National Security & Foreign Policy LGBTQIA+ 2021 Out Leaders List

June 11, 2021

Out in National Security and New America are pleased to honor the contributions of 40 LGBTQIA+ experts in U.S. national security and foreign policy. This year’s list features experts currently serving in government, the military, think tanks, academia, and non-governmental organizations. We proudly celebrate the contributions our community makes to advance peace and security in the United States and abroad.

We applaud the work our national security enterprise is doing to build on LGBTQIA+ presence and voices in our own institutions, and to advance LGBTQIA+ rights here and abroad. As President Biden proclaimed, “This Pride Month, we affirm our obligation to uphold the dignity of all people, and dedicate ourselves to protecting the most vulnerable among us.” We are happy that our honorees have already done so much to affirm this obligation, and we acknowledge that these efforts too often are overlooked or unnoticed.

So, we hope you’ll join us this year by reviewing this stellar lineup of individuals and recognize their hard work with us, especially as we celebrate Pride Month.

Thank you to the evaluators - selected from honorees of years past - who supported our review process. Selection is based on: thoughtful and incisive responses to our application; demonstrate excellence and leadership in their field; and, dedication to supporting the LGBTQIA+ and other intersectional communities. Finally, we work hard to create a list that represents the breath of our national security community, and at the same time, the breath of the LGBTQIA+ community. (Disclaimer: New America does not directly participate in the evaluation process, which is led by Out in National Security.)

Congratulations to our honorees and happy pride to all.

-Rusty Pickens, Luke Schleusener, and Shawn Skelly, Co-Founders, Out in National Security

Paul J. Angelo


Fellow for Latin America Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

LinkedIn | @pol_ange

Paul J. Angelo is a fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). His work focuses on U.S.-Latin American relations, transnational crime, violent actors, military and police reform, and immigration. A former active-duty naval officer, Angelo has extensive experience in military and government service.

Angelo was formerly an International Affairs Fellow at CFR, and in this capacity, he represented the U.S. Department of State as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he managed the ambassador’s security and justice portfolio. In the Political Section, he provided technical assistance to the Honduran police reform commission; supported strategy development and agenda-setting for Afro-descendent, indigenous, and LGBTQ networks to improve civic engagement; and led policy and legal analysis on violence, crime, and migration trends. His previous service in the Navy included tours in a United Kingdom-based NATO position, on board a destroyer deployed to the Asia-Pacific region, and as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he taught Spanish and Latin American politics courses.

During his naval career, Angelo deployed to Colombia on three occasions over the course of more than a decade. During his longest mission in Colombia, he served as the U.S. Embassy’s principal liaison to the Colombian military and police in the highly conflictive Pacific coast. He was directly responsible for the planning of inter-agency missions focused on improving local governance, rule of law, and security in support of Plan Colombia, and he spearheaded the coordination and implementation of the Embassy’s largest bilateral humanitarian mission in 2011.

Angelo holds a BS in political science (with honors) from the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, an MPhil in Latin American studies (with distinction) from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar, and a PhD in politics from University College London. Angelo’s written commentary has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, The Hill, and Survival: Global Politics and Strategy.

What's the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

Never back someone into a corner without providing them a way out.” Give people opportunities to save face when they are wrong—and even when they do wrong by you."

Jason Arterburn


Program Director, Counterproliferation at C4ADS

LinkedIn | @jasonarterburn

Jason is interested in how new sources of data and emerging technology can advance the U.S. national security mission against threats from China. Currently, Jason works as Program Director for Counterproliferation at C4ADS, where he leads a team in using open source data to expose and investigate national security threats in China, North Korea, Iran, Russia, and Pakistan.

Jason has testified to the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission on the role of publicly available data in addressing threats from China. His analysis has also been cited by the Congressional Executive Commission on China and the United Nations Panel of Experts on North Korea, and has appeared in front page stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

Jason earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and interdisciplinary security studies from the University of Alabama, where he was awarded the Harry S. Truman and David L. Boren Scholarships, and a master’s degree in China studies from Peking University, where he was a Yenching Scholar. Prior to C4ADS, Jason studied at Tsinghua University as a Blakemore Freeman Fellow in the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies. He speaks Mandarin.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Because I am out and in a leadership position at my company, I can be a force toward a team culture that treats diversity, equity, and inclusion as presumptive norms, not only among colleagues internally but also in our engagements externally. By being honest and forthright about how my personal identity affects my professional experiences, I can create space for others—from leadership to interns—to feel comfortable doing the same."

Denver H. Barrows


Senior Program Manager, Amazon Air; KC-10 Pilot, U.S. Air Force Reserves


Denver Barrows is a Senior Program Manager at Amazon Air. Prior to Amazon, he served in active duty and reserve roles in the United States Air Force with vast leadership and logistics operations experience in international, domestic, combat, and disaster relief environments. Denver’s service spanned assignments in Germany, Syria, Puerto Rico, Texas, and California.

Today, he continues to serve in the reserves as a KC-10 Pilot and United States Air Force Academy Admissions Liaison Officer.

Denver graduated from The University of Chicago in 2013, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy. Additionally, he has a Master of Science in Logistics from the Air Force Institute of Technology.

How do you engage with, and support, the communities you are a part of, LGBT+ or otherwise?

"I regularly participate in Out in National Security events and am a member of the National Gay Pilot Association. I have grown into this engagement during COVID-19 where the reality of virtual events has made for a uniquely connected community and I look forward to supporting both organizations at in-person events when it is safe to do so.

Learning from folks with similar lived experiences helped me prioritize my personal well-being at a time where I was completely unsure of how to love myself.

Today, I try to provide that perspective and highlight its importance to the new members who join."

Josh Black


Senior Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. Department of State

LinkedIn | @JoshBlack1812

Josh Black is a Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He has been an out gay foreign policy professional for over twenty years, having joined the State Department in 2000 as a Presidential Management Fellow. Josh first specialized in Balkans policy, working at the U.S. Office in Kosovo and participating in the UN-led negotiations that lead to Kosovo’s independence.

Beginning in 2008, he led a team at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York responsible for sanctions and counterterrorism policy and worked on issues such as North Korea, South Sudan, al-Qaeda, and Iran. In 2015, Josh was a member of the U.S. team that negotiated the Iran nuclear deal. During the last year of the Obama Administration, Josh was the Director for UN and Multilateral Affairs at the National Security Council, working on a range of UN issues and also international LGBTQ human rights.

Josh left government during the Trump Administration to work in the private sector. In 2020, he volunteered for the Biden presidential campaign and transition team.

Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Josh has a B.A. from Ohio State University and an M.P.A. from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. He lives in Washington, DC, with his partner, André Ory.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"As an out gay man, I have a deeply personal understanding of how our country has struggled to protect rights for all people. This experience has given me insights into the struggles that all countries face to create more democratic and fair societies, particularly when it comes to the challenge of integrating minority or other marginalized communities. By being out and talking about my own experiences, I can help colleagues understand better these dynamics."

Mary Borrowman


Economist, International Center for Research on Women

Mary Borrowman is an economist at the International Center for Research on Women and the technical lead for a new global coalition on women’s economic empowerment. In this role, she serves as a technical adviser for coalition partners and a leader in building, synthesizing and amplifying the global evidence base on women’s economic empowerment.

Mary’s work, research and publications have explored a wide range of issues related to economic inequality throughout the world from an intersectional feminist lens, particularly focusing on international trade and development. Beyond research and academia, Mary has been committed to and involved with advocacy at the community level. She has been involved in numerous fundraising and advocacy efforts for various feminist, and particularly LGBTQI, organizations, including volunteering at a queer youth leadership camp.

Mary holds a Ph.D. from the New School in Economics, a M.S. from the University of Utah in Economics, and a B.S. from the University of Utah in both Gender Studies and Economics.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being out has been a journey. It’s been harder than it seems it should have been intellectually, even now at times, but I know I owe it to myself and to those who have fought hard for the rights I have, including the black trans women who put themselves at the forefront and gave their lives, and the people who live in countries where they can’t be out, and the young queer youth who I mentored at the queer leadership camp, to stand in my power and be out in every way I can."

Alexandra Chandler


Policy Advocate and Impact Manager for Elections and Voting Rights, Protect Democracy

LinkedIn | @a_chandler

Alexandra Chandler is a career national security leader committed to public service. Since 2019, Alexandra has worked at Protect Democracy, where she coordinates a team of attorneys and policy professionals supporting the National Task Force on Election Crises, a cross-ideological group of civil society leaders who worked to ensure a free and fair election in 2020 and are now working to prevent future crises for our elections and our democracy.

Inspired by living in New York as a law student during the 9/11 attacks, Alexandra started her career in 2004 as an intelligence analyst at the Office of Naval Intelligence. She successfully transitioned gender on the job in 2006, and was promoted to roles of increasing responsibility, culminating with her service as Division Chief from 2011-16. In that capacity, she led IC analysis against arms smuggling and proliferation of WMD by sea and contributed to successful U.S. and multilateral policy on North Korea, Iran, China, and Russia, supporting diplomatic, military and law enforcement activities.

From 2016-17, she led initiatives at the Office of the Secretary of Defense to improve analytic quality across the Defense Intelligence Enterprise, and to combat the politicization of intelligence.

