4 LGBTQ Activists Everyone Should Know About 4 LGBTQ Activists Everyone Should Know About

Courage to Care

4 LGBTQ Activists Everyone Should Know About

After the year we’ve all had, what better way to kick off what is sure to be a festive summer than by celebrating Pride? Whether the plan is to let loose at a party, amplify your advocacy and allyship efforts, or all of the above, there’s no shortage of ways to mark the occasion. 

For us, this month is about reflecting upon the many cultural and societal contributions made by members of the LGBTQ community. One way we’d like to share the love this Pride and beyond is to spotlight 4 LGBTQ pioneers that you may not have heard of:

Phil Black

When female impersonator Phil Black organized and hosted the first Funmaker’s Ball in 1940s New York, he created a space where queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming people - primarily from communities of color - could dress up and be themselves. The ball became a highly anticipated annual black-tie event known for its drag pageants and performances, drawing people from all walks of life and even crossing racial lines. These and other events like them became community beacons for LGBTQ people, ultimately paving the way for everything from ballroom culture to RuPaul.

Dr. Franklin Kameny

World War II veteran and Harvard-educated astronomer Dr. Franklin Kameny was fired from his job with the Army Map Service in 1957 after it was discovered that he had been arrested at a known gay cruising spot. At a time when civil service workers were fired by the thousands in response to then-President Eisenhower’s Executive Order deeming homosexuality a security risk, Dr. Kameny used his experience to fight back. He became the first person to make an equal rights claim on the basis of sexual orientation, and while the Supreme Court declined to hear his case, Dr. Kameny’s formal legal pursuit would help set the stage for the Gay Rights movement.

Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin made history when they became the first legally married same-sex couple in California - twice. First in 2004 before the state Supreme Court invalidated the union, then again in 2008 after the court declared same-sex marriage legal. The pair had been living together since 1953 and had long advocated for greater visibility and inclusivity for LGBTQ people. Together they founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955, one of the country’s first lesbian political organizations, co-wrote two books centered on lesbians, and were counted among the first lesbians to join the National Organization of Women. 

Pride reminds us of these and countless other trailblazers who harnessed their courage to care by authentically living their lives. If there’s one thing everyone can all learn from their stories, it’s that we all have it in us to make real and lasting change.