A couple months back, we asked our readers, our fans, and our supporters to nominate outstanding women that have been present and active in our community. Women you believe will have an even bigger and better 2012 ahead of them. From the movers and shakers in the queer social scene to artists and activists to the business women and beyond, we were overwhelmed with the response. Over the course of a few weeks, we received dozens of nominations describing passionate, intelligent, driven women. The nominations were simply amazing. The task of choosing only 10 was daunting. Though every single one of the nominees is a woman destined for great things this year, we finally came to our Top Ten Lesbians to Look Out for in 2012.
10. Christina Wiesmore
Nomination Quote: “Christina sees the whole picture and the magic that she possesses is that she has a way of sharing the picture with an audience wide and deep – and in so sharing – brings us all together.”
Why on our list? Will take womens events to new levels and is an all-around badass
If there was a real life name for a real life superwoman – it just might have to be Christina Weismore. Christina is definitely a household name in the lesbian community. When you meet her, the energy that she gives off is nothing more than radiant – spreading throughout the space she occupies. Though some may consider Christina a “Celesbian”, those who have worked with her know her passion runs far deeper than throwing a fantastic girl party. She is a doer – a mover – a dreamer – and a force to be reckoned with. In 2004, Christina, along with Amie Klujian and Mona Patel, created the hottest lesbian event of the year- “Back Lot Bash”. This party is an outdoor music festival that takes place during pride weekend. Starting as a two day event in 2004, the Bash has expanded to a four day extravaganza that attracts women from around the Midwest to embrace the local and emerging musical artists from our community and around Chicago. With the success of Back Lot Bash and its yearlong anticipation, Christina began a monthly “Women in Music” showcase and has also teamed up with The L Stop to ensure that our parties attract the same diverse and passionate crowd of women that she has captured over the past nine years. Though she is in Los Angeles for a short time pursuing her passion for event production, she will be back in time to host yet another amazing Pride weekend festival. We are all looking forward to seeing what Christina’s energy and dedication will bring out West, and more importantly, eagerly awaiting her return to Chicago.
9. Dr. Magda Houlberg
Why on our list? Trans health trailblazer, Chief Clinical Officer at Howard Brown
Dr. Magda Houlberg, the Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at Howard Brown Health Center, is a practicing physician, a mother and a longtime advocate for LGBT health issues and programming. Some of the most groundbreaking work done by HBHC and the staff working with Dr. Houlberg surrounds transgender health. With 10 percent of patients self-identifying as transgender, Howard Brown has provided more health care services to Trans and queer individuals than anywhere else in the Midwest – and they continue to grow. While she has played an essential role in the program development in recent years, 2012 promises to see even more expansion in the delivery of healthcare to the areas of youth, women’s health and other underrepresented communities. With a staff that is just as dedicated and driven as she is, Dr. Houlberg has overseen the implementation of many exciting programs such as the Alternative Insemination Program, piloted and championed by the late Christina Santiago. The HEAL Curriculum, a cultural competency training program for nurses of older LGBT adults, and their annual LGBT Health Student Symposium- just to name a few. With the need for these resources more than ever before, we honor Dr. Houlberg as a great leader and inspiration to the community of women here in Chicago.
8. Abby Smith
Nomination Quote: “Abbey is an incredibly strong, dedicated, compassionate woman who has saved and transformed the lives of thousands of animals over the years.”
Why on our list? Abby is The Mother Theresa of Animal Rescue
Abby Smith wowed us with her dedicated supporters that came out in masses to nominate her as one of the top lesbians to look out for this year. With so many glowing descriptions of her work, we couldn’t help but hop on the Felines Inc bandwagon that she has worked so hard in the last ten years to cultivate. Through her hard work she has gained citywide recognition. Abby began her journey with the cage-less, no-kill cat shelter as a part-time adoption counselor, and quickly rose to the position as Executive Director within a year. In a financial and structural rut, the Edgewater shelter was on the verge of collapse, with depleted funding and almost nonexistent adoption opportunities. Those who nominated Abby describe her as a compassionate, honest, and determined woman who works tirelessly for the lives of the animals. All of her hard work and passion have paid off as she begins to lead a team in a colossal expansion of the shelter. This new growth will allow the organization to almost double their capacity, enabling them to assist and care for many more wayward felines. With this expansion comes a two story wing capable of housing up to 20 dogs/puppies – and even a community center! It is obvious that over a ten-year period, Abby has not only saved the lives of thousands of animals (they now average about 400 adoptions a year), but inspired her peers, volunteers and countless other women in our community. Her tireless efforts have brought her within $250,000 of the 1.2 million dollar goal she hopes to reach. Check out Cinco de Meow on May 5th at Trader Todds and help Abby and her team make a big furry dream come true!
7. Stacy Agosto
Nomination Quote: “Chicago and the LGBT Community are incredibly fortunate to have this feisty, intelligent, sassy, and bad ass woman batting for our team.”
