Ruby Corado (2015)

Ruby Corado was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, and fled the country’s civil war at 16, leaving her family behind. For years later, while working in real estate management, Ruby felt called to give back and began volunteering with a hospice organization. Seeing the love and care that the nuns gave to their patients—even if they had nothing material to spare— inspired a lifelong passion for social justice.

After living as an undocumented immigrant herself and witnessing waves of violence committed against trans people in D.C.—which is fifth in the nation in transgender deaths — Ruby recognized how the two movements intersected and has dedicated herself to a life of activism. Ruby has also spoken out as an HIV-positive woman for a voice in the D.C. government’s distribution of HIV/ AIDS funds and to encourage safe sex in a city where an estimated 1 in 50 residents live with AIDS and 1 in 20 test positive for HIV.

Throughout her career, Ruby has been a community leader an has served as spokeswoman or otherwise contributed to a number of organizations, including: Whitman-Walker Clinic; Latin@s en Accion, originally formed as a vehicle for Latino LGBT participation in Capital Pride; the D.C. Trans Coalition; the Fotonovela project, which portrays the daily lives of transgender people; and her own Casa Ruby and youth homeless shelter.

The D.C. Trans Coalition, established in 2005, now meets twice a month at Casa Ruby and has successfully lobbied for strengthening collaboration between the police’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit and the trans community in hate crime cases, appropriate placement and access to hormones for trans inmates, and policies prohibiting transgender discrimination by private health insurance companies in D.C. The coalition also completed a needs-assessment survey for the transgender community intended to inform the city’s political and funding priorities as well as help launch an awareness campaign to “increase understanding and respect” for the community. Through it all, Ruby has maintained close relationships with local officials, providing community-specific information and access when requested — or a scolding when necessary.

Most recently, Ruby has dedicated herself to helping transgender people — particularly youth — succeed on a personal level. Approximately 40 percent of D.C.’s trans community have experienced homelessness and are often unsafe at shelters, so Ruby has sought to build a home to meet a number of LGBT community needs. Opened in 2012, Casa Ruby serves approximately 160 Spanish- and English-speaking clients per week and provides clothing, food, vocational training, meeting space, legal services, health screenings, emergency housing referrals, support groups, and a cyber center. She has also led a recent effort to open a shelter to house 10-12 transgender youth aged 18 to 24. The residents may stay for up to 18 months and will either continue their education or seek work to promote self-sufficiency.

Ruby lives with her husband, David Walker, whom she wed last year with Mayor Vincent Gray to give her away.