Our Mission

Create safe and inclusive connections to empower and uplift transgender, gender non conforming, and gender non binary youth and their communities.

Our Vision

Our vision is to create a resilient community of transgender, gender non confirming, and gender non binary leadership living in the world as their truest expression of themselves.

Our  Values

Safety- using healthy and clear boundaries to provide a physically secure space and develop inclusion, acceptance, and trust.

Agency- Providing encouragement, education, and mentorship to support the development of one’s independence and ownership of one’s own choices and body.

Resiliency- developing the capacity to thrive in the face of challenges
Empathy -  celebrating, acknowledging, and honoring the lived experiences of each other.

Advisors

All new advisors must pass a mandatory child abuse and neglect background check. Our advisors receive regular, ongoing training and review on best practices, boundaries, facilitation guidance and peer-support.

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Who We Are

Merrique Jenson

Merrique Jenson

Program Director

Pronouns: She/Her

Merrique is a queer, trans, and multiracial anti-violence advocate and artist of color. For the past 18 years, she has worked closely with street-based youth, communities of color, and LGBTQ people in the fields of youth programming, anti-violence advocacy and community empowerment.

She is the Director of SocialScope Productions, a consulting and coaching company focused on LGBTQ multimedia projects, community storytelling, and building innovative, equity program design models and professional development trainings, which most recently headlined Seattle Pride the past two years in 2017 & 2018. She also currently serves both as the Program Director for Transformations, a KC trans and gender-expansive youth group for those 12-18 years old and the Producer for the #GetWoke event series, focused on uplifting and affirming queer and trans communities of color.

In 2015, Merrique was appointed as the lead advocate to help loved ones and their communities cope and heal from 3 LGBTQ homicides in Kansas City and working with the FBI on hate crime investigations. In response to this communal trauma in Kansas City, she helped build resiliency based programs, including the 2015 KC Real Talk: LGBTQ Conversations for Change video and town hall series and the 2016 KC TGNC Summit: building a leadership fountain for TGNC youth and TGNC people of color.

She previously worked as the Manager of Youth Services for the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, providing multi-state advocacy directly to LGBTQ youth affected by trauma and violence, as well as the LGBTQ Youth Advocate at Safe Connections in St. Louis, helping build the first regional LGBTQ youth anti-violence program.

Merrique is a published writer and his intersectional projects have received national awards, including headlining Seattle Pride in 2017 and 2018. Merrique is a published writer and her intersectional projects have received national awards, specifically with her leadership and work with young people and homeless and vulnerable youth, racial justice advocacy, addressing the juvenile legal system and media's impact on queer lives. She has keynoted Yale University's Pride Month series in 2016, Sexual Assault Awareness Month for University of Iowa in 2015, as well as Take Back the Night at Southern Oregon University in 2015 and was featured on The Oprah Show in 2006.

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Merrique Jenson

Program Director

Pronouns: She/Her

Merrique is a queer, trans, and multiracial anti-violence advocate and artist of color. For the past 18 years, she has worked closely with street-based youth, communities of color, and LGBTQ people in the fields of youth programming, anti-violence advocacy and community empowerment.

She is the Director of SocialScope Productions, a consulting and coaching company focused on LGBTQ multimedia projects, community storytelling, and building innovative, equity program design models and professional development trainings, which most recently headlined Seattle Pride the past two years in 2017 & 2018. She also currently serves both as the Program Director for Transformations, a KC trans and gender-expansive youth group for those 12-18 years old and the Producer for the #GetWoke event series, focused on uplifting and affirming queer and trans communities of color.

In 2015, Merrique was appointed as the lead advocate to help loved ones and their communities cope and heal from 3 LGBTQ homicides in Kansas City and working with the FBI on hate crime investigations. In response to this communal trauma in Kansas City, she helped build resiliency based programs, including the 2015 KC Real Talk: LGBTQ Conversations for Change video and town hall series and the 2016 KC TGNC Summit: building a leadership fountain for TGNC youth and TGNC people of color.

She previously worked as the Manager of Youth Services for the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, providing multi-state advocacy directly to LGBTQ youth affected by trauma and violence, as well as the LGBTQ Youth Advocate at Safe Connections in St. Louis, helping build the first regional LGBTQ youth anti-violence program.

Merrique is a published writer and his intersectional projects have received national awards, including headlining Seattle Pride in 2017 and 2018. Merrique is a published writer and her intersectional projects have received national awards, specifically with her leadership and work with young people and homeless and vulnerable youth, racial justice advocacy, addressing the juvenile legal system and media's impact on queer lives. She has keynoted Yale University's Pride Month series in 2016, Sexual Assault Awareness Month for University of Iowa in 2015, as well as Take Back the Night at Southern Oregon University in 2015 and was featured on The Oprah Show in 2006.

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Ash R. Allee, LMSW

Lead Advisor

Pronouns: He/Him

Ash is a trans Social Worker, professor, queer activist and consultant in Kansas City. Ash works with businesses, social service agencies and schools to provide training and assessment on topics related to gender and sexuality. He started his Social Work career working with children and families as an advocate and mentor at Synergy Services. Following this, Ash spent a couple of years as an HIV Case Manager at the Kansas City CARE Clinic, helping individuals living with HIV access medical services and financial assistance for healthcare costs.

