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NCLR's 34th Anniversary Celebration Awardees
Each year, NCLR commemorates its anniversary by presenting awards to individuals who have made a difference in the history and future of the LGBT community. This year, NCLR is thrilled to honor:
The Spirit Award honors an individual whose strength of character embodies and invigorates the spirit of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
Because Kye has been a pioneer in the world of sport. Because his bravery and character in living authentically and unapologetically as a transgender man and an athlete has blazed a trail that all of us can follow. Because, with the simple act of continuing to play the sport he loves as the man he is, he has helped to change the landscape for all athletes in this country, transgender or not, gay or straight.
On November 13, 2010, Kye Allums became the first publicly transgender person to play NCAA Division I college basketball. Kye grew up in the small town of Hugo, Minnesota, 30 minutes north of Minneapolis. Growing up, Kye was a tomboy and would often say he was a boy despite being born a biological girl. After attempting to fit in as a lesbian for years, it wasn’t until his freshman year at George Washington University that Kye realized that the truth was that he is a transgender man, and needed to live openly. Early in his sophomore, Kye began living authentically as himself and eventually told some of his teammates he was a man inside a woman’s body
After coming out to his entire team and coach, with their support, Kye began using male pronouns and a new name. He started 20 of his team’s 28 games last year, and has said it’s rare that he hears negative talk from opposing players. According to NCAA spokesperson Jennifer Royer, players are expected to adhere to the NCAA’s code of conduct on the court, and transphobic language falls under that code.
At some point, questions will come as to whether Kye should continue to be allowed to play on the women’s team. Losing his scholarship was a real concern of his as the task of fully expressing himself while still playing basketball seemed overwhelming. As Kye has educated himself, including with the help of NCLR’s report, “On The Team: Equal Opportunity for Transgender Student Athletes,” and Sports Project Director Helen Carroll, his fears have dissipated. He realized that as long as he does not undergo hormone treatment, he is eligible to participate in NCAA women’s sports and keep his scholarship to stay in school. He has plans to medically transition after he’s played his last game in the NCAA, but until then, is happy to play on the team that has become like family.
As Kye has said, “God didn’t make a mistake. I was meant to be like this for a reason. Clearly my life is going to be different from anyone who was born a biological male, because of what I’ve been through. And I was meant to go through all of this.”
Learn more about Kye:
chely and stan wright
Voice and Visibility Award
The Voice and Visibility Award honors an individual who has helped to give voice and visibility to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Because Chely has demonstrated a powerful courage in coming out as the first openly LGBT country music star at the height of her career, when staying silent would have been the more ‘acceptable’ option. Because she has not just come out as a lesbian, but has used her unique position and fame to amplify her voice to share her painful and moving journey that brought her to coming out against the odds, showing young people who fear rejection from their churches and families, who pray they won’t be gay, and who think there is only one way out of their pain, that there is love and hope. Because of Stan’s unconditional love as Chely has traveled this difficult road, to help others in the same position Chely was in as a child and closeted woman know that being gay does not mean losing your family. Because both Chely and Stan continue to stand up and speak out as people of faith, unchanged by the fact that Chely is a lesbian.
About Chely and Stan
Born on October 25, 1970, in rural Wellsville, Kansas, Chely had planned to be a country music singer since the age of four. Each morning when she woke up, Wright’s mother always had the radio tuned to a country music station. Chely used to sit in her great -grandmother's lap with her tiny hands resting on her great-grandmother's hands playing piano. At the age of nine, her Christmas list included a doll and a request for her family to move to Nashville; at eleven, she formed her own band with her father as the bass player.
On the strength of her debut album in 1994, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) named Chely Wright Top New Female Vocalist in 1995. Wright's first Top 40 country hit came in 1997 with "Shut Up and Drive". Two years later, her fourth album yielded her first number one single, the title track, "Single White Female".
