Since it's Pride Month, we thought we'd take a look at some notable LGBTQ+ activists throughout the last century that have helped and supported the community and stood up for what they believed in.
Marsha P. Johnson
Our first activist we’re showcasing is Marsha P. Johnson. She was an African-American transgender advocate for trans people of colour and LGBTQ rights activist. She is said to have initiated the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and initiated the first ever Pride Parade (which was more of a revolution back then). She also established the “Street Transvestite (now Transgender) Action Revolutionaries (STAR)” along with Latina trans activist, Sylvia Rivera, which helps homeless transgender youth in New York City.
Identifying as gay, Parsi began secretly working to help and support LGBTQ+ people in his home country of Iran, where homosexuality is still illegal. In 2005, this activist was forced to flee to Canada where he founded the “Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees” which helps LGBTQ+ asylum seekers from the Middle East.
In 2014, Michael Sam became the first openly gay American football player to be drafted by an NFL team. Even though this was a first in history, his time with the NFL was discouraging. Getting passed from team to team, Sam ended up retiring from the NFL (for mental health reasons) with no team. His struggle showed the homophobia and discrimination that’s still in the sports world but he has since shared his story and campaigns for change.
Originating from Cameroon, a country where homosexuality is still criminalised, Nkom is a LGBTQ+ activist and human rights lawyer. Despite Nkom identifying as straight, she has dedicated herself to fights for Cameroon’s LGBTQ community and founded the Defence of Homosexuality in 2003 even though it puts her and her co-workers in danger, she remains undeterred.
In California, Milk was the first openly gay politician to be elected. While in office, he pushed legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodation, employment and housing. The bill ended up passing with only one dissenting vote. In 1978, Milk was assassinated by the same person who gave the dissenting vote. In his memory, May 22, his birthday, has been made into a day of recognition for the late activist. But thanks to his bill, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been saved from discrimination.
Best known for playing Sophia Burset on Orange Is The New Black, Cox is a black, trans woman and the first trans person to be nominated for an Emmy. She is a proud advocate for LGBTQ rights and has been outspoken about access to health care for LGBTQ communities and championed the rights of trans people and people of colour.
Describing herself as a “black lesbian mother warrior poet”, she worked as a librarian before she published her first volume of poetry (First Cities) in 1968. Her poetry covered everything from her battle with breast cancer to sexuality to civil rights. In 2001, 9 years after she passed away, the Audre Lorde Award was launched to honour works of lesbian poetry.
Born in 1844, Carpenter was a poet, philosopher, anthologist and an early activist for gay rights. To some, he was known as the godfather of gay rights and openly expressed how same-sex passion is perfectly natural, 70 years before it was legal. While “scientists” saw homosexuality as natural but deviant, Carpenter rejected the negative focus and rather thought that it was as normal as any kind of love.