Every year in June, members of the LGBTQIA+ community gather together to celebrate the accomplishments, influence, and progress of its members! As Pride celebrations are underway, we’d like to recognize our favorite figures that have influenced culture and fought for equality for all! Please read on to learn more about them! 🎉
1. Marsha P. Johnson – Activist
Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson is hailed as a prominent figure in the Stonewall Uprisings. In the early morning of June 28, 1969, Johnson and other visitors were met with violent police raids in New York City’s Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. This raid sparked spontaneous demonstrations across the city and served as one of the key events in the gay liberation movement. Through her passion and dedication for equality, Johnson co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which provided resources and support to LGBT youth.
2. James Baldwin – Author
Known as a literary icon, James Baldwin served as a voice for the voiceless – writing pieces with themes surrounding race and sexual orientation. One of his most notable pieces, Giovanni’s Room, centers on the life of an American man living in Paris. David, the main character, reminisces about his relationship with Giovanni, another male, while awaiting the return of his girlfriend Hella from Spain. Other notable pieces from Baldwin include The Fire Next Time, Go Tell It On The Mountain, and If Beale Street Could Talk.
3. Audre Lorde – Author
Speaking of authors, our list would not be complete without highlighting the extraordinary career of Audre Lorde. Lorde spent her life’s work utilizing her talent to address issues of classism, racism, homophobia and so much more. In the piece titled, I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities, Lorde emphasizes the importance of Black Women coming together regardless of sexual orientation. Lorde served as a crucial and influential voice, receiving the honor of becoming New York’s Poet Laureate in 1991.
4. Kylar Broadus – Lawyer
Kylar Broadus is the first openly transgender person to testify before the US Senate, fighting for the equality of LGBT workers with his support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2012. With over 30 years of contributions to this movement, Kylar is a pivotal figure in the fight for justice. In 2010, he founded the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC), the first and only national social justice organization that promotes the interest of trans people of color.
5. Bayard Rustin – Activist
Bayard Rustin served as a key figure in the civil and gay rights movements. His belief in nonviolence positioned him as an important advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin also served as the lead organizer for the March on Washington in 1963, which amassed 250,000 attendees. As a supporter of gay rights, Rustin testified in support of the New York gay rights bill which passed in 1986.
6. Janet Mock – Writer, Director, and Advocate
Janet Mock made history by publicly coming out as transgender in a 2011 Marie Claire article. To date, Mock has a list of accomplishments and is currently the writer, director, and executive producer of the FX drama series POSE. POSE features the largest cast of transgender actors in regular roles and highlights the icons of New York’s underground ball culture. Outside of her creative talents, Mock advocates for the lives of transgender women, with the #GirlsLikeUs Twitter campaign.
7. Pierre Davis – Fashion Designer
As the first transgender designer to show at New York Fashion Week, Pierre Davis broke barriers and showed the world No Sesso. Italian for “no sex/gender,” Davis’ genderless clothing line challenges the conventions of fashion, art, culture, and design. No Sesso celebrates the community it serves, making nonconformity as beautiful and as inclusive as it is.
8. Telfar Clemens – Fashion Designer
Telfar Clemens’ security bag program broke the internet last summer with the highly anticipated and sought-after luxury bags. To ward off reselling culture, Telfar quickly shut the site down with a message stating, “Telfar is for the people, not bots.” As the owner of a genderless line, Clemens sets bags at an affordable price point to make it easier for economically oppressed people to purchase. Clemens’ line “is not for you — it’s for everyone.”
9. Vernon Francois – Celebrity Hairstylist
As a celebrity hairstylist, Vernon Francois’ contributions to the natural hair movement have been pivotal. Francois has a robust portfolio, with his work gracing numerous covers like Vogue and Vanity Fair. His clientele includes tennis superstar Serena Williams and actress Lupita Nyong’o. In championing natural hair versatility, Francois’ hair care line helps individuals erase their fears of managing their hair.
10. William Dorsey Swann – Queen of Drag
Born into slavery, William Dorsey Swann is attributed to be the first person to identify as “Queen of Drag.” As an avid gay liberation activist, Swann would host balls in the 1880s and 1890s. Swann also faced numerous police raids, and in the year 1896 was arrested and falsely charged with “keeping a disorderly house,” known today as running a brothel. Swann is the first in American history to be on record for taking specific legal and political steps to defend the queer community’s right to gather.
11. RuPaul – Drag Queen
Easily the most famous drag queen, RuPaul is a force to be reckoned with. In 2017, RuPaul was recognized as Times 100 Most Influential People for his impeccable style and wit, along with his TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Before this, RuPaul became the first drag queen to be a spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics, raising money for the MAC AIDS Fund in 1994. Through his TV shows, RuPaul creates an inclusive and creative environment for all to enjoy and love.
12. LASAIA WADE – Activist and Writer
Last, but certainly not least, we’d like to recognize LaSaia Wade, an open Afro-Puerto Rican Indigenous Trans Woman, working and fighting for change in Chicago. As the founder and executive director of Brave Space Alliance, she encourages individuals to explore their whole selves. The Brave Space Alliance is the first Black, trans, and LGBTQ+-led center located on the South Side of Chicago. Its mission is focused on creating and providing affirming, culturally competent, for-us by-us resources, programming, and services for LGBTQ+ individuals. Programming such as The Makeup Room allows free resources for BIPOC trans and queer individuals.
Have an LGBTQIA icon that you love?! Celebrate them in the comments below! 👇🏾