Name: Grace Manger

Age: 21

Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan

Occupation: I work multiple jobs, but most notably, I manage content and development at The Parents Project, a website that gives comprehensive advice and support to parents of LGBTQ young people.

Where did you come from? A single-parent home– and then a blended family home– in west Michigan. I grew up surrounded by loving parents and a million siblings, a conservative school district, some hard times, and a lot of figuring things out as we went along.

A Fear: Disappointing those I care most about.

A Goal: To help people fully and unapologetically inhabit their bodies and their identities.

A Memory: I was painfully shy as a child, and there was a time when I exclusively communicated with my mom through written notes that I hid in a make-shift mailbox in our living room. She kept every single one, and they range from “Can we have macaroni and cheese for lunch today?” to “I’m really sad, can I have a hug?” I still read them every once in a while, and the emotions and vulnerability of my 4-year-old self consistently bring me to tears.

A Mistake: I was so terrified of being labeled a lesbian in high school that I remained complacent in instances of bullying that I witnessed, out of fear that my standing up for someone would turn the target on me instead. We didn’t have a GSA or many positive and out LGBTQ role models, and the kids who were thought to be gay were ostracized. I remember hearing some kids make fun of those participating in Day of Silence one year, and I couldn’t bring myself to say anything while fighting back tears. I didn’t know if I was gay or not at that point, but my biggest fear was being labeled as something before I was ready. College turned out to be an amazing place for me to figure out my sexuality, but I still feel incredibly guilty for not being a better ally to my peers during that confusing time.

A Hero: A magical little girl named Maia, who taught me more about loving myself during her 8 years on earth than anyone else.

A Fault: Basing my self-worth on what other people think of me.

A Talent: I am very good at handstands.

A Prized Possession: My voice.

A Need: Affection and affirmation.

I want More: Courage to say the big things and take the big risks.

I want Less: Doubt and disillusionment. Also, guns.

What would you change about the world? I wish we could have less emphasis on productivity and more emphasis on pleasure. We base our success as human beings on how much we work and produce, and I wish we paid more attention to how much we love, how much we smile, how much we connect with others on a daily basis.

What do you love about yourself? At 21 years old, I think I have been through more than most: some destructive relationships, an eating disorder, coming out to myself and to others, and the loss of a loved one. When I look back on it all, I am incredibly proud of my resilience and my ability to use those experiences to transform my life into one that I never could have imagined for myself just a few years ago.


Ashley Jones

 Name: Ashley M. Jones

Age: 24

Location: Miami, Florida

Occupation: Student, Instructor, Community Outreach Aficionado

Where did you come from? I’m from Birmingham, Alabama, and I’ll be moving back there in just a couple of weeks. Miami is also called the Magic City, but Birmingham is the original (my original, anyway).

A Fear: Never falling in love

A Goal: becoming president of a university and a mom of four

A Memory: I went to my senior prom without a date, but I ended up dancing with the boy I liked, anyway.Stole him!

A Mistake: Allowing someone to disrespect me repeatedly until I believed all the bad things they said about me.

A Hero: My dad–he’s a Fire Chief, paramedic, and manager of the EMS services in Birmingham. He works so hard for us, and he never complains. He is happy when we’re happy, no matter how tired he is. I learned how to serve others from him. I also learned how to be goofy and tell corny jokes.

A Fault: I’m too guarded sometimes…and I overthink everything. The poet’s mind, I tell you!

A Talent: I’m an excellent whistler. And I can sing all the words to “La Bamba.”

A Prized Possession: not sure…I don’t think I possess much that can be prized. I really treasure the shape of my eyes…but I guess that’s not a possession.

A Need: A man who can tap dance, who loves poetry, and who can sing along to all my favorite songs. Ahem, I mean, I need a book contract for my poetry manuscript!! Priorities…

I want More: laughter

I want Less: financial worry

What would you change about the world? I would give everyone the gift of chill. That is, I would give people the power to relax, appreciate everyone else, and stay out of each others’ religions, sexualities, wallets, etc. Live and let live, world!!!

What do you love about yourself? Now, I love everything. I love that I learned how to love myself. It wasn’t always that way, but I’m glad I made it to this loving place.