Love Their Label
Joshua Croke Class of 2020 BEQPride LGBTQ+ Leader Under 40
(They, Them) is 29
By 2030, 10,000+ queer youth have been a part of Love Your Labels programs and have gone on to take leadership roles in their communities.
Remi Sage regularly watches in awe as Joshua Croke walks into the average meeting wearing heels and confidently shakes the hands of fellow community leaders. Josh is proud to be out as a non-binary business owner, activist, and major contributor in Worcester, MA. In addition to founding Action! by Design, a citizen-centered design company, they founded Love Your Labels, an inclusion advocacy group, as well as POW! WOW! Worcester, a mural festival, and even host their own podcast. It’s hard to be taken seriously as a 20-something, but balancing queerness and professionalism is the most difficult part. I don’t want the two to be mutually exclusive but I’m often pressured to suppress parts of my presentation, identity, and being.
Until Remi met Josh, Remi didn’t know she could feel comfortable in a work environment. This is because they have genuine respect for all people, and as a result, they instantly build communities wherever they go. The environments they foster throughout their life is truly amazing to be included in. From the big-picture goals to when they greet each other in the morning, Josh carries kindness and compassion. They serve as a great example of the reach someone’s character can positively have on their individual interactions when the work’s goals are broader than that. They aren’t an LBGTQ+ leader because of the work they’ve accomplished, but because of who they are. The work Josh does in building up cities and the people that live in them, whether it’s through the placemaking projects of Action! By Design or the advocacy work of Love Your Labels, they move purposefully towards an inclusive and sustainable way of life. As she continues to navigate her own world, Remi am eternally grateful to Josh for their example and for blazing the trail ahead.
Josh is a non-binary queer business owner and cofounder and president of a nonprofit organization focused on supporting queer youth and families, Josh believes featuring people pursuing their dreams while being out and proud has incredible impact in the lives of young queer people. They find it difficult to advocate for themselves for a recognition, but hopes that the work they are so passionate about receives more awareness and participation. In the queer community within the City of Worcester, Massachusetts; Josh started and runs a nonprofit organization called Love Your Labels.
The mission is to support and build programs for queer youth and others fighting for acceptance and visibility. The vision is to eliminate bias, stigma, and shame ascribed to labels; components of identity that should describe and not define how to access happiness, health, and fulfillment in their lives.
The organization has grown to include a Queer Fashion Show focused on flipping the script of beauty standards defined by the fashion and entertainment industry, a Drag Queen Story Time event series where drag queens read affirming and representative books to children. And, Threads: Woven Together using fashion design education (delivered over an 8 week period) to give young queer people the tools to self-express using fashion as a means of communication and advocacy while also incorporating character development exercises. Threads helps youth build resilience in environments that fight against them and pride in who they are.
Some other highlights of their career include, founder of Action! by Design; a community-centered design consulting studio and they received a key to the city by the mayor of Worcester, MA in 2016. Josh is also a board member of the Worcester Education Collaborative advocating for excellence in public education. Josh has also participated as a steering committee & technology subcommittee for the Worcester Public Schools 2018 Strategic Plan.
They also secured over $300k for innovation, entrepreneurial, and community development-based activities for Worcester & Central Massachusetts including a MassDevelopment Grant for the design and construction of a community learning and events space while running Action! Worcester. Recently, Josh successfully established Worcester Queer Coalition in Worcester, MA— a multi-organization collaborative coalition advocating for queer and trans residents of the city.
Josh is passionate about building cities of the future that include and celebrate everyone. As a non-binary queer business owner, this work has its challenges. It is Josh’s hope this Leaders Under 40 recognition will help connect them to more people and resources to further their work. Getting the work of Love Your Labels to a wider audience across the globe is job one.