2019 Speaker Bios
From high school drop out to achieving an MBA, from self-harm to author of Black Girls Cut, Too, from weird to unleashed, Stacey Stevenson is a socially engaging, riveting and influential woman with charisma and power to positively influence and capture anyone who meets her.
Stacey overcame poverty, anxiety, alcoholism, self-harm, and abuse and now uses those experiences to help others overcome similar obstacles. Stacey’s belief is struggle should be used as a catalyst for success, not an excuse as to why someone is not successful. She feels its her duty to coach and mentor others to achieve their version of success.
As a speaker, motivator and student of life, Stacey believes both failures and successes are necessary parts of growth. With her positive spin on negative experiences, Stacey helps others leverage their negative experiences to find the power that is already within them.
Stacey continues to share her story with audiences as well as individuals about her struggles while motivating them to continue to stand up and define their own success. Known to talk to GED classes about their bright futures and inner-city youth, Stacey’s likeability and relatability makes her teachings inspirational to all audiences.
Amy M. Stewart
“She gets it. When you work with Amy, you will understand why.” Amy M. Stewart is the Founding Partner for Stewart Law Group PLLC, the only African-American and woman-owned business litigation defense law firm in the DFW area. Amy has expertise in resolving contract disputes, business torts, investigations, product liability, employment, and labor matters. In addition to her civil trial experience, Amy is a certified Arbitrator with FINRA and the American Arbitration Association where she presides over commercial, construction, and employment disputes.
What sets Amy apart from other trial attorneys are the skills she garnered from her experiences in the athletic world. A former Division I collegiate athlete and coach, Amy brings a dignified and measured aggressiveness and competitive nature to her legal practice. Clients want her leading and representing their interests as their outside legal counsel. Opposing counsel respect her legal acumen and her tenaciousness. As another client put it, “She is a force to be reckoned with.”
Based on her experience building winning teams, she has an innate ability to connect with clients. By listening to her clients, Amy identifies and understands the critical success factors before developing a game plan—what does a “win” look like for this legal dispute. Relying on her professional and athletic experiences, Amy develops a strategy to meet her client’s objectives in the most efficient way possible. She never gives up on meeting her client’s objectives and uses her intellect and intuition to alter the game plan when issues arise.
Amy regularly speaks nationally on topics related to the firm's mantra "Support Women. Period." Also, Amy writes on topics related to empowering women, including articles, “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Negotiating: Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviors that Derail Your Path to Success,” which was published in the ABA Section of Litigation's Woman Advocate Committee Newsletter and she has authored a chapter in the book, Her Story: Lessons in Success From Lawyers Who Live It, entitled Negotiating Fair Compensation.
PANEL: And Still I Rise
Holly is a professor of education at Tarleton State University. She is the mom to two children - Katy, age 16, and Riley, age 15. Holly grew up in conservative West Texas, raised in the church, where she was taught that anything outside of the heteronormative, patriarchal household was not the God-ordained path. After marrying her now ex-husband, she went into the field of education, earning her doctorate and began teaching at a church of Christ affiliated university in West Texas. It was there that she discovered an entire disconnected community of LGBTQ students who were also being taught that who they are is not who God created them to be. Holly became an advocate for these students helping them navigate the difficult environment in which they found themselves. Otherwise they lived at risk of losing their scholarships and being expelled. During this time, Holly discovered that she had been living behind her own facade and came out after leaving the university. She moved to Chicago where she attended graduate school for women’s studies and contemporary spirituality in hopes of assisting others in navigating this difficult pathway. She now lives with her partner in Irving and serves the DFW LGBTQ community in various ways.
PANEL: And Still I Rise
Grace has been licensed in Cosmetology since 2007, and opened her own salon in 2017. She is a single mom to a 13 year old son. Grace struggled with a dependency to alcohol and other drugs starting at the age of 16 when she was given alcohol by two men who ended up sexually abusing her. Shamed and blamed, Grace began abusing alcohol to cope with her virginity being stolen from her, unsure of God's love and forgiveness for her, and feeling like a disappointment to her parents.
In 2015 Grace started her journey to recovery with Narcotics Anonymous, where she started to realize there was hope for her to turn her life around. Although Grace has relapsed and traveled a winding road, she is living her best life, following her passions including yoga and going to college to become a journalist, and is completely in love with herself and her life.
