Reverend Malcolm Himschoot, a married father of two and the new spiritual leader of Parker United Church of Christ, was born a woman. But as a young adult, Himschoot, now 33, decided to become male, a transition he feared would leave him lonely and cast out by Christians. Instead, he has “a life beyond my wildest dreams,” he tells the Denver Post. Himschoot’s politically progressive, 60-member congregation has declared itself the county’s first “Open and Affirming Church,” or ONA. These days, Himschoot’s transformation isn’t always on his mind: “On different days it could be in the foreground or in the background.”

Troy Ard, a psychology student at Colorado State University-Pueblo, is another leader whose sexual identity hasn’t been a barrier to success (Daily Camera). The 22-year-old openly gay man was unanimously elected as state chairman of the Colorado Federation of College Republicans. “The belief that Republicans are homophobic is something that’s portrayed more in the media than in reality,” he says.