Through millennia of forced silence, the LGBTQ community has persisted – and with more of us holding positions of power now than at any other time in history, our communal voice is louder than ever.
It is still a history of pride. It all started with a few people, and it will continue for many generations. These eight heroes, past and present, have laid the foundation that we all now walk on together. Let’s thank them for that by reminding ourselves of everything they’ve done for us.
1. Marsha P. Johnson
There is no list of LGBTQ icons complete without Marsha “Pay it no Mind” Johnson. Johnson is a cornerstone of our history and was one of the key voices that sparked the movement. Stonewall Uprising. When the police raided The Stonewall Inn in 1969, her queer community decided they’d had enough. It was time for the police to leave. Fight back. The uprising spilled into the streets, lasting for several days as queer folks protested the way they’d been raided, harassed, and pushed to the corners of society for far too long. The riots weren’t quickly forgotten, and a year later, the first Pride parade was held to commemorate the good fight.
As a transgender woman of color, Johnson’s calling was to leave a road for young trans* people that was brighter than the one she’d walked. A living burst of color in motion, she wasn’t afraid to be a memorable presence, and often clashed with the cis gay men of New York in her quest to band the community together for the collective good.
She was no stranger at pushing back and the resistance from those men only made her stronger. Johnson co-founded the organization with Sylvia Riviera, a close friend. the first organization in the United States led by trans* women of color So called Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. Their mission was to provide stable housing for young transgender people. Now, the Marsha P. Johnson Institute carries on the spirit of her work, as they fight to protect and defend “The human rights of transgender black people.”
2. Arsham Parsi
As a gay Iranian teenager in the 1990s Arsham Parsi Parsi thought he was all alone. But when he found the secret community forming online, Parsi found his spark – and he didn’t sleep on it. He kept his work secret from his family and friends. He began volunteering with underground queer organizations. From helping a Shiraz doctor to research HIV in Shiraz, to creating a Yahoo chat group for Iranian queers called Voice Celebration. The community was kept strong by this small group of 50 resilient queer people. lAws ThAt risk of death You are guilty of the crime that you love someone else.
Parsi discovered that the He was wanted by the Iranian police In 2005, he fled Turkey to seek refuge in Canada. Parsi remains today. Exile for Love – but he hasn’t let that get in the way of his goals. He instead established the International Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR), an organization that tirelessly works to assist asylum-seeking queer individuals find stability, security, and a place where they can thrive. Parsi, who lost a friend in her journey to Canada from Iran, started the Marjan FoundationIRQR and a non-profit organization, collaborating to raise funds to help LGBTQ refugees worldwide to pay for the trip to Canada.
3. Edith Windsor
Edith Windsor was never expected to become the Matriarch for the Gay Rights Movement. In the spotlight. In fact, she avoided it for many decades. Born in the U.S. in 1929, she didn’t have the luxury to be out without Her career at risk Safety. But when she met Thea Spyer, Windsor knew she’d be worth any risk. Their first night out dancing together, they “Only the best,” she said.
For the next forty years, Windsor and Spyer were inseparable, but when Spyer got ill, Windsor couldn’t visit her in the hospital, since the U.S. failed to recognize their love as binding. Spyer was told she had one year to live. They flew to Canada to get married.
Spyer died shortly thereafter, and Windsor was obligated. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes on her wife’s estate. She would not have owed anything if they were a straight couple. But since the U.S. didn’t recognize same-sex marriage, she didn’t stand a chance at seeing that money again – until she fought the law.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) may have blocked her from being recognized as Spyer’s spouse, but Windsor wasn’t prepared to let it rest. 2013 saw the Supreme Court decide Windsor v. the United States. These results forever changed how the U.S. views marriage. In their landmark decision, Windsor was legally declared Spyer’s widow. Through the persistence of her love, Windsor’s case tore DOMA down.
4. Michael Sam
It takes courage to be the first – and Michael Sam wasn’t afraid. Sam always wanted to play football. His college career was a huge success. It began with a ride to Missouri and ended with many accolades including SEC Co-Defensive Player Award.
By the time he was ready for the NFL draft, Sam’s name was on everyone’s lips. He did something that no other NFL player had ever done before. Sam was out. Edith Windsor only had just won her Supreme Court case in 2014. Being gay in public wasn’t easy, especially in such a traditionally straight environment. He was determined to be himself. He was thrilled to be drafted by Rams.
This was his only news. The rest of the country saw something else as the headlines: Kiss Sam’s relationship with his boyfriend, Sam, on air was all over. And from there, the dream he’d worked for so long to build proved to not be what he’d hoped for. Bouncing from team to team, Sam wasn’t treated with respect or given the shot he deserved. In 2015, he retired from football permanently.
But after an ayahuasca journey He found a new way to connect with himself that was not only revolutionary but also reshaped his relationship with himself. Sam is now a Motivational speaker Who uses his platform? Share your experience with him His goal is to inspire and motivate his listeners to be their best selves. Although Michael Sam was not ready for the NFL, the rest rushed to welcome him with open arms.
