Pride and Protest: 9 People Who Paved the Way for LGBTQ+ Rights
Image Source: Netflix
Pride Month is a time for being unapologetic, celebrations, and parties, but it’s also about continuing the work that many LGBTQ+ activists have tirelessly fought for. The Stonewall protests of 1969 couldn’t have happened without the queer people who advocated for LGBTQ+ rights in the UK and the US – and this historic moment continues to uplift queer voices today. To honour the legacies of LGBTQ+ icons and activists, we’re taking a look at their incredible contributions towards the continued fight for equal rights.
Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera
Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were key figures in New York’s gay liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and together they protested at the Stonewall uprising in 1969. The duo also founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) in 1970, which was a shelter for members of the trans community who were homeless. Johnson and Rivera’s activism and arrests in the US are also inspiring historical moments for the UK’s queer community.
Pierre Seel was a French survivor of the Holocaust who was deported for being gay. In 1941, he was wrongfully arrested by the Gestapo (secret police of Nazi Germany) at the age of 17 when German forces overran France. Seel was then sent to the Schirmeck-Vorbruck prison camp where he was tortured, and became the only French person to speak openly about his experiences once he escaped.
Activist, co-founder, and director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah started the well-known organisation and annual event UK Black Pride, which celebrates African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQ+ people. Her work is internationally recognised and actively confronts the racism that exists within the queer community.
Anthony Grey was one of the most important figures in LGBTQ+ legislation in the UK. His novel Quest for Justice: Towards Homosexual Emancipation (1992) details the 10-year campaign that lead to reformation and the untold stories of backlash and societal barriers.
Jackie Forster was a member of the LGBTQ+ liberation movement of 1970, she took part in Britain’s first Pride march in 1971, and founded the Sappho magazine for English lesbians the following year.
In 2019, Sue Sanders was awarded the lifetime achievement award from the Rainbow Honours. With 40 years of active campaigning for LGBT+ rights, Sue Sanders has dedicated her life to LGBT+ and women’s studies.
Charlie Craggs is one of the most recognisable trans activists in the UK. She founded the platform Nail Transphobia where she tackles transphobia through nail art. Since 2013, Craggs has taken her pop-up nail salon to UK museums, galleries, universities, and festivals to offer free manicures. While getting nails done, clients have a chance to chat with a trans person, which will hopefully dispel misconceptions and false representations in the media.
A model and social media star, Munroe Bergdorf has walked in international fashion shows and is an outspoken LGBTQ+ activist. She was the first trans model to front a L’Oréal campaign in the UK, but was dropped from the campaign when speaking out on racism. Today, Munroe’s work and platform are dedicated to supporting queer, trans, and intersex people of colour.
“I write about the challenges faced by LGBT+ Muslims, share my own experiences and organise events for LGBT+ South Asians to empower and inspire them to celebrate their authentic selves, offer support, provide representation and a connection to reduce isolation and discrimination,” Khakan Qureshi told POPSUGAR. Qureshi is a Birmingham-born LGBTQ+ activist and founder of Find A Voice, which is Birmingham’s first independent, multi-faith, non-funded social and support group for South Asian LGBTQI+ women and men aged 18 and over.
For this Pride and future Prides, please support local organisations that protect LGBTQ+ communities. Talk to your peers, friends, and family, learn how to navigate language, and stand up against any instances of intolerance and hate crimes.