These heroes nominees showed that someone doesn’t have to be a high-ranking government official or a famous Hollywood star to make a difference in people’s lives. Their stories grabbed our attention because they showed how good will and love can persevere and brighten our lives.
This year’s Good News Hero nominees are Denver couple Rafael Díaz, whose story of compatibility with his husband – both relationship and renal compatibility – showed that gay love has no bounds; small town Mayor Ty Penserga, whose honest style beat an anti-gay extremist in his local election; Ohio drag queen Robert Dennick Joki who used song to fight anti-gay protestors at a kid-friendly event; the Belfast, Maine Gender-Sexuality Alliance, a group of teens who stepped up and saved their local Pride festivities; and Jose Solivan, whose proposal to his fiancé on Good Morning America woke up our hearts.
The nominees for LGBTQ Nation’s 2022 Good News Hero prove peace, love and understanding win the day. Vote now for LGBTQ Nation’s 2022 Good News Hero.
When Reid Alexander swiped right on Tinder in 2020, he had no idea he’d found a perfect match — for a new kidney.
Alexander, who was diagnosed with kidney-impairing Alport syndrome at 17, found out at 24 he was down to just 20% of function for the blood-filtering organs, each about the size of a fist. He was eligible for a transplant.
That’s when Rafael Díaz swiped into his life.
First, the couple fell in love. Then, as Alexander’s condition deteriorated, Díaz took the initiative to get tested for compatibility and found that they were a perfect match. Again.
That’s when the pair decided to get hitched, first at the altar, then in simultaneous surgeries that gave Alexander a new lease on life.
“I’ve already cried so much,” Alexander said. “From the first day that I woke up in the hospital after surgery and every day after, every time we saw each other, I just cried.”
“It was meant to be,” says Díaz.
“I tell his gay butt this: if you’re gay, you’re gay. I’m a real man.”
So said the 69 year-old founder of Bernard Wright Ministries, Bernard Wright, at a Facebook Live campaign event ahead of the Boynton Beach mayoral election on March 8.
And he was just warming up.
Wright was competing in a field of four for the South Florida beach city’s top spot, including frontrunner Ty Penserga, a gay, Filipino science teacher and the town’s vice mayor.
“Ty Penserga,” Wright intoned. “Y’all see his big purple, pink signs? He’s gay. He wants to make this a gay city. That’s not Boynton culture.”
“And I’m gonna be your mayor like a man. All you gotta do is put me in there.”
Well, they didn’t. Wright went down to defeat, with six percent of the vote to Penserga’s 57%.
The new mayor was unflappable throughout the campaign.
“I focused this campaign on issues, issues that really impact real people and their everyday lives,” Penserga said.
Robert Dennick Joki
As Pride Month wound down in June, Ohio drag queen Robert Dennick Joki was on stage for the Rust Belt Theater’s family-friendly Kids Show at Youngstown Pride. He was getting ready to announce the next performer when a man with a megaphone rushed from the crowd screaming.
“He called me a ‘pervert.’ He said that I was ‘grooming’ and ‘indoctrinating’ children. He was also filming my reaction.”
Joki said his first reaction was to tackle the lunatic, but with kids in the audience, he didn’t want a brawl.
So he started singing, “‘Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high…’”
The man with megaphone got “LOUDER,” recalled Joki in a Facebook post. “He began to circle me, getting closer, becoming more and more agitated, screaming at the crowd… The crowd of CHILDREN, telling them I was a MONSTER. I was terrified, but I was determined not to show it.”
“…There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.”
“Then something unexpected happened… One by one… the other performers joined me. They linked arms with me, and started to sing along. We were then joined by people in the audience, singing in unison.”
Finally, the offender ran off, “pursued not by parents, not by security, but by queer and nonbinary teenagers. They were wearing pride flags as capes, like the heroes that they are.”
“Together we drowned his message of HATE with our message of HOPE. He had a megaphone, but I had a family.”
Belfast, Maine Gender-Sexuality Alliance
The tiny seaside town of Belfast, Maine, population 6938, and Moose Point State Park-adjacent, hadn’t had a Pride parade in two years, after a pandemic pause.
The mini-march was popular with townsfolk, but this year no one was stepping up to organize it. Enter the kids of Belfast Area High School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance.
The club’s president and junior Willa Bywater said, “I liked the idea of the newer generation of queer kids stepping in to carry on the tradition of the parade in Belfast.”
The club’s VP, Stella Dunson-Todd chimed in: “It’s important for me as a queer teenager to be part of organizing Pride because I know how much it can impact other LGBTQ people in Belfast.”
Their teacher-advisor, Annie Gray, was impressed with the kids’ initiative.
“The students had to obtain a parade permit, work with our school district central office to obtain liability insurance, raise money for expenses, carry out a publicity campaign, and are looking forward to coordination of volunteers and parade participants on June 4th,” Gray wrote.
“Growing up, the Pride parade was always such a fun and supportive environment for me to be in,” said VP Dunson-Todd. “I want to make sure that it’s like that for other kids and teens this year.
It might’ve be a little early in the day for a surprise marriage proposal, but that’s what happened live on the set of Good Morning America in Times Square in June.
On the eve of New York’s Pride weekend, GMA helped Dallas resident Jose Solivan propose to his boyfriend Matthew Buckingham in a Broadway-themed scavenger hunt.
Spoiler alert: he said yes.
No one was more excited for the proposal than GMA co-host Lara Spencer, who was giddy with anticipation through three clues that took Matthew around Times Squares to meet Aladdin‘s Genie and RuPaul’s Drag Race favorite Alyssa Edwards, and finally to the set, mid-Square.
“You bring so much to joy to my life,” Jose asked as the end of the hunt. “You bring joy to everyone’s life. I can’t believe we found each other.”
“Will you marry me?”
Jose slipped on the ring, and it fit.
Support for a gay couple’s relationship on such a mainstream program was unimaginable a decade ago. Now America can share in their joy.