2020 Keynote Speakers
Being the first openly LGBTQ+ professional to play in the NFL, R.K. Russell articulates how truth is essential to not only survive but to thrive.
In addition to being a professional football player in the NFL, he is also a published poet, writer, and artist. R.K. dedicated his life to football. He learned the responsibility and hard work it took to become a Big Ten Starter, an All-Conference player, and a reliable teammate. Off the field, he began to take his studies more seriously, write long-form creative pieces, and discover his sexuality. R.K. had always dated women and like a lot of young men his age he had fallen in love once or twice, but the presence of something more began to surface. R.K. confided in his best friend, teammate, and roommate at the time, Joseph Gilliam in his revelation.
He was drafted in 2015 to the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round, and in 2017, Russell appeared in 14 games with Tampa Bay, while registering 17 tackles. He missed the fifth and sixth games with a dislocated left shoulder, which limited him the rest of the year. His 2 sacks came in each of the final two games. On July 29, 2018, Russell signed with the Buffalo Bills.
Ryan moved to Los Angeles, a place he had visited every off-season and longed to reside. He began sharing and expressing his story through writing and poetry. With his creativity thriving, R.K. also started dating both men and women openly. With those he encountered, he identified as bisexual and his life away from football was finally starting to feel substantial. The thought of repressing his art, his writing, and his love, seemed unbearable.
In April of 2019 he released his debut poetry book Prison or Passion.
Longing for freedom, On August 29th, 2019, R.K. Russell came out to the world as the 1st active NFL player to identify as bisexual. His courage and bravery deriving from the need to live his dream as exactly who is he is and whom he was meant to be. Such a significant moment in professional sports history ignited by the single notion that someone can dedicate their life to sports while also being dedicated to their truth.
Leisha Hailey grew up in Bellevue, Nebraska, and began acting at an early age, appearing in many local productions. Encouraged to pursue the craft,
she earned admission to and graduated from the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Leisha made her film debut in Fine Line Film’s memorable 1997 independent feature All Over Me. She has appeared in many television shows (Silicon Valley, Bosch, Boy Meets World, CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, Drop Dead Diva, The New Normal), but it was her breakout role as series regular Alice Pieszecki on Showtime’s hit The L Word that gained her critical acclaim.
Her passion for acting is matched by one for music. She recorded three
albums for MCA/Universal Records with her first band, The Murmurs. Her most recent band, Uh Huh Her, has toured internationally and sold albums
In addition to stepping in as one of the Executive Producers, Leisha is
also returning as Alice on Showtime’s The L Word: Generation Q, which has
already been renewed for its second season.
More keynote speakers will be announced soon, so check back often.
Secure your seats at the 15th Annual Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth today!
Past keynote speakers have included:
Carmen Carrera (RuPaul’s Drag Race)
Garrard Conley (Author of Boy Erased)
Dr. Eliza Byard (Executive Director of GLSEN)
Jonathan Van Ness (Netflix’s Queer Eye)
Judy Shepard (Mother of Matthew Shepard)
Moises Kaufman (Author of The Laramie Project)
Brent Hartinger (Author of Geography Club)
Kevin Jennings (Founder of GLSEN)
John Amaechi (NBA Star)
Lt. Dan Choi (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal advocate)
Sarah Schulman (Playwright and Author)
Jai Rodriguez (RENT & Queer Eye for the Straight Guy)
His Royal Highness Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil
Leisha Hailey (Actress)
Miss Coco Peru (Comedian/Monologist)
Blake Skjellerup (Olympian)
Darren Young (WWE Superstar)
Former Prime Minister of Iceland Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir