Top 25 LGBTQ+ icons you should know

25 LGBTQ+ icons and figures you should know

With the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising being celebrated, this is a time to reflect on just how far LGBTQ rights and acceptance have come since 1969. It's also a time to honor those who have paved the way for future generations to come. Not to mention the many LGBTQ+ icons throughout history.

So, to wrap up Pride Month, we've put together a list of prominent legends that should be celebrated every day! From proud entertainers to passionate activists, here are the 25 trailblazers that should have been taught in your school textbooks.

Activists/Social Justice

Marsha P Johnson

Straightaway, the legendary Marsha P Johnson is the first of many icons that come to mind when dealing with LGBTQ+ history. Both a self-identified drag queen and gay liberation activist, Johnson played a major role in the 1969 Stonewall Uprising.

After the riots, Johnson became a leader in the community and used the power to open Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which helped transgender youth.

Sylvia Rivera

Also a key figure during Stonewall was Sylvia Rivera. Largely credited with throwing the second Molotov cocktail at the riots, Rivera fought for gay and transgender rights. Together with friend Marsha P Johnson, the two created the STAR organization for trans youth.

Harvey Milk

Surely you've heard of Harvey Milk, one of the most well-known activists in history. Even more, he was the first openly gay politician to be elected in California. Despite being assassinated in 1978, Milk paved the way for future LGBTQ+ leaders.

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin is one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s most influential advisers before turning to LGBTQ activism. While he organized many freedom marches, was also the driving force behind the historic 1963 March on Washington. As an openly gay man, not only was Rustin shamed and fired from leadership positions within the movement, he was also imprisoned.

Beverley Palesa Ditsie

Growing up in Soweto, South Africa, in the '80s, Beverley Palesa Ditsie helped liberate lesbians everywhere after she realized that she herself was gay and organized the first Pride March in Africa in the '90s. In 1995, she became the first known lesbian woman to address the United Nations, and the first person to openly address the importance of lesbian rights.

Gilbert Baker

Many still use Gilbert Baker's rainbow LGBT flag, prominently displayed throughout Pride month. According to Baker's website, each color on the flag has a meaning: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for harmony, and violet for spirit.


Alan Turing

Often credited with creating the foundation of artificial intelligence and computer science, Alan Turing is an influential figure. While playing a major role in World War II, helping break several German codes, he also is a profound mathematician.

Sally Ride

Unlike most figures on our list, the public found out about Ride's sexuality in her obituary. Ride's partner published her story after losing her battle with colon cancer. But in 1983, Sally joined the Challenger crew, making her the first US woman in space. Throughout her career she remained determined to inspire other young women for careers in aerospace.


James Baldwin

an American novelist, playwright and write, James Baldwin wrote titles such as "Notes of a Native Son." His work is instrumental in understanding the race relations in the U.S. in the middle of the twentieth century. The themes that often surfaced in his work were race, religion, and sexualities. As racial tensions grew in 1948, he moved to France where he explored his sexuality and literary creativity. Later, he returned to the U.S and protested alongside MLK.

Audre Lorde

Despite being a Caribbean-American, Audre Lorde remains a black icon who was involved in the LGBTQ+ culture of Greenwich Village. While remembered as a writer, she was also an activist for civil rights and feminist movements. Her poetry focuses on topics regarding female experiences, race, and sexuality.

Keith Haring

An artist and a major voice in early HIV/AIDS awareness in the '80s. With his signature visual style, pieces like "Stop AIDS" remain highly recognizable and vital to this day. His powerful pieces alluring many, making Haring on of the true LGBTQ+ artist icons.

Oscar Wilde

Probably a familiar name if you paid attention during English class. First and foremost an Irish poet and playwright. Wilde is the author of titles such as,


Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King is one of the most famous names in professional tennis. She earned 39 Grand Slam titles from 1966 to 1975. She also beat Bobby Riggs in the famous "Battle of the Sexes" match.

But in 1981, King was outed as a lesbian, and her publicists told her to deny the claim. Instead, she confirmed that she was a lesbian and became the first openly gay athlete.

Megan Rapinoe

While Rapinoe continues to slay the soccer field, she is also campaigning for women's and LGBTQ+ rights. Recently, the soccer star came out in support of trans youth in sports.

Michael Sam

Michael Sam came out as gay in a 2014 interview with ESPN. Essentially, Sam and made history after the St. Louis Rams drafted him. As a result, Sam is the first openly gay man accepted into the NFL.

Cece Telfer

In 2019, CeC√© Telfer became the first openly transgender woman to win an NCAA title. Following her win, Donald Trump Jr. called the trans athlete‚Äôs success a "grave injustice" to women on Twitter.

The day after Trump Jr.'s tweet, Telfer posted a photo with her teammates on Instagram with the caption, "Suck my..... SUCCESS, cause I‚Äôm gonna keep on winning. Nationals here I come. Haters keep fueling my energy."

Entertainment personalities

Laverne Cox

After playing a role in Netflix's Orange Is the New Black, Laverne Cox gained popularity. So much in fact, that in 2014, she is credited as the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in an acting category.

The actress is also a passionate activist for transgender rights.


RuPaul got his start in the '90s in the music industry, releasing his hit single "Supermodel (You Better Work)."

But, in 2009, he started a drag queen competition show titled "RuPaul's Drag Race," and it quickly became a hit among the LGBTQ community. Throughout the years, the series gained momentum and Ru has become one of the most popular LGBTQ+ icons, today.

Ellen Degeneres

Another television star is Ellen Degeneres. Arguably, she created one of the most successful day-time talk shows in history.

Lady Gaga

Over the years, we've seen countless anthems from Lady Gaga, including her smash hit, "Born This Way." The song not only resonated with LGBTQ+ folks, but also encouraged them to be their true selves, despite what others think. This is probably why she achieved worldwide success and was honored with a "Born This Way" Day in West Hollywood.


Sarah McBride

Last year's election included the most LGBTQ+ representation on the ballot ever. But one candidate's victory overshadowed them all. Sarah McBride is the first openly transgender US state senator. During her free time, McBride participates in the drag community and fights for LGBTQ+ rights.

Mauree Turner

Mauree Turner is the first non-binary state legisature in US history. Additionally, Turner is Oklahoma's first Muslim lawmaker.

Pete Buttigieg

In February,  the U.S. Senate confirmed Buttigieg to be Secretary of Transportation. He is the first openly LGBTQ, Secretary, or Senate-confirmed person to lead a department and hold a Cabinet-level position.

Edith Windsor

Windsor became an activist after reading about the Stonewall Riots with her partner, Thea Spyer, in 1969. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor took on the government after being forced to pay taxes for inheriting her wife's estate as part of the Defense of Marriage Act. Her victory in that case was instrumental in the fight for marriage equality in the U.S.

Do you have any favorite LGBTQ+ icons? Let us know in the comments!

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