"I spent most of my life and career in the closet, because when I was starting out as a young man, you couldn’t be openly gay and have a successful career"
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, announced that actor and rights activist George Takei, best known for his television and movie role as Mr. Sulu in Star Trek, will be honored at HRC’s Time to THRIVE conference in Portland.
HRC also announced that Debi Jackson, who, as mother of a transgender child, has emerged as a national LGBT rights activist, will be a featured speaker at the acclaimed gathering. The conference, to be held over President’s Day weekend, February 13-15, is presented in partnership with the National Education Association and the American Counseling Association.
“We are honored and humbled to have such powerful advocates join us to bring attention to the needs of our LGBT and questioning youth, many of whom face family rejection, bullying and constant safety concerns,” said Vincent Pompei, chair of Time to THRIVE, and director of the HRC Foundation’s Youth Well-Being Project. “George Takei and Debi Jackson are two of the most compelling, eloquent voices out there speaking on behalf of LGBTQ equality.”
The ground-breaking Time to THRIVE conference, which last year featured actress Ellen Page’s profoundly inspirational coming out speech, attracts hundreds of people who play crucial roles in the everyday lives of LGBTQ youth - from teachers, counselors, clergy, and coaches, to staff from youth development organizations including scouting and Boys and Girls Clubs. More than 50 workshops on topics such as creating safe and inclusive schools, and supporting transgender and gender-expansive youth, are available to attendees.
In honoring Takei with its Upstander Award, HRC has singled out an actor made famous by his role in Star Trek, but who tells his 1.47 million Twitter followers, and another 8.2 million followers on Facebook, that he hopes people know him as a “believer in, and a fighter for, the equality and dignity of all human beings.” Takei, who revealed he was gay in 2005 after then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed that state’s same-sex marriage bill, married his partner of 21 years in 2008.
“I spent most of my life and career in the closet, because when I was starting out as a young man, you couldn’t be openly gay and have a successful career. I have seen so much change in my lifetime – even in the years since I came out publicly,” Takei said.
“Yet LGBTQ youth still face so many negative influences that put them at a disadvantage and make their lives more difficult. It’s a privilege for me to be a part of Time to THRIVE, where we can come together with LGBTQ youth, and those who work directly with them, and talk about the changes that these young people need to see in order to ensure their safety, inclusion and well-being,” he said.
Takei’s acting career has spanned five decades, and includes more than 40 feature films and hundreds of television guest starring roles.
An HRC member, he served during the Clinton administration on the Board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, and in 2004 was honored by the Emperor of Japan. He is the subject of the documentary, “To Be Takei,” and has written three books - an autobiography, and two about his forays into social media, where, with his wit and commitment to social justice, he has attracted an enormous new generation of admirers, many unfamiliar with his Star Trek fame.
Debi Jackson came to prominence last year after sharing her experience as the mother of a six-year-old transgender daughter during a live Mother’s Day-related “Listen to Your Mother” reading event. A video of her moving story, that of a conservative Southern Baptist Republican from Alabama accepting her child’s gender identity and grappling with the intolerance of others, has been viewed nearly a half million times on YouTube.
"We're hearing so many stories of children coming out as transgender -- some deeply tragic and some incredibly inspiring. What sets the stories apart is whether that child has adults who support them," said Jackson, who is also president of the Kansas City Chapter of PFLAG, the national organization of families, friends and allies of LGBTQ people. "Through the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Time to THRIVE conference, 800 more adults will be able to go home and be part of making a child's life better."
She added, “The private elementary school we had selected for our daughter to attend didn't support her transition, so I know firsthand what a difference this conference can make to a family. I'm so thrilled to be a part of it."
A 20-year veteran of the marketing and advertising world, Jackson recently started a website for parents of transgender and gender non-conforming children. Its motto: “Love your kids and help them discover who they are. It really is that simple.”
Time to THRIVE will take place at the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower with AT&T as the presenting sponsor.
Both Hilton and AT&T have earned a 100 percent in HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates American workplaces based on their commitment to LGBT equality. Portland is also one of 25 cities in the country to earn a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide evaluation of LGBTQ inclusiveness in municipal law.
Time to THRIVE is the premier national convening of 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. Time to THRIVE will take place over President’s Day Weekend, February 13-15, 2015 at the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower in Portland, OR. To register, visit www.TimeToThrive.org.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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The LGBT pride flag was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. It was originally called the Freedom Flag and was comprised of 8 colored stripes, each denoting a different meaning.