Four LGBTQ People We’re Thankful For
November 26, 2013
Since many of us don’t usually learn about LGBTQ history in our history classes at school, we wanted to take a moment this month to celebrate gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people who have made important contributions to our world. Here’s why we’re thankful for…
Without Bayard Rustin’s vision and leadership many of the equal rights we take for granted today wouldn’t have been possible. He was a strategist and activist for civil, human as well as gay and lesbian rights. Rustin was involved in pacifist groups and early civil rights protests. He was a main advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. He was arrested several times for his civil disobedience and because he was gay, but he continued to fight for equality.
Harvey Milk called for his “gay sisters and brothers…to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions…and to tell the truth about gay” people, which was pretty radical in the late 1970s. Milk, a gay rights activist and community leader, became one of the first openly gay officials in the United States when he was elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. Though his assassination cut his political career short, he was responsible for passing a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in San Francisco.
In many ways, Sylvia Rivera, who identified as bisexual and transgender, helped put the “T” in “LGBTQ.” Rivera was one of the first people to push for trans equality and the inclusion of trans people in the gay liberation movement. Rivera was an activist and founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance. She fought hard against the exclusion of transgender people from the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in New York and was a loud and persistent voice for the rights of low-income, queer and trans people.
Audre Lorde made it a bit easier for all of us to be who we are regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. She understood that silence about who she was would make her powerless, so she used her poetry and essays to speak up about being a self-described “black, lesbian, warrior, mother, poet.” Lorde used her work to give voice to the issues of race, gender and sexuality. She was the New York State Poet Laureate from 1991 to 1992.