Happy Pride Month! In June, we honor LGBTQIA champions and celebrate their achievements and activism.
Sylvia Rivera was a queer, Latina, self-identified drag queen who fought tirelessly for transgender rights, as well as for the rights of gender-nonconforming people. After the Stonewall riots, where she was said to have thrown the first brick, Rivera started S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a group focused on providing shelter and support to queer, homeless youth, with Marsha P. Johnson. She also fought against the exclusion of transgender people in New York’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act. She was an activist even on her deathbed, meeting with the Empire State Pride Agenda about trans inclusion.
Josephine Baker was a well-known entertainer of the Jazz Age and identified as bisexual. She was one of the most successful African-American performers in French history and used her platform as an entertainer to advocate for desegregation, refusing to perform in segregated venues and even speaking at the 1963 March on Washington. Baker also served as a spy for the French during World War II, passing along secrets she heard while performing for German soldiers.
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs
Ulrichs is regarded by some as the pioneer of the modern gay movement and the first person to publicly “come out.” In fact, Volkmar Sigusch, a leading German scholar in sexual science, described him as “the most decisive and influential pioneer of homosexual emancipation … in world history.” Ulrichs was a judge in Germany but was forced to resign in 1854 after a colleague discovered he was gay. After he resigned, he became an activist for gay rights. He wrote pamphlets about being gay in Germany and, in August 29, 1867, Ulrichs spoke in Munich at the Congress of Jurists to demand legal equal rights for all sexualities.
Savage is a Seattle-based writer and media pundit who has always been outspoken about LGBTQ issues, but really made his mark by launching the It Gets Better Project in 2010 with his husband. The group works to prevent suicide among young LGBTQ people. He owns Ann Landers’ typewriter and as a world renown sex advice columnist has been authoring “Savage Love” since 1991.
Jose Antonio Vargas
Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas declared in a 2011 New York Times post, "I'm done running. I'm exhausted. I don't want that life anymore," referring to his undocumented immigrant status and his life story, which involves leaving the Philippines at 12 and growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Vargas spent most of his professional career with The Washington Post and was with The Huffington Post for less than a year. The openly gay Filipino started Define American, an organization that seeks to shed light on America's immigration system.
Matlovich stood up to the military's ban on gay service members by coming out in a letter to his commanding officer in 1975. He was given a general discharge from the Air Force, which he unsuccessfully challenged. A judge finally ruled in his favor in 1980 (even offering five years back pay) and the two sides later came to a settlement. Matlovich's case became relevant once again during the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" era and even more recently with the attempted ban on transgender service members.
Baldwin earned her place in history in 1998 when she became the first openly gay person elected to Congress. She was also the first openly gay person in the Senate after her election in 2012. She's been a crusader for LGBTQ rights as well as women's rights throughout her political career.
Top image: LGBT Flag by Quote Catalog
"Sylvia Rivera and Jim Fouratt 1997" by jim fouratt is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. View license