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Historical Figures of LGBTQ+ History

During LBGTQ+ History Month (celebrated in October), the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) at the University of Northern Colorado highlights historical figures in LGBTQ+ History. Four figures are featured on a poster each year during the GSRC’s Rainbow Flag Campaign. Learn more about those featured figures below.

Are there historical figures you would like us to highlight? Email us at GSRC@unco.edu with the subject line “Website Historical Figure Recommendation” to let us know more!

  • Langston Hughes 

    Langston Hughes


    Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, and playwright, best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance.His first poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” was published in 1921. His first book of poetry followed 5 years later. Some of his most famous poems are “Dreams,” “I, too,” and “Harlem.” Hughes studied at Columbia University briefly, before he dropped out around 1922.Langston was never married or romantically linked to any women in his life. His primary biographer believed him to be asexual, though several of Hughes’ friends were known to be gay. On May 22, 1967, Hughes died from complications of prostate cancer at age 66.  

  • James Baldwin 

    James Baldwin


    James Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York on August 2, 1924. Between the ages of 14-17, Baldwin became a preacher at the Fireside Pentecostal Assembly, where he developed a celebrated preaching style. This has a sustained impact on his rhetorical style and on biblical allusions in his writings. During his early teen years, Baldwin attended Fredrick Douglass Junior High School, where he met his French teacher Countee Cullen, who achieved prominence as a poet of the Harlem Renaissance. Baldwin went onto DeWitt Clinton High School, where he edited the school magazine and participated in Literary Club. In 1942, Baldwin graduated from high school. In 1943, he witnessed the Harlem Race Riot and experienced the death of his father. In 1948, he left for Paris as he could not tolerate the racial and sexual discrimination he faced daily. Baldwin spent the next 40 years abroad, where he wrote and published most of his works. After a short battle with stomach cancer, Baldwin passed away on November 30, 1987, in his house. 

  • Barbara Jordan 

    Barbara Jordan


    Barbara Jordan was born on February 21, 1936, in Houston, Texas. After attending Phyllis WheatleyHigh School, Jordan graduated in 1952. Upon graduation, Jordan attended Texas Southern University and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1956.She then obtained her law degree from Boston University to practice law in Houston, TX. In 1962, Jordan began her political career and ran for the Texas House of Representatives. She lost this election and ran again in 1964. However, she lost again, so in 1966 she decided to run for Texas Senate, instead. This time, Jordan won and became the first African American woman to be elected in that office.She was the first African American state senator in the U.S. since 1883. On March 28, 1972, she was elected President of the Texas Senate, making her the first Black woman in America to oversee a legislative body. She also ran for Congress, during this time, and became the first African American in the 20th century to be elected to Congress from the South. In addition to these accomplishments, Barbara was also the first LGBTQ+ woman in Congress. Nancy Earl, an educational psychologist, was Jordan’s companion from the 1970s until Jordan’s death. On January 17, 1996, Jordan died from pneumonia, a complication from Leukemia. 

  • Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie 

    Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie


    Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie  is an accomplished two-spirit multi-media artist who is best known for her photographic work rooted in visual Native American sovereignty. She was born to the Bearand racoon clans of the Seminoleand MuscogeeNations and the Tsinhnahjinnie clan of the Navajo nation. She grew up in Phoenix and Rough Rock, Arizona. Her father was a muralist & painter, so she was exposed to art at an early age. She attended the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico and earned her BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1981. In 2002, she earned her MFA from the University of California, Davis. Tsinhnahjinnie works as a professor of Native American Studies at UC Davis and Director of C.N. Gorman Museum. 

  • Audre Lorde 

    Audre Lorde


    Born in New York City to immigrants from Grenada, an island in the Caribbean. She began writing poetry in high school. After a poem was rejected for a class assignment, she submitted it to Seventeen magazine, and it became her first professional publication. While pursuing her education at the National University of Mexico, Lorde accepted her identity as a lesbian and a poet. When she returned to the U.S., she socialized at lesbian bars while taking classes at Hunter College. Lorde graduated from Hunter College in 1959 and attained a master's degree in library science from Columbia University in 1961. She had two children with her husband, a white gay man named Edward Rollins. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Lorde published regularly in magazines and anthologies. She also became active in civil rights, antiwar, and women’s movements. Lorde published books like, The Black Unicorn, Sister Outsider, and Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Lorde was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977, followed by a diagnosis of liver cancer 6 years later. She died from cancer on November 17, 1992. 

