top of page

Three LGBTQIA+ Icons We Should All Know

In celebration of Pride month, where we pay tribute to those involved in the Stonewall Riots, who fought for the rights we have today and founded the LGBTQIA+ community we now have, I think it is important that we commemorate three historical icons, whom without, our community would not be the same.

1. Alan Turing (1912-1954)

During World War Two, Alan Turing played a vital role in breaking the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park, helping win the war. However, despite Turing's service to his country, he faced oppression and hardship due to his sexuality. During his lifetime, homosexuality was viewed as a criminal offence, resulting in Turing's conviction when engaging in a relationship with Arnold Murray in 1952. Turing was punished through chemical castration, resulting in him taking his own life at the age of 41.

In 2013, Turing was pardoned by HM Queen Elizabeth II, leading to a new legislation pardoning all gay men under historical gross indecency laws. This legislation is the Alan Turing Law. According to GOV.UK:

"the Alan Turing Law has gone on to secure pardons for 75,000 other men and women convicted of similar crimes"

Without Turing, not only would our country have faced a frighteningly different fate during the Second World War, but these individuals could not have been pardoned from their convictions. Whilst Britain's history is cruel and brutal, this is a sign of hope and progress, acknowledging the hardship and oppression our predecessors have faced so that we are able to achieve equality.

2. Harvey Milk (1930-1978)

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in California. During Milk's political career, he focused on gay liberation and expressed the importance of community and neighbourhoods in San Francisco. Milk fought for gay rights during a time when the LGBTQIA+ community were facing attacks against their human rights. For example, Milk fought against the Californian proposition which would have allowed the firing of gay teachers in the state's schools. This is one of the many causes Milk fought during his career.

However, on November 27, 1987, Milk was assassinated alongside Mayor George Moscone by Dan White. Harvey Milk was 48 years old. The impact of his death spread throughout the entire community, as a crowd of thousands held a spontaneous silent candlelight vigil, marching to City Hall on the night of his death. This collection of individuals in mourning of Milk has "been recognised as one of the most eloquent responses to violence that a community has ever expressed."

Despite Milk's awareness of the danger he was in as a political figure for the LGBTQIA+ community, receiving death threats daily, Milk continued his fight for equality. This awareness resulted in him recording several wills, wherein one of the recordings, he expressed a statement now acknowledged as one of his most important statements:

"If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door"

Harvey Milk's legacy lives on through The Harvey Milk Foundation, dedicated to fighting for equality for everyone. Milk used his career and his connections to others to form a community for all minorities, connecting everyone through acceptance and empowerment.

3. Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)

Marsha P Johnson was an African American transgender woman and a gay liberation activist. She embodied confidence and empowerment in her identity. She adopted the full name Marsha P. Johnson, the 'P' standing for "Pay It No Mind." This statement and identity acted as Johnson's life motto, responding to any questions about her gender.

In 1969, she became an integral part of the Stonewall movement, fighting on the frontlines against police brutality. Alongside Sylvia Rivera, Johnson co-founded S.T.A.R (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), acting as a shelter for LGBT youth, left vulnerable on the streets of New York City.

After the 1992 pride parade, Johnson's body was discovered in the Hudson River. Whilst the police ruled the death as a suicide, Johnson was frequently a victim of transphobic attacks, and so it is widely believed that this was the result of her death.

However, in 2012, New York police reopened the investigation of her death, exploring it as a possible homicide. Eventually, the department reclassified her death from being a 'suicide' to 'undetermined'. Whilst there was no justice for her death, her legacy lives on through her legacy representing strength and empowerment throughout the transgender community. Both Marsha and her closest friend Sylvia will be the first monumented statue to honour trans women in New York City.

Each of these historical icons lost their lives due to the unjust oppression of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, their legacies live on. Through knowing their stories and celebrating their lives, we pay tribute to all that they have achieved for our community. Without these individuals and so many more who have fought and continue to fight for our community, we would not have the rights we have today.

bottom of page