Randy Hasso has lived and worked in suburban Saginaw almost all of his adult life. Over the course of almost 31 years, Randy has generously contributed his time, talents, resources, and treasures to the LGBTQIA and HIV/AIDS communities. In the early 1980s, Randy made and distributed 1,000 pins that honored seven Saginaw Valley men who died of AIDS. With other local people, Randy marched in 1987, 1989 and 1991 for Gay Rights in Washington, D.C. He has been an active and vital member of several organizations, including Dignity Tri-Cities, The NAMES Project/AIDS Memorial Quilt, Wellness Networks Tri-Cities, and Perceptions Saginaw Valley. He is a tireless leader and is always willing to roll up his sleeves and do the hard work that is so desperately needed to improve the lives of those in the LGBTQIA community, as well as raise awareness in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Through his various positions as officer and board member, Randy is a role model for young people throughout our community. As a frequent host of several fundraising events, including anniversaries and rummage sales, Randy has raised much needed funds in support of the LGTQIA community in our region. According to one longtime friend, “Randy has a wicked sense of humor. We are lucky to have such a kind, friendly person in the Tri-Cities who is gay, out, and lives his pride for himself and others—truly for a lifetime—and is a great example for us all.”
Congressman Dan Kildee serves in the U.S. House of Representatives where he continues to work tirelessly for LGBTQIA people in Michigan’s 5th District and throughout the United States. Now in his second term, Mr. Kildee is the vice-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus in the House. In addition to meeting at Delta College with local LGBTQIA and political leaders, Mr. Kildee and his staff championed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, co-authored the Student Non-Discrimination Act, co-sponsored a resolution to stop conversion therapy on LGBTQIA youth and have continued to fight for marriage and family equality. Mr. Kildee is a vocal opponent to the wave of so-called anti-transgender bathroom bills and efforts to allow discrimination on the basis of deeply held convictions. Congressperson Kildee has proven themselves time and time again to be a strong and reasoned voice for LGBTQIA civil rights.
David Custer is the 5:30 p.m. news anchor at WNEM-TV 5 in Saginaw. David is an out and unapologetic gay man whose community activism and his media presence empower LGBTQIA people to live authentic lives. He recently shared his own traumatic life experiences with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the hopes of creating legislation to protect LGBTQIA youth. He has won several Emmy Awards and even appeared on the Wendy Williams Show in New York City to help make Twinkie recipes, which he has presumably perfected with his long time partner, Dan.
Heather Aviles is a Spanish Teacher at Midland High School, where three years ago she founded the A-Z Club, a very private organization that provided a safe space for LGBTQIA students who needed to protect their privacy. Currently, she is the adviser for the school’s GSA. This school year, Heather arranged for to have student members of the GSA walk in the homecoming parade with a rain-bow banner. Through her dedication to equality and equity, Heather has created a climate of inclusion, acceptance and respect for all LGTQIA students and allies.
Jodi Liebmann is an out, loud and proud ally of the LGBTQIA community in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Through her tireless work with the Underground Railroad, she is a powerful advocate for the victims of sexual assault. He belief that people can accomplish all they have a mind to has helped change the lives of countless women and children for the better. Through her work with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland, Jodi has been at the forefront in organizing seminars and work-shops to raise the level of LGBTQIA awareness in Midland. At nearly every city council or county supervisor hearing on human rights in the region, Jodi has been a visible and often outspoken presence. Jodi is a consistent and conscientious voice of reason, and serves as an excellent role model for LGBTQIA+ allies everywhere.
Brandon Errer is in his second year as president of Living Proud, the student-run LGBTQIA organization at Saginaw Valley State University. In the last year, Brandon helped convince SVSU’s Board of Control to change the school’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy to include sexual orientation. Brandon continues to advocate for a long overdue and much needed LGBTQIA resource center on cam-pus, and is a firm believer in the implementation of gender neutral bathrooms throughout the school. Among his many talents, Brandon is a kind and patient teacher who is always willing to educate others on LGBTQIA issues. In the future, Brandon hopes to convince SVSU to include gender identity and gender expression in its non-discrimination policy
Cara Mitrano is a senior at Midland High School, where she helped start the school’s GSA. The GSA’s advocacy work raised awareness of LGBTQ issues through numerous activities, including Asexual Awareness Week, Transgender Day of Remembrance, and faculty awareness training. Despite vandalism and bullying at Midland and H.H. Dow High Schools, Cara continued to display LGBT-affirming posters on her lockers. The administration of one school even demanded she remove LGBT-positive posters from her locker. With poise and dignity, Cara collaborated with school faculty and Lambda Legal to protect her rights. In the Fall, Cara will attend Wayne State University, where she will continue her advocacy work through the GLBTA Student Union.
Plant Fitness, Midland, made national news when it defended the rights of a transgender woman who was a guest that came under attack for using the women’s locker room. The membership of the non-transgender woman who publicly protested, was revoked. Even when she filed a lawsuit against Planet Fitness, the company was resolute in its defense of its No Judgment Zone policy. In a public statement, Planet Fitness said all of its 1,000 locations will continue to adhere to the company’s fundamental belief that “members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity.” At a time when the transgender community is under great duress, Planet Fitness’ stance is a positive message that taking a stand for social justice can also be a good business decision.