The Biden Foundation’s advisory councils comprise respected leaders, policy experts, and advocates at the forefront of their fields. Council members understand the complexities of the broad challenges they aim to address, and generously volunteer their time to advise on the Foundation’s programs and messaging. Recognizing the power of community, Advisory Council members serve as ambassadors for the Biden Foundation, guiding strategic partnerships to create societal change.
Marsha Aizumi is an author, speaker and advocate for the LGBT community. She serves on the Board of Directors for PFLAG National, is co-founder and current President of PFLAG San Gabriel Valley Asian Pacific Islander, and the author of Two Spirits, One Heart, a memoir that chronicles her journey with her transgender son to find unconditional love and acceptance. She has been recognized by Congresswoman Judy Chu as Community Activist of the Year and Logo TV as a 2015 Trailblazing Parent.
Raised in North Carolina, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is a minister in the United Church of Christ. She is a graduate of Brown University and received a MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and a MDiv from Harvard Divinity School. She has worked on LGBTQ rights campaigns since 2004 and founded the Campaign for Southern Equality in 2011. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and her first collection of short stories, Damn Love, won the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention Award for Debut Fiction. Jasmine and her wife, Meghann, live in Asheville, NC, with their son. She serves on Buncombe County Commission, representing District 1.
Precious Brady-Davis is a communications professional, diversity advocate, and international keynote speaker. With over 15 years of diversity training, leadership development, and youth empowerment experience, Precious finds deep meaning in engaging individuals in conversations surrounding bias, bigotry, and prejudice in their communities on the basis and belief that humans can coexist with one another positively through the embracing of each other’s differences and the celebrating of each other’s human diversity.
Davis has worked in collaboration with Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson, and Lady Gaga toward LGBTQ equality. In 2015, Precious had the honor of being invited to the White House to meet President Obama as an emerging Black LGBTQ leader and curated the season opener “Transmopolitan Transgender Resilient ” for OUT at the Chicago History Museum. In 2016, Precious keynoted the first Black Lives Matter conference at Loyola University, served as the keynote speaker for the Harvey Milk Dinner at Indiana University, and also served as the keynote speaker for the Trans Symposium at Hampshire College.
Precious this past summer served as the keynote speaker for the Global Scholars Symposium at the University of Cambridge in England, and is currently the Deputy Press Secretary for the Midwest region of the Beyond Coal Campaign at Sierra Club.
Eliza Byard is a mission-driven executive and leader for social justice and systemic change. Byard has designed and executed strategic initiatives that have transformed K-12 education in the United States to respond to the unique challenges and needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. She has also helped spur growing international attention to the needs of LGBT students. As a speaker, fundraiser, and ambassador for education, youth, and LGBT issues, Byard brings people from across the political spectrum together on common ground, and has secured millions of dollars from a variety of individual, corporate, and institutional funders.
Byard currently serves as the Executive Director of GLSEN, an organization recognized worldwide as an innovative leader in the fight for equity for LGBT students in K-12 schools. Byard joined GLSEN as Deputy Executive Director in 2001, and led the growth of GLSEN’s public education and advocacy efforts, youth leadership development programs, professional development for educators, research and program evaluation capacity, and in-school programming. GLSEN’s initiatives have contributed to a significant decrease in anti-LGBT harassment and violence in schools since 2000, and the organization’s advocacy and legislative strategies have won bipartisan support and widespread acceptance of the urgency and importance of bullying prevention and LGBT issues in education. Under Byard’s leadership, GLSEN was honored by President Obama as a “Champion of Change” and named a Top National Non-Profit for its impact on LGBT equality.
As an expert on education, youth development, and LGBT issues, Byard has appeared on AC360, CNN, ABC World News, Fox News, MSNBC, CBS This Morning, ABC 20/20, and NPR’s Talk of the Nation, among other programs. She has served on numerous boards and commissions for LGBT youth and educational equity, and is currently a Trustee of the America’s Promise Alliance.