  • Hannah Moushabeck 

    Hannah Moushabeck

     Hannah Moushabeck is a second-generation Palestinian American author, editor, and book marketer who was raised in a family of publishers and booksellers in Western Massachusetts and England. Born in Brooklyn, into a family-run independent publishing house, she learned the power of literature at a young age. She is the author of Homeland: My Father Dreams of Palestine. Hannah talks about her queer pandemic love story and what it was like coming out as an adult. 

  • Hayley Kiyoko 

    Hayley Kiyoko


    Hayley Kiyoko Alcroft (1991-Present) was born in Los Angeles, CA. She is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, director, and actress. Her EP This Side of Paradise is known as Kiyoko’s breakthrough, with the evocative single “Girls Like Girls. Hayley has gone on to release projects such as her major-label debut EP Citrine and her debut studio album Expectations, which was released on March 30, 2018. She also created a comic book, based on her song Gravel to Tempo 

  • Kiyoshi Kuromiya 

    Kiyoshi Kuromiya


    Kiyoshi Kuromiya was born in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II and grew up to become a committed civil rights and antiwar activist. Kuromiya acted as a personal assistant to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was one of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front and served as an openly gay delegate to the Black Panther Convention that endorsed the gay liberation struggle. He was involved in ACT-UP; PWA empowerment; We The People Living with HIV/AIDS; in addition to national and international research advocacy.Kuromiya was involved locally, nationally, and internationally in AIDS research as a treatment activist and clinical trials participant. He fought for research that involved the community in its design, particularly people of color, drug-users, and women. He was the leading plaintiff in the Supreme Court Case, Kuromiya vs. The Unites States of America, which called for the legalization of marijuana for medical uses. He died the day after his 57th birthday, due to HIV/AIDS. 

  • Prince Mavendra Singh Gohil 

    Prince Mavendra Singh Gohil


    Prince Mavendra Singh Gohil was born in 1965, to Maharaja of Rajpipla. Gohil has made history as the first openly gay prince and has established himself as a prominent LGBTQ advocate in India. Gohil is the driving force behind the Lakshya Trust, a charitable organization dedicated to supporting the LGBT community, in addition to educating folks about HIV/AIDS. Gohil’s advocacy extended beyond India’s borders. In 2008, he inauguratedthe Euro Pride gay festival in Stockholm, Sweden. He was a part of a BBC Three series called “Undercover Princes,” which followed his quest to find love in Brighton, UK. Gohil took on an editorial role in the gay men-centric magazine “Fun,” published in Rajpipla since July 2010. In July 2013, he married Cecil “DeAndre” Richardson, an American residing in Seattle.  

  • Monica Helms 

    Monica Helms


    Monica Helms, a transgender veteran, was born on March 8, 1951 in Sumter, South Carolina. In 1970, at age 19, she entered the Navy, attending Naval Nuclear Power School. She served in the Navy from 1970-1978, while living and working on two missile-carrying submarines, the USS Francis Scott Keyand the USS Flasher. After leaving the Navy, Monica pursued education and activism. Monica underwent the process of transitioning in 1997 and reapplied to join the Phoenix chapter of the US American Submarine Veterans Group, after encountering resistance, they were admitted as the first women to ever join the organization. Monica co-founded It's Time Arizona, an Arizona-based organization advocating for equal treatment for trans people in the military. In 1999, Monica was a part of a delegation traveling to Washington, D.C. and lobbying Congress. In the same year, she created the iconic Transgender Pride Flag. In 2003, Monica co-founded the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA). In 2014, the Smithsonian accepted Monica's original trans flag, so it may be preserved for future generations. 

  • Harvey Milk 

    Harvey Milk 


    Harvey Milk, a U.S. Navy Veteran, who served during the Korean War, was the first widely known and nationally recognized openly gay man elected to public office in the United States. In 1977, Milk won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors thanks to the support of immigrant, elderly, minority, union, and gay voters. On November 27, 1978, only 11 months after taking office, Harvey Milk was assassinated along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.  

