There’s a new voice for transgender and gay people of color and leading that charge is the Sebastian Alverius Media Enterprise (SAME) organization that aims to support and advocate leadership for the minority LGBT community.
Through programs such as a social justice platform for young people which addresses issues of inequality and self-hatred, the initiative ultimately aspires to bring innovation to the LGBT community
Sebastian Alverius, the founder of SAME, wants to bring about a culture of acceptance.
"We need to bring to attention issues that have not been addressed. Establish acceptance within our respective communities," he told 429Magazine.
Executive Director André St. Clair Thompson, who describes himself as “a black Jamaican-born gender nonconformist,” told 429Magazine that the program is “about nurturing LGBT leadership, providing a platform for already existing voices, but also emerging LGBT leaders."
St. Clair's motivation for the project centers on promoting cultural diversity of expression and viewpoint. His personal goal is to be someone who has come through issues regarding his own self-worth and "be someone our generation can look to."
For Alverius, his personal journey has been one of resilience. He was an activist at college in South Carolina, where he encountered adversity as a supporter of LGBT rights. Hearing "bigoted slurs from people" only further strengthened his resolve to create change when and where he could.
Both St. Clair and Alverius have had role models who have inspired the SAME initiative.
"[Bayard Rustin] put everything aside to further LGBT and Black rights," said St. Clair, who believes Rustin, who was openly gay, has been overlooked in history due to his sexuality.
St. Clair believes African Americans still face difficulty in society, and those in the LGBT community are doubly marginalized. He hopes that the SAME initiative will reflect the “inequity based in society and to bring that to the table with the LGBT community."
Alverius is inspired by David Kato, the late Ugandan gay activist who was murdered in 2011 because of his sexuality.
"Think about him. He died for what he believed in. He did what he did in a location that was such a challenge," Alverius said.
On the point of whether having a focus on specific groups, like African Americans, within the larger LGBT community would risk further pigeonholing, both men stress that they're simply dedicated to addressing the needs of minorities. They mention the perceived dominance of the white gay male and the fact that transgender rights are largely forgotten in the marriage equality debate as issues.
A central feature of the initiative is that it aims to give back. One way they hope to achieve this is by fostering emerging leaders in the community. St. Clair is interested in SAME providing young people the "tools and support to aspire to greatness."
The initiative also "encourages healthy competition." It will award two prizes to students under its social justice program where participants will be asked to develop a project consistent with a cause that SAME is focused on.
Alverius admits it would be naive to say that they have an end result in mind.
"To turn a society around; that's impossible,” Alverius said. “At the end of the day, there will always be people oppressed and we will always be an organization filling a need."
"Being out remains revolutionary,” said St. Clair. “I live for the day that it isn't revolutionary."