Byard began her career working for Bill Moyers at Public Affairs Television (PAT). The veteran journalist inspired Byard’s lifelong commitment to what he terms “the conversation of democracy,” essential to preserving the fundamental values embodied in democratic institutions. At PAT, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and elsewhere, she worked on numerous award-winning documentaries, including “School Colors,” a DuPont Award-winning FRONTLINE production on public education forty years after Brown v. Board.
Byard holds a Ph.D in United States history from Columbia University and a B.A. in history from Yale University, and has taught U.S. history and American studies at Columbia and Barnard. She lives in her native New York City with her wife and their two children.
Jason Collins is a retired American professional basketball player of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Collins attended Stanford University, where he was an All-American in the 2000–2001 season. He was also named to the All Pac-10 First Team and awarded the NABC Pete Newell “Big Man of the Year” Award. He finished his college career ranked first in Stanford history for field goal percentage and third in blocked shots. Upon graduating with a B.A. from Stanford, Collins was selected in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft with the 18th overall pick. Now a 13-year veteran, Collins has played center for six teams including New Jersey, Memphis, Minnesota, Atlanta, Boston, Washington and, most recently, the Brooklyn Nets (formerly the New Jersey Nets). Doc Rivers, who coached Collins during his time with the Boston Celtics, said of Collins: “He’s the best. He literally is one of the best guys I’ve ever had in the locker room, player or coach.” In his 13 years in the league, Collins’ teams earned 10 trips to the playoffs including 2 NBA Finals appearances.
After the 2012–2013 NBA season concluded, Collins publicly came out as gay in a cover story for Sports Illustrated, becoming the first male active player in any of the four major American professional sports to announce that he is gay. President Obama expressed his gratitude to Collins for his courageous announcement and said he “couldn’t be prouder” of Collins, recognizing this as a point of progress for the LGBTQ community, and one more step in America’s goal to treat everyone fairly and with respect. Collins has traveled the country with the mission of empowering people to live their lives as their true selves, and has become an active member of numerous charities, foundations and organizations. In 2013, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) honored Collins with the Courage Award at the GLSEN Respect Awards. In 2014, Logo TV honored Collins with its inaugural Trailblazer Award. Also in 2014, the Matthew Shepard Foundation honored Collins with its Making a Difference Award at its annual Honors Gala. In April 2014, Collins was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” In January of 2015, the National Civil Rights Museum honored Collins with a Sports Legacy Award.
From 2014 to 2017 Collins served on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, which works to motivate Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle via physical activity and nutrition. Since retiring from playing, Collins has become a NBA Cares Ambassador — spreading goodwill on behalf of the NBA with its players, community, and corporate partners. Collins resides in Los Angeles, California.
Michael Guest is Senior Advisor to the Council for Global Equality, a coalition of 30 human rights and LGBTQ advocacy organizations seeking consistent U.S. support for LGBTQ-fair policies abroad. Mr. Guest was our country’s first Senate-confirmed, openly gay ambassador (to Romania, 2001–2004). He ended his 26-year Foreign Service career in 2007 after having sought unsuccessfully to ensure the fair and equal treatment of same-sex Foreign Service families, then worked on President-elect Obama’s Transition Team to remedy those policies. Apart from his work with the Council for Global Equality, Mr. Guest is an independent consultant and speaker on organizational leadership and diversity issues.
Mara Keisling is the founder and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people. Mara’s strategy and vision have guided NCTE’s work since 2003. She has led organizational and coalition efforts that have won significant advances in transgender equality, including the inclusion of gender identity in the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act from 2007 onward and countless other federal- and state-level wins.
Mara also co-authored “Injustice at Every Turn,” the groundbreaking 2009 report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, and the report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. As one of the nation’s leading voices for transgender equality, Mara is regularly quoted in national and local print media and has appeared on major television networks, including being part of the first all-transgender panel on a national news show in 2012.
