LGBT Pride Month 2018: 50 Gay Rights Movement Pioneers You Need to Know

LGBT Pride: 50 Gay Rights Movement Pioneers You Need to Know
LGBT Pride Month 2018: 50 Gay Rights Movement Pioneers You Need to Know Newsweek

June is LGBT Pride Month, officially and unofficially (unlike past presidents, Donald Trump has not issued an official proclamation identifying June as such). Regardless, June is special to LGBT people for a number of reasons, but mostly because it commemorates the Stonewall riots, which occurred over a number of days in New York City in June of 1969. Since then, every June cities across the world show their pride through celebrations, protests and marches.

Why is LGBT Pride important? According to the Human Rights Campaign, one of the leading LGBT organizations...

  • 30 states still do not protect LGBT from discrimination in the workplace or housing.
  • 30 states have no laws protecting LGBT students from bullying in schools.
  • Hate crimes against LGBT people have been on the rise in recent years.
  • Transgender people are more prone to physical assault or murder because of their gender identity.
  • Death by suicide is one of the leading causes of death for LGBT people.

The modern gay rights movement gained national attention because of the events that occurred on June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. Police, who regularly raided gay bars, entered the Stonewall and forced patrons to line up. Trans and patrons in drag refused to be taken by the police. As events in the bar grew tense, word spread through the community of the raid, resulting in crowds forming outside the bar. A riot ensued and lasted for a number of days. This event got national coverage, and inspired LGBT people around the country to act.

Pioneers not only grew from the Stonewall riots, but were around long before it. From the Mattachine Society to the Black Cat Tavern riots in Los Angeles, brave LGBT leaders stepped up, at times put their lives on the line, just to ensure the ability for LGBT people for years to come to live in their truth.

But who are these pioneers? What did they do and why does it matter? We rounded up 50 amazing pioneers of the LGBT rights movement in commemoration of Pride. Slide through leaders throughout history to hopefully inspire you to live in your own truth, whatever that might be.

James Baldwin
James Baldwin (1924-1987). Poet, novelist, and social critic, Baldwin is the author of Giovanni's Room, a prominent novel about a gay romance. And outspoken leader with the African American Civil Rights movement in addition to the LGBT rights movement, Baldwin’s impact on gay identity is massive.Allan Warren
Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde (1934-1992). Writer, feminist, and civil rights activist, Lorde is considered one of the architects of the modern women’s rights movement. “"Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society's definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house,” she once wrote in Sister Outsider, a compilation of her essays and speeches. Elsa Dorfman
Edith Windsor
Edith Windsor (1929-2017). Windsor’s spouse died and she became the executor and sole beneficiary of her estate. Because the federal government didn’t recognize same-sex marriage, she was forced to pay $353,053 in estate taxes, something her straight married counterparts would not be forced to do. She sued and won. The Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and effectively legalized same-sex marriage.Rex Block
Janet Mock
Janet Mock (1983-present). Writer and activist. Mock worked as an editor at “People” magazine before coming out as a trans woman in 2011. She is now one of the most visible transgender rights activists in the world. Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Barack Obama
Barack Obama (1961-present). The 44th president of the United States, Obama is the first sitting president to publicly support same-sex marriage. His support is crediting for speeding up the path to federally recognized same-sex marriage. Alex Wong/Getty Images
Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk (1930-1978). One of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States and a prominent LGBT rights activist. Milk led many civil rights campaigns throughout his life, becoming the face of the LGBT rights movement during the 1970’s. He was assassinated alongside the mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone, by Dan White, a former elected official angry with the mayor and Milk. Daniel Nicoletta
Gilbert Baker
Gilbert Baker (1951-2017). Artist, gay rights activist and the resigner of the rainbow flag, the international symbol of LGBT identity. Gareth Watkins
Chely Wright
Chely Wright (1970-present). Musician and activist, Wright is one of the first top musicians in country music to come out as lesbian. Patrick Evenson