In honor of Queer Youth of Faith Day, on Wednesday, June 30th at 4pm ET, GLAAD is convening interfaith youth leadership experts to discuss youth advocacy and ministry in a panel, Advocacy in Action: LGBTQ Youth & Faith. The panel will take on the spiritual issues facing queer youth today, the impact of anti-LGBTQ legislation targeting transgender youth, and best practices for holding sacred spaces for LGBTQ youth to grow into faithful leaders in our religions and our society.
This panel will be moderated by educator and storyteller, Jason Hoelzel (he/him), and will include panelists from varying faith backgrounds. Before moving into mass media, Jason taught writing and literature in public and private schools. High school students taught him about storytelling’s power to create and share knowledge.
GLAAD’s own Deacon Ross Murray (he/him) will be participating in the panel. Ross is a consecrated Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with a specific calling to advocate for LGBTQ people and to bridge the LGBTQ and faith communities. Ross is also the Senior Director of Education and Training at the GLAAD Media Institute, as well as a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBTQ youth and their allies. His book, Made, Known, Loved: Developing LGBTQ-Inclusive Youth Ministry teaches faith leaders how to best minister to LGBTQ youth.
Jordan Budd (he/him) is a skilled organizer and strategist with over ten years of experience in campaigns and nonprofits all over the United States. Prior to joining COLAGE as Executive Director, Jordan worked as an International Representative for the Office and Professional Employees International Union where he organized, advised, and represented thousands of union members in contract negotiations and pro-labor workplace demonstrations and campaigns. Most notably, Jordan served as Florida’s Youth and LGBT Vote Director in 2012 for President Obama’s re-election campaign where he solidified his commitment to elevating the voices of young people and people of color.
Rev. Ashley DeTar Birt (she/her) is the Program Coordinator for Beloved Arise and the Co-Director of the Center for Jubilee Practice. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), she has served as a Sunday School teacher, Youth Leader, Director of Christian Education, and Youth Pastor. Her work focuses on children and youth, social justice, artistic creativity, and technology. She also serves as the co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians.
Rivka Schafer (they/them) is an Orthodox Jew who leads several programs for Keshet, including a biweekly safe space program that has been running for several months. In partnership with Keshet, they have organized multiple Shabbatons, and was a speaker at the Keshet OUTstanding Gala.
Sardar Singh (he/him) is a change maker and advocate for social justice. He is passionate about reducing harms to racialized and marginalized communities and founded the Queer Sikh Network. Currently Sardar is the Gay Men’s Health Programs Coordinator at Moyo Health & Community Services, a HIV/AIDS organization based in Peel region of Ontario. He is also a Research Assistant in Epidemiology at the University of Toronto, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, where he works on mapping the geography of sexually transmitted diseases in Peel.
Daniel J. Downer (he/him) is an award-winning community advocate, facilitator, and speaker with a long history of advocating for Black and Brown LGBTQ+, racial, and social movements in Central Florida. Daniel currently serves as the Executive Director of The Bros in Convo Initiative, a community organization in Orlando educating and empowering young Black gay, bisexual, queer, and same gender loving men through comprehensive health education, STI prevention linkage, and peer support. He is also an Associate Facilitator for the Equality Institute, a boutique DEI firm providing relevant, impactful, and comprehensive solutions to organizations to help build and strengthen their strategy to infuse diversity and inclusion into the culture, enhancing outcomes for everyone. Daniel sits on the Board of Directors of RAHMA, a Black Muslim led organization addressing HIV/AIDS in faith communities through education, advocacy, and empowerment. In acknowledgment of his commitment to health, racial, and social equity, Daniel was honored by GLAAD in 2018 with the Rising Star Award.
As part of pride month, Queer Youth of Faith Day is an online campaign that celebrates queer youth of all religions. Of the LGBTQ+ youth community, more than one in three identify with a religion. However, often there is a struggle to choose between one’s queerness and one’s faith. The goal of Queer Youth of Faith Day is to celebrate and uplift this community.