In 2018, Alexandra made history as the first transgender candidate to run for Congress from Massachusetts.

Alexandra graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in International Relations, and received a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"There are those who want to erase trans people from existence, both in the U.S. and abroad, and others who want to force a false choice between inclusion or our political or foreign policy interests. The resilience and empathy I developed through gender transition is exactly why I have been able to keep cross-ideological coalitions together for democracy at home, and has enabled me to better lead analysis against our adversaries. Me being out means I can give others that lesson every single day."

Lindsay Church


Executive Director, Minority Veterans of America

LinkedIn | @lkmchurch

Lindsay Church (they/them) is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Minority Veterans of America, a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to creating an equitable and just world for the minority veteran community – veterans of color, women, LGBTQ, and (non)religious minorities.

Lindsay has nearly a decade of experience rooted in veteran’s advocacy and grassroots organizing. They have facilitated agency-wide cultural competency trainings and assessments to ensure organizations and governmental entities are able to serve their minority and veteran constituencies effectively and efficiently.

Lindsay received their graduate degree, with a focus in international conflict and countering extremism, and their undergraduate degree, in near-Eastern language and civilization and comparative Islamic studies, from the University of Washington.

They also hold an associate degree in Persian-Farsi from Defense Language Institute. Lindsay is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where they served as a Cryptologic Technician Interpretative.

Prior to founding and leading the Minority Veterans of America, Lindsay served as the Assistant Director and co-founder of Student Veteran Life at the University of Washington.

Their previous appointments include LGBTQ Commissioner for the City of Seattle, Co-Chair of Congresswoman Suzan Delbene's (WA-1) Veterans Advisory Council, and they have participated in Armed Forces Academy selection for Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal's (WA-7).

What's the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

"When we create a space where folks can be authentically themselves, we are capable of achieving some of the most incredible things. It’s never going to be perfect but if you take care of your people and fight for them to the best of your ability, you will create a really powerful team or movement."

Tod Companion


Director, Program Management, DHS Science & Technology

LinkedIn | @voidwhichbinds

Tod is the Director of Program Management at DHS Science & Technology, with more than 50 program and project managers executing hundreds of projects totaling more than $450M in support of DHS' many missions. His office supports the full range of partners, DHS Components, HQ, stakeholders, customers, and the public.

What national security challenge motivates you, in or outside your work?

"Diversity as strength, diversity as creativity, diversity as community – while the law enforcement and military roots of many community members give us experience, we thrive on diverse, shared perspectives. We must create and hold space for many views and backgrounds."

Darius Edgerton


Deputy Director for Visits and Diplomatic Affairs, U.S. National Security Council

LinkedIn | @DiploDarius

Darius Edgerton is currently the Deputy Director for Visits and Diplomatic Affairs for the National Security Council at the White House. Having joined the State Department a more than decade ago, Darius has spent the better half of his career crafting, implementing, and explaining U.S. foreign policy.

Darius played a critical role in managing the planning and logistics of President Obama's 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which welcomed leaders from across the continent to the nation’s capital for a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit - the first such event of its kind.  Shortly thereafter, Darius transitioned to Secretary Kerry’s staff. 

From 2014 until the end of the Obama Administration, Darius traveled with the Secretary to over 30 countries.  His efforts were instrumental in helping to achieve some of President Obama and Secretary Kerry’s biggest foreign-policy accomplishments, including the Paris Climate Agreement and The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal.

Just prior to joining the NSC, Darius focused mainly on Africa. For more than a year, he served on the Nigeria Desk as the primary point of contact for U.S. foreign policy pertaining to Nigeria, working in close coordination with the interagency, international organizations, foreign governments, non-governmental organizations, U.S. businesses, and other stakeholders.

Following his time on the Desk, he held several positions within the Africa Bureau’s Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, including Digital Media Coordinator and Adviser for Congressional Affairs and Domestic Outreach. Darius also served as Spokesperson for the Africa Bureau from 2019-2020. 

What national security challenge motivates you, in or outside your work?

"One of my greatest motivations is the need to diversify our national security policy spaces. I have been part of national security discussions and decision-making at all levels. I’ve seen the policy impact of the conclusions reached in meetings and conference rooms filled only with people who look, live, and share the same background and often similar experiences.

Encouraging more Black, brown, queer, young, first and second-generation American voices to be part of the conversation isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also the best way to ensure that national security analysis and consequent policy decisions are evaluated from all perspectives and have far fewer gaps and fewer negative outcomes."

Timmy Fitzgerald


Foreign Area Officer In-Training, U.S. Navy

LinkedIn | @SwimSurfRun

Lieutenant Commander Timmy Fitzgerald, U.S. Navy, currently serves as a student at the Naval Postgraduate School earning his Master of Arts in Security Studies with a focus on the Middle East. He is headed to Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia in the fall to serve as a Senior Naval Advisor. Prior to his Foreign Area Officer journey, Timmy served at Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One (COMLCSRON ONE) in San Diego, CA as the Lead Navigation Assessor.

Previous to that, he served onboard USS INDEPENDENCE LCS-2 as the Navigator and USS LASSEN DDG-82 as the Gunnery Officer, among other roles. He has extensive experience in the INDOPACOM and SOUTHCOM AOR.

In his spare time, Timmy volunteers at Pacific Grove Meals on Wheels, swims on a local master's swim team, assists in mentoring fellow LGBTQ service members, and helps raise two corgi puppies with his incredible husband, Sam.

Timmy earned a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy in 2010.

What's the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

“'GUNNO, pick yourself up. Stop moping around looking all mad. Your Sailors look up to you and when they see you like this, you begin to lose their respect.'

Life will throw you curve balls and sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and keep moving forward in a positive direction."

Kate Gould


Legislative Director, Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17)

LinkedIn | @K8Gould

Kate Gould is the Legislative Director and National Security & Human Rights Advisor for Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), overseeing his progressive policy agenda and legislative team. Kate manages the Congressman's foreign policy and defense priorities on the House Armed Services Committee, and has helped advance his efforts to bolster the U.S. response to India’s COVID crisis, free political prisoners in Egypt, reduce civilian casualties, strengthen congressional oversight of arms transfer restrictions under the Arms Export Control Act, and end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Kate previously served as the Legislative Director for Middle East Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers). During her time at FCNL, Kate was named one of The Hill’s top advocates of 2018 and profiled by CQ as the ‘Quaker Behind the Iran Deal Fight.’

Her analysis of U.S. defense and foreign policy issues has been cited by The New York Times, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Guardian, Politico, CNN, Reuters, AFP and other national outlets.

Kate has a B.A. in International Sustainable Development from Western Washington University, and is a Political Partner with the Truman National Security Project.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"I wish I knew at the beginning of my career that there were far more LGBTQIA+ people in every sphere of my life than I knew, and that for those of us with the privilege of being able to safely do so, coming out is often the easiest way to find one another. When you take risks to be your authentic self, you motivate others to do the same.

I wish I knew that what is more valuable than even the best advice is the giving and receiving of empathy because as my friend Tommy Raskin would say, 'it's hard to be human.'"

Katie Howland, MPH


Director of Impact and Communications, Free Yezidi Foundation

LinkedIn | @katieshowland

Katie Howland, MPH is the Director of Impact and Communications at the Free Yezidi Foundation - an Iraq-based humanitarian organization serving survivors of the 2014 Yezidi genocide.

An award-winning humanitarian, Katie's efforts to mitigate book deserts in displaced communities have been recognized by MSNBC, Forbes, The Hill, and local NBC outlets around the country.

Prior to her work with FYF, Katie served as a global health lobbyist at the United Nations Foundation and managed a USAID-funded midwifery training program in ten sub-Saharan African countries. She was honored as a 2020 Changemaker by American Eagle Outfitters lifestyle brand, Aerie, and as a Nonprofit Visionary of the Year finalist by San Diego Magazine, among other awards.

An epidemiologist by training, Katie previously served in the Obama White House under then-Vice President Joe Biden and speaks varying degrees of English, Spanish, and Arabic.

She holds a Master of Public Health degree from San Diego State University, with a research focus on the epidemiology of sexual and gender-based violence in modern-day Iraq.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"For individuals who work in emotionally taxing fields in the national security arena, I have come to learn that it is imperative to develop friendships and hobbies that have absolutely nothing to do with your professional area of expertise or interest. Rest and relaxation must start in your own home."

Jezel C. Huston


U.S. Coast Guard

Jezel was born in Guam and raised in San Diego, CA. She had a B.A. in History, MS in Aviation Administration, and is currently serving as an Officer in the US Coast Guard.

Her passions include working with folks on Diversity & Inclusion, travel, understanding people’s stories, and woodworking.

She has an amazing wife of 17 years, two adorable boys, and one fuzzy cat/dog- respectively.

What's the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

"With success, it’s easy to manage people, it’s much more difficult to lead. Earning respect to the extent that people will follow your judgement under nearly any condition means that they trust you. Creating that trust sometimes requires conflict or vulnerability with those above you, in order to advocate for those below you."

Shalom Konstantino


Special Assistant at the Bureau of Global Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State

LinkedIn | @ShalomKon

Shalom M. Konstantino currently serves as a Special Assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs at the Department of State and also as the Director of Communications for glifaa, the State Department's LGBTQI+ Employee Affinity Group (EAG).

