Meet Our New Digital Programs Manager & Director of Family Formation

As we enter a new chapter at Family Equality, we are pleased to introduce our families to two critical members of our Programs team: Ever Rucker and Jess Venable-Novak! We are thrilled to have two highly skilled, passionate teammates working to achieve lived and legal equality for current and future LGBTQ+ families.  

Photo of Ever Rucker, Family Equality's Digital Program Manager

Ever Rucker, Digital Programs Manager

Ever is Family Equality’s Digital Programs Manager. He is a data nerd and lover of systems with a passion for helping others. For over a decade he’s leveraged his knack for data and technology to support black and brown LGBTQ+ communities via his work with non-profits. His experience ranges from direct service, advocacy and training, data analysis to technology and system management. Ever lives in New York City with his handsome cat, Papi. 

Top favorite podcasts/books: Xenogensis (aka Lilith’s Brood) by Octavia Butler. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. The Black Panther Speak by Philip Foner.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? When I’m not working I like to spend time with friends. I love to ride my electric scooter, it offers such an amazing and unique view of New York City. I enjoy painting and writing, music, sports and the outdoors. I love crossword puzzles.

What drives you to do this work? I am driven by the pursuit of happiness, in tandem with the understanding that we are all seeking our own happiness. While happiness is subjective and individual, I think it’s also collective and shared. So by helping others and extending compassion, I am helping myself in my own pursuit. As a black man who is gay and queer, its important that I extend effort to help others within the lgbtq community.

What does family equality mean to you? Family equality in practice means that we expect families to be unique, all are welcomed, celebrated and considered. As LGBTQ+ people, some of us lose families when we come out. That’s why the lived and legal equal treatment of LGBTQ+ families is so critical to me.

Life motto: All things deemed unfavorable happen for favorable reasons yet to be seen.

Photo of Jess Venable-Novak, Director of Family Formation

Jess Venable-Novak, Director of Family Formation 

Jess is Family Equality’s new Director of Family Formation. As a queer, nonbinary educator, organizer, and parent living in rural Vermont, Jess has worked with Family Equality for years in positions ranging from Midwest Children’s Programming Intern in 2010 to the Family Engagement Manager (most recently). They bring with them years of experience working at the intersection of education, facilitation, and community-building. 

Top 3 favorite podcasts/books: Any & all of Mary Oliver’s poetry, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, and The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? I can usually be found hanging out with my partner and kiddo! We enjoy baking, listening to audiobooks together, hiking and movie nights. When I get alone time I can usually be found crosswording, running, or writing letters to friends.

What drives you to do this work? The simple answer would be my queerness, but the truer answer is my absolute obsession with folks feeling like they belong. I think it’s essential that we build a world where all folks can know- deeply and in their bones- that they belong. My hope is that my work is a small nudge towards belonging for families. 

What does family equality mean to you? To me, family equality means that every definition of “family” is valid, respected and celebrated. Family can include OR surpass biology, origin, community, and choice. The vastness of how LGBTQ+ people manifest their families is everything to me and (in my opinion) to this world. 

Life motto: If nothing changes, nothing changes.