  • Frida Kahlo 

    Frida Kahlo


    Frida Kahlo was born in 1907, in Mexico City, to a German father of Hungarian descent and a Mexican mother of Spanish and Native American descent. At the age of 18, she was almost killed in a bus accident, sustaining injuries that would affect her for the rest of her life. During her recovery, she taught herself how to paint and this led her to become an artist. Kahlo was openly bisexual and would occasionally dress in what was stereotypically viewed as men’s clothing, making her a trailblazer in gender non-conformity. Her artwork also reflected similar ideas that were well ahead of her time, with many paintings based around identity, genderand sexuality. During her lifetime, Kahlo produced around 150 paintings, most of which were self-portraits. Her work remained relatively unknown until the late 1970s, and she became a global LGBTQ+ icon, who is celebrated more than 60 years after her death (1954). 

  • Cherrie Moraga 

    Cherry Morega


    Cherrie Moraga is a writer, playwright, and essayist active in the Chicana, feminist, and queer communities. Moraga’s books include: Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings 2000-2010, The Last Generation (1999), Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of a Queer Motherhood (1997), and Loving in the War Years: Lo que nunca paso por sus labios(1985). For over 20 years, Moraga has taught creative writing, playwriting, Xicana-Indigenous performance, Latino/Queer performance, and Indigenous identity in diaspora in the arts at Stanford University. In 2017, she began her tenure as a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2019, Moraga published a memoir, Native County of the Heart. 

  • Freddie Mercury 

    Freddie Mercury 


    Freddie Mercury, born on September 5, 1946, in Tanzania, was a singer-songwriter and musician whose music reached the top of U.S. and British charts in the 1970s and 1980s. As the lead singer of Queen, Mercury was one of the most talented and innovative singers of the rock era. Mercury studied piano in boarding school, in India. It was not long until he joined his first band, The Hectics. However, following a bloody revolution in 1964, his family fled to London, where Mercury attended the Ealing College of Art and befriended a number of musicians. In 1969, Mercury joined a group called Ibex as their lead singer. He played with a few other bands before joining Queen. In 1973, Queen released their first album. Mercury was open about his bisexuality, but he kept his relationships quiet. He was engaged to Mary Austin and had a seven-year relationship with Jim Hutton until his untimely death. Mercury died from an AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia at his London mansion on November 24, 1991. He was 45 years old. To honor his memory, the Freddie Mercury Tribute: Concert for AIDS Awareness was held in 1992 at Wembley Stadium.  

  • Alan Turing 

    Alan Turing 


    Born in 1912, Turing was a brilliant mathematician who studied at both Cambridge and Princeton Universities. Before World War II, he was already working for the British Government’s Code & Cypher School, but in 1939, he took a full-time role at Bletchley Park, where secret work was carried out to decipher military codes used by Germany. Turing played a central role in the work produced at Bletchley Park, which was estimated to have shortened the war by 2-4 years. Turing’s main focus was cracking the Enigma code, which was shown in movie, Imitation Game. In 1949, he became Deputy Director of Computing Machine Laboratory at the Victoria University of Manchester, working on the Manchester Mark I. Three years later, Turing was arrested for homosexuality, which was then illegal in Britain, and was found guilty. He avoided a prison sentence by accepting chemical castration, but the conviction barred him from continuing his work for the Government Communicaitons Headquarters. On June 8, 1954, he was found dead from cyanide poisoning at his home, which was ruled as a suicide. In 2013, Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon for his crimes. In 2016, the government announced gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences in England and Wales were to receive posthumous pardons under and amendment called “Turing’s Law.” 

  • Alok Vaid-Menon 

    Alok Vaid-Menon


    Alok Vaid-Menonis an internationally acclaimed poet, comedian, public speaker, and actor. Alok’s works include: “Beyond the Gender Binary,” “Femme in Public,” and “Your wound, My Garden,” which have all garnered global recognition. For their contributions to culture and entertainment, they have been honored with the ACLU of Southern California Bill of Rights Award, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment Trailblazer Award, and were selected as the inaugural LGBTQ Scholar in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania. They are the subject of the docu-short “ALOK” produced by Jodie Foster and directed by Alex Hedison, which made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2024. They can also be seen on season 3 of the HBO Max series SORT OF, Hulu’s Planet Sex, ABC’s PRIDE: To Be Seen – A Soul of A Nation, Netflix’s Getting Curious, and HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness. 