Previously, he served in the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, North Macedonia, the Regional Consular Office at the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany, and in the Executive Office at the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou, Benin.

A Tel Aviv-Yafo native, Shalom is a fierce advocate for LGBTQI+ rights at the Department of State, as he has been at each of his overseas posts, placing an emphasis on building strong relationships between the U.S. government and local LGBTQI+ organizations. He is a public affairs professional with extensive experience in designing strategic campaigns and implementing communications methods that enhance U.S. foreign policy.

Shalom is married to Michael M. Konstantino, a Foreign Service Officer at the Department of State. They will be transferring to Luxembourg with their eight-year-old Yorkie, Huey, in the summer of 2022. Michael will serve there as the Deputy Chief of Mission.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"I work for the American people and, along with my colleagues, wake up every day to shape the narrative despite and against the rising tide of disinformation from our adversaries.

My work cannot be done when I am not my authentic self, and that is what being out means to me, simply being authentic and true to myself and the people I am working so hard to convince."

Benjamin Levin


Senior Manager, Technology Assessment and Resource Development at the Global Electronics Council


Ben Levin manages GEC’s technology assessment process that identifies potential new categories for the EPEAT ecolabel and other opportunities for GEC to fulfill its mission. For selected technologies, he designs strategies to leverage the buying power of institutional purchasers, and develops sustainability criteria that reduce the lifecycle impacts of the technology.

Prior to joining GEC, Ben spent three years at Deloitte consulting helping his senior public sector clients work across organizations to develop and implement technology and data strategy. A veteran, Ben served in the U.S. Navy for six years as an intelligence analyst and Arabic translator. He then continued public service as a civilian in the U.S. Department of Defense for more than a decade. Throughout his career, he built a track record of bringing agencies together across organizational boundaries to achieve transformational innovations in the development, acquisition, operation, and integration of technology systems ranging from cyberspace to space-based sensors.

His history of success earned Ben a number of professional accolades including the Office of the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Civilian Service Medal, a Joint Service Commendation Medal, and a National Intelligence Certificate of Distinction.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"Being 'different' is a strength. It opens you up to being compassionate towards others, sensitizes you toward injustice, and pushes against the herd mentality that overruns rational decision making."

Andrew Lohsen


Monitoring Officer/Political Analyst, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine


Andrew Lohsen is a foreign affairs specialist with more than 10 years of experience promoting security, governance, and human rights in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. As a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Andrew currently supports efforts to resolve Europe’s only active armed conflict.

He previously worked on counter nuclear smuggling engagements at the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, and served as a consultant on anti-corruption projects for several non-profit organizations.

Andrew grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and holds a B.A. from Colby College and a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"I wish I had known that progression is not a linear path from intern to office director and beyond; there are many ways to develop into a capable professional in the field of foreign policy and national security.

After leaving a non-proliferation position at the State Department in 2013 to pursue graduate studies focusing on political development and anti-corruption, I worried that I had made a serious mistake and had prematurely exited a promising career trajectory. As it turns out, this decision allowed me to develop a broader perspective on national security that recognized good governance and respect for human rights as elements of stability."

Isvari Maranwe


President, Dweebs Global

LinkedIn  | @IsvariM

Isvari Maranwe is the Cofounder and President of Dweebs Global, an international nonprofit providing free mentorship and mental health support to those in need. With on-the-ground teams in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the United States, Dweebs Global is also involved in international policy, such as reducing child labor, promoting health for people with uteruses, and criminal justice reform.

Isvari researched at CERN, Fermilab, and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab and has a background in particle physics and supernova cosmology.

She is a cybersecurity and national security attorney with experience at the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Federal Communications Commission, and more. She served as an Attorney Advisor for the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, for which she earned an award for Outstanding Achievement from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

A prolific columnist and writer, Isvari has published regular columns for The Boston Globe, Medium, and LinkedIn, where she has over 300K followers. Isvari speaks six languages, is an accomplished pianist and artist, and has given two TEDx talks. Along with coauthors Nathan Maranwe and Janani Mohan, she writes diverse, often LGBTQIA+ fiction, and is represented by Metamorphosis Literary Agency.

Isvari holds a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

How do you engage with, and support, the communities you are a part of, LGBT+ or otherwise?

"I run a majority-minority international organization with over five hundred mentors around the world working on resume edits, inclusive health initiatives for people with uteruses, criminal justice reform, and much more. We offer tailored mental health support to the LGBTQ+ community, feature diverse speakers, and support minorities. We don’t turn anyone away.

As a young queer Indian woman in America, I got used to being shut down, but I never learned to shut up. The best thing we can do sometimes is blast our voices and share the microphone."

Andy Masloski


Congressional Fellow, United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee

LinkedIn  | @AndrewMasloski

Andy has more than 15 years of experience working on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. He is currently a Congressional Fellow with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He has worked at the U.S. Department of State since 2011, serving in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

Prior to serving in the federal government, he led an innovative effort to produce multimedia and virtual educational materials on the Middle East, South Asia, international relations, and international security at America Abroad Media and analyzed political and economic policy issues in the Middle East at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

He was an inaugural member of the Atlantic Council LGBTI Fellowship and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

He holds an MA in Arab Studies and BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being out in my career means that I am completely honest and open in my interactions with colleagues and counterparts, but it also means that I am vulnerable to and have experienced discrimination from prejudiced peers, bosses, or other colleagues.

I believe that being out and visible shows that LGBTQI people not only care about national security issues but are deeply affected by them."

Brian Mateo


Associate Dean of Civic Engagement, Bard College

LinkedIn  | @brianmateo

Brian Mateo serves as Associate Dean of Civic Engagement and Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program at Bard College where he works with faculty and students across the Open Society University Network on experiential learning and civic engagement opportunities.

Additionally, Mateo has worked with public diplomacy programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on U.S. foreign policy as well as civic engagement and has cultivated a network of over 100 scholars from 59 countries.

He is a Security Fellow at the Truman National Security Project, a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations and a trained Climate Reality Leader under former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. He has written and spoken about climate change and vulnerable populations worldwide. His articles have appeared in the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and Just Security.

He currently serves on the Board of Directors of BYKids and has served on the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"I do my best to make sure to bring voices to the table that have not been traditionally heard. I also make sure to advocate for LBGT Rights in the programs that I work with.

When I was starting out, I was afraid of not being my authentic self, but I then realized that being me has allowed me to be a stronger employee, advocate, inspire others and bring about opportunities that I wouldn't have even considered."

Alexandra McCargo


President and CEO, Precision Collective, LLC.


Alexandra (Alex) McCargo is the President and CEO of the Precision Collective, a management consulting company headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia focused on the advancement and strategic growth of government contracting companies of all sizes through services such as strategic planning, business development, workforce development and training, recruiting, marketing and proposal support. Precision Collective has contributed to the success of proposals ranging from large, $250M+ new business opportunities and contract vehicles to smaller, $5M+ recompetes for its customers. Ms. McCargo also has extensive experience assisting clients with the acquiring and utilization of OTAs.

Ms. McCargo begun her career working as a writer and editor working with companies such as Amazon and media agencies deeply rooted in the publishing industry and eventually transitioned into the government contracting world. Ms. McCargo has held roles on both the direct and indirect side of defense contracting holding positions ranging from Operations Manager to Business Development and Capture as well as directly supporting Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear threat focused customers.

Prior to founding Precision Collective, Ms. McCargo worked at TASC (later Engility Corporation and now SAIC) in both the DoD/CBRNE business sector as well as the civilian business units. Ms. McCargo has a passion for invigorating the next generation of government and private sector workforce, opening the aperture, leveling the playing field and facilitating success for individuals and companies alike.

Ms. McCargo has an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and MBA from American University’s Kogod School of Business.

She is also Shipley and Lohfeld Proposal and Capture Certified and part of a collection of professional networks such as Women in Public Policy (WIPP), National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS), Women in Defense (WID), Amazing Women of the Intelligence Community (AWIC) and the Small and Emerging Contractors Advisory Forum (SECAF).

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"As someone with an intersectional identity I’ve had to chart my own path and develop my own tools in order to advance within my career. This success and subsequent confidence has bled into other areas of my life allowing me to continuously exercise my sense of individuality and remain true to myself."

Ryan Ubuntu Olson


Technical Advisor on Gender and Human Rights, Palladium

LinkedIn | @ryanubuntuolson

Ryan Ubuntu Olson is a Technical Advisor at Palladium primarily working under the USAID & PEPFAR-funded Health Policy projects. He has over a decade and a half of global health and human rights-related experience working in coordination with numerous US agencies and has worked in multiple country contexts on issues of HIV, sexual reproductive health & rights, gender and sexual diversity, and diversity and inclusion.

Olson's notable work under the Health Policy Projects includes the development of a global Gender and Sexual Diversity training for PEPFAR which was implemented in 40 countries to over 5,000 staff; the development of a policy advocacy guide for LGBTI advocates throughout the continent of Africa, and the development and uptake of a discrimination reporting system alongside the government of Ghana and local partners.

At Palladium, Olson helped spearhead many of its diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and to expand conceptions of inclusive development practices across Palladium projects.

Olson was recognized in 2017 by the Clinton Foundation for his outstanding commitment to advancing global LGBTI human rights at the annual Clinton Global Initiative University. In May of 2018, he joined a US Congressional Delegation to Cuba as a gender and sexual diversity expert for an LGBTI-themed trip.

