16 Queer Activists & Icons Illustrated #Pride2020
Marsha P. Johnson (1945 – 1992) was a trans woman, drag queen and worker, famously known for being one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising between June 28th & July 3rd 1969. Tragically found dead in the Hudson River back in 1992, her death has been recently investigated in the 2017 documentary The Life & Death of Marsha P. Johnson by David France.
Stormé DeLarverie (1920-2014) was a butch lesbian, drag king, and also one of the key activists in the Stonewall uprising. DeLarverie has dedicated her life towards queer activism and worked as a bouncer until developing dementia in her late 80's. Her story is as a male impersonator is documented in the 1987 short film Stormé: The Lady of the Jewel Box by Michelle Parkerson.
Sylvia Rivera (1951 - 2002) was a Latina trans activist for trans rights, sex workers and queer homeless youth, and is also one of the main figures in the Stonewall uprising. Having been living in the streets since she was 11 years old, she was forced to work as a child prostitute. She was a vocal activist until her death in 2002. Her speech at the 1973 Gay Pride Rally can be seen here.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (1940 - ) is a lifelong transgender LGBTIQ+ & anti-prison activist, community leader for trans rights and one of the main figures of the Stonewall uprising alongside Rivera, DeLarverie & Johnson. A video of Miss Major reflecting on the Stonewall riots can be accessed here.
Sarah Hegazi (1989 - 2020) was an Egyptian queer activist who was detained, imprisoned, tortured and sexually assaulted after waving the rainbow flag at a Mashrou' Leila concert in 2017. She was forced to flee to Canada, leaving behind her family and friends. Sarah's final words were:
“To my siblings, I tried to find redemption and failed, forgive me.
To my friends , the experience was harsh and I am too weak to resist, forgive me."
Hamed Sinno (1998 - ) is the openly gay vocalist of the Lebanese alternative rock group Mashrou Leila, and is a key advocate for LGBTIQ+ rights in the Middle East. During a performance in Egypt in 2017, 7 members of their audience were arrested for waving rainbow flags in support of LGBT rights, including the recently deceased activist Sarah Hegazi. His speech at a vigil in memory of Sarah Hegazi can be seen here.
Audre Lorde (1934 - 1992) was a self described "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet", who dedicated her life and talents to address social justice. One of her speeches can be accessed here.
Larry Kramer (1935 - 2020) was an American playwright, author, film producer, public health advocate, queer rights activist and one of the key figures of the ACT UP Movement. A film adaptation of his largely autobiographical play The Normal Heart was released in 2014, directed by Ryan Murphy.
Essex Hemphill (1957 - 1995) was an openly gay American poet and activist, widely known of his contributions to the 1980's Washing DC art scene and for discussing topics pertinent to the African-American gay community. This poetry touched on subjects including race, identity, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, and family. He was one of the many artists lost to the AIDS epidemic.
James Baldwin (1924 - 1987) was an American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and civil rights activist. His 1956 novel Giovanni's Room was considered controversial for depicting complex representations of homosexuality and bisexuality to the public, creating a broader public discourse of issues regarding homosexual desires.
David Wojnarowicz (1954 - 1992) was a Polish-American painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist and AIDS activist. Marion Scemama's documentary Self-Portrait in 23 Rounds: a Chapter in David Wojnarowicz’s Life, 1989–1991 was released in 2018.
Bayard Rustin (1912 - 1987) was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights, and an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr.
Keith Haring (1958 - 1990) was an American pop and graffiti artist who's work grew out of the New York City street culture of the 1980s. Much of his work used sexual images to advocate for safe sex and AIDS awareness. He was one of the many artists lost during the AIDS epidemic.
Harvey Milk (1930 - 1978) was an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He was assassinated in 1978. Gus Van Sant's biographical movie Milk was released in 2008.
Alan Turing (1912 - 1954) was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. He is famously known as the father of modern day computing. During the Second World War, he worked for the British government breaking Nazi codes, shortening the war by two years. In spite all that, in 1952 Turing was accused of gross indecency due to his sexual orientation and accepted chemical castration as a term of his probation, thus avoiding imprisonment. He committed suicide in 1954. His story has recently garnered public attention through Morten Tyldum's 2014 film The Imitation Game.
Divine (1945 - 1988) was a subversive American drag queen and singer, most famous for starring in several John Waters movies. Ursula from the 1989 Disney film The Little Mermaid was inspired by Divine, and was initially intended to be voiced by her. To this day, Divine remains one of the key influences in modern drag. Jeffrey Schwarz's documentary I am Divine was released in 2013.