For LGBTQ History Month, The Trevor Project is highlighting a few key civil rights activists who helped to pave the way for a more inclusive society. This list is by no means exhaustive, but should pique your interest in the incredibly diverse community that founded the gay rights movement. While not all these activists are highlighted in textbooks yet, we’re excited to see states like California adopting an LGBT history curriculum, and look forward to many more to come. Until then, if you’re looking for role models, keep in mind the tagline that this movement gave us: “We’re Everywhere!”
“I’m living the way Sylvia wants to live. I’m not living in the straight world; I’m not living in the gay world; I’m just living in my own world” –Sylvia Rivera
Sylvia Rivera was a Puerto Rican, bisexual, transwoman who was a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists Alliance, and the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, and an outspoken activist who rallied against racism, sexual violence and transphobia.
“When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” –Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. A master strategist and tireless activist, Bayard Rustin is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States.
“I’m not greedy, I know what I want.” –Brenda Howard
Brenda Howard organized the 1970 Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day Parade on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which gave birth to annual Pride parades and gave her the name the “mother of gay pride.” She also founded the New York Area Bisexual Network and was a tireless advocate for bisexual rights.
“My problem is that I can’t accept life for what it is… like it’s presented to me. I feel that there is something deep and wonderful underneath it that no one has found.” –Lou Sullivan
Lou Sullivan is an American author, activist, and transman known as the founder of FTM International and is largely responsible for the modern understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity as distinct, unrelated concepts.
“Hope will never be silent.” –Harvey Milk
Harvey Bernard Milk was an American politician who became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California.
“Pay it no mind” –Marsha P. Johnson
Marsha P. Johnson was a transgender and gay liberation activist, a veteran of the Stonewall riots, cofounder of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries with Sylvia Rivera, and an AIDS activist with ACT UP.