Seeking more than just a change in landscape, Ian Khara Ellasante left Tennessee in 2007 and journeyed southwest toward the mountains and stately saguaros of Tucson. He settled in quickly and has contributed considerably to the city’s LGBTQ community. In roles ranging from volunteer to commissioner, from board member to project manager, Ian has worked to increase access to the kinds of relevant and affirming opportunities for queer and trans people of color and LGBTQ youth that he could not often find in his hometown of Memphis. He began in this capacity in 2008 at Arizona’s first drop-in center for LGBTQ youth before accepting a position with the University of Arizona’s Southwest Institute for Research on Women, where he has continued these efforts, coordinating a series of federally funded programs designed to benefit unstably-housed LGBTQ youth.
Ian Khara is completing a Ph.D. in American Indian Studies with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona. In his scholarship, he examines community-based participatory research and the potential of stories and storytelling to unify and heal marginalized communities. In addition to this fulfilling work, Ian Khara also enjoys hiking the mountains surrounding Tucson, making art, and composing poetry. In his poems, which have been shared with audiences around the country and have appeared in several publications, Ian often explores the polyphonic intersection of his identities as a queer and trans person of African American and Indigenous descent as well as his relationship with his heritage and homelands.