2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

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Henry McDonald

The Project

Henry’s (he/him) project will provide low-barrier, trauma-informed legal services to Boston-area young queer and transgender people of color by establishing a community-based HIV prevention medical-legal partnership.

This Fellowship bridges a long-existing service gap between two programs within Justice Resource Institute, Inc. (JRI) programs where, due to funding restrictions, many Boston Gay Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS) clients have been unable to access the legal services offered by the Health Law Institute (HLI). Boston GLASS offers HIV prevention services to Boston-area Queer, Trans, Black, and Indigenous people of color (QTBIPOC) ages 13-29. In Massachusetts, sharp racial disparities persist in measures of HIV risk: Hispanic/Latino individuals face nearly four times the risk of HIV infection than white individuals and Black individuals face nearly eight times the risk of white individuals. By extending HLI’s legal services to the clients at Boston GLASS, Henry will work in tandem with GLASS professionals to address the health-harming legal needs that tend to place the GLASS client population at heightened risk of HIV infection.

Henry is a gay man who has lived in the Boston area for almost all his life. He is interested in health justice, particularly as it pertains to HIV/AIDS.

Fellowship Plans

By extending HLI’s medical-legal partnership model to Boston GLASS, Henry will be able to meet community members where they are. He will work alongside skilled providers who have cultivated trusting relationships with clients to effectuate holistic, wrap-around, trauma-informed legal services. Henry will leverage this dynamic to provide advice, brief services, and full representation in housing, public benefits, and discrimination matters. He will also provide education and training to Boston GLASS staff and community members so that they can issue-spot health-harming legal needs and seek out appropriate resources. Henry will also build out HLI’s existing data collection and analysis capacity to promote the sustainability of the HIV prevention legal services model.

I am excited that this project moves HIV legal services upstream, focusing on HIV prevention in a medical-legal partnership model. But I am even more excited that this project allows me to support queer and trans people in my community.

Henry McDonald /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Building on the expertise of Brooklyn Legal Services LGBTQ+ & HIV Advocacy Project, Jack (they/he) will provide tailored civil legal services to support the economic stability and mobility of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Non-Binary (TGNCNB) young people living in New York City.

State legislators across the country are expressing intense hostility toward TGNCNB young people, dramatically increasing administrative violence against them. Although New York City has long been a beacon for LGBTQ+ people, there remains a wide gap between the content of New York City and State anti-discrimination laws and the lived experience of TGNCNB young people. The TGNCNB community continues to face rampant discrimination in public accommodations, the workplace, school, and housing—which contributes to cycles of poverty, criminalization, and homelessness faced by many. This project is designed to address these barriers, with the goal of maximizing the opportunities for TGNCNB young people to live a life filled with joy—beyond mere survival.

Fellowship Plans

During their Fellowship, Jack will provide TGNCNB young people with direct civil legal services, including legal name and identity document changes, support in benefits access, and counseling on gender-based discrimination. Harnessing Brooklyn Legal Services LGBTQ & HIV Advocacy Project’s already successful pro-bono name change clinic will enable Jack to expand the projects reach. Jack will concentrate outreach through community partners that offer social services to TGNCNB young people by providing the community with sustained Know Your Rights trainings and educational materials on gender-based discrimination, name changes, and benefits eligibility.

Jack is driven and inspired by the generations of trans people who have created dream-worthy lives for themselves in New York City.

TGNCNB young people deserve the legal support necessary to build stable lives in New Yorc City. This Fellowship will allow me to use all the tools at my disposal to support young members of the TGNCNB community in their journeys.

Jack Pellicano /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Matt (he/him/his) will partner with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project to provide holistic representation for detained LGBTQIA+ migrants in Arizona via direct representation, strategic litigation, and community lawyering.

LGBTQIA+ migrants fleeing violence and discrimination at home often arrive at the Southwest Border only to encounter more of the same. Arizona has one of the highest immigrant detention rates in the nation, and many are locked up merely for asserting their legal right to seek asylum. In detention, queer migrants are particularly vulnerable. Nationwide, they represent 0.14% of detainees but 12% of sexual abuse cases and remain in ICE custody up to three times longer than cisgender, heterosexual migrants. Now more than ever, LGBTQIA+ migrants in Arizona need a dedicated advocate.

