I’ve lived for the past 16 years, Pride kicks off the first Saturday of the month, and we usually march with our local council member. This year, we started a block party at the museum featuring LGBT performers.”
Mainetti, the real estate mogul, is president of the Sorgente Group of America, one of three holding companies of the Sorgente Group of Rome.
Sorgente is a family affair. Mainetti is fifth generation, and the organization is run by her father, Valter Mainetti, the majority shareholder and chief executive. She is also majority owner of New York’s Flatiron Building.
The Sorgente Group invests in historic and iconic property in the US.
Mainetti specializes in historical preservation projects.
Mainetti, 38, came to New York about a decade ago to study architecture but instead wound up involved in her family’s company in the developmental department. She has said, “I would say my passion within real estate is definitely in the development aspect — being able to restore a piece of history is extremely rewarding.”
In her work, she has been noted for her sustainable initiatives and as being environmentally friendly. Last year, a condo conversion in Tribeca “entirely eliminated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in construction and building materials,” according to the New York Post.
She has said she would like to see more female architects, engineers and project managers. “For my next project, I want to have 50 percent women,” she told the Post. “That’s my goal.”
Mainetti, a lesbian who is married to Lorrie Shackelford, is not just all about real estate. She has a fun side too. She dabbles in social media, specifically Instagram. A lot of high-end real estate giants have such accounts, such as Fredrik Eklund. Hers is more artful, which is staged and rare and which is how she gained a lot of followers. She has portrayed herself as Rosie the Riveter, and is seen in photos with her head popping out of a sea of green leaves, among many other favorites. Her conceptual “Rebirth” on Instagram won raves from art insiders.
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