SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders.
What has been your biggest or most surprising triumph as an LGBT activist/leader so far? Below are some of their answers:
As President of Impulse Group's South Florida Chapter, just a year since our inception I have seen the growth of the movement that is Impulse through our events, marketing and advocacy message and how it is making its mark on the community. To see something that began so small, grow and help empower a much larger movement nationwide, truly makes everything we do worthwhile. Producing a form a marketing never thought of to reach a demographic that needs it most has had its criticism but the results and impact have been life changing and I wouldn't change a thing.
— A.J. Alegria, President of Impulse Group — Fort Lauderdale
Undoubtedly my biggest triumph was my election in 2006 to the Broward County Commission as Florida’s first openly gay county commissioner. Having my colleagues on the commission subsequently select me to be Broward’s Vice Mayor in 2008, and Broward’s Mayor in 2009, made my accomplishment even more astounding.
— Ken Keechl, noted trial attorney and candidate for Broward County Commission
Without question, it was back in 1992, when the-Governor Lawton Chiles appointed me to serve as Florida's first openly gay judge. In the 22 years since my appointment, more than a dozen openly gay men and lesbians have been appointed or elected to serve as judges in the State of Florida.
— Rand Hoch, President and Founder, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council
My most significant achievement is opening dialogue on LGBT issues in the corporate world, and in Asian countries. My most satisfying achievement is having a positive impact on the self-esteem of others through my early writing and speaking.
— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist
My biggest triumph as an LGBT leader to date was winning my first election to the Miami Beach Commission in 2006 becoming not only the first (and still only) openly gay person elected to the Miami Beach Commission but also becoming the first openly gay Latino elected to public office in the State of Florida. I had been “outed” in the final days of the campaign on a live radio show in an attempt to hurt my chances of getting elected, however, the residents of Miami Beach voted for my qualifications and experience and I am forever grateful.
— Michael C. Gongora, former Vice Mayor of Miami Beach
Over the 2010 Christmas Holiday, I spearheaded a Christmas Miracle, an effort to secure Betsie Gallardo's release from a Florida state prison. She was dying of cancer and AIDS and her 5-year sentence quickly became a death sentence. Betsie was release from prison and died with dignity with her family by her side.
— Michael Rajner, community activist
Far from an activist I am, the triumph to bring unspoken awareness and understanding that contributes to tolerance and fosters harmony; this at its biggest, is beneficial for all.
— Sonja Pressley, BLAST Assistant Organizer