In 2020, Olson joined the Global Fund's Technical Review Panel, which offers guidance to the Global Fund Secretariate. In 2021, Olson became a co-chair of the Society for International Development’s Inclusive Development working group.

Olson holds a master's degree in Public Service from the Clinton School of Public Service and a bachelor's degree from Gonzaga University.

Olson's motto in life is "What you do in life, echoes in eternity."

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"Being out in development remains a challenging space. I wish I had been more aware of the microagressions I would experience so that I might have combatted them more effectively, rather than letting them feed my imposter syndrome or in questioning my own capabilities. I now know that I’ve faced this more often than I realized."

Manuel (Manny) Peralta


Foreign Service Officer, U.S. State Department

LinkedIn | @m_peralta
Manuel (Manny) Peralta is a career Foreign Service Officer posted to Osaka, Japan for his first assignment. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he worked as a civil servant at the State Department, most recently in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs where he oversaw foreign assistance programs in Central America.

At State, he also served as a Special Assistant in the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions, and the Bureau of Energy Resources, in addition to working at the U.S. Embassies in Mexico City, Mexico and Caracas, Venezuela.

Prior to joining the federal government, Manny worked for a technology start-up in Silicon Valley and taught English in rural Japan.

A Phoenix native, Manny has a B.A. from Arizona State University and a Master’s in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

He is married to a fellow Foreign Service Officer and in his spare time, he enjoys running (with a soft spot for Pride-themed runs), traveling, and a good cup of coffee.

What national security challenge motivates you, in or outside your work?

"As an out federal employee who has for years worked in Latin America, I have witnessed the struggles LGBT+ people face in various countries in the region. In my work, I’ve strived to support noncitizens to the United States in their pursuit of happiness and also helped make their countries more secure and prosperous. If we in the U.S say we value diversity, our actions should reflect that, and I serve my country to make sure we live up to that ideal."

Dr. Assal Rad


Senior Research Fellow, National Iranian American Council (NIAC)


Dr. Assal Rad is a Senior Research Fellow at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). She joined NIAC in January of 2019 to assist with organizing efforts and to engage the Iranian-American community to become more involved in our democratic process.

As a Senior Research Fellow, Dr. Rad works on research and writing related to Iran policy issues and U.S.-Iran relations. Her writing can be seen in Newsweek, the National Interest, Foreign Policy, and Responsible Statecraft, and she has appeared as a guest commentator on the BBC, Al Jazeera, NPR, and others.

Dr. Rad holds a PhD and B.A. from the University of California, Irvine. Her PhD is in Middle Eastern History, and her research focused on Modern Iran with an emphasis on national identity formation and popular culture in post-revolutionary Iran, which will be shared in a forthcoming book. 

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being true to yourself might sound like a cliché, but it is crucial to your self-worth. Growing up at a time and in a culture where being gay was not even really talked about, being out was a process with some hardships. But the things of greatest value often come from the hardest challenges."

Jirair Ratevosian


LinkedIn | @jratevosian

Jirair is a results-driven and inclusive leader with extensive management experience in biotechnology, government, and NGO sectors. With a focus on HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and health security, Jirair executes corporate social responsibility engagement in 127 countries across Africa and Asia.

In his current role, Jirair leads an international team to develop access to medicines strategies and partnerships that are working to achieve hepatitis elimination in Pakistan, Egypt and Rwanda; advancing gender equity in Sub-Saharan Africa; and linking people to HIV treatment in South Africa. His extensive expertise in forging partnerships with governments and international organizations, drafting legislation, and developing political coalitions with diverse stakeholders have advanced evidence-based policies for minority communities, increased global health financing, and reformed foreign aid delivery in Haiti and Africa.

As a high energy thinker, passionate advocate and policy expert, Jirair served as Legislative Director in the House of Representatives, where he led budget, appropriations, foreign policy and public health portfolios. His contributions led to the signing of landmark foreign aid legislation, and the establishment of the bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.

He has held positions and board appointments with amfAR, American Public Health Association, Physicians for Human Rights, and Center for Democracies in the Americas. Jirair is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in health diplomacy from Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. Born in Hollywood, California, he is the first-born son of refugee parents from Armenia and Lebanon. In 2018, Jirair was selected as a “40 under 40 Health Leader” for his achievements to tackle health disparities in the United States.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being out means being true to yourself. I came out when I was 38 years old and only wish I could have done it sooner. While I feel fortunate to have a meaningful academic and professional career, being proud has allowed me to grow personally and more effectively tackle inequalities in foreign policy and strengthen inclusion in the workplace."

Heather Regen


Program Examiner, U.S. Office of Management and Budget


Heather is an Economic Policy Advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at the Department of State, detailed from the White House Office of Management and Budget’s International Affairs Division. She engages with multilaterals, bilateral partners, and the interagency in areas including the gender digital divide, counter-disinformation efforts, and South America regional issues.

Heather joined OMB as a Presidential Management Fellow after completing her Public Policy Masters at UC Berkeley.

She began her career as a Fulbright fellow in Brazil and has consulted on both foreign and domestic policy issues for public and private sector clients with a focus on labor, the future of work, and anti-poverty policies.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"The importance of being out in this field is to bring queer lenses to our work – greater representation of the LGBTQI+ community itself is insufficient if we don’t also bring queer values with us."

Randi Dee Robertson


Instructor Pilot & First Officer, JetBlue Airlines


Randi works for JetBlue Airlines, based at JetBlue University, Orlando, FL as a simulator/academic instructor and First Officer when she flies. In addition she runs her own consulting practice, R2 & Associates Consulting LLC, which specializes in aviation training curriculum creation and management, and training operations management.

Her personal journey and work experience have equipped her to work with companies and organizations as they seek to meet the needs of their transgender clients and employees. She has consulted with hospital companies, educational institutions ranging from primary schools to universities, churches and international church organizations.

Her work experience includes time as a nursing home administrator prior to entering the USAF. While in the Air Force she held positions at the squadron, wing and Headquarters United States Air Force. The majority of her career she worked as a pilot. Her military flying includes the C-9 Nightingale, and the C-5 Galaxy. She was assigned to the Pentagon, HQ USAF assignment as a staff officer in the human resource arena where she was awarded the Mission Support Officer specialty code in addition to her USAF Command Pilot rating.

After retiring from the USAF, Randi spent four years, as an Associate Professor of Aviation and Program Development at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI, and nearly three years as an instructor at FlightSafety International – Orlando. Randi’s aviation licenses and ratings include: USAF Command Pilot, FAA Airline Transport Pilot, FAA Instructor Pilot/Instrument Instructor/Multiengine Instructor rating. She also holds FAA Airframe and Powerplant licenses.

Randi is blessed with a loving and supportive family. She and her spouse have been married for 35 years and have two adult children.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"I grew up in a small community, outside of a midsize, southern US city. The community was very homogenous, white, Christian, well educated, small Christian college town. I am fortunate that my parents were and are progressive, and taught me the value of each person, regardless of their unique characteristic.

This setting growing up also contributed to my lack of understanding the challenges others face who were not like me.

From where I am today, as a late career, successful, experienced leader, who happens to be a transgender woman, and is out, that I draw understand from the different perspectives, and experiences, that inform each of our lives, and in turn inform both internal policies, and external interactions across the expanse of our government, and that of our allies, friendly neighbors states, and even those who we oppose."

Kera Rolsen


Director of Operations, U.S. Air Force

LinkedIn | @KeraRolsen

Kera “Puff” Rolsen is a strategist and instructor with fifteen years of aviation experience, fourteen of which have been in the B-52. She currently directs operations for an Electronic Warfare Squadron that supports 13 product lines, and she will soon be in command of Combat Shield (87th Electronic Warfare Squadron).

She is a distinguished graduate of USAFWS class 11B and former instructor in the USAFWS B-52 division. She also has experience leading large groups with diverse specialties through problem-solving and execution at the tactical, operational, and strategic level.

She is an internationally published author, having written for military and civilian strategic organizations, strategy journals, commercial publications, and as a fiction author. Kera is also a Board Member of the Military Writers Guild.

What's the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

"Be an authentic and empathic leader. No matter who you are or what community you represent, be yourself. Be professional but authentic and challenge those who say your authentic self isn’t professional. And always, always have compassion because you never know what someone is going through."

Jesse Salazar


Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy, U.S. Department of Defense

Appointed in February, 2021, Mr. Jesse Salazar serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy. In this role, he leads the Industrial Policy team as they assess, protect, and promote the Defense Industrial Base. He advises the Under Secretary of Defense of Acquisition and Sustainment on the health of the Industrial Base to ensure a robust, secure, resilient, and innovative industrial capabilities upon which the Department of Defense can rely to fulfill current and future Warfighter requirements.

Prior to his appointment in Industrial Policy, Mr. Salazar led global external relations for the Advanced Industries practice of McKinsey & Company, where he managed the development and dissemination of vital industrial research on the automotive, machinery, advanced electronics, semiconductors, aerospace, and defense sectors, as well as industry stakeholder engagement. He also served on McKinsey’s Advanced Industries COVID-19 global leadership team and supported several industrial and manufacturing research partnerships with the World Economic Forum.

