People Who Made An Impact For LGBTQIA+ Rights

People Who Made An Impact For LGBTQIA+ Rights

Posted By Ashley Cobb
Two people facing away from camera, waving rainbow flags, embracing each other. A white frame surrounds image, text in magenta "People Who Made An Impact For LGBTQIA+ Rights". "Pillow Talk" in cream cursive is in upper right corner.

People Who Made An Impact For LGBTQIA+ Rights

Leaders, activists, educators and more throughout history

One thing is for sure---not all heroes wear capes. Throughout history, there have been heroes who have dedicated their lives to changing how the world sees members of the LGBTQIA+  community. Without the contributions of these people, Pride Month would not exist. Some of them are celebrities. Others are politicians. And many are just regular people who saw the need for change and took action.  Here are some of the extraordinary people who have battled for gay rights.

 

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs is regarded by some as the pioneer of the modern gay movement and the first person to publicly “come out. He has been described 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 on August 29, 1867, Ulrichs spoke in Munich at the Congress of Jurists to demand equal legal rights for all sexualities.

 

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs in black and white, yellow frame surrounds image.Karl Heinrich Ulrichs in black and white, yellow frame surrounds image.
Image courtesy of the New York Times

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama was the first US president to openly support gay marriage while in office. In 2012, he told ABC News: 'At a certain point, I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.' When the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015, Obama said: 'Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times.'

 

President Barack Obama wearing a blue suite, white shirt, and blue striped tie, standing, looking to the leftPresident Barack Obama wearing a blue suite, white shirt, and blue striped tie, standing, looking to the left
Image courtesy of Time

 

Barbara Gittings

Barbara Gittings, a prominent gay rights activist, became a recognizable face on the picket line, lobbying for gay rights in Washington and around the country. Gittings helped successfully lobby the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. In 1973 she helped start what is now the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). Gittings was co-Grand Marshall of the 1997 New York City Gay Pride Parade, where she was declared a “Mother of Lesbian and Gay Liberation." In 2001, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) bestowed her with the first “Barbara Gittings Award” for Activism. The American Library Association presented her with its highest award – lifetime honorary membership – in 2003. In addition, she earned the APA’s first “John E. Fryer Award” in 2006.

 

Barbara Gittings sitting at a desk, next to a type righter, wearing a velvet-like sweater, smiling, looking off-camera. Image is in black and white.Barbara Gittings sitting at a desk, next to a type righter, wearing a velvet-like sweater, smiling, looking off-camera. Image is in black and white.
Image courtesy of AARP

 

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk was a gay activist that was the first openly gay man to hold public office in California. Milk was a trailblazer and widely known for many acts of early queer activism and legislative progress. In 1978, he helped introduce the city’s first LGBTQ+ rights ordinance, which Milk referred to as “the most stringent gay rights law in the country,” according to The Times. The ordinance banned discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on “sexual preference.” Milk’s work in the late ’70s in defeating Prop 6, known as the Briggs’ Initiative, also goes down in history alongside his name. Proposed by former Calif. Rep. John Briggs, the initiative would have banned the employment of any teacher in the state who “was gay or in support of gay rights.” Milk remains the most famous openly gay person ever elected to office – an inspiration to the hundreds of LGBTQ+ people everywhere.

 

Harvey Milk sitting on steps wearing a suade jacked and shirt, campaign posters saying "MILK" and "Thank You" are behind him.Harvey Milk sitting on steps wearing a suade jacked and shirt, campaign posters saying "MILK" and "Thank You" are behind him.
Image courtesy of History

 

Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera was a queer, Latina, self-identified drag queen who fought tirelessly for transgender rights and the rights of gender-nonconforming people. After the Stonewall riots, where she played a key role, 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.

 

Sylvia Rivera standing in a street, looking at the camera with straight face, wearing a white jacket, hair is tossled, and floral head band. Image is in black and white.Sylvia Rivera standing in a street, looking at the camera with straight face, wearing a white jacket, hair is tossled, and floral head band. Image is in black and white.
Image courtesy of Equality North Carolina

 

Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson, sometimes referred to as the “Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement,” was an activist, drag performer, sex worker, and model for Andy Warhol. She was black, queer, and trans that fearlessly advocated for her rights and the rights of the LGBTQ community at a time when doing so put her safety in jeopardy. Johnson was a key figure of the 1960s gay rights movement in the US and, as rumor has it, threw the brick that ignited the infamous Stonewall riots, which were the catalyst for the movement and have inspired many Pride marches since. Both Johnson and Rivera denied the rumors, Johnson in 1970 and Rivera in 2001; however, many in the LGBTQIA+ community still credit them as icons of the Stonewall Uprising. Much like the recent Black Lives Matter marches in the United States, news of these protests spread around the world, inspiring others to join protests and rights groups to fight for equality.

 

Marsha P Johnson sitting at a table inside house, wearing colorful flowers in their hair, pink dress, gold necklaces and ribbons around their neck, smiling. Marsha has a bold red lip, pink rouge on their cheeks and is smiling.Marsha P Johnson sitting at a table inside house, wearing colorful flowers in their hair, pink dress, gold necklaces and ribbons around their neck, smiling. Marsha has a bold red lip, pink rouge on their cheeks and is smiling.
Image courtesy of The Guardian

During Pride Month, we celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and individuals all over the world who live and love authentically. We applaud the strides made and honor those who helped the community grow and thrive in a world that historically has been unkind to this group. 

As of 2021, there are 18 states where individuals can be fired for their sexual orientation, and a record number of nearly 250 anti-equality bills have been filed. These laws discriminate against housing, health care, education, public accommodation, adoption, and dozens more. So while we can celebrate LGBTQIA+ people in June, we should continue to support and celebrate them all year long because the freedom to be exactly who you are is a right for everyone.

Happy Pride, from your store for Pleasure, Passion, and Romance for all.

 

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