Why on our list? LGBTQ Political Activist and Social Worker
With only a few months left until she acquires her Master’s degree from University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, Stacy Agosto has already done a great job of establishing herself in both her field and the LGBT community. Studying clinical social work with additional focus on non-profit/program management and government policy, she currently works as an Advanced Mental Health Intern at the Center on Halsted. She works tirelessly conducting various therapy sessions for mainly LGBT people managing a variety of issues. Along with a team of researchers at the University, Stacy’s work focuses efforts on LGBT youth and adolescent girls. Her research aims to make recommendations to clinicians and health care providers to better serve that community. If this summer is anything like the summer of 2011, where Stacy held a fellowship in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, she is in for a great adventure. Upon graduating in June, she hopes to work directly with clients at a community mental health agency or hospital, though she eventually aspires to combine several of her passions (consulting on government policy, teaching and leading a team as a mental health director). Look out for Stacy this year as she adds another degree to her resume and takes the world on as a practicing therapist and all around superwoman.
6. Jamie Royce
Nomination Quote: “Jamie is all about fighting oppression institutionally, she respects the importance of person-to-person connection. Not only is Jamie a killer activist, she is a great friend.”
Why on our list? Runs “Stuff Queer People Need to Know”, writes for WCT, and has much in store for the Chicago Queer scene
A recent Cincinnati transplant, Jamie Royce, a multi-talented writer, reporter, editor and photojournalist has already proven to be a real mover and shaker in the Chicago community. Her blog, “Stuff Queer People Need to Know”, has been recognized by the Lesbian & Gay Foundation as one of the top 100 LGBT blogs, and its content has been published nationally. One of the issues that brought her to where she is now in her activism is her studies and awareness of the intersectional issues of gender, sexuality, race, class boy positivity, reproductive health and STI prevention. Jamie has taken her knowledge across the country to conferences teaching the participants how to include intersecting identities in their organizations; in addition to creating a custom higher education Tran’s survival guide. Not only does she inspire those that she knows on a personal level, Jamie has inspired individuals across the country with her knowledge, her energy and her strong desire to create change. Though new to the city, she has not missed a beat, and plans to work with her friend Nancy Paraskevopoulos to open a Queer art collective in the north side of Chicago this Spring! You can catch Jamie at FKA tearing it up on the dance floor, on her blog, or in Windy City Times where she often contributes freelance work.
5. Sami Grisafe
Nomination Quote: “Sami is a woman of choice, power and intelligence. She is open not only to the lesbian audience – but the world audience at large. She is high energy with all the right vibes – a young woman with an old artist’s soul playing the small venues along the way to her certain success in the larger artistic arena.”
Why on our list? Hot Quarterback with a sexy, raspy voice ready to rock the music industry
You may know Sami Grisafe from behind the bar at The Closet, where she is known for playing her Ukulele while cracking open beers and pouring those very late late night drinks. You may even recognize her as the power house quarter back for the Chicago Force Woman’s football team. However, in the last year she has made incredible headway in the Chicago music scene, from breezing through the rounds as Windy City Gay Idol to playing with her band to promote her upcoming album, ATLANTIS. With a distinct voice and an unmistakable fedora, Sami has become a face in the women’s music scene. She was recently in Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (a showcase for film, music and international media) where she performed. Sami has a great year ahead of her, including a pre-nomination for this year’s Grammys. If you think she is getting enough satisfaction from touring around the country think again- she recently started a record company under the motto of “Globalize Local”, which aims to share the love of local music with an international audience. You can wander into The Closet and have this woman pour you a drink and maybe strum a few notes on the Uke – but I would suggest that you try and catch a show in the very near future – before she is following her famous ukulele around the world into rock star fame and fortune.
4. Alicia Figueroa
Nomination Quote: “Alicia is the next generation; a generation that is proactive, not reactive. It is clear to see her mission and vision, and that is one of activism, support, knowledge and advocacy for LGBTQ people and older adults.”
Why on our list? Alicia loves and volunteers to work for the LGBTQ seniors
Alicia Figueroa is an activist, a student, a teacher and a volunteer who found her passion in the grossly underrepresented community of aging LGBTs. While so many focus on the youth, young professionals and the growing number LGBT families, Alicia uses her connections throughout the city to bring awareness and understanding of the aging LGBT community to light. Currently working on her master’s thesis on LGBT aging, in particular the late-life bloomer, she spends much of her free time volunteering for various groups around the city. Alicia is the acting volunteer group lead of the Constituent Advocacy group with SAGE at the Center on Halsted. She is beginning a stint of volunteer work with LCCP at Howard Brown and representing SAGE at an Elder Law class at John Marshall Law School. Alicia will be attending several conferences and symposiums to deepen her understanding and enlighten others about her passion. If you think she couldn’t possibly have any more on her plate, think again! Alicia is currently working with Northeastern University and their student life departmental committee to develop and design LGBTQ and Women’s resource centers, respectively. As a young woman taking on a multitude of generations, Alicia is certainly a force to be reckoned with in 2012.
