Campus Pride Blog

Top 25 “Best of the Best” LGBT speakers, performers raises awareness of inclusion, visibility on college campuses nationally


Release of Campus Pride’s 2010 HOT LIST! marks ‘best of the best’ in LGBT actors, comedians, lecturers, performers; comes on heels of what some say is exclusive, ill-chosen speaker/performer set at this year’s NACA Conference.

Campus Pride, the nation’s leading non-profit working to create safer, more LGBT-inclusive colleges and build future LGBT and ally leaders, announces today its 2010 HOT LIST!, the “Top 25 LGBT Favorites” including out lecturers, comedians, musicians. poets, artists, researchers, activists and more. The list serves as a unique resource for LGBT college student organizations, college activities coordinators, student life officials and others looking to bring the best and brightest talent to their campuses while also increasing awareness, inclusion and visibility of LGBT people.

This year’s release of the HOT LIST! couldn’t come at a better time, as activists and professionals ask why this year’s National Association of Campus Activities (NACA) conference failed to adequately include out LGBT people in their roster of speakers, performers and workshop leaders. Some organizers are shocked, especially in light of the national attention surrounding LGBT youth suicides the last month.

“That NACA would include only one openly queer person in their national conference line-up this year is a sign there’s still more work to do in increasing visibility for LGBT people on college campuses and the associations that serve them across the country,” says Adrienne Jones, student activist and Hot List volunteer coordinator. “We hope our 2010 HOT LIST! fills in the void and serves to provide unique recommendations for planning in campus activities. NACA should take note.”

The 2010 HOT LIST! includes the most diverse slate of nationally-respected performers, speakers, actors and lecturers to date and some of the nation’s most well-known, outspoken advocates for LGBT people.
This year’s HOT LIST! includes, among others: Musicians A.J. Shanti and Katastrophe, performance and spoken word artists Athens Boys Choir and Kit Yan, drag performer Sherry Vine, first and only openly gay college football team captain Brian Sims, professor and author of Campus Pride’s “2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People” Sue Rankin, bisexual author and speaker Robyn Ochs, musician Randi Driscoll, ESPN writer and columnist LZ Granderson, columnist and “It Gets Better” creator Dan Savage, hate crimes prevention advocate Judy Shepard, comedian Kathy Griffin and others.

For a full list of 2010 HOT LIST! picks and their bios, continue reading after the jump or visit for the full bios and contact information.

Kimberly Dark
Performer, Spoken Word
Kimberly Dark is a writer, mother, performer and professor. She is the author of five award-winning solo performance scripts and her poetry and prose appear in a number of publications. For more than ten years, Kimberly has inspired audiences in fancy theatres, esteemed universities and fabulous festivals She tours widely in North America and Europe anywhere an audience loves a well-told story. The Evening Echo in Cork Ireland says “the balance between objectivity and intimate analysis certainly gives Dark an edge and has made her a force to be reckoned with on every level.” The Salt Lake Tribune says “Dark doesn’t shy away from provocative, incendiary statements, but don’t expect a rant. Her shows, leavened with humor, are more likely to explore how small everyday moments can inform the arc of our lives.” The High Plains Reader in Fargo ND says “Dark’s skill as a storyteller gets to your heart by exposing hers.”

A.J. Shanti
A.J. Shanti recently kicked her musical career into high gear, having just completed her first European tour, and is continuing to plan her tour of the United States, set to begin this spring. She’s promoting her debut album “Baby Beau Blue”, a lyrically and instrumentally packed album containing themes of queer struggle and liberation, heartache, love, fun, and sex. Her live performances are raw and emotionally charged. She has been performing as a solo artist, but will begin to include the talents of a Croatian musician, Dora Benc, creating a rich and harmonious depth to her performances.

A.J. grew up on Long Island, New York and spend a good part of her adult life in San Francisco where she finished college and embarked upon several professional endeavors (queer youth counselor, truck driver, etc.) until last year, when she decided to dive head first into her music. She has been enjoying all of the excitement, exhaustion, and liberation that proceeds the pursuit of one’s dreams.