PANEL: And Still I Rise
Bryn S. Esplin joined the College of Medicine at Texas A&M as an Assistant Professor of Bioethics after completing a two-year Clinical Ethics Fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH. Dr. Esplin’s teaching brings together law, medicine, and popular culture to help medical students critically examine the social, ethical, and political implications that underlie medical decision-making in order to analyze and unpack the most controversial issues in healthcare.
She and her wife, Fatma Marouf, have been married since May of 2015. In 2017, after first being invited to apply to foster refugee and unaccompanied minors by a Fort Worth-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) affiliate, they were told that they were ineligible simply because their family structure did not ‘mirror the Holy family’. With the help of Lambda Legal, Bryn and Fatma filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia claiming that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and USCCB are violating the Establishment, Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S Constitution by allowing USCCB to impose a religious test governing the provision of federal child welfare services. The lawsuit is still pending.
PANEL: And Still I Rise
Fatma Marouf is a Professor of Law and Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Texas A&M School of Law. The Clinic provides pro bono legal assistance in deportation cases and does federal litigation on behalf of immigrants. Fatma previously taught at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has served as a consultant to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She received her JD from Harvard Law School, her MPH from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and her BA from Yale. She and her wife, Bryn Esplin, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal and the law firm Hogan Lovells against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a case involving the right of LGBT couples to be foster parents to refugee children through a federal program.
PANEL: And Still I Rise
Stacey Monroe is a transgender Latinx LGBTQ+ rights advocate, speaker, and blogger. She is an active volunteer with the HRC DFW Steering Committee and sits on two subcommittees. She also serves as the DFW Regional Coordinator for TENT (Transgender Education Network of Texas) and is a part of the Trans/GNC working group with the Dallas HIV Task Force.
Stacey began her activism work in 2014 through her personal blog “My Trans Life”. She focuses on advocating for the transgender community, although she also advocates for all underrepresented communities. She has done things such as lobbying, helping feed people experiencing homelessness, and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights.
Stacey is currently working on a project to shine a light on the lack of resources for transgender people experiencing homelessness in Dallas and surrounding cities. She highlights stories like those and many others on “My Trans Life” to raise awareness on the topic of inequality in the trans community.
Stacey has been featured in several television interviews on Univision and Telemundo to share her story, as well as participate in discussions about the restroom rights debate.
PANEL: And Still I Rise
Shanon Murphy aka Psycho Shannon - producer at Kidd Kraddick Morning Show was born and raised in Dallas. Getting started in radio at 17, Shanon was hired by surrogate father Kidd Kraddick who she unexpectedly lost in 2013. Hit by another blow, just a few months later, Shanon woke up with some swelling on the left side of her face, numbness on the left side of her body, and was unable to keep any food down. After getting an MRI done, Shanon's doctor let her know that she has a brain tumor.
Fully recovered and always a positive face looking to honor and turn adverse situations into positive ones, Shanon started ISR Baby in an effort to save children's lives. Losing her nephew and his grandfather in a drowning incident drove Shanon to become a certified ISR instructor and recently hung up her producer hat to follow her new passion so others don't endure the pain of losing a loved one to drowning.
PANEL: And Still I Rise
Nearly a year into her first term as an elected official, Tonya Parker made national headlines. Not for the way she cleared-out scores of dated cases in the severely backlogged court she inherited. Not for her award-winning service to the legal community. Not for breaking barriers as one of the few, at that time, African-American judges or female judges or gay judges. Instead, she was labeled “The Gay Judge” and splashed across social media for declining to exercise her privilege to officiate marriage ceremonies until all couples could wed. In October 2016 she took the TEDxTurtleCreekWomen stage to talk about the lessons she learned from being so prominently labeled. The Talk can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plLp7mVktsM.
Since being elected to the 116th Judicial District Court of Texas, Judge Parker consistently has been recognized as a devoted community servant. In 2017 alone she received four prestigious awards: the Stonewall Award from the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Commission of the American Bar Association, the Distinguished Alumni Award for Judicial Service from SMU Dedman School of Law, the Maura Women Helping Women award from the Dallas Women’s Foundation, and the Trailblazer Award from IGNITE. She was also named 2016 Elected Official of the Year by the Dallas County Democratic Party.
Judge Parker is also recognized at the local, state, and national levels for her work as a jurist. Her approval ratings in the Dallas Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Polls are among the highest at over 90 percent. She has also received numerous awards acknowledging her exemplary judicial service, including trial Judge of the Year from the Dallas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, the Distinguished Jurist Award from the African-American Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Texas, and the Honorable L.A. Bedford Outstanding Jurist Award from the J.L. Turner Legal Association.