3. Kat Fitzgerald
Nomination Quote: “Her passion for being involved in the community seems to keep getting stronger and stronger. I don’t know how she has time to cover all the events that she does.”
Why on our list? Brings female indie artists into a spotlight, has literally documented the LGBTQ Chicago scene for a long, long time
Kat Fitzgerald. How do we even begin to describe a woman who owns three companies, builds a photography/music studio in her basement, attends every and any big ticket community event (taking pictures while socializing), and does it all in fierce stilettos? Well why don’t we start with Nine Tail Productions, a business she launched to promote great music in and around the community, including her Four Women Showcase that she hosts the second Monday of every month. In addition, Kat owns Mystic Images Photography. Her magic camera takes her all around the city to document event after event- and earlier this year she had the opportunity to photograph President Obama. Among the many projects that she organizes, supports, and promotes, is an upcoming photojournalistic project. Kat is working with Tracy Baim of the Windy City Times creating a flagship book for a possible series. Kat is shooting selected queer women with their moms as a tribute to those strong women who raised us. Always sporting a smile and a flawless outfit, Kat Fitzgerald has shown us that Pride is not just about drag shows and a parade, but about so much more.
2. Fawzia Mirza
Nomination Quote: “This woman is extraordinary and she is passionate about working within and for her communities – LGBTW, Muslim, Pakistani, through her art and her educational work. Her momentum, commitment and energy are inspiring and contagious.”
Why on our list? Queer identifying Artist, Actress, and Activist
Fawzia Mirza is not only an incredibly bright, passionate and motivated woman, but she is an extremely talented actress, writer, director and producer. Enlisting her passion for the performing arts, Fawzia energetically balances her numerous projects; including her work at Catharsis Productions, where she hopes to substantially minimize interpersonal violence through artistically innovative work. Through her drive within the arts, she is known well for mixing her skillset with political and social issues, raising awareness as she goes from project to project. Awarded a grant from Chances Dances last year, Fawzia is currently working on a passion piece – “The Queen of My Dreams”- a docu-narrative experimental short film about her experience with the intersection of Bollywood, drag and identity in her life. On top of all of the projects she is currently working on, including a leading role in Theatre Seven’s “In the Heart of America” at Theatre Seven in Chicago. Fawzia is in pre-production for a feature film “Nine Twelve” which follows the experience of a Muslim American family in the aftermath of September 11th. She shows her eclectic style with her romp through Kardashian world as Kam Kardashian – The Gay One (watch this for a quick smile). Those who are lucky enough to have met this woman could go on and on detailing her various accomplishments, positive energy and hilarious stories. But, at this point, it is better if you experience her for yourself. Follow her work on her website, support her various projects, and soak in her energy – she is worth it. We promise.
1. Betsy Rubinstein
Nomination Quote: “As a licensed social worker, along with strong communication skills, Betsy is making her presence known. Betsy is a passionate young professional who will definitely make a mark on the queer community; some think she already has.”
Why on our list? Taking on Queer women’s health issues head first, never forgetting their roots in activism and outreach
Betsy Rubinstein is a woman who is taking on the all too often invisible issue of queer women’s health, and doing it one dental dam at a time. In just one month, Betsy took two new leadership roles in the lesbian community, moves that came after years of volunteer work in the field. Betsy earned her Masters in social work and she recently accepted the role as the manager of Howard Brown’s Lesbian Community Care Project. Using her vast experience in community outreach, fundraising and healthcare education, Betsy leads a small yet vocal team with the goal of expanding programming for queer women at HBHC. She is working hard to incorporate a huge push towards the South and West sides of Chicago. With a job that sends her out to work many nights and weekends, Betsy is never seen without a smile and an energy that is contagious. Like many of the women who work endlessly towards their passion, 2012 is also the beginning of Betsy’s role as co-chair of the Chicago Foundation for Women’s Lesbian Leadership Council. After a previous push to raise money for trans-gynecology, Betsy is now co-leading a team of dedicated women activists to raise money for LGBTQ organizations and programs in Chicago that have a special focus on women and young girls. The entire L Stop team is looking forward to cultivating our relationship with Betsy, as she works tirelessly to raise awareness for such a critical issue that is often overlooked. As an activist, a teacher and an amazing role model for women of all ages, Betsy Rubinstein is on the fast track to being the face for Queer women’s health concerns here in Chicago.
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Lauren was born and raised in South Minneapolis and like many other innocent midwesterners got sucked into the black hole of Chicago politics 4 years ago. As the LGBT Coordinator for the Gery Chico for Mayor Campaign she attempted to take on the entire city and hasn’t looked back since. Now working for a communications firm, she spends her extra time running around with cases of PBR playing in different sports leagues, hosting couchsurfers from all over the place, and deciding how she is going to change the world. A simple lady at her core, she has decided that the first person to send her an edible arrangement must be the one.