Overall, Wright has released seven studio albums on various labels, and has charted more than fifteen singles on the country charts. As of May 2010, Wright's previous eight albums had sold over 1,000,000 copies in the United States. In May 2010, Wright became the first major country music performer to publicly come out as gay. In television appearances and an autobiography, she cited among her reasons for coming out a concern with bullying and hate crimes toward LGBT people, particularly LGBT youth, and the damage to her life caused by "lying and hiding".
As a songwriter she has written songs that have been recorded by Brad Paisley, Richard Marx, Indigo Girls, Mindy Smith and Clay Walker, among them Walker's top ten hit, "I Can't Sleep" for which she won a BMI Award. On May 4, 2010, Wright released both her memoir of being a closeted lesbian, Like Me, and her first album of new songs since 2005, Lifted Off the Ground.
Stan Wright, a veteran of the Navy, is the owner of a construction business in Missouri. Soon after Chely came out publicly, her father Stan set an example for all parents of LGBTQ children. On national television, he told the world how his unconditional love for his daughter Chely reversed his previously long-held negative perceptions of people who are gay. As he himself put it, “You hear a lot of times, unconditional love—well, in this old man’s world, it’s true. Unconditional. You know, until you’re in that position, until you become that parent, it’s pretty easy to say some of the more negative issues, but when you become that parent, then you have a gauge, and that is your child. And there’s nothing, there’s absolutely nothing we can’t get through. And I’m very proud of Chely.”
Learn more about Chely
The Justice Award honors an individual who has shown the courage and perseverance to fight for justice and sacrificed to make broad social change for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
Because Lisa has stood strong in the face of ignorance and bigotry to show not only her players and students, but this country, that living authentically and loving your family knows no shame. Because she has helped to put a face on the continued need to fight for employment discrimination protections in every corner of this country. Because she has helped to transform the hearts and minds of her community and colleagues in a profound way that moved them to act on her behalf and change the non-discrimination policies at the university at which she formerly worked.
Lisa Howe’s love of soccer began at an early age. She had already been playing for 12 years when she went to Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida and received both athletic and academic scholarships. Barry was one of the top women’s soccer programs in the country, and Lisa was a member of the 1989 NCAA Division II National Champions. Being a true scholar athlete, Lisa has a Bachelor’s degree in Sport Management and an MBA.
Lisa has been a head collegiate women’s soccer coach for the last 17 years, including coaching Berry College in the NAIA National Tournament. At the age of 24, she started an NCAA Division I women’s soccer program from scratch at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama. Lisa coached there for 10 years and qualified for the conference tournament six times. After taking over at Belmont University in 2005, it took Coach Howe four years to take the Bruins from the bottom of the Atlantic Sun Conference to the top, winning the A-Sun Tournament and coaching in the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and winning the regular season co-championship in 2009. Lisa is the only coach who has been Coach of the Year 3 times in the Atlantic Sun Conference (1999, 2001, & 2009).
Coach Howe was nationally recognized by the NCAA in 2010 for having an Academic Progress Rate in the Top 10%. The APR is the tool that the NCAA uses to measure a program’s retention rate and graduation rate. Lisa coached over 150 All-Academic players and 2 of those athletes were named All-Region All-Academic. Coach Howe’s teams earned a 3.0 grade point average or above for 31 out of 32 semesters.
In November 2010, Lisa began telling her team, co-workers, and supervisors that she and Wendy Holleman, her partner of nearly nine years, were expecting a baby in May. The following month, Lisa went through a public separation with her employer, Belmont University. Since then, Lisa has spoken to dozens of media outlets about important issues like being a gay Christian, coming out, equality, discrimination, and local political issues. In addition, Belmont University has added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy and for the first time ever at the school, sponsors a GLBT student organization.
Ms. Howe has lobbied Metro Government and Tennessee State Legislators, spoken to PFLAG, met Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Congressman Jim Cooper, appeared on “ESPN - Outside the Lines,” interviewed with Glamour Magazine, The LA Times, and The New York Times, and has been covered by every local media outlet in Nashville.