Mara, a proud Pennsylvanian, received her bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and did graduate work in American government at Harvard University. Prior to founding NCTE, Mara worked for 25 years in social marketing and opinion research.
A Grammy, Emmy, and Tony award–winning artist with 30 sterling years and global record sales in excess of 50 million, Cyndi Lauper has proven that she has the heart and soul to keep her legion of fans compelled by her every creative move. Lauper recently became a New York Times bestselling author with her autobiography Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster), wrote the original score for the Tony Award–winning best musical Kinky Boots, and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Helping others has always been a guiding force for Cyndi and she focuses her efforts to make a difference through the True Colors Fund. An unwavering advocate for equality long before she became famous, she co-founded the organization in 2008 to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth and create a world in which all young people can be their true selves.
In addition, Cyndi is the Honorary Chairperson and a co- founder of the True Colors Residence, the first project of its kind to provide a permanent, supportive, and secure home to formerly homeless LGBT youth in New York City. Cyndi also continues to be a tireless participant in the struggle to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic and ensure that women are treated equally around the world.
Sarah McBride is the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). In 2012, Sarah made national headlines when she came out as transgender while serving as student body president at American University. A native of Wilmington, DE, Sarah serves on the Board of Directors of Equality Delaware and helped lead the successful effort to add gender identity and expression to her state’s nondiscrimination and hate-crimes laws. In 2008, Sarah worked for Delaware Governor Jack Markell and, in 2010, for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden.
Prior to coming to HRC, Sarah worked on LGBTQ equality at the Center for American Progress and interned at the White House, the first out trans woman to do so. Sarah became the first openly transgender person to address a major political party convention when she spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. She is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Transgender Equality.
Amit Paley is the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under the age of 25.
Amit comes to Trevor from the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, where he was an Associate Partner serving numerous nonprofit organizations, Fortune 500 companies and governments. He served as a leader of McKinsey’s LGBTQ group and spearheaded the firm’s global efforts on inclusion for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Amit is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College with an MBA from Columbia Business School and master’s from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and before joining McKinsey he was a reporter at the Washington Post. He covered numerous beats, including as a foreign correspondent based in the paper’s Baghdad bureau, where his work was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Earlier in his journalism career, he uncovered the existence of an 80-year-old secret court at Harvard University that persecuted gay students, several of whom died by suicide.
A six-year counselor on the the Trevor Project’s 24/7/365 Trevor Lifeline where he answered thousands of calls from youth in crisis, Paley is the first volunteer to become the CEO of the organization in its 19-year history.
Phillip Picardi is the Chief Content Officer and founding editor of the newly launched THEM, Condé Nast’s first-ever platform devoted to the queer community, and of Teen Vogue, where he oversees audience, content, and social strategy. When Picardi re-joined Teen Vogue in 2015 (he was formerly an intern and an assistant for the magazine), he launched the website’s politics and wellness coverage, shifting the brand’s focus from fashion and celebrity to themes of gender equality and social justice. In turn, TeenVogue.com traffic skyrocketed from 2 to 12 million monthly unique visitors in just two years, nabbing two Webby Awards, a GLAAD Award, and Adweek nods along the way. Most recently, Picardi was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People, and one of the 50 Most Influential LGBTQ People in Media by The Advocate.
Last season, Tony Award© winner Sara Ramirez joined CBS’s hit drama “Madam Secretary” as a series regular playing policy advisor Kat Sandoval. Previously Ramirez had been best known from ABC’s top-rated drama “Grey’s Anatomy” where for over a decade Ramirez played the ground-breaking character orthopedic surgeon Dr. Callie Torres – the longest running LGBTQ+ character in television history. She is also the voice of Queen Miranda for the past 5 seasons in the Disney Channel’s animated series, “Sofia The First” and can also be heard as Mamá Calaca in Disney’s animated series “Vampirina.” Ramirez was last seen on Broadway in the smash-hit Monty Python’s Spamalot as Lady of the Lake, for which she earned both a Tony Award© for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical and an Outer Critics Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.