Mr. Salazar served as Vice President of Content Design and Vice President of Communications at the Council on Foundations. He also worked to strengthen minority and small businesses and ensure inclusive economic growth, as Vice President of Government Affairs and Policy at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He held additional roles as Special Assistant and Field Representative to U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., Commissioner of Latino Affairs for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Communications Director for SEIU. Mr. Salazar also taught in the Carey School of Business at Johns Hopkins University.

Passionate about nonprofit service, Mr. Salazar supports national efforts to create life-sustaining employment opportunities as secretary of the board for the nonprofit Generation USA. He also serves on the board for Baltimore Center Stage, the State Theater of Maryland. Mr. Salazar is a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project and chair emeritus for The Communications Network.

He holds an MA in History from Princeton University, where he received the Davis Merit Prize and the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Advanced Humanistic Studies, and he earned a BA with honors from the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Salazar resides with his husband in Baltimore, MD.

What’s the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

"Don’t focus on the job, position, or rank you want because those preoccupations will mislead you into thinking that status equates to impact. When selecting where you will devote yourself, focus on the impact you hope to create and the rest will likely follow."

Jimmy Santos


Special Assistant for Policy, City of Boston; Intelligence Officer, U.S. Air National Guard

LinkedIn | @RealJimmySantos

Jimmy has worked in public service at the local, state, and federal levels advising elected officials on veterans' issues, national security, and foreign policy.

He served in the United States Air Force as a lead tactics instructor flying over 180 combat missions in Afghanistan, being named a Top 40 Under 40 Veteran in 2014. He is a Political Partner with the Truman National Security Project and a Leader with Veterans for American Ideals.

Jimmy currently serves as the Northeastern Chair for the Air Force Company Grade Officers' Council, an organization representing the more than 47,000 junior military officers of the United States Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and Space Force.

What's the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

"A combat veteran friend of mine who I saw for the third time in a week at a public event told me that ‘you can’t do everything, you can’t be everywhere’. This wasn’t the first time he said this, nor did he take his own advice. Several months later I finally took his advice and started taking time off and enjoying my weekends. In doing so I was able to gain more control over my life, my goals, my relationships."

Ari Shaw


Director of International Programs, The Williams Institute

LinkedIn | @arimshaw

Ari Shaw is Director of International Programs at the Williams Institute—a think tank at UCLA Law School focused on LGBTIQ law and public policy.

He was previously on the senior staff at Columbia World Projects and has worked across policy, non-profit, and philanthropic sectors on human rights, global governance, and LGBTIQ issues for the Open Society Foundations, the Gill Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the United Nations Association of the USA, among others.

From 2013 to 2014, he was a visiting researcher at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, where he was a Fulbright Scholar, and a Multirights Fellow at the Norwegian Centre on Human Rights in Oslo, where he conducted research on international law and LGBTIQ mobilization in the Global South.

His work has appeared and been cited in both academic and mainstream publications, including World Politics Review and The Washington Post, and he is a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Truman Security Fellow.

He holds a BA in government from Harvard College, an MSc in international relations from the London School of Economics, and a PhD in political science from Northwestern University.

How do you engage with, and support, the communities you are a part of, LGBT+ or otherwise?

"I have worked to shed light on the lived experiences of sexual and gender minorities worldwide and document the toll of anti-LGBT+ violence and discrimination, making the case for diverse audiences of scholars, activists, and public officials that LGBT+ rights are fundamental human rights that demand protection.

I also try to be a mentor to younger students and colleagues who may be struggling with their own identity or face uncertainty about their ability to be out in personal or professional contexts. I have benefited from a strong support network of family, friends, and mentors who affirmed my queerness and helped me succeed—not despite, but because of it."

Kirt Smith


Asian Affairs Research Assistant, Congressional Research Service

LinkedIn | @jk_smith6

Kirt Smith works for the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division’s Asia Section. In his work for CRS, Kirt supports Congressional committees, Members, and staff as they develop legislative priorities for the Indo-Pacific region.

Before joining CRS, Kirt was a geospatial specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, covering China’s Belt and Road Initiative. He has also spent over four years working and studying across Asia —Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and China.

Kirt is a fellow in the Center for New American Security’s 2021 Next Gen Class of Shawn Brimley National Security Leaders, and is the Albright-Stonebridge Fellow for International Government Relations with the American Mandarin Society’s African-American China Leadership Program.

He is also active in a working group focused on North Korea cybersecurity issues with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.

Kirt holds a Master of Global Policy Studies from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas – Austin, and a B.A. in French from the University of New Orleans.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Though coming out freed me of the stigma of being gay, it even more profoundly liberated me from the confines of my repressive upbringing as a homeschooled Mormon from the South.

At age 18, my parents confronted me about my sexuality, and presented me with the ultimatum of undergoing conversion therapy or losing all support. I fled home and pursued my education. I chose an uncertain future, an escape into an unknown world, that has in some ways proved harsher and more difficult than I could have imagined, but that I cherish, given my free agency.

Coming out and taking steps to pursue my dreams have taught me to value my self-worth and to love myself for who I am rather than live a life that others think I should live."

Arturo Sotomayor


Associate Professor and Program Director of Security Policy Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University


Arturo C. Sotomayor is Associate Professor of International Affairs and Director of the Security Policy Studies M.A. Program in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University (GW).

His areas of interest include civil-military relations in Latin America; UN peacekeeping participation by South American countries; Latin American comparative foreign policy, and nuclear policy in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

He has edited three books, published multiple journal articles, and is the author of The Myth of the Democratic Peacekeeper: Civil-Military Relations and the United Nations (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), which was the winner of the 2015 Luciano Tomassini Latin American International Relations Book Award.

Before joining the GW faculty in the fall of 2018, he taught at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, Tulane University, and the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas CIDE, in Mexico City.

He received his M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University and his B.A. degree in international relations from Technological Autonomous Institute of Mexico (ITAM).

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"I had the experience of being discriminated for my sexual orientation, while working for the US Navy, and for my Mexican background, working at a Hispanic serving institution in Texas. At the time I did not have the legal instruments we have today to fight and denounce discrimination.

In hindsight, staying silent was perhaps more traumatic than the experience of being discriminated against by my very own bosses. I couldn’t possibly accept the fact that my supervisors got to keep their jobs for being anti-gay or anti-Mexican, while I had to find another job elsewhere.

If I were to go back to those years I would probably have recommended a different route."

Laura Thomas


Senior Director of National Security Solutions, ColdQuanta


Laura Thomas is the Senior Director of National Security Solutions for quantum sensing and computing company, ColdQuanta.

She is a former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) case officer and Chief of Base who built and led sensitive programs at CIA Headquarters and abroad in multiple, international assignments.

She has served over 16 years in national security and leadership roles, working extensively across the U.S. intelligence community, National Security Council, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Congress, and with foreign partners.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"It is freedom. It means that I finally mounted the internal courage to face all that I had internalized from my community in rural North Carolina about how being gay was “wrong.” 

Also, I feared that if I came “out” at the CIA, the security office would think I had “lied” to them and put me through the ringer the next time my clearance came up for review.  In reality, the security officer didn't bat an eye when I told her."

Natalie Tos-Brightup


Director Program Management, Textron Aviation Defense


Natalie is a program management professional at Textron Aviation Defense.

She has grown up within Textron Aviation and Textron Aviation Defense, working across the commercial and defense sectors, for the last 24 years. 

She pursued an undergraduate degree while working and raising a family.

Her vision for all employees is to be their best selves at work — this credo drives her daily interactions with customers and employees.

Coming out later in life as a Lesbian and a mother of a transgender daughter, she strives to focus on LGBTQIA2+ celebration throughout the company and our community.

She also has the honor of co-chairing the Textron Aviation LGBTQIA2+ employee resource group.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"I grew up in a small town outside of Wichita, Kansas, though I worked in Wichita. I grew up sheltered from diversity which left me without an understanding of people’s difference in background, experiences, and identities.

As I began healing from past trauma, I began realizing who I was and the difference it could make in my life by being that person. At 29 years old, I came out as Lesbian and began living my life more whole-hearted in all situations."

Daniel Trainor


CPT/O-3, Army Aviation Officer

Captain Daniel Trainor, U.S. Army, is an aviation officer and UH-60 Blackhawk pilot currently serving as a Platoon Leader in the Aviation Company, Task Force Sinai, Multinational Force and Observers.

A recent graduate of the Aviation Captains Career Course, he previously served as a Platoon Leader, Assistant Operations Officer, and Aeromedical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) Pilot in the 6-101st General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB) at Fort Campbell, KY.

While assigned to 6-101 GSAB, CPT Trainor deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operations Freedom's Sentinel and Resolute Support. Additionally, he deployed to Puerto Rico in support of disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Maria, serving as a Liaison Officer and MEDEVAC Pilot.

Danny holds a B.S. in Arts, Philosophy, and Literature from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Living openly lifted an immense burden, allowing me to focus fully on my mission and my soldiers, instead of worrying how coworkers would react if I was out. Knowing this at the start of my career would have helped me learn faster, contribute more to my organization, and build stronger relationships with coworkers.

In my current assignment, being an out gay man means being a visible representative of the LGBTQIA+ community within a multinational organization.