For the past decade, Ash has organized and facilitated numerous events focused on raising community awareness and directly responding to the violence and discrimination LGBTQ individuals experience. In 2017, he moderated the HuffPost and KCUR Listen to America Town Hall that centered on the trans experiences in Kansas City. Ash is a co-founder and current steering committee member of Transfinity KC, the midwest's first predominantly trans choir. He also teaches Social Work at Park University and Johnson County Community College.

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Casey Pickering

Advisor

Pronouns: They/Them/Their

Casey graduated from The University of Kansas in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Biology and began working at The University of Kansas Health System (TUKHS) that same year. After falling in love with providing patient care, they went back to college and completed the accelerated track program at William Jewell College, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2008. They have worked at The University of Kansas Health System for 13 years, where they currently serve as the nurse manager for the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) and program manager for the Rapid Response and Code Blue Program.

Casey is currently in a dual master's program at The University of Kansas and will be starting their fourth and final year in the fall, graduating in May of 2019 with a master's degree in nursing and a master's degree in Health Service Administration with focus on Health Policy and Management. Casey serves on many LGBTQ specific committees at TUKHS, including the Healthcare Equality Index Committee, the Diversity Committee, the LGBTQ+ committee, and the Transgender Care Committee.

Casey is also one of six trained instructors for Safe Zone, an LGTBQ specific program used to educate employees and students at TUKHS. Additionally, they serve as the committee chair and lead coordinator for TUKHS and KC Pridefest Committee, which functions to provide first aid to the LGBTQ community during the entirety of the pride event. Casey is also a member of Kansas Association of Health Care Executives (KAHCE) and in 2016 joined as one of the inaugural members of the KAHCE LGBT Forum, created to enhance representation of LGBTQ healthcare executives and promote high-quality care for LGBTQ individuals and their families.

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Christian Dominique

Advisor

Pronouns: They/Them
or She/Her

Christian directs and owns All Is Fair in Love and Wear, a local brand that designs transitional wear and all-gender restroom signs. They are an advisor for local TGNC youth group Transformations, a leading member of the KC LGBTQ Youth Service Provider's Collective, and were recently selected as a protégé in the C. Stephen Metzler Mentor Program. Dr. King's words resonate with Christian this year: "Hatred cannot drive out hatred."

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Nyla Foster

Advisor

Pronouns: She/Her

Nyla is a black transgender woman, entertainer, designer, and trans rights advocate. She has been living in her truth since the age of 14 and is well known within the Kansas City LGBTQIA community. Nyla entertains and competes in drag pageantry as “Angel Iman”, a stage persona she created in 2010. She is the Miss Missouri State 2017-18, Miss Black Trans Kansas 2017-18, a former Miss Kansas City Black Pride, and a former Miss Kansas City Gay Pride.

Nyla is a former Project Coordinator & Advocate for the Kansas City Anti Violence Project (KCAVP), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing advocacy for LGBTQIA members who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, hate crime, and neglect. She has also worked as a Bridge Advocate for the Rose Brooks Center, an agency that provides emergency shelter to women and children escaping life-threatening abuse. While working at KCAVP, Nyla stepped up to facilitate Kansas City’s first support group for Transgender People of Color. Under Nyla’s leadership and program development, The TPOC support group was transformed into the Kansas City Transgender Empowerment Program (KCTEP), a program open to all transgender and gender non-conforming people, focusing on access to the following needs: Healthcare, Legal Services, Employment, Education, and Safety.

Joining the leadership team of TWOCC (Trans Women of Color Collective) in 2016, Nyla is working to advance the transgender community through the art of pageantry, health advocacy, and service. As an educator, she is strengthening the community through visibility and cultural competency to create social change. She continues to carve out safe spaces in the Midwest for transgender and gender non-conforming folks to receive support, access, and affirmation. In December 2017, Nyla received the "Spirit of Pride Award", presented by Camp Magazine and Hamburger Mary’s KC. She has shared her story on several media outlets and has worked collaboratively to coordinate many events in Kansas City: Channel 41 Kansas City Live!, KC Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015 & 2016, KC Transgender Day of Visibility 2016, Anti-Violence Picnic: International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia, In addition, she was featured in “I Am Not One Thing”, a short documentary film that highlights the identities and experiences of Trans and GNC people living in Kansas City.

Executive

Hailee Bland-Walsh

 Interim Executive Director 

Hailee is the Owner and Founder of City Gym in Kansas City, Missouri. Hailee's professional work focuses on creating safe, loving, and inclusive wellness spaces for people to experience deep connection to their physical bodies in an effort to foster positive transformation in their lives. In addition to her work at City Gym, Hailee is a community activist, volunteer, and board member of work focusing on social justice issues, including LGBTQ youth safety.


Board of Directors

JD Bazzares

Board Chair, Chairman of the Board

JD's professional work focuses on directing security teams for external cooperate spaces. His passion is creating a safe, loving, and inclusive future for all people. An avid outdoorsmen, JD has served on several parks boards and championed outdoor spaces. In addition to his work, JD is a community activist, volunteer, and board member of work focusing on social justice issues, including LGBTQ youth safety.


Board Members

  • Kelly Nou, Vice Chair
  • Rose Reynolds, Treasurer
  • Carmen Xaiver
  • Rae Bowerman-Deering 
  • Suzanne Wheeler
  • Alex Salazar
  • Rhonda Hale Warren

Ask Us Anything

Do you have questions for our advisors, facilitators, and/or board members? Drop us a line on our Contact page or click the button below.