Influential LGBTQ+ black icons who shaped history


While Black History Month mainly focuses on the influence and contributions by African American, it also means honoring the impact made by LGBTQ+ black icons too. However, we hope these legends are not only celebrated this month, but everyday after it.

This list only covers a fraction of the people who have dared to stand up and fight for equality. Our hope is that as LGBTQ+ right continue to grow, so does the list of people who contributed to it. Read on to learn more about the Black LGBTQ+ individuals who changes the world.

Marsha P. Johnson

Arguably one of the most important person in the fight for gay rights is Marsha P. Johnson. This Black trans woman was a force behind the Stonewall Riots and surrounding activism that sparked the LGBTQ+ movement in 1969. With others, she established the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970. The group is committed to supporting transgender youth experiencing homelessness in New York City. Even today, her actions and words continue to inspire trans activism and resistance, and will continue to do so well into the future.

Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey, an American dancer and choreographer is remembered as an Consequently, his work continues to be performed around the world. Ballets such as Revelations, Blues Suite, and Cry are among his most famous. While he remained closeted, his sexuality a secret from his many fans. Even after his death from HIV/AIDS complications, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is a haven. The school nurtures black artists and expressing the universality of the African American experience through dance. 

Bayard Rustin

Black civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was an adamant supporter of gay rights. He also advocated alongside MLK and worked as his advisor and personal secretary. Rustin helped organize the 1963 March on Washington. Still, his work is known by little today as some say his sexuality cost him visibility.

Audre Lorde

Despite being a Carribbean-American, Audre Lorde was a black icon who was involved in the LGBTQ+ culture of Greenwich Village. While she is mainly 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. Still, her name remains a fixture in the growing list of LGBTQ+ black icons.

James Baldwin

Remembered as 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.

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

Miss Major became a trans trailblazer for many reasons. But a major focus rests in women of color. During her early years, Miss Major served as the original Executive Director for the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project, which aims to assist transgender persons, who are disproportionately incarcerated under the prison-industrial complex. Additionally, they participated in activism for a wide range of causes throughout their lifetime, including the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City.

Sylvester

A pioneer in pop music, the legacy of Sylvester still goes widely unknown. With 70s disco hits like "You Make Me Feel" and "Disco Heat," Sylvester performed as one of the first openly gender fluid musicians. Despite record executives commands to tone down the flamboyant falsettos and attitudes, the performer kept true to their style.

Josephine Baker

As an openly bisexual singer and dancer, Josephine Baker had to fight for equality her whole life. In her time, she held the title of one successful African-American performers on the stages of France. Baker heavily denounced segregation and refused to perform at segregated venues. She went on to advance the cause of Civil Rights, even speaking at the 1963 March on Washington.

Angela Davis

Known as the face for Black feminism. Activist, author, and professor, Angela Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on January 26, 1944, the daughter of two teachers. Active at an early age in the Black Panthers and the Communist Party.

Today, Davis tours across the United States and the world lecturing on prison reform, and served on the advisory board of the Prison Activist Resource Center. Davis also co-founded the Committees of Correspondence, an organization that seeks to unite all socialist groups in the United States.

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox is a transgender activist and actress who is best known for her role on Netflix's "Orange Is The New Black" and her tremendous work with GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian, Alliance Against Defamation). Today, she remains one of the most prominent and outspoken transgender advocates in the entertainment industry.

RuPaul

Whether you know him as the musical hitmaker that gave life to songs like "Supermodel" or the drag queen who slays the runway, RuPaul needs no introduction. Known for bringing the art of drag to the mainstream, his career is still going strong with the massive success of his reality television show "RuPaul's Drag Race."


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