  • Josephine Baker 

    Josephine Baker


    On June 3, 1906, Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Josephine Baker was an American dancer, singer, actress, and civil rights activist who found fame in Europe. Having experienced the horrors of the East St. Louis riots in 1917, she embraced her talents as a way out of discrimination and poverty. Baker began her career by performing in vaudeville showcases around the country and was soon offered a chance to perform in Paris in La Revue Negre. Once the Revue closed, Baker was given her own show and there her career skyrocketed. Baker was the first African American woman to star in a motion picture, to perform with an integrated cast at the American concert hall, and one of the first African American entertainers who achieved acclaim both in movies in movies and on the stage. Modern biographies and interviews have found that Baker had relationships with both men and women throughout her lifetime  

  • Chi Chia-Wei 

    Chi Chia-Wei


    Chi Chia-Wei was the first person to come out publicly as gay on national television in 1986, while organizing a press conference to announce his sexuality and his launch of a campaign to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. In 1988, Chi worked as Taiwan’s only HIV/AIDS activist, operating a halfway house for HIV/AIDS patients an advocating for safer sex among the Taiwanese LGBT community.Chi helped make Taiwan the first nation in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. In 1986, Chi applied for a marriage license and was denied. He reapplied in 1994, 1998, and 2000 and was still unsuccessful. In 2013, when he applied and was denied again, Chi appealed the decision to the Taipei city government’s Department of Civil Affairs. Chi petitioned the court to examine the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage prohibition.In October 2016, Queermosa presented Chi with its first Queer Pioneer Award. On May 24, 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples could marry, beginning in May 2019. On this day, Chi announced that, “Today’s victory is for everybody!”. This marked the culmination of Chi’s 30 years of activism.    

  • Colevia Carter 

    Colevia Carter

    Colevia Carteris a Black lesbian and HIV/AIDS activist who called women to action in the 1980s to help fight the spread of the disease. In 1984, Carter organized a major conference on the role of women in combatting HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C. Carter lead a program in D.C. that educated incarcerated folks about HIV/AIDS. After 19 years of service, Carter was appointed Washington D.C.’s State Adolescent Health Coordinator, in which she directed the Synergy Adolescent Health Project that focuses on HIV/AIDS programs for children, teens & women. Carter was actively involved with the LGBT Third World Conference held at Howard University in 1979 and with the DC Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays and was an executive board member of the National Association of Black Lesbian and Gays. 

  • Dr. Ron Simmons 

    Dr. Ron Simmons 


    Dr. Ron Simmons (1950-2020) attended State University of New York (SUNY) in Albany from 1968-1972, where his lifelong commitment to activism and education was sparked. In 1970, he attended the Student Strike at SUNY Albany to protest the U.S.’s involvement in Vietnam. While studying at SUNY Albany, he came out as gay and was involved in his school’s Gay Student Alliance. Dr. Simmons completed a Master of Arts in African History as well as a Master of Science in Educational Communications. In 1980, Dr. Simmons moved to D.C. to pursue a doctorate of Mass Communications at Howard University. Dr. Simmons volunteered with Sidney Brinkly at Blacklight, the first Black gay magazine. In 1987, Dr. Simmons completed his doctorate and began working with the Whitman-Walker buddy program which partnered an AIDS patient with a healthy “buddy” for caretaking purposes. In 1990, Dr. Simmons was diagnosed with HIV, which led them to become involved in Us Helping Us, a health organization for Black gay men with HIV. Under Dr. Simmon’s leadership, Us Helping Us became one of the largest Black AIDS organizations in the country. Dr. Simmons received many awards for his work, including the Harvey Milk Alumni Award from SUNY Albany, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Black Gay Research Group, and Heroes in the Struggle Award from the Black AIDS institute. In addition to these awards, he was also inducted into the Black Gay Men Hall of Fame by the National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities, Inc. On May 28, 2020, after a long battle against prostate cancer, Dr. Ron Simmons passed away. 

  • Willi Ninja 

    Willi Ninja


    Willi Ninja was known as the grandfather of Vogue, a dance form
    that he helped move from the New York club scene of the 1980’s to the concert stage. Ninja caught the attention of "Paris Is Burning" director Jennie Livingston,
    who featured Ninja prominently in the film. The film, both a critical and box
    office success, served as a springboard for Ninja. He parlayed his appearance into
    performances with a number of dance troupes and choreography gigs including
    two of Janet Jackson’s videos from her album "Rhythm Nation 1814." His legacy continues as the House of Ninja members keep vouging alive and advocate on behalf of their Mother, Willi Ninja, to raise HIV awareness.