Ramirez graduated from the Juilliard Drama School. Shortly after graduation, she made her Broadway debut starring in Paul Simon’s The Capeman. Following that, she starred on Broadway in Fascinating Rhythm and A Class Act, as well as Off Broadway in The Vagina Monologues. She has also appeared on “NYPD Blue,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Third Watch,” and “Spin City”. In Spring 2011, Ramirez captured a whole new audience after singing the most prominent songs in the special music event episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” when she released her own EP on iTunes.
Sara co-hosted, and performed Michael Pemberton’s song “Rollercoaster” at TED TALKS LIVE NYC on PBS, and has produced three films: Loserville (released in theaters in fall of 2016 in partnership with the Pacer Foundation’s Center for Bullying Prevention & Stomp Out Bullying); virtual reality film experience Out of Exile: Daniel’s Story (Official Selection Sundance Film Festival and Lumiere Award nominee) directed by “Godmother of Virtual Reality” Nonny de la Peña; and The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, a documentary by award-winning filmmaker David France of How to Survive a Plague about LGBTQ civil rights transgender pioneers Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (Official Selection in over 25 international film festivals including Tribeca Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival and Sheffield Doc Fest). The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson was released in theaters and on Netflix on October, 2017.
Sara has been honored with the Trailblazers Award by the New York LGBT Center; by the City of Los Angeles as an activist and artist working to advance equality as part of 2017’sLos Angeles Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Heritage Month and with the Ally for Equality Award by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. In addition to her role as a member of the True Colors Fund’s Board of Directors and a member of the Biden Foundation’s LGBTQ Advisory Council, organizations she supports include: The True Colors Fund, Bisexual Organizing Project, ACLU, NDLON, Mujerez De Maiz, The Task Force, and The Los Angeles/San Diego/New York/San Francisco LGBT Centers.
Caitlin Ryan is the Director of the Family Acceptance Project®. Dr. Ryan is a clinical social worker who has worked on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health and mental health for nearly 40 years. She received her clinical training with children and adolescents at Smith College School for Social Work. Dr. Ryan pioneered community-based acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) services at the beginning of the epidemic, initiated the first major study to identify lesbian health needs in the early 1980s, and has worked to implement quality care for LGBT youth since the early 1990s. She started the Family Acceptance Project with Dr. Rafael Diaz in 2002 to help diverse families decrease rejection and prevent related health risks for their LGBT children — including suicide, homelessness, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) — and to promote family acceptance and positive outcomes including permanency.
Dr. Ryan and her team have been developing a wide range of research-based materials and assessment tools to help families and caregivers to support their LGBT children, including a series of short documentary films that show the journey from struggle to support of ethnically and religiously diverse families with LGBT children. Her work has been acknowledged by many groups, including the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association, Division 44 that gave her the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award for groundbreaking research on LGBT youth and families, and many other groups. She has served on many national advisory groups including the Committee on LGBT Health for the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences and the LGBT Suicide Prevention Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Ryan is collaborating with institutions, agencies, faith communities, and advocates to develop an international movement of family acceptance to promote wellness and healthy futures for LGBT children, youth, and young adults.
For the last 20 years, Judy Shepard has drawn from personal tragedy to promote a greater understanding of LGBTQ issues and empower the population to embrace human dignity and diversity through outreach and advocacy in their own communities.
In 1998, Judy lost her son Matthew to a murder motivated by anti-gay hate that shocked and captivated the nation. Turning tragedy into a crusade for justice, this leading voice in the LGBTQ rights movement has since established the Matthew Shepard Foundation to carry on her son’s legacy. Later, she spearheaded the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded the federal hate-crime law to include crimes based on gender and sexual orientation.
