March 24, 2014 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Mayor honors ‘Sheroes’ of LGBT movement
Kelley Robinson, Planned Parenthood, Cathy Chu, SMYAL, Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, Amy Nelson, Whitman-Walker Health, Sheroes of the Movement, Mayor's office of GLBT Affairs, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Kelley Robinson of Planned Parenthood, Cathy Chu of SMYAL and Amy Nelson of Whitman-Walker Health received their Sheroes of the Movement awards at a ceremony in the Fannie Mae Conference Center on Friday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

On behalf of his Office of GLBT Affairs, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on March 21 presented the city’s 2014 Sheroes of the Movement Award to three women chosen for outstanding contributions to the “LGBT movement and community” of the District of Columbia.

In a ceremony at the federal Fannie Mae Conference Center on Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Gray handed the awards to Cathy Chu, Youth Leadership Manager for the local LGBT youth advocacy and services group SMYAL; Amy Nelson, Supervising Attorney at Whitman-Walker Health’s Legal Services Program; and Kelley Robinson, Assistant Director for Youth Engagement at Planned Parenthood.

“The purpose of these awards is to honor Sheroes of the District of Columbia GLBT community for their achievement and community service during Women’s History Month,” said Earl Fowlkes, chair of the Mayor’s GLBT Advisory Committee, which selected this year’s honorees.

“These unsung Sheroes have contributed so much to our community and are often not recognized for their work in helping to make the District one of the most vibrant GLBT communities to live and work in the United States,” Fowlkes in a statement in the ceremony’s program book.

A statement released by the mayor’s office says the Office of GLBT Affairs organized this year’s 3rd annual Sheroes of the Movement Award program with the Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiatives and the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs.

The statement describes the 2014 awardees as “three lesbian, bisexual or queer women who have made significant contributions to the LGBT movement and community in the District.”

Chu, among other things, develops programs and training initiatives “designed to empower young LGBTQ-identified individuals in the District, Maryland and Virginia,” according to biographical information released by the mayor’s office. She also serves on the Steering Committees for the National Association of Gay-Straight Alliance Networks and Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sisters.

As part of her work at SMYAL, she facilitates the Women’s Leadership Institute, which provides a weekly discussion group and overnight retreats for more than 100 “young LGB women and gender non-conforming youth” in the D.C. area, information released by the mayor’s office says.

Nelson, an attorney, among other things, oversees Whitman-Walker Health’s client intake, supervises staff attorneys and represents clients — about half of whom are LGBT — in the areas of health care access, public benefits, consumer rights and workplace rights cases.

She is credited with playing the lead role in launching the city’s first Name and Gender Change Clinic to assist transgender people in updating their legal identity documents and personal records. In partnership with the local group TransLAW, the Name and Gender Change Clinic has served more than 270 clients and has trained more than 150 volunteers to carry out its services.

Among other things, Nelson has served on the board of Miriam’s House, a residence for HIV-positive, homeless women.

Robinson operates Planned Parenthood’s national youth and campus engagement programs known as the Planned Parenthood Generation, which is a project of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, information released by the mayor’s office says.

“She is dedicated to cultivating, engaging, and supporting a broad, diverse network of young leaders, especially young people of color and LGBTQ youth,” a statement in the program book says. “Kelley has doubled Planned Parenthood’s campus presence over the last two years, for a total of 250 campus groups nationwide, nearly 100 teen advocacy programs and thousands of individual activists,” it says.

“It’s a real honor to be here,” Gray told the awards gathering. “I’ve said there’s a lot of people who have done a lot for the residents of the District of Columbia to bring about a level of understanding and acceptance that otherwise might not exist in the District of Columbia – maybe more so than any other city or state.”

Gray added, “We need to recognize people who work and do this kind of advocacy. I’m proud to be in a city that is a leader on the issues that are important to us…I want to again congratulate the honorees tonight.”

Kelley told the Blade after the ceremony that she was “so proud” to have been selected as an honoree.

“It is an incredible honor and I’m just honored and privileged to be able to do the work that I do every day working with young people, working with communities of color, working with queer folks,” she said.

Nelson said she, too, was “honored and humbled to be recognized along with” Chu and Robinson. “And I’m thrilled that the mayor and his office decided to honor us and create this event.”

Chu said after the ceremony that an important part of her work is to monitor the growing number of Gay-Straight Alliance groups or GSAs that students are forming in D.C.-area high schools as well as some middle schools.

“We definitely see growth. We know of 93 GSAs right now,” she said in both public and private schools in the D.C. metro area.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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