With pride month around the corner, it is important to look back and remember those in the past who have helped the LGBT community of today live in a safer and kinder place. This list looks at 5 of the most important figures to do that.
1. Marsha P. Johnson
Marsha P. Johnson is an African American Trans woman. Born Malcolm Michaels Jr in New Jersey, New York City in 1945, a drag queen and activist in the 60s and 70s paved the way for a more accepting America toward the LGBT community.
On the 28th of June 1969, New York City police stormed into a bar in Greenwich Village, The Stonewall Inn. Police dragged customers and employees outside the bar causing 6 days of protesting and rioting against the police, this is known as the Stonewall uprising.
Marsha was one of the prominent figures during the riots who fought for her and millions of other LGBT American rights over the next 6 days. Marsha was nicknamed the "Saint of Christopher Street" due to her heroics, bravery, and kindness to other protesters during the riots. A year after the Riots Marsha and her good friend Sylvia Rivera opened STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) an organisation that helped homeless gay and trans children get off the streets.
2. Alan Turing
Alan Turing was a gay English mathematician and computer scientist who grew up in London, in the 1910s and 20s. He was always one of the smartest kids at school growing up with teachers being amazed at his intelligence in science and maths. Between the ages of 19 and 21, he attended King's College, Cambridge where he archived a first in mathematics.
In 1936, Turing published a paper that is now recognised as the foundation of computer science. He invented the idea that a computer could decode and follow instructions. Turing was contacted by the Government Code and Cypher School to help try to break the German enigma codes using the idea he came up with a few years prior.
In December 1939 in Hut 8, Bletchley Park where Alan and a team of other mathematicians had been working, finally managed to solve the essential part of the naval indicator system. This allowed the UK to translate German codes so Britain knew what the Nazis were planning. This early version of the computer that Turing invented to crack codes is believed to have reduced World War 2 by two years and have saved over 14 million lives.
However, in 1952 Alan's house was burgled and investigated which led to the discovery of Alan dating a man. Homosexuality was illegal in the UK then under section 11. Both Alan and his partner were both put on trial and both pleaded guilty. Alan chose chemical castration over a prison sentence. In 1954 Alan was discovered dead next to a half-eaten apple, his death was ruled as suicide from Cyanide.
3. Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk's name is cemented in US politics. He was the first openly gay US official to be elected official. Milk moved to San Francisco in 1972, before he was in the US Navy during the Korean war, however, he was kicked out after engaging in sexual activities with other navy men. He then went to New York to become a financial analyst.
Milk worked in a store in San Francisco however was disappointed at the gay leadership Which he thought was too conservative. He started to challenge it and his popularity grew within the LGBT community. Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 however it wasn't easy to get there. It took three attempts to get the seat, the first being in 1973 then the second attempt three years later in 1976 before finally getting elected in 1977. He helped pass a gay rights ordinance for the city of San Francisco that prohibited anti-gay discrimination in housing and employment. Since his election, hundreds of members of the LGBT community have been elected all across the US and all fighting for protection and rights of the LGBT community.
4. Lana and Lilly Wachowski
The Wachowski sisters are two of the most well-known film directors in the film and TV world and are both trans women. Lana was born in June 1965 formerly Larry and Lilly born December 1967 formerly Andy grew up in Chicago. They directed arguably one of the most iconic sci-fi films, The Matrix as well other films like V for Vendetta, Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending, and the hugely popular Netflix TV show Sense 8.
Lana came out as trans in 2010 although some suspected she was transitioning back in 2003 and Lilly announced she was trans in 2016. In 2020 Lilly announced that The Matrix was a trans metaphor however back in 1999 the world wasn't ready to hear that. She said "The Matrix stuff was all about the desire for transformation but it was all coming from a closeted point of view. she added. "We had the character of Switch - who was a character who would be a man in the real world and then a woman in the Matrix."
These sisters are role models for all trans people to look up to. They have given LGBT people a massive platform in film and TV, especially in sense 8. Trans people are finally getting the representation they deserve. Elliot Page, the Inception and The Umbrella Academy actor formally known as Ellen Page came out as a trans man in 2020 and received huge support whilst Trans actress MJ Rodriguez became the first trans actor to win a golden globe in 2022.
5. Justin Fashaun
Justin Fashaun was Britain's first openly gay football player. He also became the most expensive Black football player in Britain with a £1 million move to Nottingham Forest in 1981. He came out as gay in 1990 but got very little support from anyone. Each game he was met with abuse and hate from fans in the stadium and the tabloids.
In February 2020 he was introduced to the National Football Museum Hall Of Fame for his brilliant football in the 80s and his bravery to come out. Justin passed away in 1998 but his legacy won't be forgotten. Helping the LGBT community in the football world come to terms with who they are and making it easier for them to come out, like Josh Cavallo who just recently came out in October 2021.