5. Alice Nkom
In Cameroon, you can’t talk about LGBTQ rights without talking about Alice Nkom. Nkom, a pioneer of the LGBTQ movement in Cameroon, is the face of equality. She started making waves young, when she became the country’s first female lawyer at the age of twenty-four.
Nkom immediately began protecting Cameroonia’s queer community once she had her credentials. There are serious consequences for being gay in Cameroon. Five years in prison. As a defense attorney for LGBTQ clients, she has made it her life’s work chipping away at those laws. Her most well-known case was Jean-Claude Roger MdebeA man sentenced for three years in prison, for the crime against his identity, was protested by international organizations working to protect human rights.
Her work is an ongoing battle that she has to win. Arrest threats Nkom is determined to continue despite all the opposition. She founded the Association for the Defense of Homosexuals, a non-profit in 2003 to bring light and peace to the LGBTQ community of Cameroon. The nonprofit makes use of the voices of human rights groups through connections To call for action after crimes against the LGBTQ community.
Her answer when asked why she worked so hard for her clients was simple. “I must help them live… I must give them the strength to say, ‘Yes, I am this way….’ I want to help people understand that being gay is OK.”
Alice Nkom is taking on each case one at a time.
6. Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk was a career man who spent many years securing his identity. Milk began to fall in love with San Francisco’s vibrant queer scene, and slowly started to emerge from the shadows. Milk, now in his forties had already accepted his true self and was a symbol of gay growth.
Milk is known for his perseverance and he wanted more than just to be a voice for the cause; he wanted to get involved in local politics. But running for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1973 as an out, gay man wasn’t easy, and he lost. He didn’t give up and ran again in 1975. But he lost again.
He didn’t give up and quit. Instead, he continued to work in the field to increase queer visibility. From convincing unions to hire more gay employees, to founding the Castro Village Association protecting queer workers, Milk worked hard to earn the title “Mayor of Castro Street.” And in 1977, he finally won the title of Supervisor, becoming One of the first LGBTQ members elected to public office The United States. During his time in this office, he fought California’s Proposition 6, a bill that would have banned the LGBTQ community from becoming teachers.
The promise of this politician was shattered when Milk was assassinated just eleven months after his election. Although Milk is remembered more for his death now than for his life, his years of advocacy for his community made him a conduit for all queer politicians who are currently in the U.S. Congress.
7. Lena Waithe
Our foreparents made it possible for icons like Lena Waithe to rise to the top and inspire others to pursue their dreams. Lena Waithe, an LGBTQ icon is not afraid of taking up the space that she deserves. Dissecting the intersections of race and sexuality with candor, humor, and grace, her work as a screenwriter and actor moves millions, whether that’s with her TV show The Chi Check out her 2019 movie Queen & Slim. She takes the responsibility of being in the spotlight seriously, and each event becomes an opportunity to push the dialogue – just look at the times she’s been invited to the Met Gala and turned her outfits into Acts of defiance.
It’s through this belief in herself and the integrity of her actions that she climbed the steady path of her career. Waithe was able to reach the top in 2014 Variety’s Liste of 10 Comedians You Should Watch. She was here by 2017. Her outstanding writing is a testament to her talent. Master of None’s episode “Thanksgiving,” Waithe became the first Black-American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. When she was presented with her awardShe knew what it meant to be queer and people of color. “The things that make us different,” she said. “Those are our superpowers.”
Her continued stardom shows that the more authentic we are, the stronger our power is.
8. Alexya Salvador
Salvador is a reverend, teacher and beacon for social justice. Being trans* and living in Brazil, she says her body is Inherently political. She has not allowed her differences to hinder her. She is the first transgender person in Brazil to run for office in 2018.
Salvador is one woman you could say is known for being a pioneer. The first openly transgender pastor in Latin America, she later became the first trans* ordained reverend there as well. Salvador was driven by her desire to make the world a better place and became the first transgender female to become a priest. adopt children Brazil, too
When she was growing up, Salvador didn’t have role models who showed her everything she could become. Now, her life’s work is to change that for everyone who comes after her. That’s why, on top of everything else she does, her primary career is in education. Every day she works to inspire young people to be their best selves.
As a Teacher, she is patient, knowing she’s not just teaching grammar; she’s teaching diversity. Salvador’s kindness and persistence have formed every step of her still-evolving political and public journey. With endless compassion and an eye for possibility, she moves forward, combining joy and advocacy to make Brazil a lusher place for her LGBTQ community – one first at a time.
In the wake of so much uncertainty, it’s easy to feel small, to feel invisible. This Pride should be a time to remember those who have gone before us, those who fight for us now, as well as those who will come. These eight courageous icons are part of that group. They have forged our history, and they continue to write it every day.
Nikita is a PDX-based author. She applies a queer, sex positive lens to all she touches, from foot fetishes articles to new song lyrics. She can be found writing her novel, creating music, being involved in community theater or just generally being a complete ham when she is not sex-writing.