2020 VISION: What will the new year bring? Las Vegas community leaders weigh in


It’s a new year, and it’s our birthday! Spectrum turns 1 this month. It was 12 months ago that Publisher Rob Schlegel rallied the forces and said: “We must have a progressive Las Vegas LGBTQIA+ magazine.” He bought Night Beat from his old friend, Bill Schafer, pulled together a group of friends, mostly lesbians, who promptly ripped up the monthly magazine and began to turn it into an inclusive news publication.

We did not have any time, money or idea of what we were doing. The group did have a desire to create something that would serve our community. And, we had plenty of coffee.

For that first edition, we chose to put HRC’s Alyssa Cortes on the cover. She had knocked on hundreds of doors in the Las Vegas Valley in 2018 to help deliver the Democratic win in the mid-terms. We then asked our community leaders to weigh in on their view of what 2019 would mean to the Las Vegas LGBTQ community. (We added the IA+ after many conversations with our friend, Dr. Ray MacFarlane, who runs the transgender programs at The Center. Yes, we have learned a lot this year.) The concept was to select a young person who represents our future and is working hard to improve the community. We surrounded them with the support of our longtime leaders’ photos and their quotes about the new year ahead. After many arm wrestling matches (ahhh, conversations) in the newsroom (OK, Rob and Lucas’s breakfast room) we have decided to make it an annual tradition.

This year we chose Sean VanGorder. He is the vice chairman for the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Governors.

It is, of course, going to be a political year, as we have the presidential election in November. It’s people like VanGorder who will lead us into the future upon the foundation our community leaders have spent decades laying for us. Spectrum believes our future is bright and is proud that our community is taking steps to work together to make it a better one for all of our LGBTQIA+ tribe.

On a personal note, The Spectrum remembers Rose Pry, our beloved writer who died more than a year ago. She was a well known columnist for the Las Vegas Bugle, back in the day. She always had words of wisdom. We remember (hopefully accurately) her saying: “It’s a New Year! Make of it what you will. You can make it very good, or very bad. Let’s try to make it very good, shall we?”

Sean Van Gorder, HRC National Board of Governors Vice Chairman          In 2020, we have to stand together more than ever and say to the nation that we won’t back down from what we know is right — that all people should be equal under the protections of the law. When we, as a community, feel like we have the same opportunities as everyone else, we become empowered to be authentic versions of ourselves.

We must make our voices heard, and we can only do that by heading to the polls and voting for pro-equality candidates who truly understand our challenges and our strengths. The LGBTQ voting power is strong and impactful. Consider phone banking, canvassing or helping people register to vote. Join a campaign or attend a fundraiser. Do whatever you can; just get involved.


Dawn Christensen, Board Member, Silver State Equality                          2020 brings two huge opportunities for the LGBTQ community — the 2020 Census and Election Day. The Census gives us the ability to be seen and counted while Election Day allows us to be heard. However, our impact is only as big as we make it. I hope all members of our community will participate in both events and encourage others to join us.


John Waldron, Executive Director, The Center                                             The Center is committed to maintaining a home for LGBTQIA+ residents in Nevada that is inclusive, and safe for everyone.

We will continue to expand our services in the new year to meet the growing needs of our community, while serving as champions for LGBTQIA+ individuals and those who are underserved. The Center is committed to wholeheartedly serving on the front lines of diversity, inclusion and equality. In 2020, our focus is on offering LGBTQIA+ residents expanded services in health and wellness, arts and culture, social and peer support, advocacy and community building.

We also will continue our focus on inclusive programming from youth to seniors, trans and gender diverse individuals, veterans, people with disabilities, people living with HIV, families, allies and low-income residents.

It is our vision in the new year to be a unifying force for celebrating our remarkable and wonderful community. We hope that everyone will participate to help ensure we do what is most important, to stand united as one community that strengthens and protects LGBTQIA+ citizens throughout Nevada.


James Healey, Vice President of Hotel Operations, Excalibur and General Manager, Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas                                                      After a very tense 2019 with the current administration’s continuous attempt to restrict our fundamental human rights, I am hopeful that our country will acknowledge the importance of electing fair-minded representatives. 2020 will be a huge year at the polls and I urge all Americans to stand up and exercise their freedom and VOTE on Nov. 3, 2020!

We must elect a new president, one who wants to continue to strengthen our country and communities; by accepting diversity in thought, ideas, people and concepts.