Reportedly the first self-identifying gay African-American elected to any office in Texas, Judge Parker embraces her roles as a mentor and role model across multiple communities but the roles she holds most dearly are those of wife and mom to her son and two four-legged babies.
Sonya Parker Goode CLC, CAMS-I has been active in the field of training and education for over twenty years, focusing on teaching life skill and soft skill training programs and promoting personal development, empowerment, and healing for women and teens throughout Dallas and Collin Counties.
Merging a B.A. in English/Literary Studies from University of Texas at Dallas and over 30 hours of graduate studies in Professional Counseling at Argosy University, Sonya has successfully managed several social service and education and training programs for non-profit organizations including Catholic Charities of Dallas-Refugee and Empowerment Services, ANTHEM-Strong Families Dallas, The Salvation Army-Carr P. Collins Social Service Center, and First United Methodist Church -Crossroads Community Services. In addition, she has over 5 years’ experience teaching Grammar, Writing, Reading, and Listening and Speaking in the International Learning Community at Richland College in the Dallas County Community College District.
Sonya has been CEO, Life Coach, and Master Trainer for INSPIRE U Coaching and Educational Services for the last 10 years. In this role, she has provided education and training programs for Family Care Connection, Dallas County Truancy and Juvenile Probation Evening Reporting Center, and Viola’s House, a maternity home in South Dallas. Sonya’s most distinguished accomplishments include being selected as the grand prize winner for Capital One Bank's 'Getting Down to Business' Business Plan Competition, as well as coordinating and facilitating educational programs and services for Big Thought in Dallas, TX and Allen Community Outreach in Allen, TX.
Christia Rogers is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Supervisor, and a National Certified Counselor. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Exercise Sport Science from Southwest Texas State University and her Masters in Counseling with a concentration in behavior intervention from the University of North Texas. Over two decades, Christia has worked in education with pre- teens and young adults as a special education counselor. Her work to build self-esteem, self-awareness and leadership for teenagers has spanned over five school districts. Christia has done extensive work in crisis counseling (education and psychiatric hospitals), couples/partner counseling, behavior interventions, parent training, children with spectrum disorders, and children with emotional and behavioral disorders (such as ADHD and depression). Christia is also an Independent Education Consultant that provides trainings in the areas of Social Skills, Behavior Interventions, Classroom Management and Multicultural Sensitivity. Christia is a member of the Texas Counseling Association, American Counseling Association and a National Board of Certified Counselors. She is the is the sole owner of Bridges To Crossroads Counseling a private practice which offers individual, group, relationship counseling, parent and life coaching. Christia hosts a video blog; which provides parenting tips and coping strategies for depression, anxiety and grief.
Dr. Paula Smith
Yael Bat-Shimon, LMHC
Yael Bat-Shimon, LMHC, Certified Imago Therapist & Dr. Paula Smith, Advanced Imago Clinician and Workshop Presenter are a married couple specializing in helping lesbian couples create safe, healing, egalitarian, love-filled partnerships in deeply perceptive, precise and appropriately playful ways. We live in a culture that tells us that marriage and intimate relationships should come naturally. We believe this leads many lesbian couples to terminate their relationships unnecessarily. Yael and Paula recognize how misleading this myth is for couples seeking viable tools to create long-lasting marriages and committed partnerships. It is crucial for lesbian couples to understand that their principle function is to help keep each other safe; otherwise, the meaning of their partnership is trivialized and this lessens the likelihood of creating a strong, interdependent relationship. For over a decade, Yael and Paula have been teaching lesbian couples how to understand each other deeply and accurately, using a positive, strength-based, psychobiological, relational methodology-Imago relationship therapy. Rather than bore you with advice and insights or tell you what to avoid in your intimate relationships, Yael and Paula help you think about and experience relationships in a new way, where you are empowered to value differences, deepen intimacy, discover purpose and pass on a legacy of respectful relating to your children.
Rev. Erin Wyma
Rev. Erin Wyma is a Southern California native who has worked at a variety of jobs that included public school teaching, larger church ministry and non-profit work. Her church adventures included growing up in a small Episcopal Church, spending her teenage years in a mid-range sized Presbyterian Church, being in volunteer leadership with InterVarsity during her college years, working at a very large Evangelical Congregational Church and finally finding the progressive protestant church. She lived and travelled overseas as a part of her faith and life formation. She has been a guest podcaster on Homebrewed Christianity, led outreach ministry workshops, been a part of a creative Downtown Los Angeles church plant, co-led various youth camps in the Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC, spoken at conferences, and been the keynote speakers at a variety of events. In 2006 she received her Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. She was ordained into the United Church of Christ in January 2011. She began her time as an Associate Minister at Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas in June of 2016.
