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Thursday, April 7, 2022

For young people who identify as LGBTQ, these are perilous times. Adolescence and young adulthood for them often mean conflicts with family, classmates, and community members who cannot accept who they are. The results of this intolerance can be depression and anxiety, homelessness, and even suicide. Now, along with these stresses, young trans and queer people are confronting a global pandemic and renewed assaults on their rights in states like Texas, Florida and Ohio.

In this  #ClassACTForum, we examined the challenges LGBTQ youth face and the ways that advocates, friends and families can offer support. Our co-sponsor for this ClassACT HR73 forum was JusticeAid, a non-profit founded by HR73 classmate Steve Milliken that raises money through music concerts to aid organizations working for justice and equality. In spring 2022 JusticeAid is focusing on SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocate Leaders), a Washington D.C. organization that mentors LGBTQ youth and provides housing and mental health services as well.

Our moderator was Tazewell Jones, a JusticeAid board member and an attorney who has fought against injustice since law school when he volunteered for Lambda Legal Alliance and the Innocence Project. Our panel included Li Nowlin-Sohl, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBTQ Rights team which works to ensure transparency, accountability and adequate mental health treatment in jails and prisons. Li was joined by Jorge Membreño, a social worker who has helped to provide clinical services and housing for youth and families in Brookline and Washington, and who now serves as deputy executive director of SMYAL. Our final panelist was Alana Jochum, the executive director of Equality Ohio and a co-chair of Equality Federation’s Board of Directors, which advocates in State Houses across the country to safeguard LGBTQ rights.

We have created 17 videos from this conversationone of the whole event, and 16 others, divided by question. They are all available by clicking on the playlist in the YouTube video screen below. The playlist is very hard to see! You will find it along the top of the screen just to the right of the title of the forum.  It looks like this . 

Click on the ≡ button. That will open a drop down menu. You can then scroll down the menu and choose individual videos to play. 




    Taz Jones is a 2020 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, an attorney in Washington, DC, and a Director for the Washington-based nonprofit JusticeAid.


    • Being quiet and listening costs us nothing, and it's incredibly valuable. That's especially true when we're learning about perspectives that our own lived experiences haven't borne out. I encourage all of our audience to seek out listening opportunities--be them through the arts, politics, or perhaps most of all, your neighbors. We have far more to lose when we speak without listening than when we listen without speaking.


    Li Nowlin-Sohl (she/her) is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, where she works to works to ensure that LGBTQ+ people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association. Some of her significant cases over the years include: a lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons to secure gender affirming care for a transgender woman in BOP custody; asylum cases for clients based on their sexual orientation; a challenge to Tennessee’s law banning transgender middle and high school students from participating on interscholastic sports teams that match their gender; challenges to healthcare systems’ discriminatory practices; and a lawsuit against a florist for refusing to sell flowers to a same-sex couple for their wedding.

    Before joining the LGBTQ & HIV Project, Li was a Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Washington for several years. She clerked for the Honorable Gladys Kessler of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and was an associate with Paul Hastings LLP in Washington, D.C. Li received her J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she helped found the LGBTQ Rights Externship. She is active in the community as the Immediate Past President of the QLaw Foundation’s Board of Directors and a member of the Joint Asian Judicial Evaluations Committee.


    • Too many state legislatures are trying to erase LGBTQ+ youth, particularly trans youth. We need your help to lift up LGBTQ+ youth and to prevent that erasure.
      • Think about how you can be vocal and take action about your support for LGBTQ+ youth.
      • Donate and/or volunteer with LGBTQ+ organizations.
      • Educate yourself on LGBTQ+ issues. Follow trans folks on social media (here is a good list of where to start). Talk openly about your support for LGBTQ+ youth and your opposition to these terrible bills. Let the people in your life know that you are a safe space – you never know who might need that.



    Jorge is SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director. Coming to SMYAL as a licensed independent clinical social worker, Jorge previously served as the Director of Youth Housing and Director of Clinical Services. In his role as the Director of Clinical Services, Jorge was instrumental in establishing SMYAL’s Clinical Services Department which provides on-site individual and group therapy, clinical supervision to staff and interns, and resource navigation to LGBTQ youth across the organization.

    Prior to joining the team, Jorge worked as a social worker and clinical supervisor in school and mental health agency settings. As a social worker, he has worked with youth on issues of homelessness, substance abuse prevention/intervention, mental health disorders, and stress and anxiety management. Much of his work has encompassed the spectrum of LGBTQ counseling including the areas of gender, sexuality, and transitioning.

    Born in DC and raised in Northern Virginia, Jorge is the son of Salvadoran immigrants. He attended Christopher Newport University where he received his undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in music before moving back to DC. After working for a few years, he decided to pursue his passion and moved to Boston to attend Boston University’s School of Social Work. Yearning for home (and milder winters), Jorge moved back home to DC.

    When he is not at SMYAL or meeting with therapy clients, Jorge can be found singing, playing football, or lounging at home with his dog and cat.


    • We can't do this work alone. In order to build inclusive communities, we need collective support. Obviously I would love for you to donate to SMYAL and help support the work that we're doing, but you can also find the closest LGBTQ youth org closest to you and support them. This work is a labor of love and requires funding to sustain it. It's your generosity that fuels the ability for our staff and our youth to continue building an inclusive and affirming world.



    Alana Jochum (she/her/hers) is an attorney and Executive Director of Equality Ohio. She received her B.A. in English and B.S. in Psychology from Baldwin Wallace University and has been passionately engaged in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality at the local, state, national, and international level for more than a decade.

    Alana attended Cleveland Marshall College of Law where she served as Editor in Chief of the Cleveland State Law Review. She became an Associate at Squire Patton Boggs, LLP where she focused her legal practice on complex civil litigation, international law, product liability disputes and other commercial litigation. She also represented clients in habeas proceedings before the Sixth Circuit and at the District court level.

    Alana left Squire in 2014 to work with Equality Ohio full time where she has the privilege of advocating for LGBTQ+ equality statewide. She also proudly serves as the Board Chair for the Equality Federation, a national organization focused on capacity building and support for statewide LGBTQ+ organizations across the country.


    • Statewide advocacy LGBTQ organization via the Equality Federation here and then:
      • Sign up for their email
      • Get their alerts and take their actions, and 3) donate to your state organization
    • Follow Equality Ohio


    • On May 15th, 2022 @4pm, attend JusticeAid's Spring Public Forum: Erasure: The Otherization of Queerness, in person at the Riverside Church of New York
    • Buy tickets for the May 16th: JusticeAid Spring Concert Benefit: Bessie! Empress of the Blues at City Winery in Manhattan 
    • If you can’t get to New York—donate to JusticeAid—100% of donations go SMYAL and their great work.

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