Lisa and Wendy had a commitment ceremony in July 2010 and plan to welcome their first child on May 4th. Her name is Hope.
Learn more about Lisa
The Founder’s Award acknowledges a person whose life embodies NCLR’s vision and values of equality and justice and who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to activism on behalf of our communities.
Because without Donna, there would be no NCLR. Because her vision of and commitment to full justice and equality for the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community was and still is inspired and unflagging. Because she helped win the first second-parent adoption in this country. Because she knew NCLR needed to take cases on behalf of gay, bisexual, and transgender people and parents even if no one else would. Because her guidance and wisdom are a part of NCLR’s legacy to this day. Because she transformed the LGBT legal landscape. Because, 34 years later, NCLR is bigger, better, brighter, and bolder than Donna or anyone else could have imagined in 1977.
There’s one thing that’s sure about the Honorable Donna Hitchens’ legacy: Through her commitment to justice, she has changed the lives of thousands of people, not only while serving on the San Francisco County Superior Court bench, but as the founder of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, where her vision of fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality continues to change the nation’s legal landscape.
After 20 years, Judge Hitchens—who developed a reputation as one of the nation’s most well-respected judges—retired from the San Francisco Superior Court in November 2010, ending a legal career that spans more than three decades.
Her unfailing commitment to justice and equality began in the 1970s, when she saw the courtroom as a way to change the world, and entered law school. As a lesbian, she had experienced frustrations and fears—personal and professional—and didn’t want others to suffer the same. And as a future parent, she knew she would face even more challenges ahead.
Fresh out of University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 1977 and eager to make a difference, she started the Lesbian Rights Project, one of the first legal organizations in the country to focus primarily on issues encountered by lesbians, such as custody, adoption, access to public accommodations, and employment. The Project was sponsored by Equal Rights Advocates, a leading national advocacy organization for women. From its inception, the Project also represented gay, bisexual, and transgender parents, and began to expand its work into other areas such as immigration, youth, elder, employment, and constitutional law.
In 1988, the Project became independent and was renamed the National Center for Lesbian Rights. And today, Judge Hitchens’ pioneering spirit and unwavering commitment to advancing LGBT justice and equality continues, with NCLR staff helping more than 5,000 LGBT people and their families each year through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Hitchens won election to the San Francisco Superior Court in 1990, soon helping unify the court so that all cases involving divorce, adoption, abused children, child support, domestic violence, and other matters of family law are in one division.
She has devoted much of her efforts at improving the social welfare and justice system for families and youth, and worked with the Bar Association of San Francisco to establish the court’s Family Law Self-Help Center, as well as with court staff, the Bar Association of San Francisco, San Francisco agencies and various community organizations to improve services for the dependency court and foster children. She has also chaired the San Francisco Safe Start Initiative, aimed at improving services to young children exposed to violence in the home and in the community.
Over the years, her efforts have been recognized by numerous organizations that have honored her with awards, including the 2001 Benjamin Aranda Access to Justice Award for her efforts to improve access to the courts for low- and moderate-income people. She also is the recipient of the 2002 Judicial Officer of the Year Award from the Family Law Section of the State Bar of California.
Since being elected to the Superior Court, Judge Hitchens has served as Presiding Judge, a trial judge in the Civil and Criminal Divisions and as Supervising Judge of the Unified Family Court. She is a former member of the Judicial Council and the Advisory Committee on Access and Fairness in the Courts and recently chaired the Science & the Law Education Committee.
In addition to her Juris Doctorate, she earned a bachelor’s degree in community leadership and development from Springfield (Mass.) College, where she later earned a Master’s in counseling. Judge Hitchens—who will fill in a few days a month for absent San Francisco Superior Court judges—plans on spending her retirement with her wife, Nancy Davis, visiting their adult children, going fishing, tending to her garden, cooking, and taking some classes.
Learn more about Donna: