Arcadis – Top 12 Outstanding Contributors to LGBT+ Life 2024

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In alphabetical order

This category celebrates influencers, activists, campaigners or trailblazers in the LGBT+ community, who have made an impact either on a grass roots level as part of a larger organisation, from YouTubers, to social media influencers, artists, founders of LGBT+ focused initiatives, writers, bloggers, charity workers or campaigners.
This category will be judged on merit.

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CHRISTOPHER JOELL-DESHIELDS

Christopher, who has 20 years of management experience, is the Chief Executive of Pride in London and leadsthe operational management for the UK’s largest and most diverse Pride festival, which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community, promotes inclusion and equality and is known around the world. Christopher is passionate about creating a positive social impact and delivering world-class standards of customer service, while achieving business objectives and driving brand recognition. He has signifi cant expertise in developing and maintaining partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, including sponsors, media, charities and government agencies.

DR JO HARTLAND

Jo is a Lecturer and the Deputy Education Director for Student DE&I at Bristol Medical School. They sit on the Medical Schools Council Executive Board for the EDI Alliance. Jo has a special interest in representations of queerness in medicine to advocate for understanding of trans healthcare and better education within their fi eld. “My vision for LGBTQIA+ health care teaching in medical curricula is… joy. If you were to say that is a simplistic answer you would be right, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. The truth is that I could have chosen any number of goals, because the levels of LGBTQIA+ teaching in all healthcare curricula remain poor.”

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EMILY BRIDGES

Emily has achieved multinational medals in track cycling, has raced in the European and World Championships and won the National Championships – despite having a broken ankle! As a trans cyclist, in 2022 Emily started a conversation with British Cycling and entered the National Omnium Championships, but after criticism from the media and online she started to speak out on the toxic trans debate in sport. Emily organises charity rides to bring positivity to the sport as a trans woman and uses her platform to do more for the LGBTQ+ sports community. She aims to ensure they are welcomed and loved and hopes to foster the understanding that change will soon come.

EVA ECHO

Eva is a blogger, activist and public speaker with a passionate focus on transgender rights and mental health. They use their own experiences to shed light on what it is to be trans and challenge the obstacles which gender-diverse people face. Eva was honoured with the Trans in the City Trans Community Champion award for 2022. In addition to their activism, Eva is an accomplished leader, serving as the Director of Innovation at Birmingham Pride. They play a vital role on the Crown Prosecution Service’s hate crime panel. In addition, Eva founded the #PassItOn campaign, which created discussion around trans and non-binary image standards.

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JAXON FEELEY

Jaxon is a proud advocate for the transgender community, as well as a TV personality, podcast host and guest speaker. He transitioned while still a serving prison officer in 2021, and now Jax uses his wealth of experience to inspire, motivate and encourage people from all walks of life to find and, most importantly, live their own truth. He is now on a mission to help as many people as possible live a life true to themselves. After years of experience in both difficult and dangerous environments, working with the most complex of individuals and battling his own demons, Jax is now a leading life coach.

JONNY BENJAMIN MBE

Jonny is a mental health campaigner author and filmmaker. At 20, Jonny was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and in 2014 he led a social media campaign to find Neil Laybourn, a stranger who talked him out of jumping off a bridge when he was suicidal. The campaign was successful and it led to both becoming prominent spokespeople on suicide prevention. Jonny has talked publicly about living with mental illness to help educate and break stigma in settings such as Yale University. In 2017 he co-founded youth mental health charity, Beyond. He has written three books and his second, The Stranger on the Bridge, is now being adapted into a stage musical.

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KEITH PARRIS

Recognised as the ‘Icy Amputee Warrior’, Keith has found comfort in social media. A make-up artist, model and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and disability awareness, he turned to social platforms to share his personal journey. Raised as a Black queer amputee, Keith faced the challenges of school bullying while embracing his identity. Journalling became a vital therapeutic outlet. When circumstances became overwhelming, he made the bold decision to take control of his own story. Transforming his collection of journal entries into a book, he shared it on the popular online literature platform Wattpad. With its vast community of more than 500 million users, Keith found a home for his book, Amputee Story.

LEWIS OAKLEY

Lewis is one of the leading bisexual advocates in the UK, with their work in the LGBTQ+ space changing attitudes. They are motivated by the belief that bisexuals are not treated equally, even within the queer community and cohosts the Bisexual Brunch podcast. They also appear across radio, TV and podcasts and regularly write for major publications including the Independent, Metro, Huffington Post, Attitude, Gay Times and PinkNews, making sure bisexuality is included in national discussions. Lewis is a dad of three and writes a bi-weekly column called Ask a Bi Dad. They are also the author of Bisexuality: The Basics, a guide to coming out, dating, parenting and beyond.

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LUKE CHRISTIAN

Luke is the CEO of fashion brand Deaf Identity, which was founded after Luke experienced a lack of deaf awareness in society. He was born deaf and felt like growing up he never had a deaf role model or group to identify with, which is where Deaf Identity was born, mixing his love of fashion with raising deaf awareness. Luke wants to show that deafness has a wide spectrum, whether that’s through sign language (BSL, SSE and ISL), communicating orally or being known as CODA (children of deaf adults). Luke wants to make it clear that there is no right or wrong way to be deaf. “It’s time deafness got recognised, spoken about and heard.”

POLLY SHUTE

Polly Shute has spent the last 10 years working on LGBTQ+ events, including being on the Board of Pride in London up until 2018 and a consultant for Diva Media Group. Polly is passionate about ensuring there are more quality events for women and those that are nonbinary. Polly is the director of Out and Wild Festival, this is a festival designed specifically for LGBTQ+ women and those who are non-binary. This is the UK’s biggest event for this part of the community. Polly has co-founded Pride Swim which is rolling out in 2024 and hosts Southbank Surfing, London’s biggest free regular meet up for LGBTQ+ women and those who are nonbinary. Polly is a currently a Partnership and Inclusion Consultant.

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SUE SANDERS

Sue is a founder member and the Co- Chair of School’s OUT UK, a voluntary organisation that has supported LGBTQ+ teachers for more than 30 years. She also founded Chrysalis, a team of trainers that delivers training on diversity and LGBTQ+ issues. Sue is member of the National Union of Teachers’ working party on LGBTQ+ issues and the Southwark Anti Homophobia Forum. She works as a consultant to the Crown Prosecution Service helping them produce policy on prosecuting homophobic crime. Her passion is to develop policies and practices that recognise equality and enable the LGBTQ+ community to access full employment and receive goods and services that fully meet their needs.

VALENTINO VECCHIETTI

Valentino works extensively in culture as a writer, artist, presenter and public speaker aiming to create intersex inclusion and visibility. In 2022, Valentino was shortlisted for Campaigner of the Year at the British Diversity Awards. In 2020 and 2021 the Lesbian 100 List and the Pride Power List recognised their work as an intersex community campaigner. In 2019, Valentino founded Intersex Equality Rights UK, seeking to create systemic change through working with organisations for inclusion and representation. In 2021, Valentino redesigned the Progress Pride flag, creating the Intersex-Inclusive Pride Flag. It was internationally welcomed as a part of the new Pride flag.

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