GLAAD’s annual 20 Under 20 list, revealed exclusively on Teen Vogue, honors young queer people who are accelerating acceptance of the LGBTQ community and shaping all forms of media, including entertainment, and news. The list includes a variety of outstanding artists and activists who have inspired, motivated, and united the LGBTQ community over the years.
Now that the list has been unveiled, let’s take a closer look at this year’s Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) honorees from this year’s class.
20, he/him, singer and songwriter, @issacdunbar
Issac Dunbar embarked on his artistic journey at the young age of nine, driven by an unwavering passion for the liberating power of music. As his commitment to his craft deepened, Dunbar’s exceptional talent eventually caught the attention of RCA, one of the largest record labels in the world, where he eventually joined their roster. Dunbar has made significant strides in industry, demonstrating the power of authenticity as an artist. He has released four EPs, including “Banish the Banshee,” which received a nomination for Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist at the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.
Dunbar’s music is all-encompassing, therapeutic, and supportive of the LGBTQ community. In his own words, “I advocate simply for equality. Ultimately, I wish to be a voice and an outlet through my music.” Dunbar, now 20 years old, continues to inspire through his music. His compositions emphasize the significance of self-love, expression, and freedom. In a message of support to LGBTQ people, the singer advises, “Live your life without shame.”
20, he/him, LGBTQ and disability rights advocate, @ft.x.jaii
As a disabled LGBTQ student of color, Jaiden Blancaflor turned to social media when he was just 14 years old to navigate his own feelings of confusion and loneliness. It was through social media that Blancaflor discovered his true calling: creating accurate and inclusive resources and hosting digital events for transgender people. He did all of this through his own nonprofit organization United. At the same time, Blancaflor was also an active member of his high school’s Gay Straight Alliance.
Now a student at The Ohio State University, Blancaflor continues to make a difference in his community and beyond. One of his notable achievements is his involvement with GLSEN, a national organization that fights for LGBTQ student rights. In a word of advice to LGBTQ youth, Blancaflor encourages rest and self preservation: “The movement cannot move if you cannot move. We live in a society where people constantly feel the need to work, to compete, and to impress…. But, being able to take a step back and rest is crucial towards liberation. We need you, so do what you need to do to survive.
20, she/her, activist, student, abolitionist, and community organizer, @isabellafallahi
Isabella Fallahi is a 20-year-old activist, student, abolitionist, and community organizer who is dedicated to fighting oppression, exploring identity, and promoting community understanding. Her approach to activism is grounded in intersectionality, and she prioritizes the voices of Black and brown LGBTQ people in her work. She’s been featured in the Washington Post, Elle, USA Today, MSNBC, VICE, The Guardian, Teen Vogue, Vogue Australia and Forbes for her work as an activist.
She actively promotes climate justice through Polluters Out, which she co-founded, a coalition dedicated to taking action against the fossil fuel industry. Additionally, she has successfully orchestrated nationwide marches in collaboration with the Women’s March and March For Our Lives movements.
Despite possessing an exceptional resume, Fallahi’s activism transcends the confines of the nonprofit industrial complex. Her involvement in mutual aid initiatives is well-established, and she currently collaborates with Semillas Collective and Sexta Grietas del Norte to establish self-governing frameworks centered around community care. Fallahi prioritizes the voices of the Black and brown LGBTQ people at the center of those movements. “That [means] ensuring … we organize, uplift, and center queer and trans people of color, who disproportionately experience discrimination and violence across issues,” says Fallahi.
Fallahi draws inspiration and joy from Las Mariquitas Band, a queer and trans salsa band in New York City, which reminds her of her cultural heritage as a young queer Latina and daughter of immigrants. Fallah is a first-generation American in her Colombian-Iranian family, whose unapologetic nature propels her to new heights. Her fervent activism underscores the significance of embracing one’s cultural heritage, and she takes great pride in her identity. “Growing up as a young queer Latina, a daughter of immigrants, the times I felt closest to my ancestors was when my Abuelita would teach me salsa. As soon as I knew how to walk I knew the rhythm of salsa.”
19, she/they, LGBTQ racial justice grassroots organizer, behavioral scientist, and abolitionist
As a researcher, grassroots organizer, behavioral scientist, and the current Head of Racial Justice at Queer Youth Assembly, Lee Gordon has already made significant strides in advancing the rights and well-being of LGBTQ and Black individuals through her advocacy.
She took on the role of student organizer at Friendship Public Charter School and successfully implemented the first chapter-wide “trans+ anti-discrimination standard” at Friendship Public Charter School, a prominent academic institution comprising 15 campuses in Washington D.C. Gordon is an evidently resolute and highly motivated individual who consistently fights to surpass obstacles. Moreover, her academic pursuits at Harvard University include Statistics and African-American Studies, which further exemplify her impressive accomplishments.
Gordon’s impact extends across various platforms and ideologies, with her research skills serving as her greatest asset. During her time as a student organizer at Harvard, she dedicated herself to the fields of statistics and African-American studies. Notably, Gordon successfully implemented the inaugural “trans+ anti-discrimination standard” for Friendship Public Charter School, an esteemed academic institution comprising 15 campuses in Washington D.C.
When asked about advice for LGBTQ youth, Gordon shared “I believe the existence and celebration of love is the greatest form of resistance against fascist division. [LGBTQ youth] are worthy of and entitled to love in their life. And in a world saturated in violence and isolation, it is on all of us to extend and foster love in the movement.”
