ASJA Honors 11 Young LGBTQ+ Writers


ASJA Honors 11 Young LGBTQ+ Writers

The American Society of Journalists and Authors has honored 11 young writers, between the ages of 14 and 25, for essays submitted in the organization’s call for personal stories from gay and transgender youth. The essay competition was made possible as part of a $35,000 national reporting project on the topic of “Gender Identity: What’s the Cost?”

“These young writers have exposed a compelling need for society to pay close attention to the stress, anxiety and depression that they have experienced in their journeys,” says Milt Toby,  ASJA President and a member of ASJA’s advisory committee on the national reporting project. “At ASJA, we appreciate the fact that we can honor these writers. And, we are glad they have written their stories to create a deeper understanding of this very complicated issue.”

ASJA’s national reporting project focuses on the mental health challenges experienced by LGBTQ+ individuals. The first-ever national study of lesbian, gay and bisexual students’ health published in 2016, found that gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, according to reports issued at that time by the Centers of Disease Control. The same year, a study done by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 40 percent of transgender adults reported attempting suicide.

Among writers honored for their essays are first place winners: Hannah Good of Bowling Green, Kty.; Lara Danger Detrick of Westerville, Ohio; and Isabella Contarino, from Louisville, KY.

First runners-up in the competition went to: Sarah Bobrowsky of Davis, Calif.; Ellis Blackstone, of Westerville, Ohio; and Tatyana Bellamy-Walker, of New York, N.Y.

Five additional writers received honorable mentions. Those writers include: Dally Jacobus, of Delaware, Ohio; Leonardo Menchaca, of Westerville, Ohio; North Henninger of New York, N.Y.; Melanie Quijano, of San Diego, Calif.; and Olivia McLernon, of New York, N.Y.

All essay writers will receive monetary awards for their work. Essays can be viewed:  

“I am extremely proud of these 11 courageous writers who stepped forward to write about their innermost feelings,” says Sherry Beck Paprocki, who initiated the national reporting project as ASJA president in 2017-18. “I am pleased that ASJA has been able to shed light on a topic that for too long has only been discussed in the shadows.”

In addition to the youth essay competition, ASJA has also provided writing grants to more than a dozen professional writers who continue to report on LGBTQ+ and mental health-related topics.

Among professional writers and publications that have participated in the project to date are: Megy Karydes, Chicago Health; Sandra Gurvis, Columbus Monthly; Estelle Erasmus, Your Teen Magazine for Parents; Danielle Corionne, for Teen Vogue; Stephanie Bouchard, for Pine Tree Watch, the online site for the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting; Donna Jackel, The Progressive; Paul Nicolaus, for the trade publication Managed Health Care Connect; Phyllis Hanlon, New England Psychologist; Milly Dawson, Everyday Health; Bex vanKoot, Medium; and Maggie Ginsberg, Madison magazine. Additional articles are expected to be published in coming months.

Articles that have been published to date can also be found at:


About the ASJA: Founded in 1948, the American Society of Journalists and Authors is the nation’s professional organization of independent nonfiction writers. Our membership consists of outstanding freelance writers of magazine articles, trade books, and many other forms of nonfiction writing, each of whom has met ASJA’s exacting standards of professional achievement. ASJA offers extensive benefits and services focusing on professional development, including regular confidential market information, meetings with editors and others in the field, an exclusive referral service, seminars and workshops, discount services and, above all, the opportunity for members to explore professional issues and concerns with their peers. ASJA is a primary voice in representing freelancers’ interests, serving as spokesman for their right to control and profit from uses of their work in the new media and otherwise. Visit for more details.