In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police officers violently raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar located in the Greenwich Village. After enduring frequent and consistent attacks from the police, this time the LGBTQ community fought back. A series of spontaneous and violent demonstrations broke out that morning, acting as a catalyst for LGBTQ leaders to start the gay liberation movement.
In commemoration of the historic Stonewall riots, June was chosen as Pride Month, a time when LGBTQ people and their contributions to the world are celebrated. The courageous LGBTQ speakers below are a selection of inspirational athletes, media personalities, filmmakers, scientists, and activists that have made strides in their respective careers as well as in the fight for LGBTQ rights and acceptance.
LGBTQ Leaders: Athletes Who Inspire
Gus Kenworthy is an Olympic Medalist & Professional Skier. While competing as one of only two openly gay men (the other being Adam Rippon) for the United States at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Gus kissed his boyfriend on the slopes before a qualifying run. This moment became iconic in both the LGBTQ community and sports history.
Gus has partnered with multiple nonprofit organizations in an effort to support LGBTQ youth and individuals living with HIV and AIDS, including the AIDS/LifeCycle ride, the Trevor Project and the Happy Hippie Foundation. Gus Kenworthy continues to use his story, visibility and prolific career as an athlete to continue fighting for equal rights for the LGBTQ community.
Adam Rippon was the second of only two openly gay men to compete for the United States at the 2018 Winter Olympics (the other being Gus Kenworthy). That year, Rippon won a bronze medal as part of the figure skating team event. Rippon expanded his popularity by competing on season 26 of Dancing with the Stars, which he won with partner Jenna Johnson.
Rippon is an outspoken advocate for equality and LGBTQ rights. He speaks at colleges, corporations, and conferences in order to encourage inclusion. He has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign and has received a Proclamation from the NYC City Council LGBTQ Caucus in recognition of his advocacy work. His memoir, Beautiful on the Outside, will be released in October 2019.
LGBTQ Leaders: Top TV Personalities, Actors & Filmmakers
The Fab Five: Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France & Bobby Berk
When Netflix first premiered its original show, Queer Eye, nobody quite knew the global impact that the five stars of the show — Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France & Bobby Berk — would have on the world. Affectionately referred to as “The Fab Five,” each member has an expertise they bring to the show: Karamo is culture, Antoni is food and wine, Jonathan is grooming and hair, Tan is fashion and Bobby is interior design.
Their influence has far exceeded the Netflix screen. The Fab Five have become icons of self-love and LGBTQ celebration. In April 2019, four of the five members spoke at the Library of Congress on a panel about LGBTQ youth in an effort to push for the Equality Act, and Karamo Brown will attend the DNC LGBTQ Gala later this June.
When FX’s Pose premiered in June 2018, it immediately made history as the largest cast of transgender actors as series regulars in a scripted show. The lead role of Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista was given to Mj Rodriguez, a transgender actor best known for her role as Angel in the 2011 Off-Broadway revival of Rent. As one of the most visible trans women on television today, Mj Rodriguez plays an extremely important role in fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community.
In September 2018, Mj received the Trailblazer Hispanic Heritage Award at the Annual Hispanic Heritage Awards for her “journey of triumph as she leads the way for transgender representation in Hollywood and beyond.”
In 2012, Justin Simien released a concept trailer for Dear White People using his tax refund as funding. Simien used the trailer to raise $40,000 on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. The full-length film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was released nationwide in October 2014. The film won multiple awards and grossed over $300,000 in its opening weekend alone.
Now Dear White People is a successful Netflix series. Justin Simien explores storylines that focus on identity in the black community, including queer people of color. Justin Simien is also the founder of Culture Machine, an online community where filmmakers can share their experiences online.
LGBTQ Leaders: Innovators in Business, Science & Technology
Chris Hughes is perhaps best known as one of the co-founders of Facebook, the multi-billion dollar global phenomenon. Hughes left Facebook in 2007 to volunteer for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Hughes purchased The New Republic in 2012 and became the publisher, executive chairman and editor-in-chief of the magazine. He sold the magazine in 2016.
Hughes published Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn in 2018 and an op-ed, It’s Time to Break Up Facebook, in the New York Times in May 2019. In addition to the op-ed, Hughes recently spoke out against Facebook and the monopoly it has in the market in an interview with NBC Today.
In the 1970’s, Lynn Conway was the leading designer of the microelectronic chip and today, many high-tech companies and computing methods are based on her groundbreaking work. Before her technological innovations in the ’70s, however, Conway was a pioneering researcher at IBM. Conway had to hide her early work due to the fear of discrimination and alienation.
In 1968, when Conway was set to begin transitioning to a woman, IBM fired her for being transgender. Now she is a strong advocate for equal opportunities and employment protections for transgender people, especially in high-technology industries. Conway uses her strides in both technology and as a trans woman to bring awareness to the dangers of transphobia in the workplace.
