Here’s who won LGBTQ Nation’s 2023 Heroes

Winners of LGBTQ Nation's 2023 Heroes
Winners of LGBTQ Nation's 2023 Heroes Photo: Various

After a month of voting, here are the winners of LGBTQ Nation’s Heroes 2023!

Last month, LGBTQ Nation’s editors nominated 36 people or groups across nine categories of heroes based on their impactful and newsworthy achievements from the past year.

Each of the nominees is a person whom LGBTQ Nation is proud to call a hero.

LGBTQ Nation Hero of the Year: Richard Fierro and Thomas James

Richard Fiero and Thomas James
Provided Richard Fiero and Thomas James

Richard Fiero and Thomas James helped stop the shooter at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado on November 19.

In a statement issued from the hospital where he was recovering from injuries sustained in the attack, James said, “I simply wanted to save the family I found. If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world, but I am only one person.”

Fierro and James were guests at Colorado Gov. Jared Polis‘ State of the State address in January, and Fierro was the Grand Marshal for Colorado Springs’ Pride parade in June.

The Pride invitation brought the Army vet to tears, Fierro told the Independent.

“For them to open their arms to me, when so many right now are closing their arms to them, that was a beautiful, beautiful thing.” 

Celebrity Who Made Us Proud: Dwyane Wade & Gabrielle Union

Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union
Shutterstock Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union have been model supportive parents of their transgender daughter, Zaya.

This year, the family cut ties with Florida, moving to California full-time as the Sunshine State devolves into Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s (R) authoritarian, anti-LGBTQ+ fever dream.

“When you have the kind of rhetoric that is being espoused in Florida and adopted into law, that’s not an option if my child isn’t safe there,” Union told Parenting magazine earlier this month.  

“We have family and friends who don’t have the privilege of moving. So we are going to be fighting till we are out of breath to protect all kids who are oppressed.”

Game-Changing Hero: Anthony Bowens

Anthony Bowens
Shutterstock Anthony Bowens

In September, baby-faced Anthony Bowens made history as the first out gay wrestler to become an All Elite Wrestling champion. The storyline was a crowd-pleaser.

Under the team name The Acclaimed, Bowens and wrestling partner Max Caster won AEW’s Tag Team Championship with a surprise victory that brought down the house.  

After the wrestling champ brought home the belt last September, Bowens had another memorable moment in June, when a reporter in the ring claimed the wrestler was into her.

“I don’t know if you can see my gear, lady, but I’m gay,” Bowens replied, sparking a roar from the crowd, who drowned out any confusion with chants of “He’s gay! He’s gay!”

Hero Who Lent a Helping Hand: Doug and Brent Munster

Doug and Brent Munster
Provided Doug and Brent Munster

Gay dads Doug and Brent Munster always knew they wanted to be fathers. Now they’re married and have two adopted kids, but their interest in starting a forever family extended beyond their own.

So the couple helped found the Georgia chapter of Gift of Adoption, a group dedicated to helping couples with limited financial resources adopt.

“Almost seven years later, we have raised over $600,000 and helped over 200 families in Georgia complete adoptions with the help of a Gift of Adoption grant.”

“I never say, ‘if you will be parents,’” Doug says. “I say, ‘when you are parents.’”

Social Media Hero: Kairyn Potts

Kairyn Potts
Kairyn Potts

Two-spirit Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation tribe member Kairyn Potts is on the socials to help explain the tribe’s history and to reclaim his culture from racists and religious extremists, past and present.

“The concept of sexuality and relationships was a lot different for indigenous people and was seen as sacred and free,” Kairyn says in one recent post.

“I respect our roots, ancient ways, and our indigenous gays,” Kairyn quoted his aunty on TikTok. “My two-spirit neph taught me slay slay slay.”

“Remember there’s nothing wrong with you for who you love or how you choose to live your life,” Kairyn advises. “Creator loves you, and your ancestors got your back ✊🏾❤️”

Arts & Entertainment Hero: Chasten Buttigieg

Chasten Buttigieg (book promo image)
Chasten Buttigieg (book promo image)

This year, Chasten Buttigieg — husband to Transportation Secretary Pete and dad to twin toddlers — revisited his refreshingly candid 2020 memoir, I Have Something to Tell You, hoping to inspire a younger audience with his story. The result: I Have Something to Tell You — for Young Adults.

The 34-year-old author told NBC, “When I was growing up in northern Michigan, I thought I was the only gay person in the world. I thought something was wrong with me.”

While Buttigieg says he came from a loving home, the teenaged Chasten could have “benefited from a 10-second conversation with my parents when I was younger.”

“What if they sat me down and said, ‘We just want you to know that you are loved, no matter what, unconditionally. If you’re gay, straight, no matter what, you will always have a roof over your head and you will always have two parents who love you.’ Imagine if I could have heard that, and then poured myself into everything else that young people should be paying attention to: sports, academics.”

Spaces for Pride Hero: Loren Ostrow

Loren Ostrow
Loren Ostrow

Ostrow, 70 and gay, is the brains behind Living Out Palm Springs, an independent living community under construction in the desert oasis and designed to provide an affirming space for LGBTQ+ retirees.

“You often hear LGBTQ people saying that when we get older, we’ll live in a communal home and take care of each other,” says Loren Ostrow, a real estate attorney turned developer.

“In a sense, what I’m doing is just a larger-scale, more professional version.”

Innovator Hero: Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld

YouTube screenshot Jesse Ehrenfeld the soon-to-be president of the AMA

In June, Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, and an out, gay married father of two, was inaugurated president of the American Medical Association.

“I’ve experienced the health care system as a gay person, as a gay parent, as in many ways wonderful positive experiences and other ways, some deeply harmful experiences,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this year. “I know that we can do better as a nation.”  

He also pledged to fight gender-affirming care bans.

“We simply will not stand for the government coming in to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship [by passing bills that] outlaw what we know to be appropriate, evidence-based clinical guidelines-based care,” he told the Washington Blade.

Truth-Seeking Hero: Dr. Eric Cervini

Dr. Eric Cervini
via Wikipedia Dr. Eric Cervini

Barely 30-something Dr. Eric Cervini, the creator of six-time Emmy-nominated The Book of Queer for Discovery+, says the hardest part of producing the show was deciding which stories to tell, a fact that didn’t occur to the people he was pitching it to.

The show is based on Cervini’s own bite-sized Instagram posts about LGBTQ+ history.

“People were learning things that I think they were surprised that they didn’t know, like maybe Lincoln was queer or the story of Sappho and where the word ‘lesbian’ comes from,” Cervini said.

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