Matt is inspired by his musical genius Korean mother, who came to the U.S. back when racist quotas kept most Asians out, and his white, hippie science professor father, who left his church due to its opposition to gay rights. They taught him to embrace those who are different, fight for the less fortunate, and never give up on the gay agenda.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Matt will provide direct representation for LGBTQIA+ migrants by fighting for their release through ICE advocacy and custody redetermination hearings. He will also strategically litigate asylum claims and build resources to help fellow practitioners. Finally, Matt will collaborate with existing community organizations to strengthen Arizona’s support system for LGBTQIA+ migrants and push for structural change.

Media

Advocating for LGBTQIA+ Asylum Seekers

2022 Equal Justice Works Fellowship Winner Has a Passion for Immigrant Rights

69 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships−including the U.S. until 2003. Sexual orientation and gender identity can be strong bases for asylum, but, without representation, queer migrants often face prolonged detention and removal.

Matthew Palmquist /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Seran (they/them/theirs) seeks to advance protections for transgender and non-binary people in housing and homelessness contexts through direct representation, policy advocacy, and education.

Transgender and non-binary people, especially transgender and non-binary people of color, face disproportionately high rates of housing discrimination and homelessness. Transgender and non-binary people experience disproportionately high rates of housing instability and homelessness for several (often related) reasons, including family rejection, heightened risk of abuse, increased risk of chronic health conditions, and discrimination. Additionally, while experiencing homelessness, transgender and non-binary individuals struggle to find shelter because of discriminatory policies and attitudes.

Seran’s experiences as a non-binary person of color have driven them to advocate for the just treatment of all people regardless of gender, class, ability, or race.

Fellowship Plans

During their fellowship, Seran will represent transgender and non-binary people who have faced housing discrimination or been denied access to a homeless shelter. They will work directly with members of their community to ensure that policies and legislation fully protect the rights of transgender people in housing and homelessness contexts. Additionally, they will provide education to service providers to ensure service providers are aware of the rights of transgender and non-binary people.

The goal is not just survival; we deserve the chance to have lives worth living.

Seran Gee /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Kat’s (they/them/theirs) project will work to improve the legal landscape for LGBTQIA+ people in the United States through focused effort on advocacy based on the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment.

In the United States, an estimated 8 million adults and 2 million minors identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. They are significantly more likely to be placed in situations where the separation of church and state is critical to protecting their health, safety, and well-being. The intrusion of religion on government programs impacts LGBTQIA+ youth, adults, families, and individuals at every imaginable level. Each time rights for LGBTQIA+ people expand, there are efforts to roll those rights back under the guise of religious freedom. First amendment advocacy is a critical part of continuing to build and protect LGBTQIA+ communities.

Kat’s passion for advocacy started with their experiences as an openly queer student. They remain committed to making the world a safer, more equitable place for all members of LGBTQIA+ communities.

Fellowship Plans

During their Fellowship, Kat will work on litigation through representation and amicus briefs as LGBTQIA+ rights cases make their way through the court system. They will also work on public educational materials such as know your rights resources and webinars. Additionally,they will participate in legislative advocacy efforts.

Media

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As a queer person who grew up in a conservative religious community, I know first-hand how important the separation of church and state is to ensure the safety and dignity of LGBTQIA+ individuals and communities.

Kat Grant /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Lydia will help LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence in the Texas Rio Grande Valley through outreach, education, and direct representation.

Instances of violence, including family and intimate partner violence, have increased and become more severe since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has had exacerbating effects for LGBTQIA+ individuals, who experience violence at rates greater than or equal to their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts. These survivors face unique barriers to access survivor support resources that are not also experienced by their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts.

LGBTQIA+ survivors in the Rio Grande Valley face systemic barriers related to poverty and lack of access to resources. This project focuses on the legal needs of LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence and will contribute to existing community resources.

Fellowship Plans

During the Fellowship, Lydia will help LGBTQIA+ individuals in the Rio Grande Valley with protective orders, divorce and custody orders, and name changes. They will also engage with LGBTQIA+ communities through community partnerships and Know Your Rights sessions. Lydia will seek to connect existing resources within the Rio Grande Valley and create a network of care for LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence.

