How did the Pride month start? Pre-1960s, anyone who expressed homosexuality was thrown in the chookie. Then on June 28th 1969, it all changed.
New York police officers attacked patrons of the Stone Wall Inn, this wasn’t exactly something new but it was this very night that the victims of this brutality fought back. This spark ignited the gay rights movement and later led to the first march against queer violence.
As a result, other cities took a page from the LGBTQ community in New York. In 1972, London took its stand followed by San Francisco in 1978.
With June being Pride month, I wanted to share some of the rainbow-flag toting activists who paved the way for many of us to experience the freedoms that we do:
1. Marsha P Johnson
A gay liberation activist and advocate for gay rights, she was also said to have been a key figure in the Stonewall riots. Martha led the protests I touched on in the intro.
According to an article from bbc.co.uk, she said the ‘P’ in her name stood for ‘pay it no mind’, a derogatory phrase others used against her.
She also co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) which supported gay and trans men who were rendered homeless as a when their families kicking them out.
This legend did all these things while battling her own mental health issues. In 1992, she mysteriously disappeared and a day later police found her body. Her death was initially ruled a suicide but in 2012 Mariah Lopez managed to have local police reopen the case as a homicide.
Today organizations like the Marsha P Johnson institute protect and defend Black Transgender rights. Her legacy doesn't end there, in February 2020, the mayor of New York renamed the East River State Park to Marsha P Johnson State Park.
2. Sylvia Rivera
A latin-American drag queen and the other founder of Star, she was another key figure in the Stonewall riots.
In 2002 (the same year as her death) the Sylvia Rivera Law Project was founded with the aim of providing legal aid to anyone regardless of their sexual gender, identity or socio-economic status.
She also co-founded the Gay Liberation front before disappearing in the 90s. This was after she opposed the movement she helped start due to a bill passed at the time, which excluded the transgender community.She’s widely considered to have been instrumental in getting the ‘T’ added to LGBTQ.
On top of this, two blocks from the Stonewall in were renamed the ‘Sylvia Rivera way’ and her portrait was added to the National Portrait gallery in Washington DC.
3. Harvey Milk
Harvey was the first openly gay official to be nominated in California and one of the first in America. He was sadly assassinated in 2009, after which then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared May 22nd (Milk’s birthday) as a day of recognition.
4. Edie Windsor
Edie Married her partner Thea Spyer in Canada following a 40 year engagement. Spyyer passed away only 2 years later, leaving everything to Windsor.
At the time, the US didn’t recognize same-sex marriage and Edie had to pay taxes way above that of her hetero counterparts. She took her case to court and in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in her favor. This set the precedent for all same-sex cases afterwards.
5. Alice Nkom
Nkom comes all the way from Cameroon where she fiercely advocates for human and LGBTQ rights. This is unremarkable because this is a country where police entrap queer people and beat those they perceive as gay.
While she identifies as straight, she has dedicated her work to fighting for the LGBTQ community and in 2003 founded the Association For the Defense of Homosexuality.
6. Laverne Cox
Having made her debut as Sophia Burset in Netflix’ Orange is the New Black, she’s a trans black woman and the first trans person to be nominated for an Emmy.
Laverne is a staunch advocate for LGBTQ rights and pushes for the rights of trans people and people of colour.
6. Alexya Salvador
Alexya is a trans woman from Brazil where LGBTQ base violence has reached an all time high. In her role as a pastor, she calls herself ‘the first transgender Shepherd of Latin America. In 2017, along with other trans pastors, she held a ground breaking LGBTQ-friendly mass in Cuba.
7. Lena Waithe
In 2017, this actress, writer and producer made history as the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. Rather than simply accept this victory, this warrior who identifies as queer, used her platform to deliver a heartfelt message to members of the LGBTQ community (or her family as she calls it).
8. Leonard Matlovich
Leonard served in the military and in 1975, he came out as gay. After coming out to his superiors, he had an interview with Time Magazine which caused quite the stir.
He was eventually discharged from the Air Force, where he continued a role US race relations councilor. Matlovich passed of AIDS related complications at the age of 44. His tombstone in Washington cemetery reads, ‘when I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and discharged me for loving one.’
9. Aaron Fricke
In 1980, like any teenager, Fricke looking forward to his high school prom but unlike his classmates, he wanted to take a same gender date. The principal at the time was having none of it and banned this which resulted in Aaron taking them to court.
Not only did he win the case, the judge required his school’s security to keep them safe.
Which one of these real life warriors stood out for you? Feel free to comment below.