  • Amelio Robles Ávila 

    Amelio Robles Avila


    According to historian Gabriela Cano Ortega, Robles adopted a
    male identity not as a survival strategy but because of a strong desire to be a
    man. Robles' male identity was accepted by family, society, and the Mexican government, and Robles lived as a man from the age of 24 until his death. In
    1970, the Mexican Secretary of National Defense recognized Robles as a veteran (veterano) of the Revolution. Toward the end of his life, Robles received various decorations acknowledging distinguished military service: a decoration as a veteran of the Mexican Revolution, and the Mexican Legion of Honor; in 1973 or 1974, Robles was also decorated with the Revolutionary Merit award (Medalla al mérito revolucionario).

  • Chavela Vargas

    Chavela Vargas


    Born Isabel Vargas Lizano in Costa Rica, Vargas ran away to Mexico City in her early teens and began singing in the streets. By the 1950s, she had become a darling of the city’s thriving bohemian club scene, where she challenged mainstream Mexican morals by dressing in men’s clothing while she sang songs intended for men to woo women with incredible passion – and refused to change the pronouns. She eventually recorded more than 80 albums. Vargas was hugely successful during the 1950s, the 1960s, and the first half of the 1970s, touring in Mexico, the United States, France, and Spain.

  • Lorraine Vivian Hansberry



    Lorraine was the first African American female author have a play performed on Broadway. She is best known for her play A Raisin in the Sun, which depicts black Americans living under racial segregation in Chicago. It was titled after Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem,"What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?" At 29, she won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, becoming the first African American dramatist, the fifth woman, and the youngest playwright to win. After Hansberry's death, her husband Robert Nemiroff donated her personal and professional effects to the New York Public Library.
    He restricted access to the lesbian-themed correspondence, diaries, unpublished manuscripts, and full runs of homophile magazines. More than twenty years after Nemiroff's death, his executor released the restricted materials to scholars.

  • Stormé DeLaverie

    Stormé DeLaverie

    Stormé DeLarverie is nicknamed as the “Guardian of Lesbians in the Village” for her work as a volunteer street patrol worker. She identified as a biracial butch lesbian and was a bouncer for many lesbian bars. She was heavily involved in the Stonewall Veterans’ Association and held many leadership positions over the years.

  • Ceyenne Doroshow

    Ceyenne Doroshow

    Ceyenne Doroshow is a black, trans activist and author. In 2015 Doroshow founded G.L.I.T.S., an organization which helps black trans people to find affordable housing and healthcare. Doroshow is a prominent figure in advocating for sex workers as well. Doroshow constantly works to providing safe spaces for trans individuals looking for support in several aspects of their lives.

  • Erestine Eckstein

    Erestine Eckstein

    Ernestine Eckstein was the leader of the first lesbian civil and political rights organization known as the Daughters of Bilitis, leading the New York Chapter. Eckstein was an early activist of the Black feminist movement of 1970. She viewed the fight for civil rights and LGBTQ+ rights as something that was deeply connected.

  • Barbara Gittings

    Barbara Gittings

    1932 - 2007
    Barbara Gittings was a gay rights activist who started the first lesbian civil rights organization in the US: The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB). Gittings organized public marches and demonstrations for gay rights and equality. Gittings also helped to promote gay literature by working with the Gay Task Force of the American Library Association

  • Major Griffin-Gracy (“Miss Major” or “Major”)

    Major Griffin-Gracy

    October 25, 1940 (Age 77)
    Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, often referred to as Miss Major or Major, is a black transgender, genderqueer woman, social activist, and community leader, who participated in the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. Miss Major has spent more than 40 years of her life working on a variety of causes for marginalized groups including those related to transgender women of color. Her own experiences with incarceration gave her inspiration to advocate for those subjected to heteronormativity and racism within the prison system and living on the streets. A formative experience for her happened while at the Attica State Prison in New York during a four day uprising in September 1971 which inspired her to help other trans women, especially trans women of color, by making sure they were not subjected to the same treatment she endured. She also played a major activist role during the AIDS crisis as a part of a number of HIV/AIDS organizations. This then lead to her serving as one of the first Executive Directors of the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP). Recently, Miss Major has relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas to start the Griffin-Gracy Historical Retreat and Educational Center. Affectionately referred to as the House of GG, it was built as a safe house for the transgender community.

