Dream big. Fight hard. Live proud. Because life is what you make of it, Brandon Wolf of Orlando, Florida is our local person of the year. It was not necessarily supposed to be this way.
The philosopher and author Andre Gide once spoke the words “only those who have been touched by the wings of death know the flight of life.”
In one second, on June 12, 2016, at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Brandon Wolf learned the meaning of that phrase. He was a kid whohad studied political science at the University of Oregon. He moved to central Florida in order to become a business executive for Disney.
Brandon entered management, and oversaw a host of large retail portfolios. He also was employed as a manager at Starbucks. But nothing he was learning from the human resources department prepared for the night that would change his life.
Today, Brandon does not chart his days by presenting a real estate portfolio for investors. He builds his life around a passion and principle speaking out for a greater good. He is a voice for the friends he went to the club with that night- the ones that never came home. He is a voice for the LGBT community silenced and ignored after the Pulse massacre.
Brandon is currently the Media Director for Equality Florida in the daytime. However, Brandon has also emerged to become one of the most principled and passionate voices in America speaking out against gun violence. Starbuck’s loss is our gain.
From his perch in Orlando, Brandon has launched a career as a nationally-recognized advocate for LGBT issues. He is now a frequent contributor on state and national media outlets, publishing opinion columns in USA Today, CNN digital and Orlando Weekly.
Brandon is on network and cable television too. He is defiant. He is determined. He is dedicated. He will not be denied. Nor will he be subtle or silenced.
When he became the first Pulse survivor to address the U.S. Congress last fall, he told them off: “It’s disgraceful actually, and it's totally unacceptable that one of the most horrific acts of violence in our nation's history and our stories were not being told in D.C."
Then there is the Dru Project,an organization he founded following the shooting at Pulse Nightclub. It sponsors LGBT student groups and provides college funding to future leaders. Brandon is an activist with a purpose, a survivor whose voice is now being heard from coast to coast.
Brandon has taken a tragic moment and turned it into a noble achievement.
In selecting Brandon as SFGN’s local Person of the Year, SFGN today republishes the feature article our writer, Damon Scott, did on him in one of last year’s MIRROR magazines. It’s a great article. Enjoy it.
Our bi-monthly magazine is named the MIRROR because we wanted to publish stories that showcase and illuminate LGBT lives. We wanted stories that inspire us to create a newer world, one more peaceful and purposeful. I feel that comes about when we see challenges as opportunities and adversity as a test, not a torment.
In its own way, Brandon’s story reflects your own. One glance on a subway, one chance meeting on a beach, and you knew immediately who you were. You may have married. You may have been in the closet. But one day you looked in a mirror and you found yourself; your soul. You waited, but one day, your moment came.
On a summer night in June in the year 2016, Brandon’s life changed. His moment came. His friends, and our brothers and sisters, died. Fear and terror overwhelmed his soul. Today, he has beaten both bastards back.
Today, Brandon is seeking a newer world, forging a tomorrow with more love and less violence. He told Teen Vogue last year that his message for young activists was simple:"Don't ever let someone tell you that you are too young." He is ever so right. Your turn will come too.
Today, Brandon is out giving another talk, chastising the NRA, asking gay leaders to be more responsive and less apathetic, holding the Department of Justice more accountable for gun violence. His life has a purpose beyond himself.
“Gun violence,” he said on my radio show in November, “is no longer partisan. It’s generational. We are here to change the world, and we will.”
As I said, he is defiant, determined. Dedicated. He will not be denied.
Brandon reaches out in many ways, including his work with the Dru Project, a volunteer organization that he launched with friendswho had started the first gay-straight alliance program at his Seminole, Florida high school. Its goal to provide college scholarships and mini-grants for gay-straight alliances and developing LGBT curriculum material.
Brandon could have been pouring lattes at Starbucks today. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s all about finding your place in the sun, or like Ben Vereen once sung in “Pippin,” your corner of the world.
Our world is a better place today because Brandon found his, and that is why SFGN acknowledges this young man, a neighbor, a central Florida activist, as our local Person of the Year for 2019.
Check out SFGN's 'Best Of The Best' @
Check out SFGN's current 'Best Of' @
Check out SFGN's current 'Out-50' @