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10 Fierce Activists to Admire This LGBTQ+ History Month

Diana Denza and Olivia Clancy

October marks LGBTQ History Month, a time for reflecting on the community’s history as well as the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. The community’s numerous accomplishments would not have been possible without the efforts of countless individuals working tirelessly for equality. Here are 10 individuals from the past and present who have made the world a better place—and have offered words of wisdom on confidence and taking up space. 

Audre Lorde

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

This self-described “black lesbian feminist mother warrior poet,” has left a lasting impact on the world through her work dismantling sexism, racism, homophobia, and many other injustices. 

Sylvia Rivera

“We were sick and tired of being put down. Things just started happening.”

Then just 17 years old, Puerto Rican-Venezuelan transgender woman Sylvia Rivera played a key role in the ‘60s Stonewall Riots against police raids on LGBTQ bars. Rivera was also involved in the formation of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance, and remained in activism even after being shunned for her emphasis on transgender issues. 

Christian Siriano 

"No matter who you are or where you come from and what you are, you can feel beautiful in whatever clothes you want to wear.”

Christian Siriano launched his own clothing line that has now become a staple for runway shows. In all these shows, Siriano makes it a point to include models that encompass a variety of sizes, genders, and ethnicities.

Laverne Cox

“It's hard to love myself. It really is. There are so many corporations out there that are telling us that we're not enough, that we have to buy this product to feel like we're enough, but we can just love ourselves based on who we are.”

On screen, Cox is most known for her award nominated role on Orange is the New Black, where she became the first openly transgender woman to win a Daytime Emmy. When she’s not acting or producing, Cox promotes the importance of talking about trans issues, specifically how being transgender intersects with one’s race, and takes ownership of her body. 

Roxane Gay

“This is what most girls are taught — that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. We should be seen and not heard, and if we are seen, we should be pleasing to men, acceptable to society. And most women know this, that we are supposed to disappear, but it’s something that needs to be said, loudly, over and over again, so that we can resist surrendering to what is expected of us.”

The New York Times best-selling author centers her writing on feminism in relation with race, identity, and sexuality. Gay pulls from her own experiences growing up as a Black, bisexual woman and her newest book, Hunger, discusses shared anxieties over body image, health, and food and finally finding comfort in her own body. 

Mary Lambert

“Just because you're not thin does not mean you're ugly. You are beautiful because of the light you carry inside you. You are beautiful because you say you are, and you hold yourself that way.”

Lambert was originally known for lending her voice to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ hit song “Same Love” but soon branched out to make hits of her own. Her inspiration comes from her experience as a member of the LGBTQ community and her music radiates self-love and acceptance. 

Lady Gaga 

“Don't you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can't be exactly who you are.”

An openly bisexual woman, Lady Gaga co-founded the Born This Way foundation, which is committed to supporting the wellness of young people and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world. 

Jazz Jennings

“If I wasn't confident in who I am or didn't like the fact that I was transgender, then I would not have gotten as far as I have today. Also, if you accept yourself, then you'll find that others will accept you as well, and having that support is really reassuring.”

Beginning at age six, Jennings began discussing her struggle growing up as a transgender girl, making her one of the youngest people to ever do so publicly. Since then, she started TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation to assist transgender youth and continued to use her voice to speak about her journey through her memoir, YouTube channel, and reality TV show. 

Ellen DeGeneres 

“It's not fair. The way that magazines airbrush everything, women are looking at bodies like that going, 'my stomach doesn't look like that. I'm supposed to look like that?' So they starve themselves and they work out like crazy. It's not important. We put the wrong emphasis on what beauty is, and what health is.”

In April 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian on The Oprah Winfrey Show, only to have her own show, Ellen, cancelled a year later. DeGeneres never stopped speaking out against homophobia and is a successful talk show host and role model today. 

Amandla Stenberg

“It's a tiny revolution to express yourself fully and be who you want to be, especially when systems tell you that you can't. I've realized how powerful it is for me to just discuss issues with young people and begin conversations.”

Best known for her role as Rue in The Hunger Games, 18-year-old Amandla Stenberg considers themselves a nonbinary, pansexual, intersectional feminist. Named "Feminist of the Year" in 2015 by the Ms. Foundation for Women, Stenberg fearlessly speaks out about gender identity, queerness, and equality. 

To the countless other individuals who paved the way for LGBTQ+ people today: thank you. You have shaped history. 

Images via Wikipedia