  • Marsha P. (“Pay it No Mind”) Johnson

    Marsha P Johnson

    August 24, 1945 – July 6, 1992
    Marsha, a black transgender woman, self-identified drag queen, activist, and LGBTQ revolutionary, was a key figure in the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. She is attributed with spearheading the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Along with her fellow activist Sylvia Rivera, Marsha established STAR (the Street Transvestite, now Transgender, Action Revolutionaries) a group that supports homeless transgender youth in NYC, Chicago, California, and England. Marsha was a popular figure in New York’s LGBTQ+ and Art scenes, and had modeled for artists such as Andy Warhol and performed on stage with Hot Peaches, a drag performance troupe. Marsha was well-known as the “mayor of Christopher Street” and a “saint of gay life”. As an advocate, she was a part of the Gay Liberation Front and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). She was tragically murdered on July 6, 1992 at the age of 46. Although in 1992 her death was ruled a suicide, in 2012 through the work of the New York City Anti-Violence Project and transgender activist Mariah Lopez, her case was reopened.

  • Audre Lorde

    Audre Lorde

    Audre Lorde has made long lasting contributions to feminist theory, queer theory, and critical race theory. She has captivated millions of people through her writing, some examples being her works “Coal” and “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.” She is self-described as a “Black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet and warrior.”

  • Ifti Nasim

    Ifti Nasim

    1946 - 2011
    Ifti Nasim was a gay poet from Pakistan who wrote “Narman,” the first book to appear in Urdu that openly expressed homosexuality. Nasim fled to the United States to avoid persecution in Pakistan. In the US, Nasim co-founded the group Sangat, a group established for queer south Asian youth.

  • Simon Nkoli 

    Simon Nkoli

    1957 - 1998
    Simon Nkloi was a gay activist and an aids activist who fought against the apartheid in South Africa. He helped found the Gay Association of South Africa (GASA) and the Gay and Lesbian Organizations of the Witwatersrand (GLOW). Nkoli helped to pave the way for South African queer rights.

  • Sylvia Rivera

    Sylvia Rivera

    July 2, 1951 – February 19, 2002
    Sylvia Rivera, was a transgender American woman, LGBT liberation activist, and self-identified drag queen of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan descent, born and raised in New York City. She was orphaned at three years old and homeless by the time she was eleven, giving her personal insight into the experiences of many LGBTQ+ youth whom she referred to as “her children”. She was a key figure in the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States, earning a fierce reputation and eventual respect by the early 1960’s, further cemented by her presence in the frontlines of the Stonewall Riots. Alongside Marsha P. Johnson, she established STAR (the Street Transvestite, now Transgender, Action Revolutionaries) a group that supports homeless transgender youth in NYC, Chicago, California, and England. She was a passionate advocate for homeless queer and trans youth and criticized the gay liberation movement for their transphobia and for ignoring the poor treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in prison. Sylvia died in 2002 from liver cancer complications. She was described as the Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement.

  • Bayard Rustin

    Bayard Rustin

    March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987
    Bayard Rustin was a black American man who was a successful organizer for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights in the United States before the gay liberation movement. Bayard was non-violent and integral to large strides in the early Civil Rights Movement, in particular organizing a 1947 Freedom Ride to challenge racial segregation in interstate bussing practices. Bayard promoted the practices of nonviolent resistance and the philosophy of nonviolence, originating from his work with Mahatma Gandhi’s liberation movement in India, and is attributed with introducing the philosophy to Martin Luther King, Jr. Due to his public identity as a gay man and previous affiliate of the Communist Party, Bayard was rarely a public spokesperson in the Civil Rights or gay rights movements, and instead functioned as an effective behind the scenes advisors to civil-rights leaders. All of this was despite homophobia exhibited by white supremacists and fellow activists who used his open sexuality in order to discredit him. Bayard was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 20, 2013 by then President Barack Obama.

  • Jackie Shane

    Jackie Shane

    1940 - 2019
    Jackie Shane was a transgender soul singer from Nashville, Tennessee who built a large audience in the US and in Canada during the 1960’s. In 2019, Shane’s album, Any Other Way, received a Grammy for best historical album.