Arlan Hamilton and her venture capital fund, Backstage Capital, almost seem to have appeared out of thin air. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Just a few years ago, Hamilton was homeless. Now she’s a venture capitalist who has invested over $5 million into start-ups led by founders who were previously underrepresented — people of color, women and LGBTQ entrepreneurs.
In March 2019, Hamilton stepped down as the CEO of Backstage Capital in order to act as the brand ambassador and “chief vision officer.” She recently signed a book deal and is working on her new podcast, “Your First Million,” while also doing tons of speaking engagements. Her mission? Changing what venture capitalists look like and the startups they fund.
LGBTQ Leaders: Influencers in Politics, Law & Activism
After coming out as transgender during his sophomore year of high school, Gavin Grimm used the boys’ restrooms at school (with the permission of his principal). After a handful of parents complained about Gavin, the school board voted to ban Gavin from using the boys’ restrooms. Partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gavin sued his school.
Gavin graduated in 2017, still unable to use the boys’ restrooms. After he left, his former school tried to dismiss the case, but the courts agreed with the ACLU that the school violated the right of transgender students under Title IX and ordered a settlement conference. Gavin Grimm uses his story of discrimination and courage to bring awareness to the issues that trans people face in their everyday lives and how to fight back.
Released in 2014, Janet Mock‘s memoir and debut book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More was the first biography written from the perspective of a young trans person. Redefining Realness debuted on the New York Times Bestsellers List, and Janet was soon interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. Her second book, Surpassing Certainty, is a memoir about her life before she was public about being trans. She is also the founder of the #GirlsLikeUs hashtag, which has created a collective of transgender women that encourages conversation.
Janet has become one of the most recognizable activists in the fight for transgender equality and acceptance. In January 2017, Janet spoke to millions at the Women’s March on Washington, where she urged for intersectionality and inclusivity in the feminist movement.
Sally Kohn, the founder and CEO of Movement Vision Labs, is one of the leading progressive voices in American politics today. A former community organizer and Fox News contributor, Sally is now the host of the “State of Resistance” podcast. She is also the author of The Opposite of Hate. Sally’s TED Talks have near a collective 5 million views, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Time and more.
Sally has worked in many different positions in politics. She was the strategic advisor to the Social Justice Infrastructure Funders, the Executive Director of the Third Wave Foundation and a distinguished Vaid Fellow at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. Sally continues to use her political expertise to make waves in America and around the world.
LGBTQ Leaders: Popular Singers & Rappers
Kim Petras is a pop and EDM singer/songwriter who is quickly becoming popular among the younger generation. Despite having only released singles and not a full-length album, her songs have been streamed over 65M times.
Petras was born Tim Petras in Cologne, Germany, and was the subject of extensive media coverage due to her gender transition at a young age. Although her transition was a trending topic in the German media and a large reason for her popularity, Kim Petras wants her music, not her identity, to be the reason people pay attention.
After using her own money and a local recording studio to produce her music, Young M.A. released “Ooouuu” in 2016. The single became an immediate hit, peaking at No.19 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Despite the attention and popularity she received from “Ooouuu,” Young M.A. remains an independent artist.
Young M.A. self-identifies as a lesbian, and she is one of just a few “out” LGBTQ rappers. Although Young M.A. prefers to speak about her sexuality through her music, she is not afraid to stand up to other rappers against their homophobic behavior.
Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, better known as her stage name Princess Nokia, is a rapper. She is also the founder of the Smart Girl Club, a podcast where she discusses urban feminism. In September 2017, she released her debut album 1992 Deluxe, which was listed as the 32nd best album of 2017 by NME.
Princess Nokia uses her music to raise awareness of feminist and LGBTQ causes. In June 2018, Princess Nokia canceled a performance in order to “focus on activism.” Princess Nokia set up an independent disaster relief fund for Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico, which benefited seven different Puerto Rican communities. Princess Nokia lost her mother to AIDS/HIV when she was a child and cares deeply about efforts to raise awareness and funds for those affected by the disease.
LGBTQ Leaders: Trending YouTubers
Shane Dawson is one of the first people to rise to fame on YouTube. He has sustained his popularity, reaching upwards of 4.2 million views per day. He has written two bestselling books, I Hate Myselfie and It Gets Worse. In 2015, Shane Dawson publicly came out to his YouTube audience through a video entitled “I’m Bisexual.”
As of February 2019, Shane Dawson’s main channel, shane, had over 21 million subscribers. He continues to be one of the most viewed YouTube personalities ever. Shane Dawson and his boyfriend, Ryland Adams, became engaged in March 2019.
Hannah Hart is the creator and star of the award-winning weekly web-series My Drunk Kitchen. The series first premiered in 2011 and has since amassed millions of viewers. She has written two New York Times Bestsellers, My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going With Your Gut & Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded.
Hannah was recognized by The White House for her ability to mobilize youth and was invited to speak on millennial engagement with President Barack Obama. She is also working with Lionsgate on developing an LGBTQ romantic comedy.
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