20, she/her, best women’s foil fencer at the college level in the United States
Queens Native Lauren Scruggs, a highly accomplished fencer who has been crowned the junior world champion six times, is currently ranked number one in the nation and number two in the world (USAfencing.org). A student at Harvard University, Scruggs’ exceptional career in fencing has taken her to various countries, where she has consistently proven her skill and earned numerous medals. It’s worth noting that Scruggs has an impressive record of 36 wins and 0 losses this season while representing Harvard’s varsity team. She is also a member of USA’s National Team.
Scruggs is a skilled fencer who specializes in using a foil, which is one of the three types of swords used in the sport. With her precise and quick thrusts, she defeats her opponents and breaks stereotypes.
— Harvard Fencing (@HarvardFencing) March 26, 2023
“I have worked to make fencing — a historically white and conservative space — a more inclusive space for both black and queer individuals,” Scruggs tells GLAAD.
16, he/they, singer and actor, @thelukeislam
Luke Islam, a 16-year-old actor with an angelic voice and an impressive resume, made his debut at the age of 13 on America’s Got Talent with his rendition of “She Used to be Mine” from the Tony Award nominated and Sarah Bareilles penned musical Waitress. Since then, Islam’s career has flourished with a plethora of opportunities.
He was graciously invited to participate in AGT’s spinoff, The Champions, and has since graced the screens in the Disney+ series The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, the Netflix film adaptation of the Jason Robert Brown musical 13, and most recently, the hit comedy Theater Camp, where he shared the stage with esteemed actors Ben Platt, Noah Galvin, and Molly Gordon.
When he’s not acting, Islam actively contributes his talents to various charitable organizations, including UNICEF, the Entertainment Community Fund, and You Gotta Believe. Islam draws inspiration from Broadway, frequently occupying a seat in the theater. He has expressed his affinity for Broadway and Ben Platt, highlighting the profound impact they have had on his self-esteem.
“I vividly remember when he played Radio City Music Hall in 2019. … I have never been so moved by an artist and their work like Ben in my entire life,” Islam says. “The moment I will never forget is when he discussed how he came out to his parents. The way Ben described the simplicity of it all … provided me an extreme sense of comfort. I was closeted at the time and was so darn grateful for his openness … It allowed me to develop a new positive perspective of my sexuality I always knew existed deep down.”
19, they/she/he, LGBTQ rights advocate, race and diversity reporter
Umeki-Martínez is a journalist who reports on race and diversity for the Daily Californian, a newspaper in the city. She has won many awards for her work promoting equality for LGBTQ people. Martinez has given talks to teachers about how to support LGBTQ students, organized events for LGBTQ graduates, and helped a high school in her area raise the Pride flag and create gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
In 2022, Umeki-Martínez won a Queer Youth Leadership Award and an eQuality scholarship for her work in the LGBTQ community. Umeki-Martínez possesses a passion for protecting the rights of marginalized students, which serves as her superpower and brings attention to various issues, ultimately advancing the discourse on safety and accessibility for students. She persistently advocates for the notion that education should be accessible to all individuals. Martínez is recognized as an individual who navigates obstacles with unwavering determination and a clear sense of direction.
“I’m passionate about writing and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community,” Umeki-Martínez tells GLAAD. “I can use my privilege and experience to open others up to a world of love and possibility. … I have gone through a journey of self-acceptance and self-love that has translated into my writing and ensuring LGBTQ+ stories and other marginalized voices are recognized and supported.”
20, he/they, dancer, choreographer, model, and student,
Xavier Logan has both exceptional talent and unwavering determination, which have contributed to his remarkable achievements as a dancer and choreographer. Logan’s impressive repertoire includes notable appearances on So You Think You Can Dance, Dance Moms, and The Vampire Diaries. Furthermore, his exceptional abilities have secured him nearly $1.5 million in college scholarships, where he eventually brought his artistic gifts to Julliard. Notably, Logan has stapled his name in history as the first-ever student to introduce hip hop to Juilliard’s mainstage.
With a substantial online following, Logan’s influence continues to expand. Recently, he had the privilege of performing as a dancer in Jacob’s Pillow and Nederlands Dans Theater’s summer intensives. Logan attributes his immense inspiration to the legendary choreographer Sean Bankhead, renowned for his work with esteemed artists such as Lil Nas X, Cardi B, Normani, Victoria Monét, and many others.
Trans Youth Prom Organizers
Hobbes Chukumba, 16, he/him
Hobbes Chukumba, a junior in high school, exhibited remarkable courage when he revealed his transgender identity to his father at the age of eleven. This act of bravery led him to forge a friendship with like-minded individuals, Daniel Trujillo, Grayson McFerrin-Hogan, and Libby Gonzales. Despite living in different cities, these individuals share a common bond in their pride as transgender people. Their friendship has had a profound impact on the lives of trans children across America.
In the midst of a politically charged climate that poses challenges for trans and gender nonconfirming youth, Trujillo, McFerrin-Hogan, Chukumba, and Gonzales united with a shared purpose of celebrating trans joy and taking action. Together, they organized a prom and an impressive turnout of over 200 trans and gender nonconforming attendees, and a carefully curated playlist of empowering anthems and talented queer artists.
Here’s a message of support for LGBTQ youth Chukumba shared with GLAAD: “Remember! You are youthful. Embrace your youth whenever you can: have fun, let loose, be happy. Take time and care for yourself. Whether that may mean artistic expression, physical activity, or something as simple as napping, you deserve to be freely, happily, and youthfully you. Know that so many people are advocating with endless [fervor] to protect that.”