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The first step to making a difference is believing that you can. Asian Pacific Islander Equality-Los Angeles (APIEquality-L.A.) is doing more than believing, they are making that difference. "API Equality-L.A. was founded in 2005 in response to protests against marriage equality by Chinese Christians in theSan Gabriel Valley," said Karin Wang, Vice President of Programs for the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. "APIEquality-L.A. has tirelessly advocated in the Asian/Pacific Islander community for marriage equality and the fair treat-ment of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people."API Equality-L.A. has demonstrated significant impact within the Asian Pacific Islander community. "For example, exitpoll data from the 2000 (Prop 22) and 2008 (Prop 8) elections show that API voters shifted in favor of marriage equality ata much more rapid pace than the general electorate or other communities of color," Wang said. Since 2008, API Equality-L.A.has raised enough funds to hire an Executive Director and conduct research on messag-ing to API voters. They have placed op-eds in ethnic newspapers and built relationships through service projects withAPI churches. API Equality-LA co-founded Q*POC-LA (Queer People of Color - LA), with Latino Equality Alliance and Jordan RustinCoalition. Q*POC-LA focuses on communities of color raising the profile of people of color within the LGBT community,uniting API, African American and Latinos LGBT people in a unique collaborative effort. Christopher Street West is proudto present the Connie NormanAward to API Equality-L.A. CSWrecognizes their outstandingachievements in its work within var-ious ethnic communities and theirefforts to build bridges and gainmarriage equality for the entireLGBT community. CONNIE NORMAN AWARDAPI Equality-Los AngelesThe Connie Norman Award recognizes an individual or organization for outstanding achievement in fostering racial, ethnic, religious and gender unity within the LGBTcommunity. This award is named for transsexual Connie Norman, who fought tirelessly for the rights of people with HIV/AIDS.Acceptance is crucial-especially when you are a teenager fac-ing all the hurdles of growing up, learning who you are andestablishing yourself in society. Add being LGBT, and you beginto see what it is that so many of our youth face today. "GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Network is a youth leadershiporganization that empowers youth activists to fight homophobiaand transphobia in schools by training student leaders and sup-porting student-led Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in California andthroughout the country," said Daniel E. Solis, Southern Californiaprogram manager. "GSA Network's youth advocates haveplayed a key role in changing laws and policies that impact youth at the local and State level."GSA's are student-run organizations that foster understanding and acceptance within school communities of studentswho are not all the same. These are assisted by GSA Network, whose mission is to create safe environments in whichstudents can support each other and learn about homophobia and other oppressions. In a unique hybrid, youth from the GSA Network from around California-leaders in their schools and active in extra-curricular activities-serve on the statewide board along side dedicated adults who bring a wide array of real worldexperience. By providing such in-depth leadership and activist training for youth, GSA Network is building a generationof leaders for LGBT rights and social justice. As a youth-driven organization, GSA Network brings the voices and per-spectives of youth to the forefront of the LGBTQ movement. "I see the importance of young people making a difference now-gay and straight uniting for something that theyknow is right. They are our future and they will pave the path for the next generation. It is our duty to encourage andsupport our youth any way that we can. The GSA Network is a small glimpse of what's to come and I can't wait for it,"said Joe Nevarez, CSW Communications Intern. Youth are self-identifying as LGBTQ at younger and younger ages, some as early as middle school, and that is whyGSA's are so important. These brave individuals face more than just growing pains; they face harassment and bullyingand often without a supportive, knowledgeable or safe school environment. OUTSTANDING YOUTH LEADERGSANetworkThe Outstanding Youth Leader Award recognizes an individual, between the ages of 14-24,who has volunteered their time for the betterment of youth in the LGBT community.39