Rev. Beth Dana
Rev. Beth Dana is Minister of Congregational Life at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, where she has served since 2014. She grew up in Albany, New York, and has moved from coast to coast, finally settling in the middle in Dallas! She has served Unitarian Universalism as a religious educator and curriculum developer, youth and young adult ministry leader, anti-oppression and multiculturalism trainer, and now as a builder of congregational life. She studied for her Master of Divinity at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where she received her degree in 2012. Beth, her wife Erin, and their 2-year-old twins live in east Dallas.
Pastor Eric Folkerth
Eric is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC in Dallas. He also spent seventeen years as pastor of Northaven UMC. In 2016, Northaven became the first North Texas Methodist church to vote to host same gender weddings. Eric is committed to providing same gender weddings for any and all church members. Eric is an avid musician, blogger and published author, and was the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign).
Ticily Medley, PhD
Dr Ticily Medley is a psychologist and life skills coach who specializes in helping therapists and other skilled professionals find direction, focus, and purpose related to their most important, right-now goal. Her analytical approach, empathic engagement and attention to detail help her to easily ignite overlooked areas of strength and uniqueness in each client. She offers affirming services for members of the LGBTQ+ community while working to increase her own and others' awareness of the impact of oppression related to gender, sexual orientation and gender identity on various communities. Dr Medley provides 1-on-1 coaching packages and group coaching programs.
Ximena Lopez, M.D.
Dr. Ximena Lopez is a proud ally that started caring for transgender youth in 2012, and in 2014 founded and became the Medical Director of the GENder, Education and Care, Interdisciplinary Support Program (GENECIS). This is an interdisciplinary program that provides comprehensive mental and medical health care to transgender and gender non-conforming youth. This is the first and largest program of its kind in the Southwest with almost 700 patients to date. The clinic's mission includes the education of the medical and non-medical community on the rights and needs of transgender youth, and has provided multiple free of charge educational events for schools, nurses, pediatricians, medical students, counselors and therapists. GENECIS clinic is one of the few in the US that is training a new generation of medical students, pediatric residents and specialists on transgender care.
Taeshima is a proud ally of the LGBTQ+ community. She has been with Charles Schwab for more than thirteen years, serving in a variety of capacities. In addition to several leadership roles, Taeshima spent time in sales, providing advice as an Investment Consultant, as well as several individual contributor roles. Prior to Schwab, Taeshima developed a passion for leading people in the retail industry, where she was responsible for proactively managing resources to meet customer demand, driving employee engagement and client loyalty initiatives, while reinforcing brand-ownership across her staff. As National Chair for the Black Professional Association of Charles Schwab (BPACS) and the Local Advisor for DFWs Diversity and Inclusion efforts, Taeshima continues to champion diversity and inclusion efforts. A proud graduate of Indiana University-Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business, she also holds her Series 7/63, 66, 9/10, AAMS, Indiana Life/Health Insurance licenses and is currently pursuing her CFP and Series 24. As mother to sons, Archie (Cinco) and Ace, Taeshima spends most of her personal time with her family and/or traveling. She is very close with her siblings and loves traveling to spend time with her broader family, including her niece and two nephews! Taeshima joined the inaugural LezTalk Advisory board and is honored to be asked back in hopes of inspiring other allies.
Avery Belyeu is a non-profit leader and innovator whose experiences span higher education, non-profit management, and public policy. She is the Regional Director for the South Central Region of Lambda Legal, a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work Avery has come up through the ranks of the LGBTQ movement: first working as an intern at Equality North Carolina, then in LGBTQ student affairs at the university level, and from 2011-2014 working at The Trevor Project where she served as the Education Director. She is a national leader on the topics of transgender identities and an in-demand speaker regarding her own lived experience as a transgender woman. Avery is passionate about intersectional social justice and about advancing LGBTQ civil rights in the South. She lives in Pantego, Texas with her fiancé Nathaniel, two mischievous cats, and a precocious dog named Indy.
