Commemorating Pride with Progress

Rise Up is celebrating Pride this month by shining a spotlight on dedicated Rise Up Leaders who are advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and protections in countries around the world. The Pride movement, catalyzed by the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City, serves as a celebration of diversity and a call to action for the ongoing fight to advance equity and justice.

We are highlighting three Rise Up Leaders who are driving meaningful change for LGBTQ+ individuals in their communities and embody the spirit of Pride.

Gautam RamChandra – Rise Up Leader, India

As a transmasculine person who has personally navigated the challenges associated with finding relevant health resources in India, Rise Up Leader Gautam RamChandra is passionately committed to ensuring that no individual feels overlooked. With funding and support from Rise Up, Gautam launched Queering the Sex-Ed — a project aimed at creating an inclusive and affirmative digital resource hub with articles, videos, posters, and infographics, in both English and Hindi, to address the lack of sexual and reproductive health care resources for Indian LGBTQ+ communities. Gautam’s project reflects his core belief that informed, respected, and healthy individuals form the cornerstone of a vibrant and equitable society.

“My experience with Rise Up has been transformative, catalyzing my growth from a participant to a leader in LGBTQ+ advocacy. The mentorship and resources provided by Rise Up have equipped me with the tools to lead with empathy, resilience, and innovation.”

Jennifer Cruz – Rise Up Leader, California

Rise Up Leader Jennifer Cruz is a lifelong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community in Fresno, California where she was raised. Recognizing the barriers to health care that the LGBTQ+ community faces, Jennifer focuses her advocacy on advancing transgender individuals’ access to local, gender-affirming medical professionals. In partnership with Rise Up, Jennifer worked with the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health to mandate LGBTQ+ competency training for doctors and mental health professionals.

“I had the privilege of being part of the Rise Up [California] cohort in 2019. Not only did I get to meet and engage with phenomenal leaders from all over California, but the content of the training was beyond any I had experienced to date. I formed relationships with California leaders that I still maintain today. When we face obstacles in our local work, we have connected over the years to problem-solve together.”

Gilmara Santos da Cunha – Rise Up Leader, Brazil

Rise Up Leader Gilmara Santos da Cunha has been a defender of LGBTQ+ rights in São Paulo’s favelas for nearly two decades.  Her work is dedicated to uplifting the transgender community in Brazil by advocating for inclusive public policies. Gilmara’s advocacy is deeply personal, rooted in her own experience as a transgender woman from the Maré complex, a favela in the north of São Paulo. Her partnership with Rise Up has been transformative, allowing Gilmara to mobilize a large and diverse network of Black and transgender women from the favelas in the fight against transphobia, racism, and gender inequality.

“It is worth highlighting the importance of [Rise Up’s funding], which made it possible not only to impact my life as a community leader, but also helped [my organization] to impact other trans lives in Brazil. As a result, we have the opportunity to debate an anti-gender policy that continues to be discussed on a global level.*”
*Translated from Portuguese and edited for clarity

Rise Up Leaders inspire us to continue to advocate for a world where every LGBTQ+ individual can live their fullest and most authentic lives.  Rise Up will always work to advance the work of leaders like Gautam, Jennifer, and Gilmara, and we honor the global LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month and every month.