The America that I have been fighting for now for over three decades is achievable, but only if we get rid of narrow-minded representatives who want to diminish the strengths of this great country.

The LGBTQ community has come so far, and now that is all threatened. Look at the rights they have stripped from our trans community. Absolutely unacceptable.

Let’s all continue to fight for equality for the LGBTQ community, people of color, women and all groups that our current administration is trying to harm. Shame on us if we don’t change the course of history on Nov. 3!!!


John M. Saksa and Scott Ramer, Findlay Automotive General Managers   For the LGBTQ community, 2020 will be a very pivotal year. With the way the current administration is if changes don’t come I feel our rights as a community will be stripped even more and this is something that we work very, very hard to achieve. We need to end the hate toward each other in 2020 and try to shape a much better year for many years to come. The country has come too far over the years to be turned around and head back toward the 1960s. People are just pretty much worn out with trying to keep up the hatred and it needs to end. New Year 2020 can be the year to do it. We need to join forces and show how strong our community is and strive to make positive changes for 2020 and all the years to follow.


Judy Bowen, Trans Pioneer                                                                               We as a community have come a long way in the last two years. As a 76-year-old Stonewall trans woman I am somewhat happy to see us all realizing that we are fighting the same battle. In unity there is strength.


Jerry Nadal, Interim President and CEO, Nevada Public Radio               2020 will be a critical year for our community. The past three years have seen an erosion and rollback of some of our rights and the outcome of the upcoming elections will determine what our future looks like.


André Wade, Director, Silver State Equality State                                      2020 will be a crucial year for LGBTQ Nevadans, and Silver State Equality will be on the front lines of the fight for full, lived equality. We’ll continue working to ensure that our community is represented in the 2020 census and heard at the ballot box.

We must elect a pro-equality president and pro-equality champions up and down the ballot, it’s critical that every pro-equality Nevadan turns out to vote next year. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work here in Las Vegas and across the state.


Brian Knudsen, Las Vegas City Councilman                                                   As an openly gay man, elected to represent the city of Las Vegas, I am excited about what 2020 has to offer for our LGBTQ family. We must be active in our local, county, state and federal elections. We must ensure our voice is heard on decisions that affect our quality of life.

I am committed to making 2020 a successful year for our community and welcome in the next decade proudly with my husband and two children by my side. Be proud. Be active. Be inspirational.


Jasen Woehrle, Senior Vice President, The Firm Public Relations & Marketing                                                                                                        While I think 2020 will be full of successes, it’s also an election year and perhaps among the most tumultuous of recent history. We must continue to oppose those who want to devalue our equality not only as LGBTQ Southern Nevada residents, but as American citizens. Our vote and voice matters and it’s imperative that we use both.


Brady McGill, President , Las Vegas PRIDE                                                      I think 2019 has been a great year of growth and progress for the Las Vegas LGBT+ Community. Las Vegas PRIDE Parade and Festival 2019 were very successful with +73 percent attendance.

Our board is planning to continue that progress with even bigger plans for the parade and festival, using what we learned in the past and building from our progress.

I bet the same will be true for the greater LGBT+ community as well, and we are excited to be a part of a big year for politics and support movements in the advancements of rights and inclusion for our communities.


Mitch Truswell, Vice President, Red 7 Communications                               More inclusivity! Most companies, especially larger ones, want to be representative of the communities they serve and the customers they rely upon. Increasingly, that includes the LGBTQ community. I think there are many more organizations out there that would like to be LGBTQ supportive, but they often remain on the sidelines because they are unsure of how to show that support. In 2020, we can all encourage these companies and organizations to step up and embrace the entire community.


The Rev. Wilfred Moore, senior pastor/founder, Abundant Peace United Church of Christ                                                                                                2020 will be the year of growth for the Las Vegas LGBTQIA community. Call me optimistic, but I see enormous change in our community. Leaders from all sides of the aisle will come forth realizing that we are stronger together than we are apart. Our organizations will begin to come together in support of one another with projects that will create and build our community.

No longer will we promote infighting against one another. Instead, we will begin to advise one another, welcome one another, and love one another. Love is the key to change. Love is that unconditional movement that makes you smile amid confusion. Love is that special feeling that makes you do unto others, despite what your past has been. Love breeds new life! Happy New year. everyone!