In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month, INSIGHT Into Diversity recognizes six activists who have advanced equality for the LGBTQ community.
A self-described “black lesbian mother warrior poet,” Audre Lorde was born in New York City in 1934. In the 1960s, she participated in the vibrant gay culture of Greenwich Village while earning a degree in library science at Columbia University and working as a librarian. She eventually began to publish her own poetry, expounding on topics ranging from civil rights to sexuality to her personal battle with breast cancer. From 1991 until her death in 1992, she was the New York State Poet Laureate. Through her poetry, essays, and lectures, Lorde challenged people to think deeply about the intersection of class, race, gender, and sexuality.
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was working as a legal adviser for the district court of Hildesheim, Germany, when he was forced to resign in 1857 for being gay. He went on to become one of the first LGBTQ activists, publishing 12 books about sexuality. Ulrichs was a pioneer in asserting that homosexuality is something a person is born with rather than something he or she learns. (Image via Wikipedia)
An acclaimed Scottish-American actor of both the stage and screen, Alan Cumming, who identifies as bisexual, is also a passionate equal rights activist and has received numerous awards for his advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community. His efforts include emceeing fundraisers for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and taking part in a video campaign to promote same-sex marriage in Scotland. His new TV show, Instinct, features the first openly gay lead character in a major network drama. (Photo by Gordon Correll via Flickr)
Sylvia Rivera, a self-identified drag queen, is a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, during which members of the LGBTQ community clashed with police who attempted to raid the popular gay bar the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village — an event that helped launch the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Rivera is best known for her advocacy for low-income queer and transgender individuals during the latter part of the 20th century. She also fought successfully to ensure the inclusion of transgender people in New York’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act. (Photo via Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library)
Ruby Corado, a transgender queer activist born in El Salvador, immigrated to the U.S. at age 16 to escape civil war. As an adult, she founded Casa Ruby, a bilingual, multicultural LGBTQ organization in Washington, D.C., that seeks to empower transgender, gender-queer, and gender-nonconforming gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. The center.— to which Corado donated $25,000 of her own money.— offers wide-ranging resources and programs, including language classes, résumé-writing workshops, and STI testing. More information is available at casaruby.org. (Photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr)
Ginger O’Donnell is an editorial assistant for INSIGHT Into Diversity. This article ran in our June 2018 issue.