The author of the best-seller The Meaning of Matthew, Judy offers an intimate look at how her life and the entire fight for equal rights changed when her son was killed. With a name now synonymous with activism and equal rights, Judy leaves an indelible imprint with her words, compassion, and raw honesty as she urges audiences to make their schools and communities safer for everyone, regardless of race, sex, religion, or gender identity and/or expression.
Jacob Tobia is a writer, producer, and author of the forthcoming memoir Sissy with Putnam Books at Penguin Random House. As a performer, visionary, and internet personality, Jacob helps others embrace the full complexity of gender and own their truth. Currently living in Los Angeles, Jacob recently wrapped as the Social Media Producer on Season 4 of Jill Soloway’s Emmy Award-winning series, Transparent.
A member of both the Forbes 30 Under 30 and the OUT 100, Jacob made their debut on the national stage when they were interviewed by Laverne Cox as part of MTV’s The T Word. In 2015, Jacob was profiled by MTV in the one-hour, GLAAD Award–nominated episode of True Life: I’m Genderqueer, and in 2016, Jacob created, coproduced, and hosted Queer 2.0, a first-of-its-kind LGBTQ series on NBC News. In addition to their recent book deal, Jacob recently collaborated with Instagram and GLAAD to produce #KindComments, a custom campaign for Trans Day of Visibility that was viewed over 14 million times.
A Point Foundation Scholar, Harry S. Truman Scholar, and recipient of the Campus Pride National Voice and Action Award, Jacob has captivated audiences at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and conferences across the country with their message of personal fabulosity and social change. Their writing and advocacy have been featured on MSNBC, MTV, the Washington Post, the New York Times, TIME, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, Playboy, the Guardian, and Jezebel, among others.
Originally from Raleigh, NC, Jacob graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a degree in human rights advocacy. Prior to their career in television, Jacob worked at the United Nations Foundation, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Jacob is an avid Sriracha devotee and has worn high heels in the White House twice.
Raquel Willis is a Black queer transgender activist, writer and media maven dedicated to inspiring and elevating marginalized individuals, particularly transgender women of color. She is a National Organizer for Transgender Law Center, the largest organization in the U.S. advocating on behalf of transgender and gender nonconforming people. She is also a part of Echoing Ida, a national Black women’s writing collective, and Channel Black, a media organizing and training arm of the Movement for Black Lives. She commands a major social media presence for her analysis on identity, current events, and politics. Raquel is experienced in many fields including online publications, organizing marginalized communities for social change, non-profit media strategy, and public speaking while using digital activism as a major tool of resistance and liberation.
Evan Wolfson was founder and president of Freedom to Marry, the campaign that won marriage equality in the United States, and is widely considered the architect of the movement that led to nationwide victory in 2015. In 1983, Wolfson wrote his Harvard Law School thesis on gay people and the freedom to marry. During the 1990s he served as co-counsel in the historic Hawaii marriage case that launched the ongoing global movement for the freedom to marry, and has participated in numerous gay rights and HIV/AIDS cases. Wolfson earned a B.A. in history from Yale College in 1978; served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a village in Togo, West Africa; and wrote the book, Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry (Simon & Schuster, 2004). Citing his national leadership on marriage and his appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, the National Law Journal in 2000 named Wolfson one of “the 100 most influential lawyers in America.” Newsweek/the Daily Beast dubbed Wolfson “the godfather of gay marriage” and TIME Magazine named him one of “the 100 most influential people in the world.” In 2012, Wolfson received the Barnard Medal of Distinction alongside President Barack Obama.
Having achieved in 2015 the goal he had pursued for 32 years, Wolfson now devotes his time to advising and assisting diverse movements and causes in the U.S. and around the world eager to adapt the model and apply the lessons that made the Freedom to Marry campaign so successful. Based in New York City, Wolfson has been named a Distinguished Visitor from Practice at Georgetown Law Center, where he teaches law and social change; a Distinguished Practitioner in Grand Strategy at Yale University; and Senior Counsel at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, with 125+ offices in 50+ countries.