Leadership

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Merrique Jenson

she/her • KC

Founder & Program Director

MERRIQUE JENSON is a transgender, queer, second-generation multiracial woman of color who is of White and Mexican heritage. She currently serves as the Program Director for Transformations, a trans and gender-expansive youth organization based in Kansas City. Merrique has been working in the fields of harm reduction and anti-violence advocacy for over 20 years and helped create multiple, startup LGBTQ programs in the Midwest for young people and trans people of color experiencing trauma, houselessness and living on the streets. She is the Owner/Principal of her own company, SocialScope Productions, focused on multimedia artistic programs, equity development, and intersectional professional development coaching. Her multimedia projects have been nationally recognized, including the popular #GetWoke artistic event series. Merrique has performed as a DJ, is a published author, and contributing blogger for The Advocate, Out Magazine & HuffPost, and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. She is a respected community advisor and racial equity consultant, and some of her clients include About Face Youth Theatre, Bumble, The Coterie Theatre, Grindr, KU Medical Center, Mid-America Arts Alliance, and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She is currently serving a two-year term as a board member for Theatre Communications Group. She recently was awarded an LGBTQ Commission Special Action Recognition by Kansas City and Mayor Quinton Lucas for June 2021 Pride Month. Merrique’s artistic work has been recognized by the Association for Queer Anthropology, she is a Kansas City two-time Rocket Grants full-project award winner, has delivered keynotes for Yale University, Southern Oregon University, Northwestern University, headlined Seattle Pride and Houston Pride, and has been featured as a guest on The Oprah Show. She currently spends her time living and traveling in both Seattle and Kansas City, MO.

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Hailee Bland-Walsh

she/her

Interim Executive Director

HAILEE BLAND-WALSH (Interim Executive Director, she/her) is a white, cisgender, lesbian woman who currently serves as Interim Executive Director. She started her support of Transformations as the Board Chair, but as the organization quickly grew and the need for leadership increased, Hailee stepped into the role of Executive Director. It has always been Hailee’s focus and goal to help guide the organization for the creation of a paid Executive Director position that elevates a trans person of color. Hailee is the owner of City Gym in Kansas City, Missouri, as well as a writer and speaker. She also serves on the Core Council for The Center For Spiritual Living, Kansas City, is a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Kansas City, and a senior rescue dog mom.

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JD Bezares

he/him

Chair, Board of Directors

JD Bezares is a Latino queer transman and a U.S. Army veteran. Originally from the east coast, he was raised by his mom in the mountains of northern Virginia. He moved with his mom, after she remarried, to a beach town in northern Florida. While in college, JD enlisted in the Army and pursued his desire to help others. After his tour in the military, he worked in security until he began managing others and mentoring young leaders. His professional work now includes management of a $6.8 million commercial portfolio that includes commercial assets, facility maintenance, as well as event and logistics management. JD is an avid gardener, dad to two amazing pups, servant-at-large for two cats and serves as the treasurer for a nonprofit spiritual retreat center. JD also serves the City of Kansas City as the Housing Commissioner for the LGBTQ Commission. He enjoys volunteering his time to mentor young transmen and is committed to uplifting and supporting minorities in his community, specifically uplifting Black and Brown transwomen.

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Kelly Nou

she/her

Vice Chair, Board of Directors

KELLY NOU (Vice Chair, Board of Directors, she/her) is a cosmetologist, former female impersonator and a first-generation Cambodian-American immigrant. She has been in Kansas City since being a young child and living in her truth as a transgender woman for 20+ years. Kelly is honored to have nurtured and mentored many transgender girls in the Kansas City community start their journey and is dedicated to uplifting her trans sisters of color.  She is very focused on healthcare access and keeping communities of color safe. Kelly currently works with Maximus as a Contact Tracer with Springfield Greene County Health Department. Helping with reducing the spread of Covid-19. Kelly currently serves as the Vice-President of the Board of Directors for Transformations Youth Organization, a non-profit focused on serving trans and gender-expansive young people and those who care for them.

Alex

Alex Salazar

he/him

Treasurer, Board of Directors

ALEX SALAZAR has previously served as a youth advisor and is now a board member for the organization, Transformations KC. He has also served on the boards of the Kansas City Center for Inclusion and Kansas City Information Systems Security Association. He is a poll worker for the Jackson County Board of Elections. His other community activities include Scout water safety merit trainer, volunteer construction worker for Habitat for Humanity and league member of Stonewall Sports. His "warrior" focus includes working to equalize opportunities for the BIPOC TGNC community, decolonized cooking, regenerative health, reclaiming indigenous Mesoamerican history and practices.  He is a 2021 Honoree of the Buck O'Neil Legacy Award with the Kansas City Royals for his work in the Kansas City LGBTQ+ community. Alex works as engineer for a Healthcare Technology corporation.

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Carmen Xavier

she/her

Board of Directors

CARMEN XAVIER is a 73-year-old, out and proud, Mexican, queer & transgender woman. She is a Kansas City native and currently resides in Smithville, Missouri where she currently serves as the planning & zoning commissioner. Carmen has an extensive history in public service including serving as a city elected official in appointed office. She is a graduate of KU (1980) and for 31 years, she worked as an anesthesiologist, where she retired from St. Luke’s Hospital. Carmen has been a guest presenter at the Kansas City School of Osteopathic Medicine, Universities, and Hospitals She is dedicated to culturally-sensitive and competent health care delivery for transgender patients and currently volunteers as a Board Member for Transformations Youth Organization, a non-profit focused on serving trans and gender-expansive young people and those who care for them.

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Suzanne Wheeler

she/her

Board of Directors

SUZANNE WHEELER is a transgender woman who is an LGBTQ+ and Veterans Advocate. In her role as the Executive Director of the Mid-America LGBT Chamber she works to advocate, promote, and facilitate the success of the LGBTQ+ business community and its allies in order to create a more inclusive, diverse, and vibrant community across our region. Suzanne is a retired Army Colonel and combat veteran who spent the last two years of her career serving as an out transgender woman. She became an integral member of Obama administration’s team which facilitated the lifting of the ban on transgender military service and is now a nationally recognize advocate against the current administration’s reinstatement of the ban. Suzanne worked as a senior project manager at UMKC where she led national level initiatives to educate and train the HIV/AIDS and reproductive health workforce. She serves locally on the Greater KC Foundation’s Pride Fund committee, Transformations Board of Directors, Visit KC’s Diversity in Destination Management Committee, and KC Care Health Center’s Get Tested KC Advisory Council. Nationally, she is a Board Member of the Transgender American Veterans Association.

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