Erica is the host of the Lez Represent Podcast where she interviews queer women from every walk and path of life about their experiences and projects. Tune in to the podcast to hear women from Australia to Texas and everywhere in between talk about their lives including topics like living in the closet, coming out and what drives them to be change makers. When not in front of a mic or at her day job, she’s working on her country side home with her wife, horses, goats, and too many cats.
Sharon Herrera is a Veteran of the United States Air Force, consultant and owner of SHARE Link LLC, Executive Director and Founder of LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., and serves as a leader in the LGBTQ community of Tarrant County. Sharon works closely with many organizations such as PFLAG, ACLU, Lambda Legal, UT at Arlington, Tarleton State, Texas Christian, Abilene Christian Universities, Tarrant County College and school district GSAs to help further education on LGBTQ issues. She was one of twelve women selected for the ‘Mujeres Poderosas’ project by the Fort Worth’s Human Relations Commission. Sharon lives in Fort Worth with her wife Marcel.
Shannon Minter is the Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), one of the nation’s leading advocacy organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Minter was lead counsel for same-sex couples in the landmark California marriage equality case which held that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry and that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation are inherently discriminatory.
Minter was also NCLR’s lead attorney in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding student group policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and rejecting the argument that such policies violated a student group’s rights to freedom of speech, religion, and association.
Minter has received many awards for his work including the 2008 Dan Bradley Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Bar Association for outstanding work in marriage cases and the Cornell Law School Exemplary Public Service Award. Minter received the Ford Foundation’s “Leadership for a Changing World” award (2005), and was awarded an Honorary Degree from the City University of New York School of Law for his advocacy on behalf of same-sex couples and their families. Shannon has also received the Anderson Prize Foundation’s Creating Change Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Distinguished National Service Award from GAYLAW, the bar association for LGBT lawyers, law students, and legal professionals in Washington, D.C., Cornell Law School’s Exemplary Public Service Award, the Unity Award from Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, the Advocacy Award from the San Francisco Bar Association, and the Justice Award from Equality California.
Minter serves on the boards of Faith in America and the Transgender Law & Policy Institute. He has previously served on the American Bar Association Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Minter received his J.D. from Cornell Law School in 1993. He is originally from Texas.
Victoria “Officer T” Tsalikis was born and raised in Dallas TX, and is a Police Officer and Community Activist. She assisted in creating the first Social Media/Community Outreach Unit for her department and is currently working with Dallas schools regarding an initiative targeted towards the LGBTQ students and staff. Victoria received her associate’s degree at the age of 28 and is currently pursuing her bachelors. She is a member of the Communities in Schools Leadership Council and has participated in various steering committees. Victoria holds a position with the Metropolitan Dallas Homeless Alliance and has created multiple programs for local homeless shelters. Her objective is to remind people of the power of voice and encourage them to be their own change. Outside of working Victoria enjoys exercise, reading, and travel. She is currently working on creating a leadership academy that will cover important topics not covered in a typical education curriculum titled Cops Building Character.
Brandon J. Vance has been a vocal political activist in the Dallas community for several years. Whether it is having lunch with elected officials, or reading to kids in schools, Brandon is making change where he can by using his extensive network of friends & contacts. Brandon serves as President of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, one of the most influential LGBTQ+ political organizations in north Texas. He received his Bachelor's degree from Texas Woman's University in Government with a Legal Studies emphasis. By day Brandon works as a College Advisor for KIPP Texas: Dallas/Fort Worth, where he helps students get into college. The other side of the coin is his political work. You will find Brandon going from meeting to meeting working to get good candidates elected. He is a tireless worker who doesn’t often take no for an answer. Brandon is an active member of several organizations across north Texas and has served in leadership in a few of those. Brandon’s motto is: Do the most good, for the most people. He believes that if people operate through that lens, we can actually make the world a better place.
Meet The Advisory Committee
Serena Ouspenskeya Smuckers is a senior transgender advocate. She has worked with individual gender therapists and counselors helping clients on an individual basis as an image consultant.
Serena has served on the Consumer Advisory Board at Parkland Hospital's Amelia Court and has been on the leadership Committees of two Dallas support groups. Most recent, Serena gave two presentations at Parkland's Center for Nursing Excellence, seeking Solutions to improve transgender healthcare. Serena has also, teamed up with Legal Hospice of Dallas, and found a way to make it possible for a senior, transgender, patient, who is on Medicare, to get the surgeries that they need, covered by federally funded Insurance programs. Serena is living proof that this can be done, (pending any interference from our current Administration).