As a queer person who has seen firsthand how difficult it is to access culturally humble, affirming resources for LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence, I knew I wanted to become that kind of resource for other LGBTQIA+ survivors.

Lydia Harris /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Lucie (she/her/hers) will launch a first-of-its kind clemency and family support project focused on holistic advocacy and outreach to lower-income Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) in Boston through direct representation, a public awareness campaign, and collaboration with community organizations. 

In Massachusetts, clemency—whether in the form of pardon or commutation—is a critical tool that enables the Governor to retroactively combat the detrimental impacts of the criminal justice system, which include the disproportionate incarceration of BIPOC and QTPOC. Over the past few decades and in the wake of the “War on Drugs,” the number of clemency grants, particularly in the form of commutation, has dwindled: in 2020, there were more than 100 petitioners seeking commutation with only one successful petitioner. Clemency petitioners often cannot access legal representation at all because there is no right to counsel in the clemency process and there is a dearth of attorneys available to provide pro bono representation. 

Fellowship Plans

Lucie will start a clemency pro bono clinic housed in the CORI & Re-entry Project at Greater Boston Legal Services that will provide legal assistance and representation to people seeking clemency. Contact with families and support networks is often critical to future successful clemency petitions. Lucie will host community meetings and “Know Your Rights” events to help people stay connected to their loved ones who are incarcerated. To address systemic reform, Lucie will combat the unfavorable view of clemency among the Governor, Governor’s Council, and Parole Board in Massachusetts by engaging in a public education campaign that raises awareness about the potential to reimagine clemency as a tool for racial justice. 

Media

Celebrating the 2021 Fellows Upholding LGBTQ+ Rights

Movement work grounded in abolition and redistribution of power is what creates long-term and sustainable change, but community-based legal advocacy is an essential way to mitigate the immediate violence the criminal justice system enacts upon BIPOC and QTPOC.

Lucie Gulino /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

A.D. (he/him/his and they/them/theirs) will advocate alongside incarcerated and detained trans people with disabilities in jails and will challenge harmful and discriminatory conditions of confinement.

Trans people (including transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary individuals) experience significant discrimination, mistreatment, and violence in California prisons, jails, immigration detention centers, and psychiatric facilities, including sexual and physical violence, solitary confinement, inadequate mental health and medical care, harassment, and denials of fundamental self-expression. These deplorable conditions make locked facilities uniquely disabling for trans people. They cause high rates of post- traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, and other mental health conditions, and exacerbate trans individuals’ existing mental health conditions. By focusing on marginalized and underserved trans people, this project will challenge the structural barriers that trans people with disabilities face when seeking justice, fair treatment, and adequate care.

Fellowship Highlights

In the first year of the Fellowship, A.D. has:

  • Provided brief service, referrals, and legal advice to hundreds of individuals, including 68 in-person visits, 18 video visits, 88 phone calls and 145 letters, and distributed hundreds of resources.
  • Leveraged structured negotiations and litigation to secure strong protections for LGBTQ individuals in multiple County jails.
  • Testified to the State Legislature about County jail conditions.
  • Developed and provided trainings and presentations on the intersections of disability justice, trans liberation, and abolition.

Next Steps

In the next year, A.D. plans to:

  • Expand the project into other types of locked facilities
  • Develop Know Your Rights packets and other resources for incarcerated individuals
  • Work with sponsors and community organizations to increase the project’s pro bono capacity

Media

Celebrating the 2021 Fellows Upholding LGBTQ+ Rights

As a trans lawyer, I will fight for the most marginalized people in my community. They deserve fierce legal advocacy and caring community.

A.D. Lewis /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Victoria provided affirming legal representation for queer immigrants and engaged in community-based education and community outreach to serve all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer races of color, with a particular focus on expanding UnLocal’s services to include outreach to Asian Pacific Islander communities.

LGBTQIA+ immigrants face unique challenges due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. Some LGBTQIA+ immigrants come to escape persecution, homophobic discrimination or trauma from their home countries. There is also a need for stronger community infrastructure among queer immigrants in light of homophobia or anti-immigrant rhetoric, especially among asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants, and LGBTQIA+ Asian Americans (API)—all groups who are often overlooked. This leaves a visible gap in addressing queer immigrants’ and LGBTQIA+ APIs’ legal needs, which Victoria’s project sought to address.

