Jamie McGonnigal is a big name in anime dubbing. You might know him as Eyelash the Camel in One Piece, Brron or Blitz in Yu-Gi-Oh! or Yoshito in Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. But you almost certainly do know him as Barry from Pokémon. McGonnigal played the role of Ash Ketchum’s rival trainer — as well as a few other roles, like Trip and Kyle — for 44 episodes between 2004 and 2015.
But when McGonnigal isn’t training pokémon, he’s making the world safer for the LGBTQ community. He’s a community organizer and activist. He leads RootsCamp, called “the largest progressive unconference in the country.” He fought for marriage equality, the overturning of DADT and supports Black Lives Matter.
Not just that, but he brings his activism to comic book and anime conventions. He hosts a number of panels about queer culture and fandom. In an interview with Heroine Problem, he says:
I think that cons in particular are such accepting, great places for folks. I’m not very famous, I get it, but I can use the little bit of notoriety I have to come to cons and put on panels focused on It Gets Better and and they end up being kind of support groups.
McGonnigal also tells Heroine Problem about the process of adoption. He and his husband are in the process of adopting. But he shares something disturbing he learned about the foster system:
There was something that I’ve been upset about from very early on that kids in the system can’t identify as LGBTQ until they’re 14. That was strange to me. I said, “What if a ten year old comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, I’m gay.’” They said, “We put it as questioning.”
He added that a lot of kids figure out early that they’re LGBTQ — like him:
I figured it out watching He-Man at five years old. I was like, “I like that, I don’t like that.” I think we don’t give enough credit or power to kids to know themselves, so I think certainly showing up at a place where you can’t say “gay” unless it’s 18+.
Thankfully, with people like Jamie McGonnigal in the world, things are getting better for the queer community. He’s using his fame and gifts to change the world, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.