I hope my visibility demonstrates the diversity of the U.S. military to our partner nations and helps LGBTQIA+ servicemembers struggling with their identity feel comfortable and confident being their authentic selves in the workplace, too."

Curtis E. Velasquez


Senior Military Advisor/Chief of Staff - Department of State; U.S. Air Force


Colonel Curtis Velasquez has served in the Air Force for over 28 years. He has held key positions as political-military affairs strategist with key joint assignments at the Department of State and the United States Mission to the United Nations.

Curt has served as the Chief of Staff for the last five years in the Office of Security Negotiations and Agreements, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Department of State and is the principal Senior Military Advisor to the U.S. Lead Negotiator for Security Agreements.

He facilitates critical strategic-level negotiations for the stationing of U.S. forces around the world which also includes burden sharing in the form of host nation support agreements.

Prior to that, Curt was the Combat Plans Director at the Korea Air and Space Operation Center in the Republic of Korea and oversaw the “Fight Tonight” plans to defend the Korean Peninsula and the United States Homeland.

Before then, he was the Deputy Director of the Military Staff Committee at the United States Mission to the United Nations.

He also commanded two joint Provincial Reconstruction Teams to stabilize non-secure areas in Afghanistan with capabilities brought about by governance, development, and security programs.

Curt began his career flying F-15E Strike Eagles for the U.S. Air Force and later EA-6B Prowlers with the U.S. Navy. He holds two Masters’ degrees in National Security Strategy from the National War College and Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

He has a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in German language studies.

Colonel Velasquez grew up in rural Kansas and enjoys the outdoors and riding his motorcycle.

He is currently the vice-president and formerly the road captain of the Spartan Motorcycle Club, the second oldest active gay motorcycle club on the East Coast.

How do you engage with, and support, the communities you are a part of, LGBT+ or otherwise?

"I provide mentorship to other LGBT+ members who may be struggling with the challenges of being LGBT+ in the military.

I also provide advice to other commanders and senior military peers on how to mentor their LGBT subordinates and the challenges they may face.

I personally belong to a gay motorcycle club of retired veterans, active military, and other professionals, both in private industry and government. We support local LGBT+ businesses and benefits that promote LGBT+ awareness and youth programs."

Fa-Shen Vincent Wang


Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State

LinkedIn | @ironchokolate

Fa-Shen Vincent Wang is a Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Previously, he was the Senior Center Coordinator for the Brookings Institution’s China Center, working on Chinese politics, U.S.-China relations, and U.S. foreign policy in Asia. Vincent has also worked in domestic politics and policymaking on the local, state, and federal levels.

He has written on U.S.-China, U.S.-Taiwan, and cross-Strait relations for The Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief and the European Council on Foreign Relation’s China Analysis.

Vincent is a board member of the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association, a member of the inaugural class of the Atlantic Council’s LGBTI Fellows, and a Pacific Forum Young Leader.

From 2014-2016, he co-chaired the Asian Pacific Islanders Queers United for Action (AQUA-DC).

Vincent holds an M.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and graduated with Honors from the University of California, Berkeley.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being out means I can be authentically myself when interacting with coworkers and foreign interlocutors. I don’t need to hide who I am when coordinating LGBT+ diversity, equity, and inclusion events, and can confidently perform my duties without fear of reprisal.

When interacting with foreign interlocutors, being out represents an opportunity to demonstrate the humanity of LGBG+ folks and allows me to present another aspect of a multifaceted America."

Brian Watts


Senior Associate, The Pew Charitable Trusts


Brian Watts is a senior associate with Pew’s flood-prepared communities team focusing on federal policy that supports pre-disaster mitigation and resilience infrastructure investment and programs.

He previously worked as a consultant for the Department of Homeland Security on policy supporting U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as leading advanced data analysis and reporting to the acting commissioner.

His experience also includes teaching English in South Korea as a Fulbright scholar and interning at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communications.

Watts earned a Master of Public Affairs and a Master of Science in environmental science from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Science in ecology from the University of Georgia.

What's the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

"The one phrase that was expressed to me and I find myself saying all too often is 'Do not take things too personally.' On the surface it may seem insensitive or brazen; however, it has guided me to employ a more level-headed approach to professional critiques."

Taylor Westfall


Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State


Taylor Westfall is a Foreign Affairs Officer (civil service) at State Department in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. In this role, she works with USUN in New York and Geneva to advance human rights regionally in the Middle East and covers freedom of religion or belief and LGBTQI+ rights.

She is also the Director of Outreach and Engagement for glifaa (LGBT+ in foreign affairs agency) affinity group.

Prior to working in multilateral affairs, Taylor was a Management Analyst at State Department Office of the Inspector General covering Middle East programs. During this time, she served a year tour at Embassy Baghdad as a limited term Foreign Service Officer analyzing security operations at the Embassy.

Before joining the State Department, she worked at World Learning as a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow developing trainings to diversify programming and outreach.

Taylor is also a proud Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Costa Rica).

She holds a B.A. in History and Political Science from UNC-Chapel Hill and a M.A. in Sustainable Development from SIT.

How do you engage with, and support, the communities you are a part of, LGBT+ or otherwise?

"As the Director of Outreach and Engagement for the “glifaa” affinity group (LGBTQI+ in Foreign Affairs Agencies), assessing how we engage with diverse communities within the LGBT+ spectrum is consistently front-of-mind.

This past year, the board members, and the world more abstractly, have challenged us to assess how we engage and support our communities and, more importantly, the systemic and institutional racism and sexism that exist.

I have learned during my tenure on the board that engagement is one task, but truly supporting, listening, and valuing the voices of others, especially the criticism, is essential to building a stronger community."

Justin Witwicki


Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy


Lieutenant Commander Justin Witwicki, U.S. Navy, is a Hawkeye Weapons and Tactics Instructor and most recently served as Director of Training and Readiness at Airborne Command and Control Squadron 117 in Point Mugu, California.

Prior to assuming that role, he taught courses on Fleet Air Defense and Strike Warfare at the Navy’s Airborne Command and Control Weapons School in Point Mugu.

As a junior officer, Justin spent nearly four years stationed in Atsugi, Japan as an E-2C Mission Commander in Carrier Air Wing Five. In 2013, he earned the Armed Forces Humanitarian Service Medal for directing life-saving operations in the Philippines during Operation Damayan.

In 2016, he was nominated for U.S. Navy Flight Officer of the Year. Justin currently serves as a U.S. Navy Fleet Scholars Fellow, a Black Family Fellow at the Harvard University Center for Public Leadership, and a member of the Defense Council at the Truman National Security Project. He will spend the upcoming year studying public administration at the Harvard Kennedy School, while continuing to serve on active duty.

Prior to joining the military, he spent four months studying politics in Madrid, Spain, and served as an intern in the Office of the Vice President of the United States at the White House.

Justin holds an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, summa cum laude, and a B.A. from Saint Joseph’s University, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.

What's the best advice you ever received from a mentor?

"After I came out myself, I was introduced to a group of other LGBTQ+ officers in my Carrier Strike Group. Some were out professionally, others were not. The “newness” and excitement of being recently out left me disappointed and saddened that some of my peers did not feel comfortable being open themselves.

One lieutenant, who remains a friend and mentor nearly a decade later, reminded me of the debilitating fear I had just recently escaped. “Everybody has their own timeline,” he told me.

Today, I make a conscious effort to place neither pressure nor expectations on others, while also being honest about my sexuality with my coworkers to create an environment in which servicemembers – seniors, peers, and subordinates alike – feel that they are not alone if, and when, they choose to serve openly."

New Voices List

Out in National Security and New America are pleased to honor 15 LGBTQIA+ new voices in U.S. national security and foreign policy. This year’s list features exceptional professionals currently serving in government, the military, think tanks, academia, and non-governmental organizations. We applaud the work they are doing to not just stand in, but also stand out.

The extra work required to change institutional cultures so often becomes the responsibility of entry-level professionals. At the same time, the pressure to conform is greatest for those who are newest to their career, especially in national security spaces. We want to celebrate and elevate those folks working to become leaders in their respective space while living openly as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. We created the New Voices’ list with this motivation in mind, and look forward to continuing to celebrate early and out professionals for years to come.

Thank you to the evaluators who supported our review process. Selection is based on: thoughtful and incisive responses to our application; leadership potential; and, dedication to supporting the LGBTQIA+ and other intersectional communities. Finally, we work hard to create a list that represents the breath of our national security community, and at the same time, the breath of the LGBTQIA+ community. (Disclaimer: New America does not directly participate in the evaluation process, which is led by Out in National Security.)

Congratulations to our honorees, and happy pride to all.

-Rusty Pickens, Luke Schleusener, and Shawn Skelly, Co-Founders, Out in National Security

Ishanee Chanda


Program Assistant, Bangladesh Environment and Development Society

LinkedIn | @ishaneechanda

Ishanee Chanda is a recent M.S.F.S. graduate from Georgetown University. Her focus is on refugee and humanitarian emergencies alongside a special interest in resettlement and repatriation practices, the protection of human rights, and the rise of right-wing nationalism across the globe.

Ishanee graduated with a B.A. in International Studies from Texas A&M University with a minor in Creative Writing after study abroad stints in Oxford, United Kingdom and Turin, Italy. Following graduation, she worked at the National Conference of State Legislatures on federal and state immigration policy and international programming, providing research on states’ implementation of immigration policy, changes in federal immigration legislation, and international affairs between subnational actors.