Katastrophe (aka Rocco Kayiatos) is a San Francisco based rapper and producer. He’s a seasoned vet on the mic and got his start competing in poetry slams in 1997. Combining his love of music and language, he started rapping and making beats in 2002. He uses his poetic grasp of language to weave dense tales of lives lived outside the mainstreams of education, class, and culture. He makes hip-hop that explodes with dangerous and ebullient passion. Crafting both dark anthems of anxiety and righteous rage, and sexy, flirtatious, booty-shaking pop/rap bangers. Katastrophe is a wonder – both authentic and audacious, emitting enough raw energy to electrify Las Vegas and enough earnest analysis to save you years of therapy. He was crowned Producer of the Year by Out Music Awards for his debute album Let’s Fuck, Then Talk About My Problems. Kayiatos has since released a second album entitled Fault, Lies and Faultlines and his third and best full length release, The Worst Amazing is set for release in October on 307 Knox Records. He has toured the US and Europe several times and continues to travel to support his releases. He is a feature in the documentary films Poetic License and Pick up the Mic. His video for the song “The Life” was on MTV networks LOGO top ten click list for 12 weeks. His music has helped soundtrack The Showtime Network’s The L Word, as well as several short films. Kayiatos is the subject of a forthcoming biopic called The State of Katastrophe.

Recently, he teamed up with Amos Mac to partner on creating the first magazine by and for transmen, Original Plumbing, which launched in October 2009.

Cameron Mack
Through his middle and early high school years Cameron began experiencing symptoms of depression. He dropped out of high school, experienced a series of 10 hospitalizations, and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After years in the system of care, he was placed with a loving foster family. With the support of his foster family, parents and friends Cameron worked hard at getting well and finishing high school. As a high school student in Burlington, Vermont, Cameron became interested in advocacy while speaking on panels about his experience as a queer transgender youth. In college, he joined Active Minds and became involved with mental health activism. Today, Cameron works as an EMT and with children and attends the University of Vermont. With tremendous energy and a fun and quirky style, Cameron’s presentation beautifully illustrates the growth that comes from struggle and how one can live well with a mental illness.

Athens Boys Choir
Performance Artist

Ok, so the name Athens Boys Choir can be a bit deceiving but you can’t blame a Transsexual man living in the Deep South for having a sense of humor about the whole ordeal. So Katz, the Choir’s now solo member, travels the country speaking “the good word” throwing down hard hitting spokenword that deals with issues of Gender, Politics, Love, Sex, and everything in-between.

Katz’s spoken-word is raw, unapologetic, witty, and soulful. As Out Magazine wrote in 2006, “Katz avoids falling into the common spoken-word trap…and instead uses engaging wordplay, razor-sharp wit, and hip-hop rhythms.” He has had the honor of sharing the stage with such artists as Ani Difranco, Indigo Girls, Bitch, The Butchies, Danielle Howle, and Michelle Malone. He has also opened for poets of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam on more than one occasion.

Being a out Transsexual, Katz’s spoken-word often becomes a platform for education and activism, but all work and no play makes for one intense performance so he lets loose with sarcasm, pop culture references, and video’s featuring Barbara Streisand as Yentl and sassy footwork by the stars of the 1979 hit “Roller Boogie”.

Athens Boys Choir has been touring nationally since 2003, performing for audiences that are becoming more diverse everyday. You don’t have to be a spoken-word enthusiast to enjoy the lyrical stylings of the Athens Boys Choir. Katz has the unusual skill of opening even the most skeptical minds to the world of performance poetry. With this fourth release, Jockstraps and Unicorns, Katz/The Athens Boys Choir has established himself as a force in the spoken-word/queer/pop culture/homo-hop movement; you choose how it moves you.

Kit Yan
Performance Artist
Recently Featured in the HBO Documentary Asians Aloud, Kit Yan tell stories through slam poetry from the lens of a transgender Asian American from Hawaii now lost in the big city of New York. Through touching love poems, dirty sex accounts, and comedic tales of his childhood –Kit takes you on a journey that is raw, real, heart-wrenching, and unforgettable. Kit Yan’s spoken word tackles race and gender with candor, eloquence,and humor. Hailed by the press as“a slam force to be reckoned with”, Yan’s resolute delivery packs a mighty punch, leaving his audience completely transfixed. Wittily crafted and genuinely passionate, his pieces are rare treasures amongst a new generation of slam poets.

