Gregory Varnum

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Gregory Varnum
Gregory Varnum
Gregory Varnum
Born March 1, 1983 (1983-03-01) (age 32)
Saginaw, Michigan
Residence Michigan
Nationality American
Alma mater Eastern Michigan University
Occupation Nonprofit capacity building consultant, LGBT activist & social entrepreneur
Years active 2004-Present
Organization The Aequalitas Project
Political party Democratic Party
Political movement LGBT Movement
Religion Christian
Denomination Episcopalian
Partner Robert Proffer
Parents Linda & R. Douglas Varnum

Gregory Varnum (born March 1, 1983) is an US American LGBT human rights activist, nonprofit consultant and social entrepreneur. Gregory has been involved with nonprofits and small businesses as a leader or consultant since the late 1990s. In 2013, Varnum was chosen as one of's 13 to Watch in 2013[1] and in 2014, he was selected for The Advocate's "40 Under 40".

Varnum got his start in activism while working for Eastern Michigan University (EMU) as leader of EMU's LGBT Resource Center. Gregory was also an active campus activist while pursuing his undergraduate and graduate degrees at EMU. After working for the university, Gregory pursued an opportunity to become executive assistant to Jeffrey Montgomery, longtime LGBT activist and founder of Triangle Foundation (today Equality Michigan). While working at Triangle Foundation, he was involved in a peak of activity for the organization, including the introduction of Camping.OUT, a queer youth camp developed by Varnum. He obtained the position of Director of Youth Initiatives and Information Technology, overseeing both the organization technology infrastructure, but a Youth Initiatives program developed by Varnum, Montgomery and Triangle board member, Chad Grandy. Gregory also developed a working relationship with Jeffrey Montgomery that he has carried on to his following work, including WikiQueer and The Aequalitas Project. From July 2012 to June 2015, he returned to work at Equality Michigan (formerly Triangle Foundation) as Development Coordinator and later Director of External Relationships.

Gregory travels to New York City and Washington, DC while living in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area with his partner, Robert Proffer, and their two dogs, Lincoln and Tribble.[2]

Early life[edit]

Gregory founded his company, VarnEnt, at the age of twelve. While developing his company, Gregory also pursued his interest in another industry - radio. He became an on-air personality and the youngest commercial radio promotions director in the country before graduating from high school. He went on to put his knowledge of marketing and communications to use as public relations coordinator of Michigan DECA, a fully staffed statewide organization for high school marketing students.


Gregory attended the Saginaw Township Community School District, graduating from Heritage High School in 2001. He obtained a bachelor's degree in political science from Eastern Michigan University in 2005. Gregory continued his studies by beginning, but not completing, a graduate degree in public administration with an emphasis on nonprofit management.


Varnum Enterprises was founded by Gregory when he twelve. Originally it operated as a white box computer maker and network consulting firm. Over time it evolved into a web design firm, operating a joint website development firm, Smash Web Design, for a couple years. Shortly after graduating from college, Gregory restructured the company into a consulting firm under the new abbreviated name "VarnEnt". Gregory serves as the Founding Principal of the firm - which houses any consulting work Gregory now does for nonprofits and small businesses.[3]

Early Michigan activism / Triangle Foundation[edit]

Gregory served as director of youth initiatives and information technology at Triangle Foundation (now Equality Michigan), the leading LGBT civil rights, anti-violence and advocacy organization in Michigan. During his time as a LGBTQ youth activist in Michigan, Gregory received recognition for his innovative and cost-effective programs, many of which advanced HIV/AIDS awareness, gender, racial, religious and economic equality in addition to their primary focus of LGBT equality. He received national recognition for his work establishing one of the first youth advocacy programs based at a statewide LGBT advocacy organization, advancing policies benefiting LGBTQ students and creating the first national summer camp for LGBTQA youth engaged in community organizing.

National Youth Advocacy Coalition[edit]

He joined NYAC as acting executive director in March 2008 and was appointed executive director in December 2008. As NYAC continued to adapt to the changing economic climate, Gregory worked on strengthening the organization's infrastructure and political influence of queer youth. Gregory worked towards reintroducing the “NYAC” brand, rebuilding relationships with partner organizations, and revamping NYAC's programs.

Aequalitas Project[edit]

Following his departure from NYAC, Gregory developed the concept for The Aequalitas Project to develop projects and avoid the trend of new ideas being snuffed out after false starts. The organization serves as an incubator and focuses on a limited number of projects at any given time - with an intentional goal of "spinning" each program off once developed. Gregory presently serves as the Organization's Lead[4] and Board President.

Equality Michigan[edit]

In July of 2012, Gregory took a position as Development Coordinator of Equality Michigan, the organization formed following the merger of Michigan Equality and his former employer, Triangle Foundation[5]. His primary responsibilities include fundraising, donor relations, and external communications[6]. Equality Michigan is the state's only statewide anti-violence and advocacy organization focused on the LGBT communities of Michigan[7]. Varnum later served as Director of External Relations under his departure in June 2015.

Other ventures[edit]

Currently Gregory is serving on the Harvey Milk Foundation Advisory Board and Global Harvey Milk Day Steering Committee.

In January, 2012, the Rt. Rev. Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, appointed Gregory to be the Diocese's Public Policy Lay Representative. This is his second time in the role having also served in a similar capacity prior to moving to Washington, DC in 2008. This work integrates with his role as coordinator of the 120 Center, a venture involving the Diocese, St. Luke's Episcopal Church of Ypsilanti and The Aequalitas Project.

The Canela Foundation announced that Gregory had joined the organization as Director of North America in February, 2012. His arrival coincided with the launch of the organization's first major venture, LGBTsupports. He departed from the project in July of 2012 to focus on efforts in Michigan.

Gregory has volunteered for numerous LGBT causes including: NYAC's National Transgender Review Board; co-chair of the youth engagement subcommittee for the 20th Creating Change conference sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; serving on the and The Woodhull Freedom Foundation and Federation board of directors; and public policy advisor for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.


  1. "Gregory Varnum". 13 to Watch in 2013. December 29, 2012. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  2. About
  3. "VarnEnt - About". Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  4. "Aequalitas Project - About". Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  5. "Equality Michigan - History". Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  6. "Equality Michigan - Staff". Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  7. "Equality Michigan - About Us". Retrieved October 11, 2012. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]