At Georgetown's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Ishanee was a Dulles Fellow outlining the potential to use artificial intelligence to create conflict early warning systems. While at Georgetown, she also founded Georgetown's premier graduate organization on DEI issues, Diversity and Inclusion @ Georgetown. Ishanee has worked within the university system for two years as a representative on multiple DEI Committees as well as a MSFS Fellow in the School of Foreign Service's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

In the past year, Ishanee also helped co-found a new nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. titled "Mamalas, Women at Work," a platform committed to women storytelling.

Post-graduation, Ishanee will be traveling to Bangladesh to work on climate change, food insecurity, and clean water issues with the Bangladesh Environment and Development Society before moving on to work with Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar. She speaks Italian, Bengali, Odia, and Hindi.

What's the best piece of advice you ever received from a mentor?

“No one will judge you as harshly as you judge yourself.” So many times in meetings, events, or even interactions with family and friends, I have spun myself in my circles in my head thinking about how people around me may have perceived something I said or did.

If I presented an idea that not everyone engaged in, if I came in wearing flats when every other woman was wearing heels, etc. I immediately believed that I knew what every other person in that room was thinking about me. But in reality, most of those people probably did not give it a second thought.

We are our own harshest critics and we put ourselves in the center of everyone’s universes, particularly when we feel the most insecure."

Ryan Dukeman


Senior Fellow, fp21; PhD Student, Princeton University

LinkedIn | @RyanDukeman

Ryan Dukeman is a PhD student at Princeton University and a founding senior fellow at FP21, where he researches institutional reform in US foreign policy, the future of diplomacy, congressional foreign policymaking, and the geopolitics of advanced technologies.

He is also pursuing a graduate certificate in data science from Princeton’s Center for Statistics & Machine Learning. Ryan previously helped found the US State Department’s Center for Analytics, and has advised two Democratic presidential campaigns on foreign policy reform.

His writing has been published by War on the Rocks and the Foreign Service Journal, and think tanks including Chatham House, FP21, and the R Street Institute.

Ryan is a recipient of the Presidential Management Fellowship, an award for innovation from the Office of the Secretary of State, and Princeton’s Ullman Prize for Best Thesis in US Foreign Policy. He holds a B.A., summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the Princeton School of Public & International Affairs.

What national security challenge motivates you, in or outside your work?

"In my lifetime, it was virtually illegal for LGBT+ individuals to serve in the State Department, a long legacy of the “Lavender Scare” and a sore strategic weakness. The primary focus of my work so far – for the State Department and in academia – has been on institutional reform in American foreign policy.

My research concentrates on the 30-year retrenchment of our diplomatic capacity since the end of the Cold War, and how to pursue institutional change to create the best-performing diplomatic apparatus we have ever known."

Jonah Glick-Unterman


Research Assistant to Dr. Graham Allison, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

LinkedIn | @glick_unterman

Jonah Glick-Unterman is a Research Assistant to Dr. Graham Allison at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where he focuses on defense strategy, nuclear weapons, Asia-Pacific security, and U.S.-Russian relations. Jonah leads research efforts focused on drawing lessons for the U.S.-China rivalry from earlier iterations of great-power competition and on applying strategic principles from the Cold War’s great thinkers to avoid war in the 21st century.

Before joining the Belfer Center, Jonah worked at the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Wilson Center. Jonah graduated from Stanford University Phi Beta Kappa by junior election with Honors and Distinction in political science. At Stanford, Jonah conducted research with Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Secretary William Perry, Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl, Dr. Scott Sagan, and Dr. Siegfried Hecker.

He also served as class president and as president of the Jewish Student Association.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being out and visible means having seriously studied who I am and living with awareness of the gift and responsibility of my identity. Growing up in a religious Jewish community, I struggled to reconcile my respect for Judaism’s ancient wisdom with my frustration over traditional texts that condemned homosexuality as a sin meriting capital punishment. Crafting my own understanding of Jewish tradition and connecting with other LGBT Jews taught me how to think through dilemmas that have no clear answer and to be bold about my convictions.

Being out also means embracing responsibility—for how my actions reflect on the entire LGBT community, for speaking up against intolerance of any kind, and for expanding representation and access in a field where being out was once illegal."

Melanie Goldberg


Senior Intelligence Analyst, Global Rescue


Melanie is a Senior Intelligence Analyst at a leading travel risk and crisis management firm, Global Rescue.

Since graduating from Tufts University in 2016, she has supported NGOs delivering services in some of the world's most dangerous regions, as well as clients such as the US Olympic Ski Team and NASA. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her work pivoted to covering government responses to the virus, and her team was awarded the 2020 Travel Weekly Magellan Silver Award for their reporting.

She is also the co-founder of Tepid Takes, a weekly geopolitical newsletter that centers queer voices and aims to make international affairs more accessible to non-technical audiences.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"At the beginning of my career, I wish I’d know that being out is not a hindrance—rather, it’s an asset that informs every part of the work that I do. For instance, as the only queer person on my team, I recognized that our security and risk assessments neglected to include specific security considerations for queer clients operating in the field, and I successfully lobbied for the inclusion of LGBTQ+-specific risk assessments and expanded this program to include other marginalized identities.

The “otherness” that made me so afraid to be out professionally is the same force that makes me a better advocate for groups traditionally marginalized in national security—and it helps me make the world a safer place for the queer clients who rely on our services for their safety."

Mark Jamias


Head International Affairs Officer, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command


Mark is the International Affairs Officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command. He crafts strategy and advises the Commander, division staff, and field units on global operations, major deployments, and strategic engagement in the Command’s area of responsibility spanning from the Arctic and the Americas to Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

Previously, Mark was the U.S. Coast Guard’s Presidential Management Fellow, serving as the AFRICOM Regional Advisor in the Office of International Affairs.

He also served as the Foreign Visits Coordinator and Protocol Officer. As part of his Fellowship, Mark rotated to the Department of State’s Executive Secretariat Staff and the Bureau of African Affairs.

Prior to the Coast Guard, Mark served in the Political Section of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Recently, Mark was selected for a direct commission to the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Mark earned his B.A. and Master of International Affairs degrees from Columbia University.

How do you engage with, and support, the communities you are a part of, LGBT+ or otherwise?

"In the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, I have grown from a participant member to an active leader. Two years ago, I was first involved in the Coast Guard’s chapter of the Federal Asian and Pacific American Council (FAPAC) when I volunteered to teach tinikling, a traditional Filipino dance, as part of our Headquarters’ AAPI Heritage Month celebration.

I also mentored cadets from the Coast Guard Academy’s Asian Pacific American Council. Now, I serve as the chapter’s treasurer. In light of increased attacks on AAPI members nationwide, FAPAC-USCG has worked with Coast Guard senior leaders to address this problem, while we provide a space and support for members to discuss their experiences during this difficult time."

Teresa Kennedy


Program Analyst, Naval Sea Systems Command

LinkedIn | @natsecTK

Teresa D. Kennedy is a Program Analyst for the Department of Navy’s Guided Missile Frigate Program. She is committed to a career in public service working on national security policy. She is a proud member of Veterans for American Ideals, NatSecGirlsSquad, and Out in National Security.

Teresa is a 2016 Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and is a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in Security Studies at Georgetown University with a concentration in U.S. National Security Policy.

She lives in Arlington, VA with her partner, Kathleen, and their beloved dogs Buckee and Truman.

What's the best piece of advice you ever received from a mentor?

"I once had an O-3 chaplain tell me “you can do anything for ten seconds.” His point was all it takes is ten seconds of courage to start something big and take that leap of faith. Then usually adrenaline kicks in or you find out whatever it is was not as scary as you thought it was going to be.

I have used this advice a lot in my life: when I applied to my current job, before stepping in a conference room to brief an Admiral, messaging a potential mentor on LinkedIn, and likely when I will submit this application."

Alex Long


Program Associate, The Wilson Center

LinkedIn | @W_AlexLong

Alex Long is a Program Associate for the Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) at the Wilson Center, focusing on STIP’s Innovation Initiatives.

Alex has recently been elected as a Junior Policy Fellow with Cambridge University’s Centre for Science and Policy to research Global Health challenges and how the use of innovative technologies and data collection schemas, like citizen science, can contribute to pandemic prevention.

At the Wilson Center, Alex is a Project Manager of the Earth Challenge 2020 working on mobilizing the global public around six human and environmental health-focused research areas through citizen science.

Aside from Earth Challenge, Alex assists with the environmental science and open data science programming STIP is pursuing -- all the while, finding ways to integrate ongoing research and policy with the One Health framework that addresses public health challenges by focusing on the human, animal, and environmental factors at play.

Alex received his MS in Biomedical Science Policy and Advocacy from Georgetown University and his BS in Biology from the University of Richmond where he founded their first healthcare review magazine, Osmosis Magazine.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"I wish I knew that I did not have to try so hard to code switch and pretend to be a straight person every time I wanted to have a professional conversation with someone I perceived as straight. I slowly broke from that practice and found that, within my team, my personality as a more flamboyant and expressive queer man worked as an asset.

While I still struggle with the fear that people don’t take me seriously because of my voice or interests, I have started to simply not care. Because at the end of the day, I want my queerness to be as visible as possible in case the people I’m talking to could take something away from that interaction."