Sherry Vine
Performance Artist
Sherry Vine was born in The Amish country. On her 16th birthday she discovered she was adopted and actually Jewish. Running away from home and she became a “show girl” in Las Vegas before relocating to NYC where she has established herself as one of the leading ladies performing her all live singing and comedy show internationally on stage, TV and film. Miss Vine lived in Berlin from 2001 till 2005 and is now happy to be back home in Manhattan.

Sherry was voted Entertainer of the Year by her peers and honored with the first Glammy Award.HX Drag Queen of the Year, 2007

Ben Lerman
Comedy, Musician
If the Flight of the Conchords and Stephen Lynch had a gay lovechild, it would be NYC’s ukulele comedian Ben Lerman. Lerman is a rising star of the New York Comedy scene, playing at all the top New York Comedy clubs and theaters like Caroline’s, Gotham, Comix, and The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.

Ben tours internationally playing theaters and festivals. His career has been propelled by appearances on Logo TV, Here TV, and Sirius Satellite Radio, where he is recurring guest on the Frank DeCaro Show. Ben has become a regular guest on “Keith & the Girl,” the most popular independent podcast in the world with more than a million downloads per month. In 2010, podcast fans voted him “Best New Guest” from among a pool of other amazing comedians like Marc Maron and Ted Alexandro.

Armed with his wee ukulele, powerful voice, and twisted point of view, Ben gets huge laughs because his songs have real emotion behind them. From a pirate love story to a lullaby for crazy people, Ben’s songs point to the humor in all of our lives and relationships, and in the world around us. His affable nature and playful wit have made his live show a perennial hit in Chicago, as Time Out Chicago raved, “Lerman’s stage presence is his best asset.”

Brian Sims
Speaker/Lecturer, Athletics
In 2000, Brian Sims was the captain of the Bloomsburg University football team in northeast Pennsylvania, and following the greatest season in the Division II school’s history he did the unthinkable: he came out of the closet! In doing so, the regional All-American and team captain became the only openly gay college football captain in NCAA history and the most notable college player to ever come out. Sims is currently the Staff Counsel for Policy & Planning at The Philadelphia Bar Association. He works with the Chancellor, Executive Director & Board of Governors to pursue and implement the legislative and policy agenda of the Association.

In addition to his practice, Sims serves as the President of the Board of Directors of EqualityPA and as the Chairman of GALLOP (Gay & Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia). In 2009 he was selected as a State Political Leaders Fellow by the Center for Progressive Leadership and joined the National Campaign Board of The Victory Fund. He also travels and speaks about his experiences in college level athletics for LGBT students and allies.

Sue Rankin
As an Associate Professor in Education Policy Studies and Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education, Dr. Rankin has constructed an understanding of student affairs within the broader context of higher education. She has worked closely with students, staff, faculty, and administrators on dozens of college campuses to assess campus climate and to create strategic actions for equity and community. Examples of her work include consultations with public and private higher education institutions in Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon, Minnesota, and North Dakota; state agencies in Pennsylvania; and non-profit organizations across the United States. In all of her work, she keeps a social justice mission at the core, working to improve campus and organizational climates for all constituents. Sue recently shifted her professional focus from administrative leadership to academic leadership as a faculty member. Whether in the classroom, as a researcher, or in service activities, Sue’s hallmark commitment to social justice shines. Recently she has been featured on NPR, and has published the 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT Students-the first study to report the campus climate for LGBT students with national scope.

Robyn Ochs
Speaker/Lecturer, Workshops
Robyn Ochs is a professional speaker and workshop leader, award-winning activist, and the editor of the Bisexual Resource Guide and the new 42-country anthology, Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World(2nd edition).

Her writings have been published in numerous bisexual, women’s studies, multicultural, and GLBT anthologies.

Robyn has taught courses on GLBT history & politics in the United States, the politics of sexual orientation, and the experiences of those who transgress the binary categories of gay | straight, masculine | feminine, black | white and|or male | female.

Randi Driscoll
Musical Act
Randi Driscoll is a singer and songwriter whose original music, voice and passionate stage performances have earned her many accolades including; Campus Activities Magazine’s, “Female Performer of the Year 2004″ and “Best Small Venue Performer 2004″. Randi is an independent artist who tours and performs year round at colleges, clubs, festivals, and benefit concerts. Randi says that her greatest personal accomplishment is her song, “What Matters”, written in response to the death of Matthew Shepard, a young man killed in a brutal hate crime. She has been touring North America for several years entertaining large and small audiences with her blend of powerful music and words, inspiring praise for her musical talents and her dedication to social justice.

