LGBT History Month

By Jenny Crocker, Care and Support Service Manager

February is LGBT History Month – this year’s theme is peace, reconciliation and activism to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York.

There have been so many people over the decades who have made an impact on the LGBT community and LGBT rights, it would be impossible to list them all. I tried to pull together a Top 10 and that was a struggle. Who to leave out? How do you rank influence like that? I hit Google and did some research and here are five that you might find interesting.


Karl Heinrich Ulrichs

A civil servant in Germany until he was forced to resign in 1854, Ulrichs became an activist and published 12 volumes of work, including what’s believed to be the first theory about homosexuality. He argued that it is an ‘inborn condition’, not a learned corruption, as was the prevailing wisdom at the time. In 1867, he urged the German government to repeal anti-homosexuality laws, and is often stated as the pioneer of the gay rights movement.


Sylvia Rivera

Rivera was a queer, Latina, self-identified drag queen who fought tirelessly for transgender rights, as well as for the rights of gender-nonconforming people. After the Stonewall Riots, Rivera started S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a group focused on providing shelter and support to queer, homeless youths, with Marsha P Johnson, another American gay liberation activist. Rivera also fought against the exclusion of transgender people in New York’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act.


Edward Carpenter

Born in Brighton in 1844, Carpenter is most known for his work and activism after moving to Sheffield in his thirties. His 1908 book, The Intermediate Sex, would become a foundational text of the LGBT movements of the 20th century. In Love’s Coming-of-Age he also put forward a clear analysis of the ways in which sex and gender were used to oppress women. He argued that a just and equal society must promote the sexual and economic freedom of women. His later years were filled with persistent involvement in progressive issues, including environmental protection, animal rights, sexual freedom, the women’s movement and vegetarianism.


Josephine Baker

Baker was a well-known jazz entertainer and identified as bisexual. She was one of the most successful African-American performers in French history and used her platform to advocate for desegregation, refusing to perform in segregated venues and speaking at the 1963 March on Washington. Baker also served as a spy for the French during World War II, passing along secrets she heard while performing for German soldiers. She had a relationship with Frida Kahlo after they met in Paris 1939, with Frida having an exhibit at the Louvre and Josephine working for French military intelligence.


Bayard Rustin

Rustin was a close friend and advisor to Martin Luther King Jr and organiser of the 1963 March on Washington. However, because he was an openly gay man, he did not receive wide recognition for his integral role in the civil rights movement. Despite this, Rustin still remained a political and gay activist, working to bring the AIDS crisis to the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).


So, who would make your list?