Preston D. Mitchum is an unapologetically Black and queer civil rights advocate, public speaker, writer, and professor hailing from Ohio and residing in the nation’s capital.
Preston Mitchum was born in Youngstown, Ohio, the son of Carla Postell. From a young age, his mother – primarily a fan of Malcolm X — taught him the importance of seeking the truth and never believing anything without research. Though this got him into trouble for most of his schooling, he quickly turned this into his passion for writing, persuasion, and advocacy. Preston has two older sisters, LeShauna and Ebony, who instilled motivation, drive, and learning when – and more importantly, when not – to pick battles. While in middle school, he lost his little brother, Paris. He continues to carry Paris with him in the form of a tattoo on his right arm.
Preston attended Trotwood-Madison High School in Trotwood, Ohio, and graduated in 2004. Following High School, he enrolled at Kent State University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, concentrating in Public Policy. He then pursued his Juris Doctor from North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina. In 2010, Preston became student body president, and in 2011, he graduated cum laude.
During law school, Preston published two law review articles: “Gene Patents and Informed Consent: The Mythical Reasonable Person Standard” and “A Robust Conception of Speech: Hate Speech and the First Amendment.” In addition, he was on the school’s Moot Court Board, competing in two oral advocacy competitions, making it to the semifinals in the Luke Charles Moore Invitational, a civil rights competition at Howard University School of Law. Law school instilled in him the importance of research and writing. Over the past several years, those dreams have become realized.
In the fall of 2011, Preston enrolled in American University, Washington College of Law for his Master’s of Law degree in Law and Government, with a concentration in constitutional law and civil rights, along with a specialization in gender and law. During his LLM tenure, he researched, wrote, and published three law review articles: “Screaming to be Heard: Black Feminism and the Fight for A Voice From the 1950s to the 1970s”, Homophobia as a Public Health Hazard: Gender Identities, Sexual Orientation, and the Human Right to Health,” and “Slapping the Hand of Cultural Relativism: Female Genital Mutilation, Male Dominance, and Health as a Human Rights Framework.” It was at this time he began studying the roots of feminism. With those roots, he began to understand the exclusion of Black women from mainstream feminist movements and wanted to ensure that the voices of marginalized groups would always be heard. Part of understanding feminism was first checking his privilege as a man (despite identifying as queer) and realizing that identities work together.
Preston remembers his “coming out” experience like it was yesterday. It has been over seven years since he logged onto Facebook and publicly announced his sexual orientation. “I can no longer stay silent, friends,” he wrote. “I am gay and have been for a lifetime. I recognize that this may be a shock to some of you, but I would be remiss to only share half of me.” Coming out was both liberating and constricting for him. It was beautiful, although the consequences were occasionally ugly. He is glad he came out. But what about those people who aren’t? Upon publicly announcing his sexual orientation, he quickly realized that the last thing a closeted LGBT individual needed, faced with a hostile social environment, is to feel like those individuals most accepting of their identity won’t support them unless that identity is publicly proclaimed. He explained this in one of his first viral pieces, “On National Coming Day, Don’t Disparage the Closet.”
Preston is the Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. Before joining Trevor, he was the Director of Policy at URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, where he shaped local, state, and national strategies and reproductive justice policies that centered the voices and leadership of young people. Preston has served as Senior Legal and International Policy Analyst with Advocates for Youth; Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Health and Gender Equity; Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable S. Pamela Gray and the Honorable Errol R. Arthur, and was a Policy Analyst with the Center for American Progress’ LGBT Research and Communications department. He has published over 15 columns on workplace discrimination, health, the school-to-prison pipeline, and hot-button issues. In 2014, he co-authored “Beyond Bullying: How Hostile School Climate Perpetuates the School-to-Prison Pipeline for LGBT Youth.”
In addition to his work at Trevor, Preston is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center teaching LGBT Health Law and Policy. He is also an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and serves as the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Collective Action for Safe Spaces, an advocacy organization committed to eliminating gender harassment and assault. Preston was also the first openly LGBTQ Chair of the Washington Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. Preston has written for “The Atlantic,” “The Root,” “Out,” “theGrio,” “Huffington Post,” and “Ebony,” “Advocate.com,” and others.
Queer As in Abolishing the Police:
Criminal Justice and Black LGBTQ People