There have been many amazing people have worked to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community as well as trailblazers who set the foundations for LGBTQ+ culture. We would like to highlight individuals who are Icons of the LGBTQ+ community as well as lesser-known figures who deserve a place on that pedestal.
Magnus Hirschfeld (1868 – 1935)
Hirschfeld co-founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, which was the world’s first gay rights organization, in May 1897.
“Soon the day will come when science will win victory over error, justice a victory over injustice, and human love a victory over human hatred and ignorance.”
Alan Turing (1912 – 1954)
Considered by many to be the “founder of computer science,” Alan Turing was a British mathematician and scientist who played a key role in breaking the code for the Nazi Enigma machine in World War II, crucial the defeat of Adolf Hitler and the resolution of the second world war.
Bayard Rustin (1912 – 1987)
Rustin was a leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. Rustin worked with A. Philip Randolph on the March on Washington Movement, in 1941, to press for an end to racial discrimination in employment and urged Dr. Martin Luther King to lean deeper into the politics and practice of nonviolence.
“The organizers and perpetuators of segregation are as much the enemy of America as any foreign invader.”
Barbara Gittings (1932 – 2007)
Gittings is credited with leading the successful movement to change the psychiatric and psychological professions’ view of homosexuality as a mental pathology.
James Baldwin (1924 – 1987)
Baldwin was writing gay and bisexual characters years before the LGBTQ movement fully took form and up until his death in 1987. When asked about his sexuality, he was a firm believer in fluidity over rigid categorization. He was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Audre Lorde (1934-1992)
Lorde was a writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist. She was a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” who dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.
“Without community, there is no liberation.”
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (1942 – Present)
Former Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir made history as the first openly LGBTQ+ leader of a nation. ( -link- )
“It is absolutely imperative that every human being’s freedom and human rights are respected, all over the world. Freedom and human rights — that is what the world needs most, that is what everyone longs for, and should be entitled to, in order to be able to live with dignity.”
Elaine Noble (1944 – Present)
Noble was the first openly gay person elected to Congress.
“Choice and freedom is for everybody or it’s for nobody.”
Marsha P. Johnson (1945 – 1992)
Marsha P. Johnson is believed to have thrown the first brick at the Stonewall Riots and went on to be an icon of the movement.
“How many years has it taken people to realize that we are all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race?”
Brenda Howard (1946 – 2005)
Known as the Mother of Pride, Howard was a catalyst and organizer of the first Liberation Day March on June 28th, 1970.
Steve Endean (1948 – 1993)
Endean founded the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1980, which was one of the first LGBTQ PACs (political action committee) in existence.
Sylvia Rivera (1951 – 2002)
Rivera was an activist that helped to provide housing and other services for homeless NYC LGBTQ+ youth.
“We have to be visible. We should not be ashamed of who we are.”
Keith Haring (1958 – 1990)
Haring was an American artist and social activist focused on the AIDS crisis.
“Art is nothing if you don’t reach every segment of the people.”
Willi Ninja (1961 – 2006)
Ninja was a choreographer and considered the “Grandfather of Vogue”
Manvendra Singh Gohil (1965 – Present)
Singh Gohil is the Prince of Rajpipla in Gujarat, India and the first openly gay prince in the world. He founded the Lakshya Trust, an organization dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS. Since 2018 he has opened his palace to help provide housing for unhoused LGBTQ individuals. His advocacy and his visibility as a royal, have helped the LGBTQ community work towards acceptance in India.
Laverne Cox (1972 – Present)
Cox is an activist and actor, who was the first trans person nominated for an Emmy.
“Everyone is a complicated human being, and everyone is strong and weak and funny and scared.”
Dan Choi (1981 – Present)
Korean-American Dan Choi publicly came out as gay despite being an active member of the National Guard. Choi became the public face of those negatively affected by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and his fearless advocacy helped bring the discriminatory policy to an end.