LZ Granderson
Speaker/Lecturer, Hot Topic Speaker/Artist
LZ Granderson is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and, as well as a regular contributor for ESPN’s Sports Center, Outside the Lines and First Take. A member of the National Association of Black Journalists, Mr. Granderson was a Columbia University Hechinger Institute Fellow, a 2009 GLAAD Award winner for online journalism and won first place in the opinion writing category for the 2008 Excellence in Journalism awards given by the National Lesbian Gay Journalist Association. He recently ignited an intense national community debate with his op ed piece, “Gay is not the new black” on HRC has identified him as one of the most distinct voices in the LGBT movement, and featured him in a national online conversation about race, sexuality and gender.

Mara Kiessling
Mara is the founding Executive Director of NCTE. Mara is a transgender-identified woman who also identifies as a parent and a Pennsylvanian. She is a graduate of Penn State University and did her graduate work at Harvard University in American Government. She has served on the board of Directors of Common Roads, an LGBTQ Youth Group, and on the steering committee of the Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition. Mara has almost twenty-five years of professional experience in social marketing and opinion research. Mara works towards the goal of transgender equality through lobbying, public education, and building coalitions with other progressive organizations and causes.

Dan Savage
Dan Savage has been writing “Savage Love,” an internationally syndicated sex advice column, for more than ten years. The column originates in The Stranger and runs in The Village Voice, The Chicago Reader, The San Francisco Weekly, and in papers in Los Angeles, Toronto, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, and more than fifty other cities in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Canada. In addition to the column, Dan is the editor of the groundbreaking Seattle alt-weekly, The Stranger. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Salon, Travel and Leisure, Rolling Stone, and on the New York Times Op-Ed pages. Dan has been featured on CNN, “Politically Incorrect,” ABC News, The FOX News Channel, and on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” He is a regular contributor to NPR’s “This American Life.” Recently, in response to a rash of bullying related suicides of gay youth, he created the “it Gets Better Project,” to provide a forum that allows those struggling with their sexuality to see that LGBT people can and do live successful and happy lives.

Julie Goldman
Julie co-stars on The Big Gay Sketch Show on LOGO where she is an ensemble memeber of the first ever gay sketch comedy show. Julie also appears on Comedy Central with her featured stand-up Live At Gotham and online in Lewis Black’s Root Of All Evil. An award winning comedian, Julie won the 2007 MAC award for Headlining Comedian in NYC, and in 2008 won the New Now Next Award for Brink of Fame Comic.

Rob Smith
Media, DADT, Speaker
Rob Smith joined the United States Army at the age of 17. He served for nearly 5 years as a Tank Driver and Infantry Rifleman and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq before being honorably discharged, eventually earning the Army Commendation Medal, Expert Marksmanship Award, and the Combat Infantryman Badge among others. After discovering his sexual orientation while serving, Smith chose not to re-enlist due to the added pressure of living under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy which bars gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military.

He has launched a campaign called Ask and Tell. Ask and Tell is intended to be a step towards filling the coverage gap, specifically as it pertains to the black community, who are rarely represented in military coverage and woefully underrepresented in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell conversation. In Ask and Tell, Rob Smith talks candidly about joining the Army at 17, discovering his sexual orientation, deploying to Kuwait and Iraq, and negotiating his identity as a Black, gay man under the backdrop of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell rule. By talking about his experiences, Rob hopes to make this hot-button political issue personal in the minds of his audiences, inspiring and motivating them to take actiontowards repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by applying pressure to their local congressional leaders.

A graduate of Syracuse University, Rob has recently published well-received articles about his experiences serving in the U.S. Army under DADT and other gay political issues at The Huffington Post, USA Today,, and He is currently based in New York City.

The Kinsey Sicks
Music, Comedy
With a phenomenal performance record that includes an Off-Broadway show, an extended run in Vegas, two feature films, six CDs, and appearances throughout the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe, the Kinsey Sicks hardly need an introduction. For over 15 years America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet has served up a feast of music and comedy to audiences at performing arts centers, music venues and comedy festivals in every kind of town you can imagine, in over 40 states! Their award-winning a cappella singing, sharp satire and over-the-top drag have earned the Kinsey Sicks a diverse and devoted following.