Victoria is an LGBTQIA+ Korean immigrant, lying at the exact intersections of an Asian-American, LGBTQIA+ individual, and an immigrant. She therefore identifies and empathizes with the community she works with and wants to see LGBTQIA+ APIs represented in the law, LGBTQIA+ community, and society at large.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Victoria:
  • Represented and given advice to a total of over 50 individuals from UnLocal, its partner clinics, and through the previous fellowship placement, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)
  • Collaborated with the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (NCAPACD) and the LGBTQIA+ Taskforce for policy advocacy and awareness efforts through a collaborative policy letter and a live web-panel respectively
  • Attended clinics at UnLocal’s partners to assist with intake for LGBTQIA+ immigrants and DACA clients and is forming partnerships with both CBST and local API groups
  • Developed and presented a training on best practices for working with LGBTQIA+ immigrants
  • Obtained asylum and/or Green Cards for multiple clients, many of whom previously faced deportation

Next Steps

Victoria will continue to work within UnLocal’s Queer Immigrant Justice Project as a staff attorney. She will assist with the growth of the project, continue to provide direct representation to LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers, and continue to foster partnerships with local organizations and communities.

Media

Building Connections in the Asian and Pacific Islander and LGBTQ+ Asian and Pacific Islander Communities

Introducing the 2020 Fellows Fighting for the LGBTQ+ Community

What I am fighting for is written in my face and identity. I want to be an advocate for my own intersectional community and make a difference on their behalf.

Victoria Jeon /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Arielle provided holistic advocacy for transgender, gender-nonconforming, intersex (TGNCI), and HIV+ immigrant New Yorkers to gain immigration status and access to healthcare—including gender-affirming procedures—through direct immigration legal services, community partnerships, and legislative advocacy. This project worked to overcome barriers to obtaining and sustaining meaningful access to gender-affirming healthcare and HIV/AIDS services by providing immigration legal services and pursuing public benefits advocacy.

There are an estimated 15,000 to 50,000 transgender undocumented individuals in the U.S. Undocumented TGNCI individuals, doubly marginalized due to citizenship status and gender identity, face particular vulnerabilities: one in four transgender individuals report experiencing discrimination in health care, and one in three report verbal harassment or refusal of treatment. Disparities in care are compounded when an individual is undocumented, and as a result, uninsured. Further, TGNCI undocumented individuals are often criminalized and detained due to police profiling, targeting and harassment. If detained, TGNCI individuals are subject to conditions that lead to rapid deterioration in their physical and mental health, such as solitary confinement, inconsistent administration of HIV medication, and denial of hormones.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Arielle:

  • Provided full immigration representation to 31 individuals who are of transgender or gender-diverse experience, or who are living with HIV
  • Helped five individuals become eligible for full New York State Medicaid or an Essential Plan, insurance which covers gender-affirming medical procedures and advocated for numerous others to obtain the public benefits for which they are eligible
  • Worked with the counsel from sponsors AIG and Sullivan & Cromwell to host a legal name change clinic, resulting in twelve clients being granted a legal name change to a name that aligns with their gender identity 
  • Conducted brief services, provided advice, and gave referrals to 47 individuals, and gave several presentations to community-based-organizations and healthcare providers throughout the city about access to benefits for immigrant and TGNCI New Yorkers
  • Advocated for the removal of harmful immigration surveillance devices, referred to by members of the community and advocates as “ankle shackles,” for 10 of her clients, and participated in broader advocacy to limit the use of such devices

Next Steps

Arielle will remain at her host organization as a staff attorney in the health justice program, where she will continue to zealously represent TGNCI immigrant community members and those living with HIV in their asylum, U- and T- visa applications.

Media

Introducing the 2020 Fellows Fighting for the LGBTQ+ Community

While working at the border and in immigrant detention centers outside of New York City, I saw firsthand how manageable illnesses can turn fatal in immigrant detention—especially for LGBTQ and HIV+ folks.

Arielle Wisbaum /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow