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New Leaders Council

Meet the 2018 Fellows: Eli Rigatuso

Leading up to our Progressing the Good Life event on June 8, we will be introducing the 2018 fellows. Today, we meet Eli Rigatuso.

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I'm a progressive outspoken LGBTQ+ Advocate born and raised right here in Omaha. I believe in creating open and affirming spaces for all marginalized people, especially transgender people living in the midwest. I host my own podcast called 'Speaking Of Happy' and I love to share the stories of local LGBTQ+ people who are doing amazing things in our community.

Why New Leaders Council (NLC)?

For many years I heard about the magic of NLC from past fellows, so I was inspired to put my name in the hat! I believed there was something this training was providing my peers that I have not been able to find elsewhere, and was I right! The training is progressive, comprehensive and affirming to all. NLC literally brought together 19 people who, for the most part, were strangers to one another. In the first weekend, we created a special bond by which we have all been able to excel. I have been inspired by the capstones my fellows are working on. The feedback and assistance they have provided me in accomplishing my goals has been invaluable. The training is truly priceless. 

What have you gained through your experience at NLC?

The first thing I have gained through my NLC experience is 18 new amazing friends with a variety of backgrounds. This variety has contributed to us succeeding as a group, as well as individually. I have learned a great deal from my peers in the cohort and have been inspired at a deep level. I have been doing more at advancing my personal dreams to make them a reality. NLC has given me the space to share and elaborate on how I intend to make a difference with my voice in new and exciting ways.

Briefly describe your capstone project.

Focusing on one thing at a time has always been incredibly difficult for me so, it should come as no surprise that throughout this training I have been working on two capstones! My primary capstone has been to upscale go live with my 'Speaking of Happy' podcast. 'Speaking of Happy' is a show dedicated to sharing the stories of the local LGBTQ+ folks living in the Midwest to lift their voices and hear about their needs from them. We focus primarily on lifting local transgender voices and our hope is to build the show into a weekly livestream complete with advertisers and sponsors. SOH LIVE! hopes to also provide employment opportunities to transgender and gender non-conforming folks who struggle to fit in to a society that is still so committed to the gender binary construct. We want to showcase their talents and lift their voices.

The second capstone I have been working on is an artistic endeavor. It is a mixed media art project incorporating photographic images of myself with only subtle differences in hopes of challenging our perception of the gender binary. The project started out as a way for me to begin to understand myself and also visually capture some of the changes my body was experiencing through my transition. Transitioning in a binary world is challenging to say the least, so the project was born out of my intense desire to educate people on the issues facing transgender people as we transition in the workplace and in our lives. I suppose you could say this was my creative outlet for the frustration I was feeling as people continued to deny me my identity based on their own binary beliefs.

What exactly makes a man? What makes one not a man? And Man/Not Man was born. I hope by challenging the concept of the gender binary thru this project I will help pave a pathway to greater acceptance of the broader gender spectrum.

Support Eli and all of NLC by attending "Progressing the Good Life" on June 8. Buy tickets today at

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