Jimmy Loomis


Defense and Foreign Policy Advisor, Office of Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy (FL-07)


Jimmy Loomis currently serves as Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy’s (FL-07) Defense & Foreign Policy Advisor. In this role, his principal duties consist of managing the Congresswoman’s House Armed Services Committee portfolio.

Prior to assuming this position, Jimmy conducted research on Chinese grey zone operations in the Indo-Pacific for the Stimson Center’s Defense Strategy and Planning Program, and studied foreign direct investment and trade issues while working at the World Trade Center St. Louis.

A proud native of St. Louis, Missouri, at age 18 Jimmy was the youngest elected official to serve in public office in a district of 35,000 residents.

He holds a MSc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics, a L.L.M. in International Affairs from Peking University, and a B.A. in Chinese Affairs and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis.

He is proficient in Mandarin Chinese.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"I wish I had appreciated the importance of patience and humility earlier in my career. Trusting the knowledge and expertise of peers in your field is critically important to your own personal growth and professional development: sometimes it is best to sit back and simply listen. Moreover, learning and development take time; it does not happen overnight."

Joe Michaels


John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellow at the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy

LinkedIn | @jamichaels_

Joe Michaels is a John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellow for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, where he currently serves as a Space Policy Advisor. On Space Policy’s Strategy and Plans teams, his work focuses on China and Russia and the role of space in strategic competition.

Previously, Mr. Michaels served as a Country Director in OSD(P)’s China Policy office in both the Directorate for Defense Relations and the Directorate for Innovation and Technology. Prior to the Department of Defense, Mr. Michaels completed consultancies and internships with the U.S. State Department, Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, National Bureau of Asian Research, and RiceHadleyGates.

He holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University with a concentration in Indo-Pacific security affairs.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"I wish I understood the power and importance of vulnerability earlier in my career. Too often, we are taught that vulnerability is inappropriate for the workplace or inconsistent with success. Over the course of my career, I have found the opposite to be true. Vulnerability enables professional growth. It helps teams work together more effectively. It provides space for and encourages new ideas and solutions. And, it fosters an environment of trust, respect, and support."

Merritt Ogle


Senior Associate, Markon Solutions


Merritt Ogle is a Senior Associate at Markon Solutions where she supports Defense and National Security clients in advancing digital services initiatives within the national security community. In her role, she builds interagency partnerships, supports the development and adoption of new technologies, and supports talent transformation efforts.

Outside of her day job, Merritt is honored to serve as the Director of Growth for #NatSecGirlSquad and as Chief of Staff for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. At #NatSecGirlSquad, she leads coalition building for advancing competent diversity in the national security apparatus and with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy she supports in building the leaders tomorrow needs through creating networks for young people. She has built and managed various projects with these organizations including the U.S.-China Futures Project to cultivate a cohort of the next generation of U.S. experts on China and the Emerging as a Global Leader Experience (EaGLE) program to connect exceptional and disruptive public servants.

Merritt graduated from The Ohio State University in 2017 with degrees in Public Affairs and International Studies.

Her professional passions include innovation for national security, building intrinsically inclusive environments, Eurasian studies, and advancement of LGBTQ+ professionals.

How do you engage with, and support, the communities you are a part of, LGBT+ or otherwise?

"Coming out of college as a queer woman, I was desperately seeking communities that I could relate to and learn from. I was lucky to find #NatSecGirlSquad and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy – both of which have diverse and cross-industry communities. Moving into leadership organizations in both organizations, I knew that it was important to me that all people felt like I did when I joined. I want all community members to have a safe, empowering, and healthy community that they could be welcomed into and grow with."

Melissa M. Robbins


Project Manager, New America

LinkedIn | @melissarobbins_

Melissa M. Robbins is a project manager for New America’s New Models of Policy Change project.

She previously worked as an intern and cyber security and emerging technologies consultant for the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Scientific and Technical Affairs Team.

Her areas of interest include the intersection between emerging technologies and nuclear weapons systems, arms control and nonproliferation, and the new era of great power competition.

Ms. Robbins graduated from St. John’s University in 2019 with a M.A. in International Relations and an advanced certificate in International Law and Diplomacy.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"I am a pansexual, Indian American first-generation college graduate working on national security. Coming from a poor, Evangelical family in a small town, I was encouraged to be a missionary, not a government employee. But I fell in love with this field in college and was able to embrace a part of me that I had buried for so long—being gay.

Although my family does not accept me, I still want to fight for families like mine that do not care about existential crisis that will affect them, in part due to a lack of outreach, money, and education.

Being out is just one way that I am able to present the most authentic, real version of myself, but I fully understand it is not an option for everyone—and that many, like me, face abuse or worse if they come out to their families."

Marco Fabian Sánchez


Grassroots Advocacy Officer, United Nations Foundation


Marco Fabian Sánchez (He/Him/His) is a first generation young professional with expertise in digital advocacy, public engagement, and policy communications.

Recently, Marco worked on the Biden/Harris presidential campaign where he helped to mobilize hundreds of online communities through strategic digital organizing. Currently, Marco works for the United Nations Association of the USA where he builds grassroots support for the United Nations in the U.S. Throughout his academic career at California State University, Fullerton, Marco helped to lead mobilization efforts in the Southern California community through Rep. Gil Cisneros’ (CA-39) GOTV campaign.

In addition to political campaign work and grassroots advocacy, Marco has a personal interest in human rights and international economic development given his previous role as a policy consultant for the World Bank Group.

Through his experiences in advocacy, organizational development and public leadership, Marco has been able to successfully engage everyday Americans and lawmakers throughout his academic and professional career.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Being out is one of the greatest joys and challenges of my professional life. As an openly gay man, I realize that generations before me were not as privileged as I am. I believe that as a rising leader in the foreign policy / national security space, being out means that I have a responsibility to pave the way for future generations of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Part of this responsibility includes addressing systemic issues in the workplace, drawing intersections and comparative challenges between the LGBTQIA+ community and other diverse communities, and holding leadership accountable to ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are integrated in all aspects of decision making."

Alice Schyllander


Graduate Student, Elliott School of International Affairs; Independent Consultant, Micro Rainbow

LinkedIn | @Alice_Schylland

Alice Schyllander is a recent graduate of the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University completing a Master of Arts in International Affairs with concentrations in Global Gender Policy and International Law & Organizations.

Alice has focused her studies and professional work on issues of LGBTQIA+ rights, gender equality, gender-based violence, and refugee rights with a regional interest in Latin America and the Caribbean.

She recently completed a year-long group capstone consulting project on gendered disinformation for the client organization #ShePersisted Global. Her research work also includes an intensive research project on the experiences of Central American LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers.

She has interned and worked previously at Micro Rainbow International Foundation, the Elliott School of International Affairs, Vital Voices Global Partnership, the Tahirih Justice Center, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, and the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice.

What national security challenge motivates you, in or outside your work?

"I work at the intersection of LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality, and forced migration, and I am highly motivated to transform U.S. foreign policy priorities to center the experiences of communities historically marginalized by current and past U.S. foreign policies using a trauma informed and feminist lens in policy creation processes. I am dedicated to elevating the experiences of LGBTQ+ and women refugees, and other marginalized communities, to ensure that these lived experiences are shaping important foreign policy conversations."

Leyth Swidan


Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State


Leyth Swidan is a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State. He is currently in Danish language training at the Foreign Service Institute for his next assignment as a Political Officer in Denmark.

He most recently completed his first assignment as a Vice Consul at U.S. Embassy Kuwait.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Leyth served at U.S. Embassy Singapore and on the Syria Desk as a Pickering Fellow.

Leyth holds an M.P.A. from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and a B.A. from Pomona College.

What does it mean to you that you are out?

"Diversity and inclusion are core American values that make the United States and our national security stronger. It is a privilege to be a visible representative of what it means to be an American as a queer Muslim diplomat abroad.

At the same time, this also comes with its own set of challenges, especially when serving in Muslim-majority countries and the societal expectations associated with being Muslim, that have limited the extent to which I could be out. I have taken advantage of being out, whenever possible, to dispel misconceptions that may exist about my overlapping and seemingly contradicting intersectional identities. Being vulnerable has also helped me break down barriers and strengthen trust among partners around the world."

James T. Wong


Undergraduate Student, Carnegie Mellon University; Cadet, U.S. Air Force ROTC


James Wong is a rising senior pursuing a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. His interests include mechanical engineering, focusing on robotics and mechatronic applications, and he has worked in the Biorobotics Lab at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute on DARPA projects as well as modular robotics.

Over the past 3 years, James has pursued a commission in the USAF through Air Force ROTC despite the transgender ban that had been in place since his freshman year. The prospect of obtaining a medical waiver prompted him to pursue minors in Cybersecurity and International Conflict and Computer Science.

He hopes to work in cybersecurity or intelligence and eventually shape high-level cybersecurity strategies after receiving his commission.

What do you know now that you wish you did when beginning your career?

"As I have navigated the transgender military ban over the past three years, I regret not reaching out for help sooner. I spent too long thinking that my own physical, academic, and extracurricular achievements would carry me through the process. I now realize I should have built a stronger network of advocates because real, systemic change can’t be accomplished alone."