Judy Shepard
As Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Judy oversees the overall management and strategic direction of the organization, while traveling across the nation speaking to audiences nationwide about what they can do as individuals and communities to make this world a more accepting place for everyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender identity and expression, or sexual orientation. Speaking from a mother’s perspective, Judy focuses her efforts on the prevention of hate crimes and respect for everyone.

Under Judy’s leadership, the Foundation has become a well-established, highly effective and much respected institution in the civil rights community. She has spoken to over one million young people about the impact of hate speech and violence, the importance of understanding and appreciating diversity in all of its forms and has inspired countless individuals and communities to play a role in making the world a safer place for all of us.

Vidur Kapur
Vidur Kapur was selected as a New York finalist by NBC’s “Stand Up for Diversity” initiative and performed as part of the famous New York Comedy Festival where he was described as “A comedian to remember”. After an phenomenally successful showcase at the NACA National convention, Vidur’s act is being demanded by colleges all over the US and he is likely to be one of the top 3 acts booked on US college campuses for ’08 -’09.

Emanuel Xavier
Spoken Word, Activism
Emanuel Xavier is an American poet, spoken word artist, author, editor, literary events curator, activist, actor, and house music recording artist born and raised in theBushwick area of Brooklyn. He transitioned himself from being a street hustler and a drug dealer to become one of the most significant, daring, and unlikely voices to emerge from the neo-Nuyorican spoken word movement using political, sexual and religious themes throughout his work. Regarding his seedy past, in an interview with CNN he stated, “I became all those things society expected me to become. I thought that was the only thing I could be.” He has conducted spoken word poetry workshops and produced benefits and events for youth organizations throughout the country. His new poetry collection, If Jesus Were Gay & other poems, was published Spring 2010 by Rebel Satori Press.

Kathy Griffin
Kathy Griffin is an American actress, stand-up comedian, television personality, best-selling author and a LGBT rights advocate. Griffin first gained recognition for appearances on two episodes of Seinfeld, and then for her supporting role on the NBC sitcom Suddenly Susan. She is now the star of the Bravo reality showKathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, for which she has won two Emmy Awards as executive producer. Griffin is an outspoken supporter for LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage.She has protested with fellow proponents in West Hollywood, California,and showcased the footage of said protesting on her reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. Her mother Maggie Griffin is also a supporter of LGBT rights and is seen in Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List protesting alongside her daughter. Prior to the Proposition 8 ballot results, Griffin volunteered for theLos Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center’s “Vote for Equality” campaign, going door-to-door asking Los Angeles residents for their opinion of LGBT marriage rights. She also has been a long-time supporter of the Aid For AIDS annual fundraiser, Best In Drag Show in Los Angeles, and hosted the opening of the show for more than five years.In November 2009, Aid For AIDS presented Kathy Griffin with an AFA Angel Award at their silver anniversary celebration.

Mia Mingus
Activism, Speaker/Lecturer
Mia Mingus is a queer physically disabled woman of color, Korean American transracial and transnational adoptee, living in Atlanta, Georgia, raised in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, and born in Korea. Through her work on disability justice, race, reproductive justice, gender, queer liberation, transformative justice, transracial and transnational adoption, multiple oppressed identities and multi-issue politics; she recognizes the urgency and barriers for oppressed communities to work together and build alliances for liberation. Though her work for liberation changes and evolves, her roots remain firmly planted in ending sexual violence. Mia was a Co-Executive Director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now until January 2010. She is a member of the Disability Justice Collective, the Sins Invalid Advisory Committee, and the Atlanta Transformative Justice Collaborative. She is currently speaking at various conferences, universities and gatherings around the country in order to support her writing.

Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington
Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington serves as the President and Founder of the Washington Consulting Group, a Multicultural Organizational Development Firm based in Baltimore, MD. He is also a senior consultant with The Equity Consulting Group of California, and Elsie Y. Cross and Associates out of Philadelphia. Dr. Washington has served as an educator and administrator in higher education for over 20 years. He most recently served as the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). He has been an instructor in Sociology, American Studies and Education, and an Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at UMBC. He has over 30 years of experience in music ministry, is an ordained minister and currently serves as an Associate Minister at Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore. Rev. Dr. Washington sees himself as an instrument of change. He works everyday to help people find the best in themselves and others.