Engendered Spirit Awards

2023 Engendered Spirt Awards Honorees

Rev. Diedre D. Gray 

Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Diedre is truly a midwest girl living in the Mid-Atlantic. Her honest beginnings gave her a strong appreciation and respect for having a different path to walk and, ultimately, destiny to live. Although she was raised in a Christian home, Diedre believes her relationship with the creator is greater than any single form of religion. 

As a gospel musician, educator and advocate, Diedre uses her skills and talents to create and foster emotional and spiritual safe spaces where the “whole” person can become “whole”. Whether through music, inspirational words or even just a hug and smile, the healing of our community is always her goal. 

Diedre has embraced an even greater experience. As the first openly transgender person to be hired by the D.C. Health Department, she served as D.C. Transgender Health Coordinator. In 2020 began working for the The Trevor Project supporting lgbtq+ youth in crisis, as a Digital Crisis Supervisor. Then, in 2021, she produced and released her first single and music video entitled “My Life Matters” as both a response and call to action regarding the violence against and murders of transgender and non-binary people, especially trans women of color. In 2022, Diedre founded her non-profit, Auntie’s Home Inc, with the goal to provide safe housing options for trans and gender diverse people experiencing homelessness. In addition, she started her music company GrayRose Music, named in honor of her mother who passed away in 2020 but still deeply influences her. In 2023, the Rainbow History Project hired Diedre to be their Trans History Initiative Director. The Initiative’s goal is to collect the stories, faces and places that have made the rich history of trans folx here in the DMV and DC specifically. 

While being an ordained Reverend with the express purpose to be a resource for community that want to marry, Diedre knows that although some may question her journey, it is not her responsibility to defend or explain but rather to invite them to experience the full blessing that she is. Wherever she goes, Diedre knows that the universe is calling her to share the light and love given to her by that same universe, with all who want to receive it.

Colton Gibbons

Colton Gibbons is a 29-year-old award-winning community activist and published author from Hanoi, Vietnam. He is a PhD student, and founder of the new 501(c)(3) Trans+ Health and Fitness Nonprofit CAKE Society Co. 

In this work, Colton has created innovative solutions for gender-affirming health and fitness programming. This includes distributing thousands of gender-affirming essentials every year, creating fitness and wellness curriculums, and providing mental health resources. 

After finishing his Master's Degree at Georgetown University, Colton has dedicated his work and passion towards serving the Black, Brown, Immigrant Transgender, and LGBTQ+ Communities. 

Through Colton’s work as a researcher and keynote speaker, he advocates for the need for equity for the transgender community of color. 

Colton is currently finishing his Ph.D. in Business Psychology. This year, Colton will finish publishing academic articles to further the research for the trans community in the workplace. As well as fight for the rights of transgender equality during a time of mass anti-trans legislation. 

Through his work in DEI efforts and advocacy, Colton was nominated as the Rising Activist of the DMV. As a Nonprofit Executive Director and Transgender Rights Advocate, Colton has worked with numerous organizations to center equity with lived intersectionality. 

Kaniya Walker

Kaniya Walker is a native of Virginia who recently moved to Washington, DC 6 years ago after living in Atlanta, Ga for 10 years and wanting to change her life around. Kaniya went to Norfolk State University majoring in Psychology, but her passion is working with working with marginalized groups of people; the LGBTQIA+ community, people living with HIV/AIDS, women of color, and individuals experiencing homelessness. 

She is the lead of the Linkage to Care Team at Heart to Hand Inc. located in Largo, Md - the only black lead public health HIV/AIDS organization in the county that concentrates on the needs of marginalized communities. Kaniya facilitates a trans support group at Heart to Hand called “Transcendence “. The group focuses on the empowerment of transwomen of color trying to navigate through this crazy world.

Kaniya has been featured in articles with the American Civil Liberties Union on the decriminalization of sex work as well as The Insider, Washington Blade, and many more targeting the struggles of transwomen of color. 

Kaniya was also featured on WUSA9 News around trans violence in the DMV area as well as being featured in a Public Health campaign #CancelHIV for Prince George’s County. She is also a community organizer leading the Prince George’s County Trans Day of Remembrance, Trans Day of Visibility, Trans Testing Day, and many more events around marginalized communities in the county. 

She also sits on the board of both National Trans organizations, as well as local organizations. Kaniya is always ready to stand on the frontline fighting for the rights of her community and is truly for the empowerment of all women of color.  

Kaniya has truly discovered her passion based on her own life experiences and wants to change the world for generations after her.